French InstructionConditions for Educational Success
French InstructionBecause students enter early immersion with little or no knowledge of French, the program begins with a concentration on French language development to give students a sufficient understanding of French to learn to read and write in French and learn subject area content
Listening and Speaking Skills
- Listening and speaking skills are acquired in much the same way as children learn their first language: first by observation and listening, then by association of sounds with gestures and objects, and finally by imitation and repetition. This approach is often called a “gentle” introduction to second language learning.
- Active listening, spontaneous speaking and oral feedback underlie language development throughout an immersion program from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Thus French music, videos and lots of interaction are commonly used in the immersion classroom. Concerts, plays, public speaking, field trips, and even are used to enhance cultural understanding and to help round out the students’ experiences with the language.
In the early years, the teacher:
- uses French all of the time, except if the students’ security is at risk (e.g. health or safety concerns);
- uses gestures, mime, objects and pictures to help students understand;
- includes songs, rhymes, stories and routines to help familiarize students with words and concepts and to create a safe and predictable environment for using the language.
As oral language development progresses, new vocabulary and language structures are introduced, first incidentally and later, as more complex material is introduced, methodically. Developing and enriching oral expression is very important in immersion and generally precedes the development of written communication skills.
The formal study of grammar, as indicated in the, begins once the students have had sufficient experience in listening to, comprehending and speaking French.
At all grade levels, the teacher:
- constantly listens and observes to verify what information the students understand, adapting speech and activities as necessary to convey meaning;
- encourages the students to speak French, and corrects mistakes through repetition and role modeling;
- takes advantage of situations in which language development can occur naturally and effectively.
In the early immersion years, students:
- learn to be very good listeners;
- are encouraged to speak French all the time, but for the first couple of years may use English to express a complex thought for which they have not yet learned the required French words;
- may not speak French outside of the classroom, or they may use French sounds
and words at play and sing French songs learned during class;
- listen to French being spoken by the teacher, before they are expected to fully comprehend it;
- listen and understand before speaking; and
- speak French before reading and writing it.
Reading and Writing Skills
By the time formal instruction in and writing is introduced, students have a good basic knowledge of French. The teacher continues to use oral expression as the basis for reading activities: by first introducing texts orally (with the help of cues, props and gestures), and by encouraging lots of discussion to ensure a high level of comprehension. Texts are chosen to suit the students’ interests and level of comprehension.
Because students need to develop prerequisite reading skills in French, the Grade 1 French immersion teacher may introduce formal French reading instruction more gradually than the English-program teacher. This delay means that immersion students may appear to be slightly behind their English program counterparts in learning to read. Parents often raise concerns at this stage. Consequently, it is very important that they receive clear explanations regarding language and literacy development in immersion and their role in the process, and the reassurance that soon their child will be reading in two languages.
Immersion parents should be encouraged to read to their children in English. Children readily transfer reading skills and strategies from one language to the other. A love of reading will serve a student well in both languages.
Writing correctly in any language not only involves practice in handwriting but also requires knowledge of grammar and syntax. Knowing oral grammar facilitates and simplifies rule learning because the students are able to generalize from what they know. Therefore in immersion, the formal study of the written language begins once the students have had sufficient experience in listening, speaking and reading. The teaching of grammatical concepts and writing skills is then integrated in the teaching of all the other courses taught in French.