Although it is impossible to anticipate every question or issue which may arise, here are some potential areas for clarification, especially if you are new to the French Convention. If you do not find your answer here – or among the information in the other rubrics on this website – do not hesitate to contact us directly.
WHY SHOULD I BRING MY STUDENTS TO FRENCH CONVENTION?
Participation in French Convention will give you and your French program a boost! Every aspect of involvement (sponsor planning meetings, student preparation, student participation in various events, discussions of the day in the bus on the way home) will result in an increase in student interest in and enjoyment of studying the French language and francophone culture.
The goals of Convention are classical in nature: plaire et instruire. The competitions and activities offered provide the dual benefits of delight and education. Students routinely report that their favorite event of the year was Convention. Moreover, through observing and meeting students from around the state, students are reminded that they are a part of a larger community focused on learning French. This sense of community, along with any awards won or anecdotes shared, helps us maintain healthy enrollment in our French classes.
HOW IS THE DATE OF CONVENTION SELECTED?
There are several factors. First is simply the availability of the Ferguson Center itself. Next, we must consider the availability of the French Division of the Department of Modern Languages. (Fridays is preferential for them.) Our participating member schools also have a say, given what they know of their own school’s calendar. When held in the spring, certain sports can be a problem; when held in the fall, certain sports (and band) can be a problem! While avoiding major sports challenges, the late winter time frame has worked well enough, except for some unpredictable Alabama weather…but we persevere the best we can!
HOW IS THE THEME CHOSEN AND WHAT ARE ITS IMPLICATIONS?
As with the date, input from member schools is crucial for determining the Convention’s theme each year. Sometimes, there is just a natural consensus. More often, a few ideas are tossed out (a historical period, a literary emphasis, a geographical setting, etc.) and member schools actually vote. The theme provides a launch point for all the artwork (t-shirt and program cover designs, posters, exhibits) and the video competition. While many schools also choose to prepare theme-inspired skits, songs, or monologues, doing so is not required; however, it does afford a learning opportunity for teachers and students alike.
HOW DO SCHOOLS PAY FOR CONVENTION?
In addition to the $10 per student fee, most schools also need to pay for transportation. Many clubs simply tack on the cost of a charter bus, having students pay $30-$40 each. In some cases, the French Club itself may underwrite a portion of the Convention fee and/or transportation, reducing the per-student cost. (If permitted in your school, a bake sale can be a quick and easy way to generate funds.) Boosters/Parent Associations may have funds available for transportation as well.
DO SCHOOLS HAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN EVERY EVENT?
No. In fact, some first-time schools may come and watch everything but only compete in one or two events. It won’t take long for you to get a feel for what it’s like. The Convention fee is a flat fee, so feel free to participate in as much or as little as you and your students are comfortable with. That said, don’t skip the skits if you can!
HOW DO SCHOOLS PREPARE FOR CONVENTION?
First thing to keep in mind is the Registration Date. This is an important deadline to which all participating schools are expected to adhere, so go ahead and add it to your calendar right now! Speaking of the deadline, you should talk to your school’s business office well in advance of the deadline to ensure that you will have your club’s check ready in time! (This has caught many a sponsor off guard, having waited until the last minute…) Next, familiarize yourself with ALL the different competitions and determine 1) which events your school will participate in, and 2) which students will compete/participate. From there, your job will be to either provide the students with competition material which meets the criteria outlined in the particular Competition Description & Rules, or guide/oversee the students’ own creation/selection of said material. There are no restricting factors on the selections other than duration and of course, “appropriateness”. You can find a few suggestions here: Individual Oral Competition Suggested Selections. The last piece of the puzzle is rehearsing—which can be a significant challenge, so be sure to give yourself adequate time! If able, presenting your school’s skit(s), song(s), and individual presentation(s) to others beforehand (such as to parents or at a school-wide assembly) can serve as a good dress rehearsal.
HOW DO I KNOW AT WHAT LEVEL TO PLACE STUDENTS?
There are two general guidelines for this: current French course level AND the eligibility/enrollment guidelines for Le Grand Concours (National French Contest) of the AATF (https://www.frenchteachers.org/concours/gc_about/gc_enroll.html ). Additionally, a student may not compete at a lower level than s/he did last year (at a previous school, for example) even if his/her current level of French may otherwise dictate. Since competitive fairness is in view for all, we would be glad to provide you with additional assistance if needed. Keep in mind that for oral competitions, (near-)native speakers may only participate in the group Choral Competition.
WHY IS THE SCHEDULE SO “DENSE”?
Several years ago, the Convention was condensed from a Friday-Saturday event to just a 1-day event, on a school day. It had become increasingly difficult for students to commit to an overnight, especially on the weekend. The Convention was streamlined to be able to offer it as a big “field trip” during the school day, which resulted in the scheduling of concurrent competitions. We make every effort not to schedule conflicting competitions; however, at times, a student will have to make a choice. We also try to be cognizant throughout the day of delays in one event which then affect students participating in other competitions. We strive to be flexible when possible to ensure the greatest amount of student participation.
WILL I MEET OTHER TEACHERS?
Yes. Feel free to chit-chat around the Ferguson Center or in between presentations when you are observing a competition. At lunch, you are required to attend a Sponsor (Teacher) Meeting, where you will meet all the other teachers. You will be provided with money for lunch, so just grab what you would like and meet up with the other teachers in the designated area. Make sure that your students know that they are on their own for lunch.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE OPENING ASSEMBLY?
As a participating school, you should plan to arrive at the Ferguson Center between 8:30 and 8:45 so that you will have time to unload, check-in, and get settled in time for the Opening Assembly (9:00 a.m.). In addition to a general welcome and introduction of the University’s French professors, the President Club will call roll. Member clubs should have a short, enthusiastic chant or motto prepared to shout out — in French — in response when their school’s name is announced. Additionally, the t-shirt and program cover design winners are announced, and the entries in the video competition are screened for judging. After all announcements, we sing the French national anthem. Your students will enjoy that experience more if they are already familiar with La Marseillaise.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE CLOSING CEREMONY?
Tired but still excited, students and teachers await the announcement of the awards. When your school is announced as having won an award, a representative runner is sent forward to receive the award — often the student most directly involved in that competition.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CONVENTION?
At the end of the day, please take all materials with you. All of your score sheets are available from the Officers at the conclusion of the Awards Ceremony. Upon returning to school, avail yourself of the opportunities to share your results with the school and/or local community. French needs all the good press it can get – especially since it’s alive and well in Alabama! As a member school, you will be asked to complete a post-convention survey, and you will have the opportunity to participate in planning next year’s Convention.
HOW DOES A TEACHER FIND OUT ABOUT CONVENTION?
How did YOU find out about it? Many hear by word of mouth, but we also announce in the newsletters of the Alabama Chapter of the AATF and the Alabama World Languages Association (AWLA, formerly AAFLT). If you know of any colleagues who do not yet know about the French Convention, would you mind pointing them to this site? We believe that they, and their students, would benefit from participating in Convention.