Evansdale’s French Immersion Program is a form of additive bilingual education because it aims for functional proficiency in both the student’s English and French. The most distinctive feature of an immersion program is the use of the French to teach regular academic subjects, such as mathematics and science. Immersion students are expected to achieve the same levels of achievement in these subjects as students learning in English at the same time as they acquire advanced levels of functional proficiency in French.
Evansdale students are admitted by lottery in Kindergarten into the French Immersion Program and continue in the program through the 5th grade. The Lottery typically is conducted at the beginning of the calendar year Students may be admitted by lottery in first grade, if spots are available. A prior year application is viewable by clicking here. The School District’s website concerning the immersion programs is viewable by clicking here.
The rationale behind immersion programs is based upon research on first language acquisition. All children, with a few exceptions, acquire proficiency in at least one language without formal, direct instruction. Typical American children acquire their English naturally and relatively easily because it is used for sustained and meaningful communication with others. Immersion programs seek to create in school the same conditions that are associated with English acquisition; namely, social environments in which the individual is motivated to learn French in order to communicate with significant others about meaningful and important matters. This approach contrasts with traditional French instruction where the French is taught for limited periods of time and there are fewer opportunities for authentic, meaningful communication in the target language.
At Evansdale, we expect that the children will develop their French language skills over the course of their elementary experience such that the students will be proficient in French by the time they reach middle school. The students learn the French language by using it in school during social and academic activities. Although immersion teachers use French at all times during designated French periods, immersion students continue to use their English during the first half of the kindergarten year. The students begin to make all of their comments in class to one another and to their teachers in French starting at some point determined by the teacher, after the winter break, once they acquire basic proficiency in the language. They are encouraged, and indeed expected, to use French once they have acquired basic proficiency in it, on the assumption that using the language will promote its acquisition.
Because the primary focus in immersion classes is on meaningful communication, French learning in immersion is often incidental to academic learning and social interactions that make up normal classroom life. Students acquire the language inductively using their natural language learning abilities.
There are a number of important steps that can be taken to ensure that French is used as much as possible and with the best possible outcomes:
- French is used by the teacher to teach certain academic subjects (at least 50%); teachers never or almost never use the students’ English language during these times, and they never (or seldom) translate for the students.
- Teachers also use French for all social interaction during designated times (at least 50% of the school day); in fact, immersion teachers are encouraged to present themselves as monolinguals so that students are obliged to use French with them.
- Teachers have special training in second language acquisition and how to teach content through a second language so that they can modify the language appropriately with their students.
- Students are expected to use French during designated times for all social conversations, except during the initial phase of the program; students who are allowed to continue to use their English will probably avoid using French and, thus, will not learn it.
- Different teachers are used to teach through the students’ English and their French so that students have a clear understanding of when to use each language; this means that students are not given a choice of which language to use with each teacher.
- Teachers have native ability or near-native ability in French so that they are comfortable and competent using the French.
- Students are not corrected extensively for non-native-like use of French because it is thought that too much correction will discourage use of the language and, thus, retard acquisition.
With that said, parents have requested extra resources to support the French learning at home. To that end we have compiled some resources for parents that may be helpful to encourage the student’s use of French outside of school and assist in the development of certain core elements of French. However, Evansdale does not require students to perform homework in French unless specifically assigned by the student’s teacher.
 The above description of immersion comes in large part from an article by Fred Genesee, a distinguished scholar and researcher at McGill University in Montreal. Genesee, Fred. "Second Language Immersion." Immersion Handbook 5 (2005): 7-8.
Below are some additional resources for French Language Students