Saint-Thomas High School's Passion Pop Promotes French as a Second Language

by Isabelle Alarie, French Teacher and Student Life Coordinator at St. Thomas High School

Members of the media were recently invited to attend the one-day Passion Pop event held at St. Thomas High School. Passion Pop’s goal was to provide students with an opportunity to learn French in a creative environment and to develop French second language skills. Inspired by the model of popular cultural events like Comiccon, the students prepared workshops on topics they are passionate about and presented them to their peers.

This unifying project gives other students the opportunity to become the audience and learn about their peers’ passions, while speaking French in their communications.
The project is open to all FSL students, regardless of their background (core or enriched). It offers pedagogical flexibility that helps teachers adapt it to the needs of the students.

Passion Pop and FSL
The Passion Pop project is based on the Comiccon concept, which is a convention of pop culture fans. Originally, a Comiccon was simply a convention for comic book collectors. Over time, the annual gathering exploded into a conference attended by authors, cartoonists, vendors, costume designers and celebrities from all areas of pop culture, literature and the arts. The Passion Pop project is not about the video games, the comics, or the costumes. It is the power that students have to choose what they want to study and present. When students are given control over the content of what they learn in class, like superheroes who have just discovered their power, they are motivated and engaged in their FSL learning.

A multi-faceted project
Students know a lot about what they are passionate about and are often willing to share their knowledge with others. A video game player might compare the best consoles or explain the evolution of video games, including his or her own. A student who is more interested in fashion or music can list the movies that have had the greatest impact on 20th and 21st century fashion. A student who loves to draw can present his or her portfolio and talk about influences. Like the Doctor Strange multiverse, the topics are endless.

Stepping out of your comfort zone
Stepping out of your comfort zone is scary, no matter how old you are. A young person struggling with FSL is often reluctant to try something new because the unknown is never fun. However, if students can choose the content of his or her learning, they will feel much more motivated and engaged in their academic journey. Success is not just about the grade you get. It’s about developing a connection between your passion and the language you are learning, it’s about facing the unknown knowing that you control the parameters, it’s about creating a connection between yourself and your audience.

Rethinking student engagement
When students have clear parameters and when they are in control of what they are studying, management comes easily because students become collaborators and participants in the course flow. Their experience in the FSL course is transformed.

By allowing students free choice in their presentation, they have control over the content and are given the opportunity to express their voice. As a result, their sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem benefits.

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