Relating French Immersion Teacher Practices to Better Student Oral Production
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Relating French Immersion Teacher Practices to Better Student Oral Production Michelle Haj-Broussard, Heather K. Olson Beal, and Nicole Boudreaux Abstract: This study examined seven Louisiana kindergarten immersion teachers ’ practices to evaluate students’ oral target language production and compare the oral production elicited when different instructional practices were used over a single semester. Three rounds of three 20-minute observations in three different contexts – circle time, direct instruction, and centre time – were conducted in seven kindergarten teachers’ classrooms at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester. Using the Association canadienne des professeurs d’immersion (ACPI) accepted language proficiency levels, the researchers focused on students’ global capacity to communicate. Findings suggest that teacher practices influenced student oral language production and help identify specific, practical suggestions for improving language immersion teaching practices and immersion teacher training. Keywords: dual language, elementary teacher practices, French immersion, French oral proficiency, second language acquisition Résumé : Cette recherche étudie les pratiques de sept enseignants louisianais de programmes d’immersion à la maternelle afin d’analyser la production orale en langue cible de leurs élèves et comparer, au cours d’un seul semestre, les productions orales requises par différentes stratégies d’instruction. Trois séries de trois observations de vingt minutes en trois contextes différents – rituels, instruction frontale et ateliers – eurent lieu au début, au milieu et à la fin du semestre. À l’aide de l’échelle de niveau de langue adoptée par l’Association canadienne des professionnels de l’immersion (ACPI), les chercheurs se sont concentrés sur la capacité de communication générale des élèves. Les résultats suggèrent que les différentes stratégies des enseignants influencent la production orale de leurs élèves et offrent des suggestions pratiques et spécifiques pour améliorer les méthodes d’instruction en immersion et la formation des enseignants. Mots clés : deux langues, pratiques d’enseignants du primaire, immersion française, compétences orales en français, acquisition d’une deuxième langue© The Canadian Modern Language Review/La Revue canadienne des langues vivantes, 73, 3 (August / août), 319–342 doi:10.3138/cmlr.3521 Immersion education requires that the target language (TL) be used as the medium of instruction for most to all instructional content, such as mathematics, science, and social studies. There are three common types of immersion programs in the United States: total immersion (i.e., at least 90% of instruction is delivered in the TL), partial immersion (i.e., 50–90% of instruction is delivered in the TL), or two-way immersion (i.e., equal emphasis is placed on English and a second language , with content taught in both languages). Using the TL as the medium of instruction creates an authentic need for the students to master the TL to succeed academically (Fortune, 2012; LindholmLeary & Molina, 2000; Swain & Johnson, 1997) and makes the TL the only conduit for social interaction. Some production/comprehension asymmetries documented in early first language acquisition studies suggest that the acquisition of language production and the acquisition of language comprehension do not progress at the same rate (Bornstein & Hendricks, 2012; Karmiloff-Smith, 1985). In fact, the foreign language communicative approach emphasizes the importance of developing listening skills (Flowerdew & Miller, 2005). However, the immersion setting does not offer the luxury of an extended listening/reading comprehension period preceding the production stage. Very early in their school career, immersion students must be able to function in all four modalities of the language – speaking, listening, reading, and writing – to succeed academically. Yet researchers have consistently found that while student comprehension usually progresses relatively quickly, student production often lags behind (Genesee, 1987, 2004; Hammerly, 1987; Harley & Swain, 1984; Kowal & Swain, 1997; Swain, 1985). This asynchronous language development coupled with the need to work in all four language modalities emphasizes the unique urgency to provide immersion students with the necessary tools for early acquisition of TL oral production skills. In early immersion programs, students learn instructional content in the TL starting at the kindergarten or pre-kindergarten level. Cloud, Genesee, and Hamayan (2000) discuss “academic subject area classes” within the immersion context and identify language negotiation strategies...