I had the idea for the French as a Second Language (FSL) eBooks when I was working as a Middle/High School French teacher at the American School of Doha in Qatar. I was provided with textbooks which were fantastic in many ways – the vocabulary and grammar activities were helpful tools – but the one thing I always felt I was lacking was reading material for the students. The articles in the textbooks were often a struggle for students to read and comprehend, prompting me to look for primary French books that weren’t ideal either. Resources could be found for French Immersion students, but I couldn’t seem to find reading material for students who were 11 to 15 years old and just beginning to learn French. So I began creating my own FSL eBooks for the students, and found that my classes really enjoyed them. Then I took it one step further and started developing storylines and characters that the students could relate to, and whose journeys they would enjoy following.
I was developing the storylines and mapping out an FSL eBook collection when a colleague left a copy of a Literature Circles book on my desk. I found this odd, as an FSL teacher, but then it struck me that perhaps Literature Circles could be modified and used in second language classrooms. I had used Literature Circles at a previous school while teaching English Language Arts to grade 5 students, and found them to be a great teaching method. So I decided to design topics for discussion that centered around individual FSL eBooks, and to create additional resources for each eBook – worksheets, lesson plans and assessments.
The FSL eBooks alongside the Literature Circles program worked beautifully, filling the reading comprehension void left by the challenging textbooks, which I still used. I would introduce an eBook near the beginning of a unit, and revisit it several times in different ways – sometimes displaying the eBook on the SMART Board and reading it together as a class; other times students read in small groups or practised individually. Adding audio buttons to the eBooks allowed students to listen and self-correct their pronunciation. During the unit, students would complete worksheets and activities based on the eBook, and I would often assign a related project. At the end of the unit, we would use one or two lessons for the literature circles discussion groups. I would place students in groups of three or four and help them prepare answers to the questions provided, enabling them to practice their newly learned language skills comfortably and without anxiety.
I completed the FSL series while living in Aktau, Kazakhstan, and since there wasn’t really an opportunity for me teach in the small city, I decided to use my time during my husband’s posting to expand the eBook series to include ESL materials. I also created PDF versions for parents who were searching for ways to help their child(ren) learn either French or English. As an ESL and FSL teacher, parents often appreciated my recommendations of the additional resources they could use at home for extra practice.