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Department Programs

French Department Writing Program

I. Compliance with the goals of the College Academic Writing Program

The Department of French has the following as its mission statement:
In acknowledging the privileged role in the created world which language and culture play in achieving God's purposes and in recognizing the responsibilities of Christians to serve God and others in every aspect of life, the Department of French is committed to teaching language, literature, and culture; to providing appropriate service related to such teaching; and to engaging in scholarly exploration of the French language and francophone literatures and cultures.
The Department of French offers courses of study for students interested in continuing their work on the graduate level, for those interested in careers in which foreign language plays a key role, and for those interested in teaching French at the secondary or elementary school levels. Within these contexts writing and oral expression are essential skills. We therefore foster writing and oral skills in our courses at all levels.

In our courses the majority of written and oral expression occurs in French. Because the goal of our courses is not only to develop critical thinking but also to instill accuracy in grammatical structures and in vocabulary choices, there is typically a dual objective linked with our oral and written assignments: that of content and of language accuracy. By the time our students finish a major we expect that they will be able to write in French at the advanced-low to mid level and speak at the advanced-mid to high level according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency guidelines. The complete guidelines may be accessed on-line from the French Department website ( Unless otherwise stated, all written and oral assignments referred to in this document are completed in French.

A. Frequency.
Students are required to write in every French course from French 101 or French 111 through the 300-level courses. French courses can be divided into four groups:

  • Group one: the core-level courses (French courses numbered between 101 and 202)
  • Group two: advanced skills courses required of majors and minors (French 215, Advanced Conversation and 216, Advanced Grammar)
  • Group three: literature and culture courses at the 200 level beginning with French 217 (required of majors and minors)
  • Group four: advanced literature courses at the 300 level (required of majors).

Students in every course must write often. In the core-level courses students typically write short compositions either as homework assignments or on tests. Students frequently write sentence-length discourse as part of homework assignments. Some core-level courses require students to write weekly journals in English (French 111, 112, 113). By the fourth semester core-level course (French 202) students must progress from paragraph to multi-paragraph and essay-level writing. In the second group of courses (French 215 and 216) much time is spent on developing written and oral skills in French through a short research paper, an oral presentation and written compositions on chapter tests (French 215) and bi-weekly essays and revisions of those essays (French 216). Every literature and culture course requires regular writing throughout the semester, typically through daily homework assignments, reaction papers, and formal writing assignments (analytical essays, explications de texte, research papers).

B. Feedback.
Faculty members provide detailed feedback to students in each of these courses. Faculty typically grade students’ work with a twofold objective: increasing language accuracy and encouraging clear and substantive writing. Some courses integrate peer-review and discussion in order to give students feedback from their peers. Many courses also give students frequent opportunities for revision of written work. In courses such as the Multisensory Structured French core courses for at-risk students (French 111-112-113) students must revise and correct all written homework until it is free of errors. In French 216 (required of majors) revisions are required on compositions throughout the semester. Students’ errors are underlined and marked with a code letting them know the type of error they have made. In French 219 students must rewrite essays and research papers in order to clarify arguments and more clearly express ideas. In French 217 student essays are graded with a rubric that draws attention to the many aspects of writing, namely, the organization of thoughts, appropriate length of the essay, quality of research, substance, bibliography, precision of vocabulary and grammar, and quality of style (see supplement # 4).

C. Variety.
Students are exposed to a great variety of rhetorical skills in the French major. Both formal and informal writing are required of students in all courses for the major. Types of rhetorical skills that students will encounter in the French major include but are not limited to:

  • Journal entries in English and in French
  • Practice in creating a thesis sentence and bibliographies
  • Paragraph essays as part of daily homework
  • One-page informal summaries and reaction papers to daily literature readings
  • Compositions included as part of tests/exams
  • Short formal essays on texts (one page)
  • Formal analytical essays addressing a literary theme or issue
  • Formal research papers
  • Explications de texte (critical textual analyses)
  • Oral testing in which students must formulate coherent responses in French
  • Oral presentations in front of class
  • Group skits presented in front of class

II. Integration throughout the French major.
French students are expected to master increasingly sophisticated oral and written tasks as they progress through the French major.

A. French 215, 216 and 217.
French 215, Advanced Conversation, French 216, Advanced Grammar, and French 217, Introduction to French Literature, are required of all French majors and minors and are typically taken early in the major. French 215 focuses heavily on spoken French and gives students practice with oral presentations while requiring students to write a research paper using library resources. Students also receive practice in writing paragraph-length discourse in French. French 216 focuses mainly on written French and gives students extensive instruction in grammar and writing. Students must write a series of formal page-length essays with revisions throughout the semester. Students also keep weekly journals in French. French 217 introduces students to French literature spanning a chronological range from the Middle Ages to the present and also gives students in-depth guidance in the writing of a formal essay.

B. Literature and culture courses at the 200 level.
Students in the major typically take three of the literature and culture courses at the 200 level. These courses give students frequent opportunities to practice the writing and rhetorical skills introduced in 215, 216 and 217. Some examples of typical assignments are explications de texte, formal essays, research papers, oral presentations to class and reaction papers.

C. Literature courses at the 300 level.
Students in the major complete at least three courses at this level. Courses at this level typically require students to continue improvement in their informal writing skills with daily summaries and reactions to assigned readings and to hone their formal writing skills through essays of literary analysis and research papers. Students at this level must demonstrate confidence in accessing secondary sources on literary texts through WebCat and major literary databases such as the Modern Languages Association Bibliography. Students are also expected to be able to speak in paragraph-length discourse when defending a position during class discussions.

D. Senior capstone course.
The French Department currently does not offer a capstone course for its majors. Many French majors have a second major in another area such as English, Spanish, Business, or History, and they complete their capstone requirement in that major area. Students who do not have a second major beyond French typically complete an Integrative Studies course in an area such as Philosophy.

III. The role of French offerings in the core.
There are three possible course tracks in French for students wishing to complete the foreign language core requirement: the regular four-semester sequence (101-102-201-202), the intensive sequence (121-122-123) and the Multisensory Structured French for at-risk students (111-112-113). Each of these sequences requires students to practice writing and rhetorical skills with in-class writing assignments, oral presentations or speaking tests, compositions, journal entries (in English), test composition questions, the creation and presentation of skits, etc. Typically students master writing sentence-length discourse in French in the first course of each sequence and move on to paragraph-length discourse in French by the middle to end of the core sequence.

IV. Faculty awareness and development.
The French department regularly hires adjuncts and part-time faculty to teach core-level courses. The department chair provides each adjunct with a textbook and a schedule of a certain number of chapters to complete in the core courses being taught. Typically faculty who have already taught these courses share course materials with the new adjunct or part-time faculty. The department liaison will provide these faculty members with a copy of the French Department Writing Program and will meet with new faculty members as needed.

Regular full-time faculty members in the department regularly participate in campus workshop offerings and integrate resources into their classes. Department members regularly have informal discussions about course strengths and weaknesses in the French program and share successful strategies and materials. The Department liaison for the Writing program will periodically initiate discussions on the writing program during department meetings.

V. Assessment.
The French Department has included the following section on writing proficiency and assessment within its Student Learning Objectives and Assessment Plan (proficiency levels are listed according to ACTFL guidelines):

Writing Proficiency


  • Students seeking a French major will develop the ability to perform the following tasks in writing: routine social correspondence, paragraph-length discourse (several paragraphs in length), respond in writing to personal questions, simple letters, brief synopses and paraphrases, summaries, descriptions and narrations in paragraphs in three major tenses (i.e., present, past, future). Over the course of their program, they will develop the ability to write with more significant precision and detail, social and informal business correspondence, descriptions and narrations, concrete aspects of topics of particular interest and special fields of competence, though under time constraints and pressure writing may be inaccurate.



a) Students will be initially assessed in French 216 Advanced Grammar and Composition, a required course for all majors and a prerequisite for advanced literature and culture courses.  Through a portion of the final exam, students will be assessed according to the goals described in the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. Students will attain writing proficiency at the intermediate-high level.)

b) During their junior or senior year, students will be required to pass a proficiency exam that includes a composition. Students will be expected to demonstrate advanced-low to mid level writing proficiency.  It is expected that some students will attain writing proficiency at the advanced-high level, due to study abroad or in immersion programs in North America.

Assessment of the Writing Program

The French Department will assess its writing program with a written report every five years as part of the five-year strategic plan process. The report will be written by the Writing Program Liaison and one other faculty member.  The report will have two components: a descriptive assessment, and an outcome assessment.

VI. Supplemental documents.
Attached are documents showing typical assignments and methods of feedback provided to students in French courses.

  1. French 215, Advanced Conversation: research paper and oral presentation on a francophone country or region.
  2. French 216, Advanced Grammar: excerpt taken from the French 216 syllabus that addresses regular writing assignments and their revisions.
  3. French 217, Introduction to French Literature: class hand-out giving guidance on forming a thesis sentence.
  4. French 217, Introduction to French Literature: formal essay grade sheet.
  5. French 312, French Prose I: formal research paper assignment