How can I help my child in French Immersion?

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1 How can I help my child in French Immersion? You have already made important decisions about your child s Education. You have enrolled them in a French Program and you sincerely want them to get the most out of this excellent educational opportunity. French is a relatively easy second language for English speakers to learn because of the close historical relationship between the two languages. Their alphabets and sentence structures are very similar. In addition, many English words come from French or from Latin, a common root of both languages. What began with a classroom of 30 students whose parents wanted their children to learn Canada s other official language through he publicly funded school system is now a program of choice with over 300,000 students enrolled across Canada. In 1977, a nationwide support group called Canadian Parents for French had formed and became a major catalyst in the spread of their new concept in second-language education. Today, parents continue to be the major driving force behind French immersion-enrolling their children, supporting their children and their school, helping with extracurricular activities, monitoring program quality and promoting the program with governments, school boards, other parents and the public. Most parents of Immersion children cannot help their children with French at home and our goal with the following information is to make the transition for you and your child as easy as possible. When we first enter our children in the Immersion program we all want what is best for our children and that they receive quality education in French and English. What can I expect to see in a French Class? An emphasis on the acquisition of vocabulary through use of various strategies in order to develop listening and speaking skills. Children being read to and reading stories that are created collectively.

2 Reading skills being developed using a variety of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, research materials) and the exposure of students to the various forms of literature (fairy tales, poems, short stories, editorials, novels). The acquisition of writing skills being encouraged through the use of meaningful and real situations that require a written message (thank-you notes, letters, stories about personal interests, research projects A continuing development of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills throughout the middle and senior years. Gradually, the children are exposed to various activities and situations, which permit them to communicate in French both orally and in writing. They learn to express their feelings and opinions, to ask for and to transmit information, to follow and to give directions, and to have fun using the French language. What can I do to help my child in French? Show a genuine interest in what your child does at school, in the fact that he/she is acquiring the French language and is exposed to its culture. Encourage your child to use the language consistently while at school to enhance fluency and to communicate in French outside the school setting when real-life situations present themselves. Encourage your child to listen to a radio station and watch television in French. Purchase French CD s and tapes for him/her to listen to. Provide a positive reading atmosphere at home. -listen to your child read in French (even if you don t understand). -subscribe your child to a French magazine. -buy your child French books. -take out books from a local library. Encourage your child to correspond in French with a Francophone elsewhere in Canada. Participate with your child in French cultural and various recreational activities. What can I do to help my child in English? Read aloud to your child as often as you can. Provide many opportunities for your child to write (i.e.. grocery lists, thank you notes, letters, stories). Show interest in your child s school work by asking questions about his/her writing selections and about books they are reading. Enroll your child in the local library. Ensure that your child sees members of the family reading. Provide opportunities for your child to use oral language and listen to what he or she has to

3 say. Encourage your child to start building their own book collection. Buy the books as presents. Learning language (reading, writing, speaking and listening) is an active process that develops over time. Children understand a great deal about language long before they reach school. Parents who read aloud to their children and talk with them about reading and writing promote the importance of literacy. When children are surrounded by people who provide a languagerich environment, their language potential will continue to develop. In the Early French Immersion Program, students receive 10% of their instruction in English with increased English instruction (approximately three hours per week) introduced at grades 4,5 and 6. In an Intermediate French Immersion Program, students receive up to 30% of their instruction in English. Remember, Immersion students receive a double dose of language arts compared to Englishprogram students. It s speculated that enhanced abilities in a student s first language may be the result of a greater awareness of language in general and the ability to compare and contrast the two language systems. What can I do to help my child in Math? Add to your child s mathematical vocabulary by using everyday situations to demonstrate the meaning of such words as bigger than, square, circle, etc. Show interest in your child s work instead of telling him or her about the negative feelings you might have had about mathematics when you were in school. Multiply the words of encouragement spoken to your child so that he or she will have a positive attitude towards mathematics. Accept that the responsibility of stimulating your child s interest in mathematics be divided between the home and the school. Play your part by listening, asking questions, and suggesting activities where your child counts money, measures objects, calculates numbers, etc. Naturally, parents and educators are also concerned that immersion students might have difficulty learning academic material when it s taught in French, or have difficulty transferring that knowledge to English. The scores of studies that have looked into these students mathematics, science and social studies achievement all conclude that early total immersion students do as well as their English-program counterparts. While their productive skills (speaking and writing) take longer to develop, their comprehension of French (listening and reading) very quickly reaches the level needed to receive instruction via that language. The technical terms of mathematics in French are very similar to those used in the English language. In fact, quite a number of words are spelled in exactly the same way, such as

4 addition and fraction. This can facilitate the transfer of mathematical skills from one language to another. What can I do to help my child in Science? You and your child can plan outings to the zoo, the museum, the planetarium, and to interpretive centres. You and your child can go hiking on self-guided trails. Interest your child in natural phenomena and the environment surrounding us, i.e. the river near your home, the birds that visit your backyard feeder, the animal tracks in the snow. You and your child watch science programs on television, i.e. Science-réalité Nova, The Nature of Things, National Geographic Specials, or Omni-Science Découverte. Subscribe your child to a science magazine, i.e. Coulicou for 4 to 8 year olds, Hibou and Je me petit-débrouille for 8 to 11 year olds. Encourage your child to participate in the school science fair and support his or her research efforts. Introduce your child to science books written for children. Encourage and support your child s scientific hobbies if he or she shows a special interest, such as collecting shells, rocks, or butterflies, or caring for a pet, an aquarium, a little garden. Science is basically the process by which we collectively define our conception of reality. In grade 1, the study of science may unfold through activities that help the child distinguish between living things and inanimate objects. In grade 4, the study may deal with electrical circuits and their properties. In grade 7, it may revolve around such themes as motion, the composition of matter, and technology in our lives. Studying science in French is really not more difficult than it is in English. Since the language of science has developed from Latin and Greek roots, the vocabulary is very similar in both languages: for example, biologie for biology, cellule for cell, and carbone for carbon. Science concepts are essentially identical in both languages: for instance, the concept of the cell is no different in French, than it is in English. Students who have completed their science requirements in French will likely encounter little difficulty in adjusting to university level science courses taught in English. What can I do to help my child in Social Studies? Suppose your child in grade 3 is studying his or her surroundings as part of the social studies curriculum. You can plan trips by car, bicycle, or on foot with your child, and thus: Explore the boundaries of your community. Visit public institutions and historical sites. Get to know the neighbouring communities. You can introduce your child to the various media forms by:

5 Discussing the subject matter of a newspaper article. Selecting informative radio or television programs. Your can also get involved in your child s research project by helping him or her: Draw a map of your neighbourhood. Find a resource person who could assist him or her with the project. Take your child to the local library. The teaching of social studies will enable your child to: Retain what they learn thanks to the activities they experience in class. Learn to be observant, to ask questions, to make comparisons, and to arrive at their own conclusions. Frequently use maps, graphs, and time lines in order to gather, analyze, and communicate information on their study topics. Develop positive attitudes towards people from other cultures, the elderly, and the environment surrounding them. What can I do to help my child with homework? Many parents either have a limited background in French or do not speak the language. If this is the case, please don t feel alarmed. The most important factor is your encouragement and the positive support you are able to give your child. You should make homework a top priority at home. Assignments should take no more than 30 minutes to complete each night at the elementary level, not including daily reading of 15 minutes each night. You should provide necessary supplies and a quiet homework environment, set aside a time everyday when homework should be done, provide praise and support and contact your French Immersion teacher if you notice a problem. You and your child s teacher must work together as a team that is committed to your child s progress. The secret to building and maintaining that relationship is through communication. Remember if a child were having problems in the French Program then they would also be having the same problems in the English Program. How can I get the most from parent-teacher conferences? Think about what you want to learn from the meeting. Write down a list of your questions and comments, don t rely on your memory! Some examples could be: What is meant by? How much homework is expected? What testing methods are used? Have there been any incidents at school involving my child? Does he/she have good work habits? Are there any missing homework assignments? What do you see as his strengths and weaknesses? How well does he work with other students? Did you know he is especially interested in? Is extra help available? What can I do at home to support his learning? If you are not sure of what the teacher means, ask questions. If there is not enough time to discuss everything that you think is important, make another appointment with the teacher.

6 Discuss the conference with your child. Talk about both his strong and weak points in school. If he needs help, talk about what will be done to provide this assistance, or what you can do together. Remember that teachers are human too! Some get even more nervous about these meetings than certain parents. Always remember that your objective is for you and the teacher to become partners in supporting your child s education.

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