Yves Baticle and Christophe Pavie. Écrire un roman coopératif avec sa classe. (Writing a cooperative novel with one’s class). Preface by Sylvain Connac. Lyon: Éditions de la Chronique sociale, coll. Pédagogie Formation, 2020.
pp. 144. ISBN 978-2-36717-677-2
Reviewed by Rodica Gabriela Chira, 1 Decembrie 1918 University of Alba Iulia, Romania
Developing the sense of writing with one’s class through a cooperative novel. Yves Baticle and Christophe Pavie, the first being headmaster and teacher, trainer of young teachers, intervenient at the University of Caen in the interdegrees, the second, trainer in French, in interdisciplinarity, in the interdegrees, in interculturality and in international courses at the INSPÉ (Institut National Supérieur du Professorat et de l’Éducation) of the University of Caen, Normandy, offer us, through this perfectly structured book, a method of didactic approach to writing through the creation of a novel. Dedicated to students aged 8 to 12, this book can expand its target audience up to 18 years.
With a preface by Sylvain Connac, a specialist in the field, cited by the two authors, and based on specialised sources as well as on the teaching experience of the authors, the book proves to be an important tool not only for the teacher of French as a mother tongue, but also for any other teacher who would like to apply this method to teaching any mother tongue.
The preface is preceded by a “Synoptic of worked skills” (“Synoptique des compétences travaillées”) which includes oral comprehension and expression, reading and writing, artistic projection, the way of imagining the organisation of different sound elements, the history of the arts and history, physical education, the culture of sensitivity, mathematical reasoning. It shows from the beginning the complexity of the process, a complexity expressed in the simplest and most coherent way possible. The professional experience of the two authors, one with working experience in a company, as a salesperson, the other dedicated to teaching from the very beginning of his career, interweaves in perfect harmony. Both types of experiences are life-oriented, with a very practical and commercial, lucrative side or with patience and dedication that should be the hallmark of any self-respecting teacher.
As pointed out in the “Introduction”, this “two-handed” work devoted to adults, and therefore to teachers, includes nine chapters, of which the first three explain the principles and the steps to follow, the importance of a brief perspective on the genre. The other six propose “6 totally independent courses of writing a cooperative novel”, through the treatment of “6 fundamental themes which resonate with the novel from school to high school: the theater, the fable, the letter, poetry, music and history” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 10). Each course indicates “the core competences at work” (p.10), in a multidisciplinary approach. Three of these courses have as target audience pupils aged 8 to 10, the other three pupils aged 10 to 12 with possibilities of adaptation to an audience ranging from 13 to 18 years old. The time allotted for this kind of work can range from 7 to 11 hours.
The first chapter, “Principles of organisation” (“Principes d’organisation”), proposes the journey as a principle of organisation of the course, referring to a certain extent to the fairy tale, with its stages which imply the organisation of a space, an objective with different motivations, the discovery of a solution to one or more problems, a means of transport. All this, obviously, in a well-organised framework, with four to five or six heterogeneous groups of students, each consisting of a maximum of four to five persons, each having their own responsibilities and specific responsibilities for each student in the group, with writing constraints, with a “teaching posture” inspired by the concept of Soulé and Boucheton, in particular “to pilot and organize the session” (Soulé, & Boucheton 2009: 29-48 as cited in Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 15) allowing at the same time autonomy, to engage the pupil to work effectively, to open the possibility of exchanges, create a link between the sessions, didacticise knowledge and techniques in a learning project (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 15). The skills worked on respond to those presented by the Unesco’s infographics (2014), with an emphasis on creativity and the development of critical thinking. All this means that the assessment involves additional values that target the imaginative capacity of the students and that of self-valuation and the valuation of the whole through well-founded arguments.
The second chapter has an inciting title, namely “To cooperate is to live the collective intelligence” (“Coopérer c’est vivre l’intelligence collective”), an invitation to see humanity as a mind or a huge brain that includes all knowledge; taken at random, unprepared, this knowledge has no value, but when used where and when it is needed, it can change the world, it forms a “collective intelligence”. Educating students in this spirit is one of the most important, if not the most important, tasks of education, of teaching. How to resolve “sociocognitive conflicts” in order to turn them into “a source of learning” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 21), is in my opinion, one of the major challenges of this book. To emphasise this aspect, two icons are constantly used to mark the elements that constitute obstacles, respectively engines for success. In this same perspective, Albert Bandura is evoked through P. Carré with the phenomenon of “vicariance or modeling” namely “learning by observation which goes beyond simple mimicry and develops through its own representations new skills resulting from three determinants: [...] the environment, […], the internal dispositions of the person, […], the behavior” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 22). Thus, speaking about the “cooperative practices” at student’s level, Sylvain Connac (2012: 108, as cited in Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 23-24) refers to “four family grades: tutoring, help, mutual aid, group work” ((Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 23-24) which imply cooperation and collaboration. An almost new practice is also recommended, that of “classroom co-intervention: intervention in the same space-time; in the direction of the same students, of two adults with a teaching mission” which can be carried out in several configurations: tandem teaching; one teaches the other helps; both help; one teaches, the other observes; workshop teaching; teaching with differentiated groups; parallel teaching. Depending on the situation, the teachers’ interventions must give way to improvisation “in the service of learning” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 30), an important characteristic of the cooperative class.
With the necessary skills, any work experience is useful and can be put into practice at the educational level. Work in a company inspires Yves Baticle in creating the “knowledge market” which “allows students to present to other students according to their own aspiration, alone or with others, the skills they have acquired” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 31).
The third chapter, where we discover part of Christophe Pavie’s professional experience, puts “The novel in questions” (“Le roman en questions”). This questioning raises the problems of the “organisation” of the text at the level of the narrator, the hero(s) and the other characters, of the journey’s setting up, of the time, which obviously involves not only the duration of the action but also the time in which it takes place, then moving on to the theme and the motif(s), to the way of expressing oneself, to the place of descriptions and dialogues, to the unfolding spaces of the story, to the message(s) to be transmitted. The other forms of writing can be integrated into the cooperative novel, which, at the level of knowledge, broadens the horizons of the pupils, leading, through exercise, through practice, towards a better assimilation and understanding not only of the composition of the novel in itself, but also of other forms of writing: “the genre of the letter” with its contemporary extensions such as “SMS, Facebook messages and other digital forms”; the media: “the written press, radio, television”; “sketches, diagrams, maps, lists”; “photography, painting, sculpture [...], still images in general”; “the cinema or even television series or on the Web” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 41-43) Each of the questions involved in the creation of a cooperative novel with its class is explained and finds its examples, especially in French literature, but also in the films most appreciated by the younger generations.
The epoch chosen for the course of the action can generate interdisciplinary relations with History, for example. The most important objective in creating a cooperative novel is to provide better motivation for students’ attendance at school, a better understanding of the world around them. Through the reason of the journey, they come to “question interculturality, the ability to decentralize, not to think only in relation to a pre-established model, to one’s own culture, to take into account other ways of thinking, of living, of understanding the world and of finding one's place in it” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 40).
The structure of each course proposed by the two authors is identical. The indication of the number of sessions and the skills worked is followed by: a short description underlining the importance of the type of approach, of its emergence; a description of the course proper (objective, support, cooperative scenario, production) and a short presentation of each session; two tables in which, with the help of the two icons mentioned above, are listed the elements that constitute obstacles to, respectively, the drivers for success on the teacher’s side (What does the teacher do?), as well on the student’s side (What are the students doing?); a final part, the Universe of possibilities, which gives suggestions for future activities based on the same theme.
Thus, the course having the theatre as its subject proposes as point of emergence an extract from the Cantatrice chauve by Eugène Ionesco (beginning of scene 4), the one on the fable, The Wolf and the Lamb by Jean de La Fontaine. The course on the letter is based on the first chapter of the youth novel Le Camembert volant by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod (2009), the one on poetry has as its point of emergence the oulipist sonnets of the volume One hundred thousand billion poems by Raymond Queneau, the one on music is based on a collection of poems Enchantment en Lusitanie (Baticle 2015) “presenting photos on one page and a poem on the other” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 103); finally, the one on history uses as anchor an article from “a local newspaper which spoke of an old building in the commune, an old 17th century forge” ((Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 118), the ruins of which could be discovered in the middle of a wood.
Choosing one of these six courses for a more detailed presentation is difficult, each of them being very interesting and encouraging. I stopped, however, on chapter 8 which has “Music” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 101-116) as a point of approach, probably for the uncommon of the idea. Nine sessions are offered for this course, the skills of which, although complex, aim the: oral comprehension and expression, reading and writing, culture of sensitivity, artistic projection, how to organise different sound elements, mathematical reasoning, physical education.
Emergence: inviting a musician in class can lead to the idea of “connecting writing to the song” (Baticle & Pavie 2020: 102) by developing the theme of travel in a few countries to discover the differences. From the collection Enchantment en Lusitanie, the class is asked to “build a repertoire of songs as one writes chapters”, work materialised by “a public concert of the author’s repertoire, accompanied by a few songs built with the class, and two other schools” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 103).
With this experience as a starting point, the nine sessions constitute themselves as follows, each session beginning with a summary of the previous one.
In the first one, after the proposal to judiciously choose three countries, the travel writing project will be supported by a musician who plays some instrument and sings from his repertoire. The class of 24 students will be divided into six groups of four, with two groups per country. For each country, the groups will have to discover on the Internet data on the climate, “an emblematic means of transport”, a famous monument, a popular song, a gastronomic recipe, a recognised painter and “an implanted cultural dance” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 107). A rigorous choice will determine what remains, with, already, a possible scenario from which the music will be built.
In the second session, the data will be agreed upon, structured, by a work scenario illustrated “in the form of diagrams, drawings” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 108), with back and forth between the three countries.
The third session aims to “respond to the difficulties encountered and exposed by the pupils” through problematization with the help of the teacher and the musician supposed to provide “didactic knowledge” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 108).
The fourth session will be reserved for the actual writing and the creation of the lyrics of the songs related to each country concerned, always under the active supervision of the teacher and the musician.
The fifth session will confront the literary creations of each pair of groups by reviewing the purpose of the project. “The musician relaunches the verses according to the overall scenario the class brings” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 108). The characters are supposed to travel from one country to another, organise their meetings.
The following three sessions are constructed “in accordance with the logic of the characters in their peregrination, decked out as they are echoing their characteristics, moved by the reasons which cause the trips” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 109). The music responds to the stages of the journey like a refrain of the novel which is being built and which prepares a happy ending.
The last session, a concluding session, resumes “all the stages programmed from the beginning” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 109), in interconnection.
The mission of the teacher and of the musician is to be constantly involved in the project, to be attentive to the needs and ideas coming from the students who thus become active and willing to cooperate.
“The universe of possibilities” thus opens up to the ability of expanding the the students’ brain potential by multiplying experiences through cooperation, thus contributing to the creation of continuity between the past and the present and responding to each student’s ability to understand without forgetting that the driving force of any learning process is the affect. In the case described, music has the role of connecting the sensitive to the rational. At the same time, it would be desirable for the teaching system to include other “brains” in the educational process, namely a second adult teaching another discipline or having a different profession, to give “a social response more suited to the demands of the 21st century” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 115).
The “Conclusion” underlines the fact that the true competences, those which are kept for a long term and not for a certain period of schooling, are those which make us develop in parallel empathy, those which help us to manage our emotions, “in a society more informed in the field of understanding of oneself and of others” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020:133). In the same vein, the emancipation of automatic tasks in favor “of creativity, of trial and error, of research”, allows in fact “to devote oneself better to the different forms of cognition” (Baticle, & Pavie 2020: 134).
The discerning reader, the teacher interested in improving his working methods with the students and preparing them for a better world, will find much to learn from these experiences. Another very important finding in the economy of this book is that it is addressed only to teachers endowed with a particular sensitivity for reading, able to live the pulse of words and sentences, able to combine ideas and endowed with enormous patience and the joy of offering. For the profession of teacher, more than any other or a little like that of a doctor or a priest, is not a profession, it is a vocation that involves the spirit of sacrifice, the happiness of offering, an enormous patience. If all this exists, the result of the work with students is guaranteed. Would there be a greater reward?
Baticle, Y. (29 November 2015). Enchantement en Lusitanie. (Livre Photo Carré XL – Couverture rigide, 44 pages). www.photobox.fr/creation/3694745341
Bucheton, D., & Soulé, Y. (2009). Les gestes professionnels et le jeu des postures de l’enseignant dans la classe: un multi-agenda de préoccupations enchâssées. Éducation et didactique, 3(3), 29-48.
Bureau international d’éducation de l’UNESCO. École Internationale de Genève. (2014). Principes directeurs sur l’apprentissage au 21e siècle.
Carré, P. (2004). Bandura: une psychologie pour le XXIe siècle?. Savoirs, hors-série 5, 9-50. doi: https://doi.org/10.3917/savo.hs 01.0009
Connac, S. (2012). La personnalisation des apprentissages. ESF Sciences humaines.
How to cite this review: Chira, R-G. (2021). Yves Baticle and Christophe Pavie. Écrire un roman coopératif avec sa classe. (Writing a cooperative novel with one’s class). Preface by Sylvain Connac. Lyon: Éditions de la Chronique sociale, coll. Pédagogie Formation, 2020. pp. 144. ISBN 978-2-36717-677-2. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 14(1), 185-190. doi: https://doi.org/10.29302/jolie.2021.14.1.10
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