Le Mois du français à la CSEM: a snapshot of some activities

On the eve of Elementary School Registration Week for the 2023-2024 academic year, the English Montreal School Board celebrated bilingualism and the excellent quality of French instruction available in its elementary and secondary schools. Le Mois du français à la CSEM took place during the month of January. A familiar EMSB slogan, “Être bilingue, c’est gagnant!” promotes the fact that being bilingual represents a winning formula.

Here is a look at some of the activities, presentations and workshops which took place exclusively in French.

Chloé Varin and the students.

Drawing comic strips with Chloé Varin

Chloé Varin, Quebec author and storyteller, gave a workshop on les bandes-déssinées for a cycle 2 and a cycle 3 class at Coronation Elementary School in Côte des Neiges on January 9.

Dancing at Dunrae.

Learning the Gumboots dance at Dunrae

Students in Cycles 2 and 3 at Dunrae Gardens Elementary School in the Town of Mount Royal participated in a dance workshop from Just Aïssi’s Just Gumboots company during the week of January 9. They learned about the South African percussion dance and got to try it out for themselves!

Noémi Battista, who teaches Music in French, organized the special activity and helped facilitate the 16 workshops, which were done entirely in French. “Students were extremely enthusiastic and intrigued to learn about a new culture,” she said.

They learned about the Gumboots dance, a South African percussion dance performed in rainboots, whose origins date back to the 19th century. 

Ms. Battista said students commented on how they loved discovering something new. Instructor Mr. Joseph was asked questions relating to his African culture and heritage. “Many students went home to practice their new dance moves and choreography with their family members,” she said.

Vincent Marissal is welcomed to Nesbitt.

MNA Marissal visits Nesbitt, talks about bilingualism

Québec Solidaire MNA for Rosemount Vincent Marissal was at Nesbitt Elementary School  in Rosemount to speak to students.  He was joined at the podium by EMSB French Consultant Sonya Jean and EMSB Vice-Chair and Commissioner Agostino Cannavino. Mr. Marissal has been the MNA for the riding since 2018. He spoke about growing up in Granby, enjoying a career as a journalist and for the past five years as an elected politician. Mr. Marissal also made a point of focusing attention on the importance of bilingualism. While he speaks English and French, he still makes it a point to listen to French radio and read some English newspapers each day. He was very impressed with the quality of French the students displayed in their interactions with him.  See this report on CityNews.

Artist in Répertoire culture-éducation gives workshop at Coronation

On January 10, students in Grade 5 and 6 at Coronation Elementary School in Côte des Neiges took part in a drama arts workshop with Tina Milivojevic, a performing arts and film artist listed in Quebec’s Répertoire culture-éducation. Students performed dramatic sequences using masks and role-playing, including a scene from Boucle d'or et les trois ours (Goldilocks and the Three Bears). 

Francis Choinière  at FACE.

Choinière returns to FACE

Francis Choinière returned to FACE School downtown to talk to students about his career. He was only 18 when he co-founded The Orchestre Philharmonique et choeur des mélomanes (OPCM)  to help unify his two great passions, choral and symphonic music, after identifying an opportunity in the Montreal musical landscape for large-scale works with choir and orchestra to be presented more frequently by ensembles at the highest level.  The choir now counts nearly 80 members and is a mélange of music enthusiasts, or mélomanes, and professional core singers.  “I grew up in Montreal, having gone to FACE School for 11 years where I was regularly part of a choir and concert band,” Francis  said.  “From that early age I was singing, playing piano and trumpet and composing my own music.” 

Francis graduated from McGill University with a Masters Degree in Conducting in 2020. Besides the OPCM, he conducts elsewhere and produces shows. The latter includes such large spectacles as Lord of The Rings, Star Wars, Titantic and Fantasia at the Place des Arts. 

Francis grew up in a bilingual home and speaks both English and French fluently. He chose the English sector of FACE. Francis was very well received by the students, who came from both the English and French sectors. They were in fact truly inspired by his success at such a young age and asked many questions. EMSB Pedagogical Consultant Nicolas Doyon moderated the session. Here is a link of Francis playing the piano for students: https://vimeo.com/788421710. The password is FACE2023.

Honoré Mercier students receive special visit from Tom Mulcair

Former NDP leader, Quebec cabinet minister and present-day political commentator Tom Mulcair spoke to students of Andrea Bove at Honoré Mercier Elementary School via Zoom. He was introduced by EMSB Chair Joe Ortona. EMSB Pedagogical Consultant Anik Malenfant served as moderator. Mr. Mulcair is the great grandson of Honoré Mercier, a former Premier of Quebec, so he has a special connection to this school, which he has visited in the past. The students had many questions for Mr. Mulcair, ranging from what he liked best about being a politician and how being related to Honoré Mercier impacted him. Mr. Mulcair is presently also teaching at the university level and he said he particularly enjoys opportunities like this to talk to young students. Mr. Mulcair said he grew up as one of 10 children. His father was English and his mother French. He is a lawyer by profession. Mr. Mulcair said he was impressed by the caliber and quality of the questions from the students. You can see the entire talk here

Marc Garneau has exchange with Roslyn students 

Liberal Member of Parliament for NDG-Westmount   Marc Garneau, spoke to Grade 5 and 6 students at Roslyn Elementary School in Westmount about the different paths his career took – from the sea to space to a seat in the Canadian legislature. His resounding message was to be open to all possibilities. Speaking in French via videoconference to about 150 students in attendance, Mr. Garneau, who is MP for NDG-Westmount, said he loves to talk to students. Before taking questions, he explained how his education and interests directed his career path. 

After his studies in engineering physics, Mr. Garneau joined the Royal Canadian Navy as a systems combat engineer, following his interest in ships and travel by sea. At the age of 34, he saw an ad soliciting applications to become a Canadian astronaut and “couldn’t resist” to apply. He was to become one of Canada’s first six astronauts and the first Canadian to fly in space. Mr. Garneau also explained to his young audience his role as an elected representative in the Canadian government.

Posing their questions in French, most students wanted to know more about his experience living and working in space, where he conducted scientific experiments and worked on the international space station. Questions ranged from: Did he grow taller in space? Do things taste differently? How did he sleep and drink? Are there seasons in space? Was he scared to go there? What did he accomplish? One question related to his political path: Why did he turn down the position of Canada’s ambassador in France?

In saying goodbye, he told students it wasn’t too early to be thinking about what they wanted to do in life – and he left with these parting words: «Je voulais souhaiter à tous les élèves bonne chance dans leurs études à Roslyn. Je sais qu’il y a toutes sortes de possibilités pour vous – pour votre avenir… Si j’avais un message que j’aime toujours donner quand je parle aux jeunes c’est qu’il faut s’occuper de notre planète… J’ai vu notre planète. J’ai fait le tour plus de 400 fois ! Alors je sais qu’on vit sur une très, très belle planète ! On doit s’occuper de notre environnement pour que vous et vos enfants et petits-enfants puissiez avoir de l’eau potable, de l’air qui est propre. »

Eric Girard is welcomed to Royal Vale.

Royal Vale receives EMSB’s first-ever visit from CAQ member 

CAQ MNA Eric Girard, Quebec’s Minister of Finance Minister Responsible for Relations with English-Speaking Quebecers, spoke to students at Royal Vale in NDG. EMSB Chair Joe Ortona moderated the session and happily noted how this marked the first time a CAQ minister has ever visited one of our schools. Mr. Girard stressed the importance of bilingualism, noting that is why he chose to attend McGill University and how a love of numbers and sports inspired him. “I was in Secondary V when I first heard the then finance minister’s budget speech, and I knew I wanted to do this,” he said. He took questions, ranging from language skills to his job, and even his thoughts on the Bill 96 language law. “He was very inclusive and tried to make sure that everyone got a chance to answer all the questions that they had,” said Grade 8 student Lily Phaneuf. “And no matter what kind of question they asked, he always had a really good answer for it.”  Please see our video.

Elisabeth Prass at Merton.

Prass returns to Merton for a conversation in French

Liberal MNA of D’Arcy-McGee, Elisabeth Prass, visited Merton Elementary School on January 17. She spoke in French to the Grade 6 class about her experiences becoming and now working as an MNA and about the work of the National Assembly. Her address came during EMSB’s celebration of Le Mois du français à la CSEM and formed part of the Ministère de l’Éducation’s personal and career planning program. This was Ms. Prass’ second visit to Merton since her election in October 2022.

Filomena Rotiroti is thanked for her visit.

MNA Rotiroti goes to Dante, speaks about her work in National Assembly

Students in Grade 5 and 6 at Dante Elementary School in St. Léonard had a special in-person visit from MNA for Jeanne-Mance–Viger, Filomena Rotiroti, on January 16, as part of the EMSB’s le Mois du français à la CSEM. 

Ms. Rotiroti is Chief Whip of the Official Opposition and Official Opposition Critic for Immigration, Francization and Integration.

Students, who were well-prepared for her visit, asked her questions about what led her to work in government and what issues she wanted to address. She was also asked what challenges she faces there, to which she answered she was initially challenged working in a French environment, having been educated in English institutions. She explained that perseverance and determination to learn another language made it possible to work in a francophone setting like the Quebec National Assembly and to be able to express herself orally and in writing in French.

Students also asked what advice she could give to “succeed in life.” She told them to speak as many languages as possible, but to be well versed in French here in Quebec.

The event was attended by commissioner Mario Pietrangelo. 

Edinburgh students thank the Consul General via Zoom.

A meeting of compatriots from France at three elementary schools

On January 17, the Consul général de France à Québec, Frédéric Sanchez, paid a virtual visit to three EMSB classrooms. What was special about these classrooms? They belonged to compatriots of Mr. Sanchez – three teachers from France, who arrived in Canada to teach in French at EMSB this year.

Joining the special presentation was Adèle Guilloteau, a Grade 1 teacher at Willingdon Elementary School in NDG; Diane Leuillot, a Grade 2 teacher at Edinburgh Elementary School in Montreal West; and Julie Caplier, teaching a Grade 5 class at Merton Elementary in Côte Saint-Luc. The exchange provided students an authentic experience to interact in French.

Marie-Claude Bergeron, Pedagogical Consultant, French Second Language, Elementary, asked the teachers to comment on their experience, so far, teaching French as a second language. Ms. Guilloteau responded that she finds it effective to use different tools and techniques to teach math in French, a second language for most of the students. Ms. Leuillot commented that she was struck by how students were able to switch so rapidly between the languages and that her students liked learning a second language. At Merton, Ms. Caplier said she was impressed that when students leave elementary school, they are bilingual and have the choice of going to a French or English high school.

Ms. Guilloteau’s Grade 1 class had practised singing a song for Mr. Sanchez. They sang “L'hiver est tout blanc” (Raymond Fau) surrounded by floating red, white and blue balloons. 

Grade 2 students at Edinburgh in Ms. Leuillot’s class welcomed Mr. Sanchez with signs containing the letters forming the word “Bienvenue.”

The floor then went to Ms. Caplier’s fifth-grade students at Merton, who had been recently studying France. Questions ranged from how did he get the job, what kind of work does a diplomat do, to: Did he prefer a croissant from Paris or a BeaverTail from Montreal? (“Croissant” was the resounding answer!) and which subway system is better: Montreal’s Metro or the Paris Metro (he explained how they’re different) and had he seen the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower. Mr. Sanchez also had a laugh when one student asked: Was he following up on his resolution to do more sports, based on information she had found on his social media channel. Please see the video of the program.

Gabriel Nadeau Dubois is welcomed to Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Nadeau-Dubois speaks to students at Pierre Elliott Trudeau  

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of Québec Solidaire spoke to students at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Elementary School in Rosemount. He has been the MNA for the riding of Gouin since 2017 and serves as his party’s co-spokesperson. It was in 2012, as a high-profile student activist, that he rose to fame. As he told the students, it was only then that he started to learn English in order to properly do interviews with the media. A new dad, he said that when his daughter becomes eligible to attend school she will be enrolled in a public school. In a very interactive session, Mr. Nadeau Dubois asked the students a lot of questions, and they responded with great enthusiasm. He appreciated the questions they posed to him on issues such as the environment, his political objectives and what more the government can do for the school system.

Marc Tanguay is welcomed to East Hill.

Tanguay visits East Hill

Marc Tanguay, interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party, spoke to students at East Hill Elementary School in RDP. He is also the MNA for the local riding of LaFontaine. A lawyer by trade, he was first elected in 2012. He told the students that he entered politics because he had a passion for serving the citizens of Quebec. Chair Joe Ortona and Commissioner Pietro Mercuri were in attendance. Mr. Tanguay noted that learning English and becoming bilingual was an important thing to do in his life. He was asked to explain his role as an MNA and interim party leader, including the types of questions he generally gets. As for bilingualism, he said: "Knowing how to speak well in one language is good. Knowing how to do so in two is better."

 Please see this video.

Learning about puppetry in French at John Caboto 

Four and five-year-old Kindergarten children at John Caboto Academy in Ahuntsic had fun with puppets on January 20. Puppet theatre company, Théâtre Tortue Berlue came to the school to present Les savants flous, a presentation and workshop in puppetry. The children were exposed to different aspects of theatre including how to manipulate puppets.

Loran the magician mesmerizes John Caboto 

On November 23, Grade 5 and 6 students John Caboto Academy Elementary School in Ahuntsic were treated to a little magic! Illusionist Loran gave an informative workshop in French on the psychology of illusion and how magic is created. Students asked him questions in French as they also explored the fascinating life of Houdini and other famous magicians. In the afternoon, the whole school was treated to an amazing magic show that left many students mesmerized. 

Danse folkloroique workshop at Michelangelo (Kindergarten) with France Bourque-Moreau.

Learning Québécois folk dance at Michelangelo

A specialist on international and Québécois folk dance for children, France Bourque-Moreau lead a dynamic workshop with Kindergarten children at Michelangelo International Elementary School in Rivières des Prairies on January 20. 

Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is welcomed to Edward Murphy.

St-Pierre Plamondon shares his childhood dreams with students at Edward Murphy

Parti Québecois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon spoke to students at Edward Murphy Elementary School in Hochelaga Maisonnneuve in the Camille Laurin riding he now serves as MNA. A lawyer by profession, he has degrees from McGill University in Montreal and Oxford University in England. He has also lived in Bolivia, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. Mr. St-Pierre Plamondon conveyed to the students the benefits of speaking multiple languages and experiencing different cultures. Asked why he wanted to become an MNA, he said it was for the opportunity to go out and meet different Quebecers including the students of Edward Murphy. He also said that when he recently discovered a book of his when he was in third grade. At that time there was a written question of what he wanted to be when he grew up, to which he had responded “a lawyer and a politician.” Please see this video.

Dancing away.

Nesbitt participates in Danses du Monde

Nesbitt Elementary School in Rosemount hosted Martin Langlais in a cultural workshop called Danses du monde on January 19. Students in Grade 1 and 2 participated with their music teacher Caroline Derome. 

She explained, “Dance workshops help children learn French through play. They promote self-expression, teamwork, coordination and motor skills, all the while allowing children to have fun. The creative atmosphere favours the stimulation of the senses and offers the student an opportunity for empowerment while learning.”

St. Monica students enjoying their activity.

St. Monica uses song to celebrate Mois du français

During the week of January 9 or 16, St. Monica Elementary School in NDG had several special activities that took place to mark le Mois du français à la CSEM.  Among them was a visit that a K-4 class had from Grade 1 students, who sang “Au clair de la lune.” Pairs were created from the two groups, with the older students reading aloud to the younger ones in French.

In music class, students in Grade 1 and 2 learned the song “Francophonie - hymne et ode à la francophonie” (Philippe Richard). And in Grade 2 and 3, students learned the tale of “Les trois petits cochons,” followed by a puppet-making activity to present their saynète.

The kids love music.

French musical workshop with Louise Campbell at Willingdon

Grade 1 students at Willingdon Elementary School in NDG received a special visitor on January 19. They were treated to an atelier musical avec Louise Campbell, a Montreal-based composer, performer and improviser. Her creative music workshop, given in French, centred around making music with coloured percussion tubes called boom whackers. The students first learned how to play the instrument and then interpret well-known melodies. They then went on to compose their own short pieces of music. 

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