Off topic: French immersion programs in Ontario
Thread poster: TB CommuniCAT

TB CommuniCAT  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:11
Member (2014)
English to French
Jun 12, 2016

Hello,

I am currently contemplating which school/system to enroll my child. Can someone who is familiar with or have been exposed to the French immersion programs provide some feedback? Do you find it beneficial or would you rather be enrolled in a complete French program?

Thank you!


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 15:11
German to English
+ ...
yes, some knowledge & training, maybe outdated Jun 12, 2016

I earned my B. Ed. in the early 1980's along with a specialization in FSL (French 2nd language teaching) with more postgraduate training later. My internship placements included one internship in a French immersion school, grade 1, in Ottawa, with an excellent teacher. The students had been immersed in hearing and speaking French for junior & senior kindergarten, and at the grade 1 level all their instruction (reading, writing, math, science, art etc.) was in French. I understood that in higher grades English was gradually phased in. I was quite impressed with what I saw.

Since then there has been the educational reform in Ontario back under Mike Harris' regime, and I don't know how much has changed. But I have always felt that immersion is the best way for learning a language, and the typical classroom core instruction as a relative weak and unnatural manner of learning a language. But it also requires good, competent teachers.

As a side note, when my own older child started kindergarten I observed a French class and found it poorly done. The teacher simply prattled at the kids in French, using different constructs willy nilly, and throwing several songs at them in a same lesson that they were expected to somehow mimic. It did not reflect any of the teacher training that I had learned for second language teaching. This was core French. (I taught core French for two years before switching to translation).


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TB CommuniCAT  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:11
Member (2014)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jun 13, 2016

Hi Maxi,

Thank you for your response. What your child went through is exactly what I fear since I have read a letter that was sent home from a French immersion school and was totally appalled. I just hope that it is only that particular school.


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 15:11
German to English
+ ...
You're welcome Jun 14, 2016

What I described was in core French, not French immersion. Is it possible for you to describe the kind of things that appalled you, to get an idea? A written description of a course (what was sent to you) will not be the same as what you might actually observe in the classroom - and if it's written by the school or school board, maybe even less so. Of the various systems for learning a second language, I think the immersion system is best - if handled well.

Where I interned, the teacher was using the "Lesablier" method for teaching French spelling, which impressed me immensely. Each week a different phoneme was featured as the "star" of the show, with the star's "wardrobe" (for the sound "o" - o, au, eau, aux, eaux - etc.) on display. A poem or song was introduced and chanted or sung by the children after it had been understood through play acting. The children then "discovered" the "wardrobe" and for the rest of the week, played with these things. It was a tight knit, well designed program, with each lesson masterfully put together. I guess it spoiled me for anything less.

For the sound "on" the song Sur le pont d'Avignon was used. In the introduction, the teacher set up a scenario where she needed to cross a river, and one of the kids raised his hands and said "Je sais! Je sais, madame!", built a makeshift "bridge" out of chairs, whereupon the teacher enthusiastically told him he had made "un pont" (a bridge). And glided smoothly into the song. By the time the kids sang the song, they knew what "un pont" was, so the song had meaning. I don't know if they understood everything, such as "Avignon" but I'm thinking they understood enough.

(By way of contrast).


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TB CommuniCAT  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:11
Member (2014)
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
example Jun 15, 2016

Hi Maxi,

What has appalled me was a letter sent from the school to the parents. An incident happened at school and the principal had to advise all the parents. My friend, who sent her child to that particular school, read the letter to me and it started like this:

Bonjour les parents! (For dear parents)
S.V.P. Porter attention.... (For please be advised)

I cannot remember the rest, but the first 2 lines already show some signs.

Perhaps, you are right. A letter may not reflect everything of the system itself, but it does show how much care one puts in - especially from a principal.

Also perhaps, I should visit other schools for comparison. My friend has since withdrawn her child from the school and enrolled her child in a complete French one.

Thank you again for your reply.


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 15:11
German to English
+ ...
thoughts on this Jun 16, 2016

Well, the most important thing is that your child is taught well, so that some years down the line s/he can read, write, and communicate decently in both English and French. The first years create the foundations that everything else sits on. The other core subjects such as math., which would be taught in French first and then transition somewhat to English as I understand it, also needs to be able pull off that the concepts and skills are mastered. In other words, there has to be some good quality teaching happening.

There also needs to be decent communication with parents since they form part of the picture of education the child. The school needs to be able to report results to parents, consult with parents, tell parents of upcoming events, the need for supplies etc.

The "bonjour" bit could be deliberate, to "create a French atmosphere which the parents will enjoy" or some similar PR thing. I would not pull my child out of a school because the administration (principal's office) wrote "bonjour" or similar in a circular going out to parents. The principal's main role in any case is to make sure that the school runs smoothly, interfacing with the teachers, but also communicating with parents.

It could also be that the staff is largely francophone, i.e. you are wondering whether the French part later on was a sloppy slip-up, because the person slipped into the usual language. Then the question is whether slipping into French also indicates that the school will be poorly run, and the students will be poorly taught. I can't see that one would indicate the other. Of course if a translator were to mix English and French in correspondence, then that could indicate a weakness, since our job IS to keep languages straight, and render one into the other.

Perhaps to assess this you should quietly start talking to parents of kids who are say in grade 5 or 6, and get an idea of what kind of learning they have ended up getting. One thing I remember back when I was making my own decisions was the indication that your school population may consist of a greater number of motivated parents and students, which then influences the calibre of the overall atmosphere in a way that is more conducive to learning.

I hope that some of this might be helpful.


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Rita Pang  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:11
Member (2011)
Chinese to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Reminds me Jun 17, 2016

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

As a side note, when my own older child started kindergarten I observed a French class and found it poorly done.


....of the time when my colleague told me that her son's grade 4 teacher told him that a "sweater" in French is, well, "swat-ter".

Pronouncing a word English slightly "off" does not mean it's French. Last I recall, it's a chandail.


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avsie  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:11
English to French
+ ...
Memories Jun 17, 2016

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

Where I interned, the teacher was using the "Lesablier" method for teaching French spelling, which impressed me immensely. Each week a different phoneme was featured as the "star" of the show, with the star's "wardrobe" (for the sound "o" - o, au, eau, aux, eaux - etc.) on display. A poem or song was introduced and chanted or sung by the children after it had been understood through play acting. The children then "discovered" the "wardrobe" and for the rest of the week, played with these things. It was a tight knit, well designed program, with each lesson masterfully put together. I guess it spoiled me for anything less.



Ohhhh this brings back childhood memories. That's how our language was taught in elementary schools "in my days" (early 80s). Cette semaine, le costume du son 'a'! etc. Although, while I agree with you it was a brilliant method, especially for me who has a strong visual memory, I've often heard this method has produced a whole generation of people who can't write French properly! We're all in our 40s now...


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