Early last winter, you decided to enroll your child in French Immersion (FI). But now that September is almost upon us, the worry is settling in. Your mind is starting to race with a never-ending flow of concerns:
“Will my child adjust well to the grade 1FI class?”
“Is French going to be too unfamiliar and difficult?”
“Will my child make new friends?
If that sounds familiar, then the first thing to do is stop worrying. Worries are contagious. The more you worry, the more susceptible your child will be to picking up on your anxiety. So to help you gain confidence about your decision, today’s post will walk you through 5 simple tips to make your child’s French Immersion transition a positive and seamless experience for all.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Let’s face it, learning French can be exhausting.
Just imagine touring a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. Long days are spent trying to decipher unfamiliar signs and symbols. And tremendous focus and energy is used up trying to grasp what others are saying. French Immersion can feel a lot like that – at least in the very beginning. So don’t be alarmed if your child comes home feeling tired for the first few weeks.
As parents, we worry about sending our little 5 or 6 year old to school on the big yellow bus. Although your child may not share your worries, it is always reassuring to let them know that someone they know and trust will be on the bus (like a neighbor or a good friend).
Helping your child get familiar with the bus route can help to relieve any worries they might have. Before school begins, take a drive along the bus route while stopping to point out familiar landmarks along the road, which might include familiar restaurants, stores, or a friend’s house. You should also make sure your child knows the name of the street for the bus stop and their bus number for the way home.
And don’t forget to begin your day by saying “Bonjour” instead of Good morning. You might also want to teach them “Comment ça va?” and “Ça va bien” to boost their confidence. This will help your child get in the mood for French and demonstrate your enthusiasm.
Change can be unsettling and is a source of worry for most. The first thing to focus on is re-framing the dread and fear of changing schools into a fun and exciting experience.
And the best place to start is with recess.
Recess is a big part of a child’s day at school. To help your child navigate the playground effortlessly, visit the playground and ask a teacher to point out the areas where grade 1’s normally play, as well as the areas where “big kids” typically congregate. That way, your child will feel comfortable in the playground before September starts. And on that note, if you haven’t already taken a tour of the school in June, be sure to do so in August if possible.
Another effective thing you can do to put your child at ease is to tell your child about your first day in grade 1. You can even ask your parents how they felt when it was your first day, so that they can remind you of details that you might have forgotten. Remember, the first day in grade 1 is an entirely new experience for your child. They have no expectations and have no idea what a grade 1 class is supposed to look or sound like. So let them enter with a blank slate, and do not worry your child with comments like: “I hope you will understand something” today or “try to remember one word in French”.
Express your excitement at your child’s growth by turning their first day of grade 1 into an event. Pick out special clothes and pack an extra special lunch with a celebratory snack they love.
Very few students start FI alone. Most have friends already enrolled in French Immersion, or people they know who will also be starting grade 1 FI. As much as possible, talk about the people your child will know in French Immersion, rather than focusing on the friends they leave behind. Children like to be in the company of other children. They are naturally curious about one another. And they will gravitate to OTHERS that have similar interests. Something as simple as a t-shirt one or the color of their shoes can start a conversation and spark a new friendship!
A good rule of thumb for a smooth transition is to focus on the excitement of learning all of the new, grown-up things your child is sure to discover as a “big” grade 1 student. Remind your child of all the fun aspects of their new school: pizza lunches, recesses, fun games, the big playground, and any other special differentiating features from the old school.
As the weeks go by, continue to celebrate the small accomplishments that happen every day. Remember that French Immersion is not only about learning to speak French, it is about learning in French . Naturally, this will bring some delays in the reading and writing fluency of your child. Don’t push. Trust that it will all fall into place. Continue to read to your child in the language you speak at home. Continue to promote new experiences and discoveries. Acknowledge difficulties and hurdles that your child might express but don’t emphasize them.Do you recall some of your childhood difficulties? Share them with your child and discuss strategies to overcome them.
Lastly, communicate with your child’s teacher. Grade 1 teachers do their best to know their students quickly but sometimes a little detailed information from the parents about the child’s apprehensions helps the teacher work around them to prevent frustration.
Don’t forget that children are very resilient and curious when they are not burdened by the worries of the adults around them! You chose French Immersion because you knew that speaking more languages opens doors to discovering the world. So let your child embark on this great adventure from day one, with the excitement of an explorer discovering a new part of the world. Smooth sailing!
Do you have more questions? Feel free to visit our website for more resources, send me an email or give me a call.I understand how overwhelming it can be to have a child transition to a new school or program, so I am happy to refer you to other resources in your neighbourhood such as your local Canadian Parents for French chapter.