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Brentwood set to head into third year of French immersion

By Monique Massiah, Strathmore Standard

Ecole Brentwood Elementary School is slowly undergoing a globalizing change, even through it's official name, the school is becoming part of the francophonie, or French speaking community.


The school is offering a French immersion program to Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students.

Next year, Ecole Brentwood Elementary School will be going into its third year of the French Immersion program.

“We started at the beginning of last year as a K-1 split and we had 25 students registered,” said teacher Erin Friesen. “This year we added a solid Grade 2 program. Next year we will have a Kindergarten and a Grade 1 class, a Grade 2 class and a Grade 3 class,” she said.

The school continues to offer a solid English program as well.

Friesen explained that students in the French Immersion program start in Kindergarten and their entire day is a fully immersed experience.

“They don't do any English classes, their social studies, their math and their language arts, and their science is all conducted in French,” she said.

“We do a little bit of music in English and phys-ed in English and they participate in all of the same extracurricular activities, most of which are in English but the majority of all of their classes are in French,” she said.

Students start out in Kindergarten working on their oral skills by practicing and singing songs, learning nursery rhymes, French gestures, and more then they are introduced to reading and writing concepts in French later in the year and into Grade 1.

Friesen explained that learning a second language like French opens all sorts of doors economically for students in the long term. “You can get all sorts of government jobs if you speak French. The ability for students just to travel and see a different part of the world if they are fluent in that language, I think is really important. There's ample research about how it strengthens brain development, how it builds students brains up and their ability to communicate, their ability to be flexible, and their ability to do a whole host of activities,” she said.

The effect of having the French language and cultural activities in the school has had a trickle effect on the entire school. Throughout the year students in the French immersion program have participated in a number of French cultural activities including a large 'Fete d'hiver Carnaval de Quebec' (Winter Carnival of Quebec).

“In February we had a great big 'Carnaval' and all of our students got to participate and they got to have the maple syrup candy and they got to do the outdoor activities and it was unifying for our whole school,” said Friesen.

“I think the little Grade 1 and Grade 2s especially will speak to each other in French when they are getting their jackets on for recess. We've had some parents telling stories of birthday parties and French being spoken and parents being amazed at the level of French that their child has,” said Freisen.

“I think also what has been interesting for me, is the sense of pride in the French immersion program students, they are proud of their ability to converse in another language and they see that as something special about themselves,” she said.

“I think it has built a cultural understanding,” explained Friesen.

Parents and guardians who are interested in enrolling their students in the French immersion program can pick up registration forms at Ecole Brentwood Elementary School, or if they have further questions they can call Friesen.

“I typically do a little bit of a conversation with incoming families, about what French immersion is. Lots of parents are sort of apprehensive because they think 'I don't speak French', but French immersion programs in Alberta are designed for parents who don't speak French,” she said.

“We have all sorts of opportunities and we are working with language professionals to support parents. We have also got a very active Canadian Parents for French chapter starting up,” she said.

“We are also working quite close with parents to help them understand the opportunities that exist for their students if they take French and how they can support their kids,” she said.


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