Major Project Update #2 – Continued Work, Continued Mistakes

It’s been awhile since I have updated my learning journey – but rest assured, I have been busy! The past few weeks I have been working on my goals of language learning with a continued push to create resources (in collaboration with Li Vyeu [Old Ones]) that will help me to be more fluent in my speaking when it comes to addressing my students. I have also been working to learn some more conversational sentences on my own as my students are not yet ready for that type of interaction – but more on that later.

When last I left you I was working on the classroom components of my plan. I am definitely still working on that section. As always with my Major Projects, I have set my sights really high and it turns out learning a second language quick enough to instruct others in full sentences that come fluently (without checking or pausing) is really difficult!

To review: I plan to work on becoming conversational in the Michif Language. Conversational to me means enough language for a fluent, short, friendly conversation and enough language to instruct my students throughout the day in sentences for our routines and procedures. The goals as written were:

·  I would like to speak enough Michif to have a short conversation with our resident Noohkoom when she visits to the children can hear a conversation.

·  I would like to be able to instruct my students in full sentences, without pausing to check my lesson plan notes or dictionary app.

As I wrote about in my last update, this second goal is where I have been spending a lot of time doing the work of this project so far.

To be clear, this is the second year of this Pilot Program and my second year teaching it. It’s not that I am not familiar with the Michif Language (I can count to twenty with the best of them AND tell you all the colours of the rainbow no problem !!)

These were recorded for my parents to use at home, and shared via our Seesaw and class twitter.

However, when we laid out a vision for this classroom the intent of the classroom is stated to be an culturally responsive, authentic learning environment. I am extremely proud of the work we did last year, it’s just the simple fact that I feel as though I wish the majority of the instruction were in the language to foster more authentic learning. We know that children have much better second language acquisition and I want very much to give them every advantage I can to pick up the language while they are in this very special environment. So that’s where my goal comes in.

The labels around the classroom, visual schedule, and toy labels have been extremely helpful. The kids now remind ME of the names of the toys when I am asking them:

Kaywy nohtay maytawayen anoosh?

What do you want to play today?

They will respond sometimes in English – sometimes in Michif (they think “en sharr” – trains is hilarious to say) but usually one or two kinders pipe up when I say “Okay go play with the doll house.”

“NAMOYA MAA TAANT!” They might not remember what the doll house is in Michif but they do remember I am supposed to respond to them in Michif.

“I mean…. Oui, doo mataway lii mazoon di katayn”.

I have found that I need a reminder for the times where there is a variable. Thanks to the room being labelled within an inch of it’s life, and a visual schedule to assist with my morning routine, I have gotten pretty good at using the language in full sentences during predictable daily routines and events. Things we say or do every day. I am not always the best at using the language fluently when the students respond to me – because our centers change so often I have not memorized all of the various rotating center names. Additionally, it is easy in my lesson plans to prepare sentences for task directions ahead of time in Michif. It is not so easy to prepare what to say to students while they are in less structured times, like engaging in play. I would really like to authentically engage the students in language while they are in play – but the issue for me is their play takes a different shape each time they choose a center and decide what they would like to do.

Again, I got a great idea from my PLC. Russell Fayant, instructor at SUNTEP Regina joined me over Zoom (SUNTEP Regina provided my program with some incredible language resources) and he shared with me that when the Undergraduate Bachelor of Education students attend SUNTEP’s culture camp as a course – they carry around “cheat sheets” of little words or phrases so that they can engage with one another and with the Old Ones in Michif more readily. The idea being if you do not have the language memorized – it’s easier to have a premade set of responses or questions to flip through as a physical copy than it is to pull out the online dictionary and translate one word at a time.

I thought this idea was perfect for my needs! Once again however I was at a loss – Phrases in Michif of course don’t follow the same rules as English, so simply using my trusty dictionary app was not a possibility.

I looked through my Noohkoom Meeting notes from last year and found some sentences and a few zoom recording videos that had been translated (I don’t have permission to share them here) and I started there. Then, over the last few weeks through phone calls, and visiting with Jeanne I have FINALLY created my own version of the SUNTEP resource, for use in the classroom. I have also again shared this with my partners in Regina Public who then responded with options for sentences they use in their classroom.

I have these slides printed, laminated and cut, then put onto a keyring that I carry around the classroom with me. I have another for a TA/IA should they be in the room and a third in my substitute binder. There are different slides, with phonetic spelling for different circumstances. Depending on what is happening in the classroom I can flip to the slide that hopefully has some options for responses or play prompts for me. The above slides have phrases for encouraging students, and greeting them.

We also have options for speaking to students when it comes to routines and procedure like going outside, eating lunch, my morning routine and instructing students for learning tasks. This section took a very long time as I made lots of mistakes when trying to translate on my own – and when I read the phrases to my language speakers they would tell me how they would actually say the phrase – then I would have to go in and make edits.

And finally – what I feel will be the most useful we have translations for the different types of play students often engage in, so that I can interact with them in Michif and hopefully attain that all important goal of increasing their receptive language acquisition.

Finally, I have done some research and I have located a new app to work on my second goal of being able to carry on a short conversation. I am very excited as this app – originally designed for the iPad, has now been made available for iPhone! An update and review to come.

This has been an interesting journey, and my progress has been much slower than I had hoped considering how much work I have undertaken – but for the moment I am trying to be okay with not knowing how the end result will look as I continue.


2 thoughts on “Major Project Update #2 – Continued Work, Continued Mistakes”

  1. Victoria, don’t be discouraged by the slow progress. I have a sign in my office that reads “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”- Plato. You are doing some incredible things here. I was interested in your topic and came across the following website this afternoon. I am sure you have come across it before, but I enjoyed reading a bit more about the Michif language.


  2. Victoria, I love your cheat sheet cards and I was trying my best to say the words as I was looking through them. I would love to share your post with a friend of mine who is an Indigenous Student Centre Coordinator at Saskpoly. She is learning Mischif language and sharing it with her own children. I think this is an extremely important project you have taken on and is a true highlight of Reconciliation. I feel you can not put a timeline on this as you will continue your journey beyond this course.


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