Overview of the French Language Advocacy Wiki

Over 170 documents are here on the Wiki to help 20070411_065-14.png

promote and advocate for your French program.

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and improving!

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Here is the text of the Overview document:

The French Language Advocacy Wiki
A Campaign to Support French Programs

Margot M. Steinhart
Advocacy Wiki Project Coordinator
Northwestern University

French teachers now have a tool Wiki to support their goal of developing and sustaining a successful French program: The French Language Advocacy Wiki. Created as a response to the curtailment of French programs across the country, the Wiki consists of a video and an extensive set of resource documents. The video, “The World Speaks French: Video Stories,” is available as a DVD from the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF). The video stories are also accessible in downloadable form from the Wiki. (Information on these clips is contained in two documents on the page “Advancing Arguments”) The second component, consisting primarily of text documents, is available online at https://frenchadvocacy.wikispaces.com/ .

AATF, along with partners in the French Embassy and Quebec Government Office, is leading the charge to promote and to advocate for French language programs in the US. The French Language Advocacy Wiki is a component of this campaign of solidarity: “The French Language Initiative: The World Speaks French.” As such, it serves as a critical tool for French teachers who want to build support for their programs or who are experiencing a real or perceived threat to the continuation of their programs. The Multimedia Language Center at Northwestern University filmed, edited, and produced The World Speaks French: Video Stories. The documents included in this Wiki represent the sustained efforts of French teachers and others, who have been committed to this project since 2007.

Purpose of the Wiki
The goal of this initiative is to take advocacy to the local level where it can be most effective and provide a set of materials that a French teacher can use and adapt when faced with program threats. Since many teachers feel ill-prepared to defend their programs and to put forth convincing arguments about the relevance of French, that issue is addressed in the Wiki. Many of the documents which can be used to respond to the question of “Why study French?” are found on the Wiki page “Advancing Arguments.”

Reasons to study French are interspersed among various documents, but they are also concisely presented as a series of 10 statements with explanations of varying lengths and in different formats. These ten reasons appear as one-page documents, one with bullet points (“With French YOU can….”) and another with short paragraphs, (“10 Reasons to Study French”), ready to be distributed as flyers. In addition, there is a third version with more supporting information and data that can serve an advocate as talking points. These talking points also appear in two PowerPoints, which can be used for presentations and for posting on teacher web sites. A bibliography for information included in these documents is provided. A tri-fold color brochure, “French: Language of Choice,” also presents reasons to learn French in a pdf format and can be tailored to accommodate local data or images in its doc format. While the focus of this Wiki is on the French program K-12, many ideas and documents can be adapted in order to sustain programs at the community college and university level. One of the web pages, “Advocating at College and University Levels,” groups documents that can be useful for faculty in higher education. However, French teachers at colleges and universities will find more ideas and suggestions by looking more closely at all of the pages on the Wiki site, not just the one page dedicated to their interests.

Organizing themes of the Wiki
The components of the Wiki are presented as a home page with these additional pages, which appear on the right side bar of each Wiki page.

  1. Overview of Kit
  2. Advancing Arguments for Learning French
  3. Cultivating Allies for French Programs
  4. Advocating Trilingualism for Spanish-Language Students
  5. Responding to Program Threats
  6. Advocating at College and University Levels
  7. Using Technology for Promotion and Advocacy
  8. Finding Resources
  9. Acknowledgements

Because several of the documents may be useful for different purposes and with different audiences, they may be found under more than one rubric on the same page or on more than one page. For example, some documents which are supportive of making programs visible and recruiting students may also be effective in responding to challenges to French programs. In perusing a particular document, readers should continually ask themselves how else they might use that document. Many texts, for example, also lend themselves well to classroom instruction. In particular, the article written by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow (“Modern Quebec: Cutting-Edge Culture in French”) has a version in French (“Le Québec aujourd’hui: à la fine pointe du monde francophone”), which provides insight into the influence of our neighbor to the north, where French is the official language

Building a French program

A successful French program is also one in which the program, the students, and the French teacher are prominent in the school and in the community. The French teachers who shared their stories, presented as “Success Stories” in this Wiki, endeavored to make their French programs visible and were able to see their programs preserved or restored because of support from their allies. A number of “Personal Stories” and “Quotes” have been gathered for teachers to use, if desired, but more importantly, these testimonials can also motivate teachers to accumulate their own files of how their French program has influenced students’ lives and careers. Prompts to invite stories and comments from students and parents are included in the Wiki, as well as a release form for the fair use of statements and images. At a time when curricular decisions are based on state mandates for courses usually in other disciplines and on precarious financial resources, foreign language professionals must worked harder and smarter to garner public support and to dispel with compelling counter-arguments misperceptions about the demise of French as a language with international influence

Cultivating allies
The Wiki’s creation is built upon the premise that the successful French teacher needs to cultivate allies, especially parents, but also students, colleagues, guidance counselors, administrators, Board of Education members, and the community, in general. Because teachers feel that the fate of their programs is frequently in the hands of the guidance department, a sub-section has been devoted to guidance counselors. One article provides the perspective of a guidance counselor, who makes recommendations to teachers to increase their understanding of the role of the guidance counselor and to engage with counselors in effective ways. In order to acquire allies, communication with parents and visibility of French students and activities within the school community as well as in the larger community are de rigueur. To reach that objective, sample letters and lists of recommendations, as well as a brochure, a calendar of activities, surveys, and a newsletter, which all can be customized, are offered as inspiration for teachers to create their personalized documents.

A series of bell-ringer exercises with a French connection has been developed in English for use in discipline-specific classes during National French Week, for example, to develop allies for French across the curriculum. These same activities could also be incorporated into a French teacher’s lesson plan to show students the relationship between French and other areas of study and interest.
A Parent Booklet, containing numerous documents, has been created as a model for teachers to develop their own documents to communicate with parents. Such a booklet is an opportunity for teachers to describe the local French program, to define appropriate and realistic outcomes for students in the program, and to inform parents about the importance of the French language and the numerous Francophone cultures in the world. Some texts can be used as presented, and others invite teachers to adapt pieces to fit their teaching situation. While some teachers may wish to prepare a booklet as a physical document, others may wish to create an electronic document as part of a web page. Although designed as a unified set of materials, the documents may also be distributed individually to parents throughout the year.

The section on responding to program threats offers ideas to call to action allies who have been cultivated and new ones when program reductions are proposed. In K-12 schools, teachers are frequently advised not to contact parents or to tell students when their programs are threatened. However, according to the developers of the Wiki, it is the parents and the students who must accept the challenge to prevent or to overturn decisions that reduce or eliminate French programs in their schools. Since board of education members serve at the pleasure of the voters in the community, the parents have the greatest influence on decisions that the Board makes. The teacher’s role in advocacy remains a delicate one, but armed with information and resources, the teacher should feel confident enough to motivate parents and students to launch an effective advocacy campaign to preserve their French program.

The advocacy documents build upon the public support that a teacher has already developed by being visible and communicating directly with allies in the school and in the community. Having a promotional strategy already in place facilitates mounting an effective local campaign when a French program is endangered. When contemplating how to respond to a program threat, the teacher might begin with the checklists for advocates: one for teachers, a second for parents, and a third for students. The various documents for student recruitment for French classes can also serve an advocacy purpose, for they provide reasons why French is important as an international language. The samples in the Wiki of quotes and personal stories (grouped as testimonials) from students, parents, and others, as well as letters written in support of French programs in K-12 and at the post-secondary can serve as models for advocacy documents that need to be created at the local level. When decisions about French programs reach the school board-level, advocates will find examples of presentations made by teachers and students before school boards to help them in their own preparations. A reflective article written by a board member (and former French teacher) suggests what teachers and parents can do to be effective advocates in this context. In addition, ideas for school board presentations by advocates are contained in articles and speeches in a section of the wiki page “Responding to Program Threats.”

Recruitment of native Spanish-language students

In response to requests from French teachers to provide materials to recruit native Spanish-language students, documents have been created to promote trilingualism. These are grouped on the Wiki page “Advocating Trilingualism for Spanish-Language Speakers.” A professor of Spanish has written two letters in English and Spanish, one to parents and one to students, to illustrate the advantage of becoming fluent in three languages. A version of the 10 reasons to study French, “With French, YOU can…,” has a Spanish equivalent: “Con el francés, tú podrás….” A list of expressions and vocabulary in French and Spanish shows the similarity between the two languages, emphasizing the advantage that speakers of Romance languages have when learning another language with Latin roots. Articles which suggest strategies to recruit native Spanish-language students and which make comparisons between the two languages will also be useful in encouraging this cohort of students to study French. Ideas for recruitment and retention of this cohort of students come from several teachers of French, who also teach Spanish or who have native Spanish speakers in their classes, and from native Spanish speakers who teach French. Moreover, students who have studied Spanish as a second language may also be convinced that becoming multilingual has personal, academic, and marketplace advantages. Teachers may find that these materials can be used to recruit students who have already studied Spanish and are interested in becoming trilingual.

Students and technology as important resources

One of the surprises of developing this French Language Advocacy Wiki has been the discovery of how vital students are and can be to the advocacy process. Students across the country have been very creative in setting up web sites, blogs, and Facebook pages to extend support for their French programs, when these were scheduled for elimination. It was the example in spring 2009 of middle school students in Kings Park, NY, in particular, which demonstrated the power of the Internet and the skill of students to use it effectively as a tool for advocacy (see http://www.save-french.webs.com/index.htm). The passion of students combined with their technological savvy is a formidable force and one that teachers and parents should recognize as they plan their strategy to sustain their French programs. As a result, the Wiki contains a number of articles about using technology and a sample Photo Story video for the PC, which incorporates digital photos and audio, to support advocacy efforts. It is likely that students already have the know-how to use technology to this advantage. Harnessing their passion for French to their technological skills can make students a powerful asset in any advocacy campaign.

Overview of the contents

In creating the French Language Advocacy Wiki, the contributors were intent on providing documents that would be teacher-ready or that would easily facilitate personalization by the teacher. An important organizational schema of many thematic grouping is the inclusion of documents identified as introductory documents. The informational documents answer the questions: Who is the intended audience? Why is the document included? What is the document about? When and Where might this piece be used? and How might it be used? Some of these introductory documents contain additional suggestions and advice. They should be read before exploring the multiple documents in a thematic set in order to maximize their effectiveness.

The following is an overview of the variety of components included in the Wiki:

· two versions of a flyer for studying French (“With French, YOU can…” and 10 Reasons to Study French”)
· two versions of a PowerPoint presentation (“Why Study French?”) with talking points to expand on “With French, you can…” (also, a text version)
· a brochure (“French: Language of Choice”) promoting French as an important language to study (including a template which can be modified)
· sample letters and surveys (for parents, students, and colleagues)
· sample letters to advocate for French programs to administrators, boards of education (including letters in Spanish to native Spanish-speaking parents and students)
· a template for a month/year activity calendar, teacher biography
· checklists for advocacy (teacher, parents, and students)
· maps (Francophone world, French ethnicity in North America, density of native French speakers in North America)
· lists of French-speaking countries (by region and as countries and governments using French as an official language)
· a list of American celebrities who speak French
· a list of well-known French companies in the US
· a list of French words used in English
· a list of study strategies for students learning French
· student bell-ringer interdisciplinary activities (for National French Week)
· a parent booklet with program-specific and informational components
· resource lists of programs and documents from the American Association of Teachers of French and the French Embassy in the US
· articles supporting the study of French, championing visibility and advocacy initiatives
· articles to increase recruitment, especially of native Spanish-language students
· articles providing ideas to use technology in advocacy efforts (Wiki, Facebook, Photo Story, including a video demonstration)
· quotes and testimonials from students, parents, former students, other allies
· models of school board presentations
· video clips of 13 individuals who value French in their studies, their careers, and in their lives, presented as individual segments and as a full-length feature (31 minutes)

Evolution of the French Language Advocacy Wiki
Although the French Language Advocacy Wiki is a rich source of materials for French teachers and their advocates in this campaign to support French programs, the team that began this project recognizes that the project needs to evolve in order to stay current and remain effective. There are certainly other documents that could be added, and suggestions from teachers and other advocates are appreciated. Yes, we would like to know about typographical and factual errors, too! Moreover, the submission of additional documents is especially welcomed. As data change, modifications will need to be made to existing documents. Like Wikipedia, this set of documents will benefit from continual updates of information and expansion of content. To do this, the project requires the contributions of others. When many are invested, the results can be so much more beneficial to all. Contributions, comments, and critiques regarding the French Language Advocacy Wiki may be sent to frenchadvocacywiki@gmail.com.

In conclusion

The French Language Advocacy Wiki complements the materials that have been developed through The World Speaks French campaign. It also supplements the brochures and videos already available through the AATF Materials Center and the work of the AATF Advocacy Commission, with its web site of valuable resources. However, the focus of the French Language Advocacy Wiki is on what one teacher, one ally, and one advocate can do to support and maintain a French program. The contributors to this initiative hope that, with this Wiki, every French teacher can gather the appropriate tools to mount an effective response to any challenge to the French program. After all, French is indeed a language of influence in the 21st century. Let’s share the message!

For more information on promoting or advocating for French programs, please contact the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF): aatf@frenchteachers.org .