Viva village is a dynamic online writing project
created by a team of educators including Christine
Nucci, Benjamin Friess et Jérémy
Royannez from the CDDP de l'Ardèche and
Philip Benz, English teacher at the Lycée
Astier in Aubenas.
After several years of experimenting with message
board projects, we have tried to bring together
a whole palette of tools that will allow both
teacher-guided written expression activities and
student-centered free-form writing in the target
language. It's a space where students can not
only work on themes developed in class, but also
express themselves openly and autonomously on
subjects of their own choosing.
A dynamic environment
project is designed like a small village. The
idea was to give students a familiar and friendly
representation of a group of work spaces where
they have the impression that they are not merely
writing for their homework, or for their teacher.
Here they get the feeling that they are really
"somewhere" and they are writing in
a context that reaches beyond the all too often
artificial limits of the classroom. We originally
created five different writing spaces, each with
a different purpose:
- The Café,
for introductions and discussions about current
- The Library, to speak about literature or other
things students have read,
- The Cinema, to speak about films and videos
of interest to students,
- The Town Hall, to present the village rules
and to suggest the creation of new spaces.
outset, we wanted a mechanism that would allow
the village to grow over time, and very quickly
our students seized this opportunity. For example,
after reading a text about social problems in
London suburbs, my students proposed the creation
of a "squatt" or homeless refuge where
they could discuss the problems of homeless people
and write stories with homeless people as characters.
The presence of foreign partners in the project
added great depth and interest to the project,
both in the creation of new spaces for exchange
but also in providing real partners, authentic
readers for students' writing. Responses were
not systematically organized, rather left to the
students' own initiative. But whenever my students
saw that some Brazilian, American, Caribbean,
Danish, Canadian or Italian students had added
their grain of salt to the discussion, it had
a profound effect on their level of motivation.
Even though each one did not have her "own"
penpal, they realized that they were no longer
writing only for the critical eyes of their teacher.
This gave some measure of authenticity to students'
writing, something that we are not always able
to find in a traditional classroom setting.
year of this project turned out to be quite a
satisfactory experiment, with partipants at a
dozen different sites and considerable growth
in the scope and nature of the spaces represented
in the village. But a new school year is upon
us, and if I have come to speak about this project
here today, it is not without ulterior motives.
Our project continues, and needs new participants.
It is an open project that you can join at any
time during the year, either for a one-shot visit
in conjunction with a specific unit of study,
or by participating regularly as my students and
their overseas partners have done. You can join
in on the stories, discussions and themes you
find already running in the various spaces in
the village, or you can start up your own topics,
or even propose the creation of new spaces or
new neighborhoods on different themes altogether,
if this corresponds to the way you imagine using
the tools we have provided. There are many possibilities
open to you in the Viva project, and I am convinced
there are many that we haven't even begun to imagine
yet. It is in the process of experimentation and
collaborative work that we will pursue its development.
project interests you, you can contact David Bourgeois