Young newcomer students’ capacities to understand and recount a tale in French, language of instruction, through a “minimal circuit of activities”

Submitted by: Anthony Coppola
Abstract: Keywords : French didactics – young newcomer students – oral comprehension and production capacities – characters-narrative system – minimal circuit of activities

Teachers tell and read tales and children’s storybooks very often to young students in primary school. Nevertheless, is listening enough to understand and recount a story? Is there no need for specific instruction to develop students’ oral comprehension and production capacities? Research in French didactics shows that oral comprehension skills are frequently requested in different school matters but strategies to develop these skills are rarely taught (Colognesi & Dolz, 2017), especially to allophone students.
Attempting to find solutions to these issues, we drew on the work developed by teachers and researchers at the Maison des Petits Network (MdPN) in Geneva (Switzerland) that aims to better equip teachers and students aged 4 to 8 to working on tales or children’s storybooks comprehension. This Network has conceived a “minimal circuit of activities” based on the concept of “characters-narrative system” (CNS) (Cordeiro, 2014) that makes visible the relationships between the intentions, actions and feelings of each character interacting with those of the other characters. This didactical device highlights the narrative’s dynamic, which would be a major asset for its understanding (Cordeiro, 2018).
In this presentation, we will analyse the outcomes of the MdPN “minimal circuit of activities”, adapted to the language needs of 4 newcomer students (age 5) attending a French language support group in a canton of Vaud school for the understanding of Goldilocks and the three bears tale. These intensive French courses (IFC) aim to build a bridge between the students’ heritage language and French, language of instruction. The teaching sequence was fully filmed and analysed. It was composed of the following steps: (1) watching an animated story of the tale; (2) individual assessment of students’ initial capacities to recount the story; (3) characters and places identification; (5) (re)construction of the CNS of the tale through images re-sequencing ; (6) watching another animated story of the tale; (7) individual assessment of students’ final capacities to recount the story.
First results of initial and final assessments analysis show that thanks to the teaching sequence students become capable of pointing out more accurately the characters’ main intentions, actions and feelings, putting into words the basic aspects of the tale’s plot.


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Cordeiro, G. S. (2014). Justifications des élèves et médiations de l’enseignante dans une tâche de compréhension en lecture d’un conte en maternelle. Repères, 50, 157-176.
Cordeiro, G. S. (2018). Apprendre à parler en justifiant ses dires collectivement pour comprendre un récit lu ou raconté à l’école maternelle : propos des élèves et interventions de l’enseignant. Pratiques no. 177-178. Accès : https://