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Promoting French Immersion Education

There are so many moments that flash through our heads when we find out we’re about to become parents. The children climbing on the school bus for their first day of kindergarten with an oversized backpack is one that we always envision, and often end up crying through when the time comes. But, the moment we need to decide where the bus is taking them comes faster than anyone expects.
The staff at Ecole Swan River South School (ESRSS) travelled around to daycares and preschool programs across the Valley on Wednesday (March 21) and Thursday (March 22) to make sure that their school is in consideration for parents facing this decision.
“There are many benefits to the French Immersion Program,” said Grade 7 and 8 teacher Christine Chmelowski. “Learning an additional language enhances critical thinking and problem solving skills. Research shows that learning a second language has a positive effect on first-language achievement.”
It is also noted that ESRSS has smaller class sizes than some of the other Valley schools giving their students more individual time and attention.
“Often there is a misconception that learning another language is hard or only for kids who are academically inclined,” she said. “The reality is that learning another language just reinforces the ones you already know.
“I’ve actually had conversations with parents of students struggling in school. When they’re faced with a decision to stay in French or switch out and I reassure them that our class-size is a huge advantage to someone who needs extra support. A teacher has a lot more flexibility in a class of 14 students than they would in a class of 26. When a teacher has time to work with a student and connect the learning in English and in French, it really solidifies the acquisition.”
In the Swan Valley School Division, the Early Immersion program is offered, with most students entering right at Kindergarten.
“The focus in the first few years is really on French language acquisition,” said Chmelowski. “Studies show that by Grade 4 or 5, students often match or exceed other students’ Math and English skills.
“And really, when kids are in French Immersion from such a young age, they don’t even necessarily know they’re speaking another language. As adults, we question and analyze everything we see, hear and do, which makes learning a new skill or language a little more challenging but, kids are like little sponges; they just keep absorbing whatever comes their way without over-analyzing everything.”
The Valley is fortunate to have such a program available, where as many small communities don’t have the option.
“In the past, French only went up to Grade 8, with limited options available in high school,” said Chmelowski. “But, students can now follow through all the way to Grade 12 and graduate with a French Immersion Diploma.
“Our language learning experiences go far beyond the classroom walls. Our students have been very lucky to participate in French summer day camp, trips to Winnipeg for the Festival du Voyageur, student exchanges in Québec, as well as trips to France.”
For more information or to say “Oui” to French Immersion contact ESRSS at 204·734·4518 or visit the website at www.svsd.ca/schools/esrss/pages/default.aspx

Jakki Lumax