Rennaissance students raise their voices in French

·5 min read

Students are finding their voices and their language through podcasting.

Conseil scolaire public du Nord-Est de l’Ontario (CSPNE) has put microphones in the hands of students at all levels to promote the French language and confidence in speaking it.

“Sometimes they feel uncomfortable and they say ‘Madam, I don’t speak well’, or ‘I have an accent when I speak French’, or it’s not the ‘proper French’,” said Chantal Beaudry, a teacher at École publique Renaissance, who was an early adopter of the program. “We had a whole discussion about what is proper French, and why do you think you don’t speak the right French?”

Beaudry said the conversation led to an exploration of the language.

“We looked at different accents,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you speak French from Northern Ontario, or Quebec or New Brunswick, we all have the same language in different accents and that’s okay.”

There are seven schools involved across the school board so far, including École publique Renaissance and École publique Lionel-Gauthier, and the podcasts are being published as they are made on the CSPNE Youtube channel.

There are four elementary programs and three in secondary schools so far, and student enthusiasm for the technology and the process has been high, said Beaudry.

“I asked if it would be something they would be interested in, and they said ‘well we’ve never done that before’, and I said we’ll do the research and collaborate together to see what we can come up with,” said Beaudry. “So I asked for the technology.””

Joël McLean, a school efficacy leader, principal and podcaster, got the program going when he saw a way for students to express themselves and learn from each other.

“It’s for our French language learners, and it’s to give them different opportunities than they are used to in a regular classroom setting,” said McLean. “Let’s give them something that ties into their passions, because when you’re passionate about it you’re more likely to engage with the language.”

McLean said that the podcasts can be shared across the board to help other classes and make day to day things a little more personalized.

“It was a grade 12 advanced biology class at École secondaire publique Écho du Nord in Kapiskasing, and they have two episodes out there already and it’s based on what they’re doing in their biology class,” he said. “The content that’s being produced, another grade 12 biology class could listen to the podcast episode and use it as a teaching tool.”

He said the program grew much faster than he first imagined, and they’re still figuring out how to safely share the work online.

“Some of the schools just took off and within a month and a half, some of the schools had episodes ready to publish,” said McLean. “I started off with one consul and one mic per school, and that quickly became demands for extra mics and second consuls, so it took off pretty quick.”

Beaudry said she saw her students really embrace the experience, especially when it came to picking their topics.

“They were able to choose a subject that had to be something that is going on in the world right now,” she said. “So they had to write the podcast about something that touches them, and they all had different subjects.”

Training took about two hours, said Beaudry, and the students were off and running.

“They went through the process of writing a podcast, what should be in there, the interviews, and how to get credible information,” she said. “So they recorded and presented it to the class.”

She said it’s also a great way to give students options on how to share what they’ve learned, and the technology can be used as an alternative to written essays or traditional presentations in class.

“If you don’t like it the first time, you can do it again and again and again,” she said. “If you don’t want to do a presentation because you don’t feel comfortable in front of the class, a lot of times it can help with anxiety and mental health.”

Beaudry also said that learning to use the equipment alongside the students was also a great experience.

“A lot of times the students show us how technology works or a certain system works,” she said. “So I asked the board, can I get training to use this stuff because I have no idea how to use it, and then I changed my mind, and asked if they could come to the class and we could learn it together.”

McLean said that was a common comment from teachers, and many students are going above and beyond when it came to navigating all the sound effects and music that go into podcasts.

“It’s relevant, it ties into the stuff they enjoy today,” said McLean. “Why do things how we’ve always done it, let's get something that will actually interest them, let’s ask them what they would like, and let’s see how it goes!”

“If we don’t keep up with what the kids like, and what’s popular and what’s ‘in’ as they say, it’s hard to engage them,” said Beaudry. “So you want to do something different.”

“It’s amazing to see what they can do with it,” she said.

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,