Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Exercices De Style: Developing Multiple Competencies through a Writing Portfolio

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Exercices De Style: Developing Multiple Competencies through a Writing Portfolio

Article excerpt


This article presents a writing portfolio project whose primary goal is to integrate the development of proficiency skills, content knowledge, and grammatical competence through literary study. Excerpts from Queneau's (1947) Exercices de style, which tells the same story 99 times, serve as the basis for this portfolio project: These excerpts are both the input for grammar instruction and the model for student writing. Students prepare multiple drafts of their written texts according to a process-oriented approach that includes peer review, self evaluation, and instructor feedback. Following an overview of relevant research, an outline of the portfolio project and student commentaries are presented that provide empirical evidence of the perceived value of the project.

Key words: grammar, literature, peer review, process-oriented writing, writing portfolio

Language: French


Much recent research in applied linguistics, foreign language pedagogy, and curriculum design has underscored the need to develop students' proficiency skills and content knowledge simultaneously across the undergraduate curriculum (e.g., Byrnes, 2001; Byrnes & Kord, 2002; Frantzen, 2002; Paesani, 2004, 2005; Swaffar, 1998). Whereas more traditional approaches to language instruction focused on the mastery of a linguistic code (i.e., its structures and vocabulary), more recent approaches focus on the development of skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in conjunction with knowledge of cultures, literatures, and other content areas. Indeed, it is approaches to skills development and the acquisition of content knowledge at all levels of foreign language curricula that prepare learners to progress toward advanced competencies in a second language (Byrnes & Maxim, 2004).

This article presents a writing portfolio project, used in an advanced grammar and stylistics course, whose primary goal is to integrate the learning of skills, content, and language competencies through literary study. In this portfolio project, reading, writing, and grammar support and reinforce one another: Literary texts are used to improve reading skills, introduce grammatical forms, and model writing styles, while knowledge of grammatical forms facilitates the comprehension and analysis of literary texts and leads to communicative writing practice. Reading and writing are thus the object of instruction and the medium of instruction, and through reading and writing, students improve their grammatical competence and develop content knowledge.

Following an overview of relevant research, the portfolio project is outlined, and the student commentaries are presented providing empirical evidence of the perceived value of the project for developing language competencies.


This section summarizes research on the role of literature in grammar instruction, the reading-writing connection, processoriented writing instruction, and the use of portfolios in assessment.

Literature and Grammar Instruction

Input-rich grammar instruction provides learners with the opportunity to reflect upon the language they are learning (e.g., ElHs, 1992; VanPatten, 1993). VanPatten (1993) argues that allowing students to comprehend and manipulate meaningbearing input that targets specific grammatical forms prior to production tasks facilitates the acquisition of these forms. Shaffer (1989) also espouses the notion of presenting grammar in meaningful contexts: "student attention is focused on grammatical structures used in context so that students can consciously perceive the underlying patterns involved" (p. 395). This view is supported by research evidence from VanPatten and Cadierno (1993), who show that when grammar instruction and practice involve interpreting and attending to input, learners understand and produce the targeted grammatical structure over time more successfully than students who are exposed to traditional (e. …

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