Although immersion and core French have different objectives and different images, there are many ways in which the two programs complement each other and have the potential to strengthen each other.

In the School

At CPF’s Fifteenth National Conference in Yellowknife, Lilly Borges Oldham, a Past President of the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers, led 60 delegates through a three-hour working session on “core and Immersion: Working Together.” A stimulating exchange of information and ideas took place in each of the four discussion groups, which considered this issue. Reports from the groups in combination with strategies Lilly Borges Oldham shared on the basis of her experience in the classroom and as an administrator, produced a very useful collection of ways in which those involved in immersion and core French could work together to the advantage of both programs.

The following are among the suggestions of ways in which working together in the school can enhance both core and immersion:

  1. Encourage dialogue between teachers in the two programs and explore all possible avenues of cooperation and collaboration.
  2. Share books, videos, computer software and other resources that are appropriate to both programs.
  3. Organize joint in-service professional development for core and immersion teachers in areas such as cultural enhancement and methodology.
  4. Consider rotating teachers between core and immersion programs.
  5. Use the combined numbers of children in French programs as a justification for asking that the school hire as many bilingual staff members (administrators, librarians, aids, janitorial staff, teachers) as possible.
  6. Use bilingual signs throughout the school and hold bilingual assemblies to help identify French as an important school subject.
    Be sure that awards (achievement, enthusiasm, improvement) are given to students in both programs.
  7. Encourage co-production of publications and events; core and immersion classes can work together to write and illustrate news sheets, booklets and programs and this idea can be expanded to include drama and videos.
  8. Have a French week for the whole school with core and immersion students working together to plan it.
  9. Run cultural events and activities in French for both programs and organize school excursions, field trips and visits in French for combined core and immersion classes.
  10. Organize special interest clubs in French and open them to students from both programs: have the school choir perform in both English and French.
  11. Utilize advance immersion students as aides to core French teachers.
  12. An accomplished older student as tutor and role model enhances French in the eyes of the learning student and bolsters the self-esteem of the teaching student.

Outside the Classroom

Merely by their existence, core and immersion students, in combination with young Francophones, create a major market for French-language magazines, music, films, television, literature and live entertainment for children and young people. They also create a potential market for French-language community events, library programs, special weekend activities and, of course, summer camps. (For information about camps in your area, contact your provincial CPF office.)

Conclusion

Many of the areas in which core and immersion French can strengthen and support each other out of school require that committed parents from both programs work together. Finding committed immersion parents is easy: the fact that their children are enroled in immersion implies a significant degree of support and involvement. It is not quite that simple to locate committed core French parents. They certainly exist in every school, but they are not neatly packaged in classes as are their immersion counterparts. For the sake of the children and young people in these programs, CPF must expand its roles both as the catalyst that brings the two groups of parents together and as advocate and spokesman for both programs.