In the words of students, "Reading novels in school is boring and you can't learn oral communication: you either get it or you don't!"
To this we can add a common sentiment among teachers: literature appreciation and oral communication are very difficult to teach and to evaluate, according to the majority of teachers surveyed during a ministerial inquiry into the implementation of Québec's educational reform in 2007. Because they affect overall personal development (socio-emotional, cultural and cognitive), these skills call for interactive, meaningful, inclusive and explicit teaching methods and situations to ensure cultural access for all students. Limiting literature appreciation instruction to questionnaires and large group discussions of novels read at home serves to increase the inequality gap within the classroom and causes many students to lose motivation.
These explicit teaching models fostered independence and peer interaction within literature study circles.
Seven elementary and secondary school teachers who received training and support over the course of a year to develop an explicit integrated teaching approach observed an improvement in the motivation and success of the majority of their students regarding reading and oral communication. The teachers began by learning to plan what strategies and concepts they should teach according to the specific works and oral situations, something they had not done previously. Clarifying their objectives in this way enabled them to simultaneously evaluate reading and oral communication skills, while making students more aware of the strategies they could use to improve their reading, paraphrasing and oral justification skills.
These explicit teaching models fostered independence and peer interaction within literature study circles, enhancing the persistence and success of the majority of participants. In the shared learning context of a peer-led literature circle, and with the judicious use of information and communication technologies, all types of students were able and willing to read and to speak up before the group.
Manon Hébert, Université de Montréal
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Deposit of the research report: February 2014