French Immersion → FAQ
- 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?
- How are students in the French Immersion Program evaluated?
- Is transportation to the program provided?
- What are some frequently asked questions about immersion?
- 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 are some parental's do's and don'ts?
- 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. This form will be made available by February 1, 2018. Completed forms should be faxed, mailed, or delivered directly to:
Division of Consortia Choice and Application
Program Services (DCCAPS)
Spring Mill Field Office
11721 Kemp Mill Road
Silver Spring, MD 20902
The deadline for submitting the Immersion Interest Form is May 4, 2018. 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.
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 Magnet 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 during the first three months of the first grade year, students may respond to the teacher in English as well as in French. After the first three months of the first grade year, children are encouraged to use French exclusively.
English language arts are instructed in Grade 4 (once per week for 90 minutes during the second half of the year) and in grade 5 (three and a half hours a week) by a teacher other than the French immersion teacher. English instruction has two areas of emphasis: 1) aspects of language in which significant differences exist between French and English (e.g. capitalization, spelling, grammar, and punctuation); and 2) opportunities for students to read and write extensively through a literature-based instructional program that includes book reports, creative writing, and research reports.
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 Magnet Program is based on expressed interest, on space available and is in accordance with MCPS transfer policy. (see: How would I apply to the program?).
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.
Grades 2-5 - Students applying for the French immersion program for grades 2 through 5 must participate in the lottery. If they are invited to the program, their acceptance is pending the passing of the language evaluation.
Students in the program are evaluated in a variety of ways. These include informal teacher assessment, MCPS report cards, CTBS, Montgomery County Criterion-Referenced tests and the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program. These assessment procedures evaluate individual performance in the classroom as well as performance in context compared to peers in the County and peers in the State at the same grade level.
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. During this type of meeting, the team will discuss the successes and challenges that the student is experiencing and the best ways the school can meet their needs. 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 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. 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. 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 program coordinator 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.
- Feel discouraged if your child is anxious, frustrated or upset as a beginner in the program. Many children need time to adjust to the challenge.
- Hesitate to call the teacher or principal if you have any questions about your child's progress.
- Force your child to speak French at home.
- Correct your child yourself if you are unsure of the pronunciation or the expression.
- Ask your child to translate, especially in the primary years.
- Compare your child's progress with other children. No two children learn at the same rate.
- Expect your child to speak French after the first days or weeks in the program
There is a lot of research on immersion education available from Canada and the U.S. A very good resource for research on immersion programs and philosophy can be found at the University of Minnesota, CARLA.
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).