Description of Program
In the French Immersion program, students receive their subject matter instruction in the French language. In kindergarten through grade three, French is the only language used in the classrooms. In grade four, students are given instruction in English twice a week for 45 minutes in writing during the second half of the school year. In grade five, students are given instruction in English for approximately three and a half hours each week. * Special subjects, i.e., art, music, and physical education, are also conducted in English. French Immersion kindergarten classes have 26 students in each of two classes. Grade 1 has 26 in each class, grade 2 has 27 in each class, grades 3-5 can have 30 students maximum in each class.
The Montgomery County Public Schools French Immersion magnet was started in 1974 and was originally housed at Four Corners Elementary School. When Four Corners closed in 1982, the Immersion Program was moved to Oakview Elementary School, where it remained until June 1992, as one of the Blair Cluster magnet programs. At that time, due to space limitations at Oakview, the program was moved to Maryvale Elementary School in Rockville.
Since the 1999-2000 school year, there are two French immersion programs in Montgomery County Public Schools. The program at Maryvale E.S. serves students living in specific high school clusters in the northern part of the county. The other program, at Sligo Creek E.S. in Silver Spring, serves children in those high school clusters in the southern part of the county. Prospective parents can contact the MCPS Transfer office to determine in which catchment area they reside.
We will host an Open House for parents interested in applying for the French Immersion Program at Maryvale Elementary They will be held on the following dates:
Recommended French Websites
www.uptoten.com (select French flag and then the free option)
- How do I apply to the program? NEW!
- What are the goals of the French Immersion Program?
- How are teachers selected for the French Immersion Program?
- What curriculum is taught in the French Immersion Program?
- What are the basic underlying principles of the French Immersion Program?
- Once accepted, how are children placed in the French Immersion Program?
- Is transportation to the program provided?
- What happens in the first days in the program for new students?
- What will happen to the child's skills in English?
- Does it matter if no one at home speaks French?
- Am I making the right choice?
- What program is available to my child after completing the fifth grade in French Immersion?
- Whom can I talk to if I want to know more about the French Immersion Magnet?
- What can a parent do?
- Has there been research done on French Immersion programs?
Parents/students interested in a foreign language immersion program can participate in a lottery for one of the seats by completing an Immersion Interest Form. Completed forms should be faxed, mailed, or delivered directly to:
Consortia Choice and Application
Program Services (DCCAPS)
Spring Mill Field Office
11721 Kemp Mill Road
Silver Spring, MD 20902
Parents of incoming kindergarteners who have children already in an immersion program MUST fill out this form as well, and submit it by the deadline. These siblings have preference to the same immersion program on a space available basis, but the form must be submitted for the preference to be granted.
Students who graduate from the French Immersion Program in fifth grade should be able to:
Understand, speak, read and write French with a high level of language proficiency. Listening and reading skills should be near native-like.
Perform on standardized achievement tests in English as well as or better than their monolingual peers.
Successfully continue their studies in both English and French at the intermediate/middle school level.
Describe and understand cultural aspects of French-speaking communities around the world.
Teachers are selected for the French Immersion Program based on: 1) their overall teaching skills; 2) native or near-native ability in French; 3) excellent interpersonal skills; and 4) a strong commitment to the immersion concept of education. The teachers must also meet the Maryland State requirements for certification. Instructional assistants are also selected using criteria 2, 3 and 4 listed above.
When available, qualified French-speaking substitutes are used. In an emergency, when a qualified French-speaking substitute cannot be found, an English-speaking substitute is engaged.
The French Immersion Program follows the MCPS Curriculum 2.0 which meets the Maryland College and Career Ready Standards at all grade levels. The main subject areas of Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies are taught entirely in French at all grade levels and this instruction is supported by the use of texts, novels, expository readings and audiovisual materials which are in French. All classroom discussions, presentations of objectives, homework, tests and follow-up activities are in French.
The classroom teachers speak only in French at all grade levels. During the kindergarten year and until December 1st of the first grade year, students may respond to the teacher in English as well as in French. After the first month of the first grade year, children are encouraged to use French exclusively.
The French Immersion Program is based on certain assumptions:
Most children in immersion programs not only learn the second language, but they achieve skills appropriate to their grade level.
Children learn a second language very much as they learn the first. Second language learning should be started early in the child's educational program. To be meaningful, it should involve using the target language in normal, everyday experiences as well as in curriculum content activities.
Research indicates that, in immersion programs, the amount of time spent using the target language is directly related to the student's proficiency. Therefore, the MCPS French Immersion Program maximizes the amount of time a student is immersed in French--not only during the day, but also for the length of time before English language instruction is introduced into the curriculum.
Children must see that they can use the target language to convey feelings, thoughts, ideas and needs.
Admission to all grade levels of the French Immersion Program is based on expressed interest, on space available and is in accordance with MCPS transfer policy.
While the program is suitable for learners of all abilities, children with serious delays in first language development, or with auditory processing, auditory memory or general auditory impairment may not be successful in an immersion program.
Parents of immersion students are asked to show a visible commitment to the immersion program. The commitment can range from volunteering in a classroom on a regular (or periodic) basis, to providing the student with experiences in the French language. These experiences may include exposure to a range of materials in French as well as interaction with students and adults who speak French. One example might be as simple as encouraging the student to borrow French materials from the public library.
In addition to the above-mentioned criteria for admission, there are specific guidelines for enrollment at grade levels higher than Grade One.
Students lacking prior experience in French will not be at the same level as those whose experience has included kindergarten and/or first grade. Therefore, different entry criteria are necessary at this level. Candidates should have an average academic record, enjoy challenging and demanding work, have a tolerance for frustration and ambiguity, be motivated to succeed, and willingly accept peer assistance.
Grade 2 - Students will be admitted to second grade if they can speak, understand and read in French at the mid-year level of a grade one immersion student. A language evaluation will be given to determine if the candidate has the language skills needed. It is necessary to restrict the number of new entrants in any one grade or class so the student's limited language proficiency in French does not require the teacher(s) to dilute the level of needs of these students. It is essential for the parents of new entrants, and the new students themselves, to understand the challenges faced by entering at this level. A placement at the second grade level should be on a trial basis. A review conference within 60 school days may be held. This conference will include the principal, parents, teacher(s) and appropriate specialists.
Grades 3-5 - Students are not admitted at these grade levels without an appropriate knowledge of French. A language evaluation will be given to students entering at these grades to determine if their language skills are appropriate.
Bus transportation to the French Immersion program for the catchment area in which a family lives is provided by MCPS. If the student is enrolled in one immersion program and does not live in its catchment area, parents must provide transportation to the school. For students for whom transportation is provided, pick-up and drop-off points are established by the Area Transportation Office. Transportation to the pick-up and drop-off points is the responsibility of the parents.
Teachers are very aware that new students in the program probably do not understand what is being said. Thus, they use a variety of techniques to convey meaning.
They may use many gestures; they may exaggerate facial expressions; they may bring in real objects and have children manipulate objects; they may use music and sound. Extra efforts are made by the staff to help the students feel secure, comfortable and relaxed. Although some students may experience frustration initially because the teacher will not speak English, this frustration is usually quickly resolved. Teachers readily contact parents, as necessary, so any classroom concerns can be addressed immediately.
By the end of their elementary years, our immersion students generally perform as well as, or better than, their monolingual peers. There are certain lags in English language arts skills during the first few years in school, but most children tend to make up for these skills in later years.
No! The program was designed for children from homes where French is not the primary language. Although offering support to your child in the target language is helpful, the majority of our parents do not speak French with their children at home.
Yes! As long as you are committed to immersion, your child will also be committed. Your child will have a high level of fluency in French. Discussions with parents whose children have been or are presently enrolled in the program are encouraged.
When you have any such concern, contact the teacher and principal immediately for a conference. Some students who have been diagnosed as learning disabled have successfully completed the program. In other cases, recommendations have been made that parents consider another program for their child. Each case is handled on an individual basis. It is important to remember that the learning disability will not be "in French". That is, if a child has a learning disability, the disability will be there regardless of the language of instruction, and the child will also have to compensate for the disability in an English-language program.
The immersion program should be viewed as a K-8 sequence with approximately 80% of the school time spent in French in the early grades, approximately 60% in grade 5, and 30% in grades 6,7 and 8. The intermediate program consists of two French-language blocks taught totally in French, French language arts and world studies.
The program at Gaithersburg Middle School is for students who have been enrolled in the French Immersion program at Maryvale E.S. and who have an advanced knowledge of French. The program at Silver Spring International Middle School is for students who have been enrolled in the French Immersion program at Sligo Creek E.S. and who have an advanced knowledge of French. In these programs, one academic block focuses on reading, writing and grammar in French. In the second academic block, the students study the regular MCPS world studies 6th, 7th and 8th grade curriculum in French. Successful completion of this sequence allows the student to enter the appropriate French class, usually French 4, when he/she enrolls in 9th grade.
The International Baccalaureate Programs in MCPS could also be considered as a logical continuation for any of our students, since fluency in at least one foreign language is an advantage in that program. Entrance to these programs is not, however, automatic for French Immersion students. Please contact the individual high schools for criteria for admission to these programs.
Call the school to set up an appointment with the French Immersion Team Leader or the principal. In addition, there are a number of parents who will be more than happy to answer your questions from their perspective.
Encourage your child by telling him/her how proud you are that he/she is learning a language
Encourage your child to speak French at home.
Get to know your child's teacher through personal conferences or phone calls.
Support your child's teacher.
Become actively involved in the French Immersion program.
Read and tell stories to your child in English and/or French
Expose your child to as many opportunities as possible to use French outside school.
Much of the research on immersion education has focused on the Canadian model and programs. Little research is available on immersion programs in the United States. American programs that have received the most attention are in Culver City, California, Cincinnati, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Fred Genesee, of McGill University in Montreal, in his review of immersion and bilingual education in the United States and Canada, concludes that immersion programs in the United States "constitute a feasible and effective way for English-speaking American students to attain high levels of second language proficiency without risk to their native language development or academic achievement." (Fred Genesee, Learning Through Two Languages, Newbury House, Cambridge, MA, 1987, p.131)
There are articles and books available in our school library which can be checked out by our parents. In addition, program coordinators are well informed about immersion research. Specific requests for materials on immersion should be referred, in writing, to Cecilia Dickson Immersion Instructional Specialist, and Francoise Vandenplas , Foreign Language Program Supervisor, MCPS Department of Academic Skills, Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20850.