Le concours d’art oratoire – An Insider’s Perspective
My name is Victoria Woznowski and I am a Teacher Candidate at York University (Glendon College). I am in my first year of the program and hope to teach French Immersion in the Primary/Junior Division. I would like to start by sharing my quick history with CPF and why this year has been particularly interesting for me.
This past year I started doing my community placement at Canadian Parents for French (Ontario). Prior to starting, I was already familiar with CPF because, from grade 4 to grade 11, I participated in their annual Concours d’art oratoire. In 2013, I represented my school board and competed in the provincial competition which took place at Glendon College. This was my first time going to Glendon College which ended up becoming my future university. It was really then that I found out about and fell in love with York University’s bilingual campus. This has been an exciting year for me as I feel that I have done a full circle. My experience with CPF started as a student participating in Le Concours d’art oratoire and now I have returned and am involved with CPF not only as a student, but also as a future teacher.
For those not familiar with Le concours d’art oratoire, it is French public-speaking event for students from grades 4-12 in Core, Extended, and French Immersion. Students have the opportunity to write and present a speech and can go on to compete at the school, regional, and provincial level. Although, from the perspective of a student, it may have seemed like another school project, looking back I cannot begin to explain how much I gained from participating. What I quickly realized was that writing a speech was not as easy as it seemed. It is a multistep process that requires research, planning, writing, proofreading, practice, and presenting. It is a wonderful task for students because it is an authentic writing task that allows them to link their writing and oral skills, while using their creativity to explore a topic. Oral French is a component that many FSL students struggle with and I think that the Concours really helped me gain confidence in my oral French. In my classroom, all of the students presented a speech so we also had the opportunity to listen to other speeches and ask questions. Looking at it from a student’s perspective, presenting a speech can be terrifying… especially in French. I remember first thinking that writing a two-minute speech seemed like such a daunting task. However, after writing, preparing and practicing my speech, I slowly became more comfortable with the idea. When it came to presenting my speech in my class, I felt so proud afterwards and I could not believe that I did it. Gradually throughout the years I gained more confidence and with every year I felt more and more comfortable. As FSL learners it is important to take language risks and I feel that the Concours d’art oratoire helped me challenge myself and gain a different type of experience.
The benefits are not just academic – they extend well beyond that. What I really appreciated was the freedom that the students have in choosing their topics. When I thought of a speech I immediately thought of something formal, something that a businessman or a politician would write. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that we can do our speech on anything that we wanted. Throughout my eight years participating I explored an array of different topics, one of my favorites being my speech on my life as a twin. I heard speeches ranging from the invention of chocolate, to how to give a speech, to speeches on the responsibilities of an engineer. This freedom truly adds a personal dimension to the Concours and is what really motivated and engaged me. Students are given the opportunity to explore their interests, passions or hobbies and to transmit them in a creative way.
The Concours d’art oratoire is a wonderful learning opportunity for all FSL students. It helps students develop and practice their written and oral French skills, while equally allowing students to think creatively and build more confidence not only as FSL learners but also as individuals!