Wim Gombert

CHAPTER 5. Writing skills 75 METHOD PARTICIPANTS e 56 learners in the current study are from two di erent cohorts: one group started in 2010 and graduated in 2016 and the other started in 2011 and graduated in 2017. All participants started at the age of 12 as true beginners and they le school at the age of 17-18. ey were tested in their nal year on their writing skills. e SB group consisted of 24 learners (5 male; 19 female). e DUB group consisted of 32 learners (6 male; 26 female). eir rst language was Dutch, and all learners were enrolled in Dutch VWO (pre-university education), which is the highest secondary educational level in the Netherlands. During the rst three years, French was compulsory, and students had di erent teachers, while in the last three years French was optional, and all students had the same teacher. TEACHING PROGRAMS In both the SB and DUB programs, students had two 50-minute lessons per week in the rst three years, in which French is compulsory for all students, and three 50-minute lessons per week in the last three years, in which French is optional. e amount of total classroom instruction time can thus be estimated at 450 hours. For the SB-program, two similar course books were used: “Grandes Lignes” (Bakker et al., 2005) in the rst three years, and “Libre Service” (Breek et al., 2003) in the nal three years. In these textbooks, which are widely used in the Netherlands, there was a focus on reading, writing and listening activities (one third of the average course book), but a substantial amount of time (again one third of the average course-book) was spent on the acquisition of grammatical and lexical knowledge through explicit rules and word lists to be memorized. As target language use with these kinds of activities is considered to reduce the students’ comprehension and henceforth make learning less e ective (Van Compernolle, 2015), the use of the FL was limited because much time - via L1-medium instruction - was spent on explaining grammar, on teaching reading and listening strategies and on testing reading and listening comprehension. For the DUB program, two complementary communicative, DUB-inspired methods were used. In the rst three years, the Accelerative Integrated Methodology (AIM; Maxwell, 2001) was used. AIM is a story-based program in which teacher scripts are used for controlled, oral input activities at the beginning of each lesson and meaningful use of the foreign language takes place during di erent activities in small groups that follow. A focus on oral skills precedes the development of written skills and in the rst six months students are exposed to spoken language only. A er six months, written text is introduced. Classroom activities focus on meaning and repetition without explicit