In our school, Language Arts and Mathematics are taught in the morning, to take advantage of prime learning time. In the English program, based on the results of a number of tests and evaluations, students are divided into learning levels rather than grades for instruction in these subjects. Because children learn in different ways and at different rates, placing them into leveled groups enables them to learn at their "just right" level, regardless of the grade in which they are officially registered. As the year progresses, students may be placed in more advanced learning levels to further ensure their growth and success.
For a number of years, we have taught reading by means of a program called Guided Reading, in which students are given material that is at their "just right" reading level. As they advance in their reading abilities, they move from one level to the next within their learning group, some moving several levels in the course of the school year. It was because of the tremendous success of Guided Reading that we extended the concept to the entire Language Arts and Mathematics component of our English program. The wide range of learning abilities among the students in our English program makes this strategy the best choice to help them experience continual success. During the last part of the morning and all afternoon, students are in their home room groups for their other subjects.
In the French Immersion program, students receive all of their instruction in French, with the exception of English Language Arts, which begins in Grade 2. Students remain in their home room groups throughout the day.
Students learn reading in both English and French by means of Guided Reading, wherein the students are presented with material at their demonstrated levels of ability. When they master one level, they move on to the next, and they may advance several levels throughout the school year. Guided Reading for the French Immersion students takes place within the home room class.
The French Immersion classes are located in close proximity to one another, to facilitate the provision of a French atmosphere for them, and to promote the use of the language in activities involving more than one class. There are also many opportunities for them to interact with students in the English program, such as at recess and lunch and also at assemblies and celebrations.
Throughout the year, we promote the French language and culture by means of a variety of events, both on our own and also in collaboration with other schools in the Holy Spirit School Division and in the city. Examples include French films and plays; a réveillon - i.e. a French Mass followed by a traditional meal at Christmas time; la tire - a taffy pull to honour the feast of Sainte-Catherine in November; maple syrup on snow in the tradition of the cabane à sucre; celebrations of Carnaval; and others as the occasions arise.
IS FRENCH IMMERSION THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR MY CHILD?
The decisions parents face in choosing the best school and the best program for their children involve much soul-searching and investigation. Among other concerns, parents considering French Immersion for their child will want to know what the advantages of second language education are; how well the child is likely to develop his or her reading skills in English; and whether they will be able to help their child, especially if they do not speak French.
Research has shown that learning a second language has a huge impact on a person's total development in many ways, from increasing his or her intellectual potential and scholastic achievement to magnifying cultural awareness and expanding economic opportunities. It has also been proven that, although children in French Immersion may be behind students in English programs in reading in English for the first year or two, by Grade 3 they have usually caught up, and by Grade 6 many will have surpassed their English counterparts, with the added advantage of having mastered a second language.
It is not necessary that parents know French in order for their children to be successful in a French Immersion program. The majority of parents whose children are in French Immersion are not fluent in French. Parents' involvement in and support for their child's education are key factors in his or her success at school, no matter what program he or she is taking. Here are some things parents can do to help their children to be successful in French Immersion:
* Learn as much as possible about the French Immersion program.
* Show the child that they are committed to the program.
* Encourage the child and show an interest in what the child is learning.
* Find ways to expose the child to French or to use French outside of school time. Borrow French library books or pictures by French artists, watch some French television programs, and visit French communities.
The following websites contain more information about the benefits of learning a second language in general, and of learning French in particular.
The first is an Alberta Education site:
The second is sponsored by the Alberta Branch of an organization called Canadian Parents for French. The link opens the home page. From there, go to "Learning French in Alberta" and then "Why Learn French?" The rest of the links on this site are also very informative.