Teaching Writing in French Immersion is definitely very different than in an English or French program. Just look at the French curriculum versus the French Immersion one. We find prescribed texts in the French curriculum but not in the FSL curriculum. Why is that? Well, it's because we want to teach our French Immersion students to write in real-life situations, instead of simply following along with prescribed text. I have nothing against doing that, but it's just not realistic for our FI students.
I strive to have my 11 to 13-year-old students write with meaning, intent, and actual real-world situations. What situations may those be? Let's dive deeper into the best type of text to teach writing to my French Immersion Students, in my opinion.
teaching Letter Writing to french immersion students
What real-life writing situation works well for 11 to 13-year-old students? I would have to say letter writing to pen pals have been the absolute best way to have them want to write in French, learn to write in French, and want to continue writing in French.
Where do I find pen pals for my students? It's quite easy. I often put up a message on a French Immersion Facebook Page, stating that I'm looking for pen pals for students of a certain grade as well as the number of students I have. I usually try to connect with someone that has students of the same grade level, if not one level above or below mine.
Once you have found a class to be pen pals with, you can start exploring letter writing with your students.
Start with a shared reading
I always start a writing unit with a shared reading text. We explore the text together (in this case the letter), I read it aloud, then they read it in groups of 2, highlighting words they don't understand or can't read. We go over those words, and then add some of them to our word wall. We then work on determine the parts of our text (the letter).
Then, we determine what the criteria should be found in our letter. This will create my rubric for my students. I always have an idea of where I want to go, but they do really help to add certain things or just reiterate my thoughts.
Write a letter to your principal & Revise it
Now, we move on to writing an actual letter to the principal of our school. The topic is determined by my students. Maybe they want to know more about our principal, or want to ask for a new play structure, or a school dance. We go ahead and write it as a whole class. I let them really take the lead, not correcting them if they do something wrong.
Once we are done, students are now invited to work as a whole class to revise their letter. I love this activity. I sit back and watch which students take the lead, which take a back seat, which are very involved or not at all (great for those learning skills). If they are satisfied with their letter, I take a look and accept or make them go back to work some more. This is a letter I always really send to our principal (with a heads up).
Pen Pal Letter Writing
Now, students are ready to write their very own letters, with all of the knowledge they have gotten. This is my absolute favourite part. They get to find out that they have their very own pen pal. They really get excited and they can't wait to get to know them. They go ahead and introduce themselves, ask questions, and follow all the parts of the letter that we determined previously.
I know this seems daunting, but please just try it once. I promise, it's so worth seeing your students writing skills blossom. They love the idea of making a new friend, and getting to share their thoughts and opinions with someone that they have not yet met.
P.S. They get to mail their letters out as well, and then they anxiously wait for a response from their new friend!
Want the full details on how to teach letter writing to French Immersion students? Take a look!
I also offer other real-life writing situations with:
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