Mastering the rules of punctuation and syntax in written French as language of instruction is a major challenge for both students and teachers alike.

Indeed, it is the second most failed criterion in ministerial examinations, yet resources for its teaching are scarce.

The results with regard to writing skills are encouraging!

To address this issue, a team of researchers, in collaboration with teachers and educational advisors, has developed and adjusted three types of activities for teaching punctuation and syntax: 1) inductive activities for distinguishing between the concepts of syntactic and graphic sentences; 2) punctuation activities in the manner of “sentence of the day dictations”; and 3) sentence combining activities. These activities are based on key principles: grammatical justification, the use of precise grammatical terms, interaction with the teacher and between students, and an emphasis on syntactic complexity, adding creativity to a learning process that does not lead to a single “right answer”.

Following an initial year spent developing and adjusting the activities, a series was tested in several Elementary Cycle 3 and Secondary Cycle 1 classes in disadvantaged areas. The results with regard to writing skills are encouraging: significant progress was observed in punctuation in both Elementary Cycle 3 and in Secondary Cycle 1, as well as greater syntactic complexity in Secondary Cycle 1.

To learn more about the activities developed under the project, teachers and instructors are invited to join the private Facebook group, where they can access class videos and consult the report to see the progression of students’ writing skills.

Main researcher

Marie Nadeau, Université du Québec à Montréal


Research report


Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: June 2020