In 2009 the French immersion program went from a dual track system to a single track system. This means that our school is exclusively a French immersion school with the language most frequently heard and used in our building being French. In 2010 we moved into our new school building- École Mountainview – where the program has continued to flourish.
An overview of the program and goals
The French immersion program
Various forms of French immersion programs have existed in Canada over the past 40 years. In Terrace, BC the program has been available to students since 1981. The basic characteristics of a French immersion program in British Columbia are:
- Children coming into the program usually do not speak French nor do they need to be able to
- All subjects are taught in French except English later on
- French is the language of communication and instruction
- The prescribed learning outcomes for BC schools are followed and are available in French
- English is introduced as a subject usually in grade four
École Mountainview: Ici on apprend en français
École Mountainview is a public early French immersion school open to all children; there are no fees or special requirements. Families do not need to be able to speak, read, or understand French nor do families need to have any French background. Children can be enrolled into the program either in kindergarten or grade one. Currently in the school we have classes of students from kindergarten to grade six. Like all public schools we follow the prescribed curriculums for students from the Ministry of Education of British Columbia. The most important difference for our students is the language of instruction and communication: French. The teachers instruct in French, the staff converse in French, the announcements from the office are in French, and the books in the classrooms and library are in French. At École Mountainview we take pride in learning, speaking, and living in the French language therefore we are constantly promoting the use of French with our students.
No, we did not forget that the parents of our students may not be able to converse or read in French. Therefore, all communications with parents will be in English. Our newsletters and parent notices are in English as well as our website. Although from time to time there will be French expressions used that parents will soon learn to recognize. And if not, you can ask your child and they can then become a teacher! If you need to speak with your child’s teacher please come in and do so. All of our teachers are able to speak in English as well as French.
As well, we realize that this may be the first experience with the French language that most of the students coming into our school will have. We encourage the students to be excited about learning in a different language. We encourage them to speak with each other in French as well as with our staff. There is positive reinforcement of our students’ French language use and gentle correcting when needed. Our teachers and support staff are the best sources of the French language in the school and they keep in mind that they are the role models for our students and demonstrate their own interest in learning and using the French language. We have a focus on oral language within our school-encouraging everyone to speak in French so that learning, teaching, and socializing in a French environment becomes natural to all.
The structure of the program
In the early French immersion program the language of instruction is French for all subjects. This means that the students will be learning not only to speak, read, and write in French but also concepts from math, science, social studies, physical education, and art in French. French is not taught separately but is the method of instruction for the students. English is not introduced as a subject until grade 4 and should take up no more than 20% of the weekly class time. When students begin learning English it is not unusual for them to struggle. Research has shown that there is an initial lag for early French immersion students in English especially with spelling and grammar but within a year or two most of the students will be at grade level with their English peers. This initial lag may be concerning for you as parents. Remember the students are used to learning, speaking, reading, writing in French but not in English. Most students take some time to adjust to learning about the English language but given time and good instruction in English they will achieve grade level expectations.
Learning in a second language
Our students come to us without or with very little French language. We understand this and our classroom programs are structured to take this into account. When students walk into our school they are brought into a French language environment. The teachers speak French, the principal speaks French, the announcements are in French, there are French posters and student work with French words on the hallway walls, and the older students are speaking with each other in French-French is everywhere. When learning a second language students need to hear and listen to the language for quite a long time before beginning to speak it. With the school being a rich French language environment the students are being exposed to the language all the time.
In the beginning students will be speaking single words in French mixed with English, then small phrases, and eventually whole sentences in French. Similar to when they began speaking their first language, students will try to make meaningful connections to the French language such as saying bonjour (good day) when they see their teacher in the morning or au revoir (good bye) at the end of the day. The teachers speak with the students in French but respond to the students when they speak in English. The teacher will repeat what the student has said using the French words that the student needs. Our students are encouraged to speak in French and as their vocabulary increases they are encouraged to then use the words that they know. Do not worry if your child is not speaking French soon after beginning school. Each child is different but generally students begin using meaningful French words sometime during the kindergarten year.
Our goals of the French immersion program
The French immersion program is an effective way to promote the learning of another language, having students proficient in speaking and learning in another language while achieving all the expected outcomes of the school curriculums. The program instills not only the love of learning but the love of learning in another language. It gives our students an extra layer of understanding beyond what they may have gotten in an English school. The goals that we have for the students in our program are:
- to be able to communicate in French both orally and in written form
- to have an appreciation of learning in a second language and its benefits
- to achieve or surpass all expected outcomes in all subject areas
- to continue on in the French immersion program and become functionally bilingual
- to have an awareness of the French heritage and culture of Canada
- to have more post-secondary and employment opportunities available