The French Immersion Test – A Report
Today was the big day – the much-anticipated French immersion test.
Last week I called the school to ask for criteria and/or format of the test. I was told, “there really isn’t a format or criteria. I wouldn’t worry about it”. I thought that was interesting and noted that this would be a very subjective test.
We arrived right on time and were greeted by Madame “?” She never introduced herself. She asked in French to follow her to the library. She asked Lil D to sit down (in French) and asked me to sit a few tables away. He did. I did.
She then asked D if he was hot (in French). He unzipped and removed his jacket.
She then, in French, showed him a chart of letters and asked him for the letter sounds. He looked at her blankly. She repeated the question in English. He looked at her blankly. She repeated the question and gave him an example. He slowly leaned forward and started quietly telling her the letter sounds. I couldn’t hear clearly but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t giving the French vowel sounds in French.
Next, she showed him a book and asked, in French, for him to show her the cover page “page de couverture”. Lil D had no idea what she was asking. She repeated it in English and he showed her. She then asked him, in French, to open the book. He did.
She asked him questions about which direction people read in (asking him to point) left to right, right to left, up and down, etc… he looked at her like she was stupid. After another re-ask, he showed her left to right.
Next were questions about upper case and lower case letters (using the French names). Again, somewhat blank stares from Lil D until the words were demonstrated with actions and/or translation. Once he figured out what she wanted, he showed her.
She then asked him to count the words (testing the word “mots”). He needed a translation, but then counted them in French.
She asked him to sound out the French words on the page using the pictures to help him. He did this with little problem.
She asked him to show her words that she would say on the page. He did that.
That was the French portion of the test. Then she asked me if it was okay to ask him to read in English. Sure. She showed him a Level 1 Reader and he went from start to finish with inflection and giggles. She asked him if he had ever seen the book before. He said no.
She turned to me with her assessment:
He has very little conversational French, but obviously has the capacity to learn and would be a strong student because he can count and read at our beyond the Grade 1 level in English. He doesn’t know his French vowel sounds. She would hesitantly recommend French immersion though the final decision is not up to her (who is it up to and based on what? I’m not clear).
Madame then explained that right from the first weeks, Grade 1 is entirely in French (that’s what I expected).
I may want to arrange for some French tutoring, she suggested. And finally, if he did do French immersion, it was up to us as parents to know if he could handle it.
Lil D’s Assessment:
That was so easy. Why was she asking me such easy questions? Why was that room full of such interesting books? Why couldn’t I read those books about science and interesting things? Can we go back there another day so I can read the books? (me: not until you go to that school, but we could go to the regular library to read). Does the regular library have such interesting books? Why did you get to read the books but I didn’t? (I was pretending to read while he was being tested). When I go to that school do I get to go to the library every day? Daddy said that he only got to go once a week and he was only allowed one English book and one French book.
Me: Lil D, when you go to Grade 1, it will be all in French and they won’t talk to you in English during class time. Do you think you will be okay with that.
Lil D: All in French?
Me: Yes. At recess, you can talk to your friends in English.
Lil D: Okay. Yes.
My (biased) assessment:
- There was no ice-breaking period.
- The test in French was essentially on reading skills and vocubulary related to reading (“les sons des lettres, la page de couverture, les mots, les lettres, majuscule, minuscule”) which are not what he is being taught (and I have no complaint about that!!).
- There were a ton of assumptions made like “he probably knows numbers, colours and shapes in French”. Yes he does. But he also knows tons of conversational vocabulary like weather, food, clothing, holidays, parts of the body.
- It would take me all of 30 minutes to teach him the French vowel sounds.
- We were there for a total of 12 minutes. It usually takes a (at least my) five-year old that long to warm up.
I do not get how we got from “no criteria” to essentially a French reading test. If I had known the criteria ahead of time, we could have worked on this. Moreover, and frankly more importantly, I would like to put him up against the kids in SK EFI at that school right now and see how he compares. From what the SK parents tell me, he would be right there with them.
Anyway, it’s over.
Update 1:40 pm: The school called. They are more than happy to have him in the French Immersion program as long as I am aware of the feedback from “madame” (he referred to her as such and I still don’t know her name).
Would be interested to know what professional educators think about this type of assessment – anyone?