Would you choose French Immersion or Gifted Program for Grade 1 (and why?) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 04-19-2010, 10:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son enters grade one in the fall. He's very bright, reading and math are about a grade 3 level. He's been in Montessori for Kindergarten. He's been identified as a child the public school wants to screen for early entry in to the Gifted program, (we are doing public school for grade one and up). We had already registered him for French Immersion (which begins in grade one here) to give him some extra challenge, however, now I'm wondering if Gifted is a better option if he gets accepted.

I'm not convinced he's gifted - he has many of the characteristics, but not all. Also, I'd hate for him to get in for grade one and two etc. and then at some point not qualify and be returned to "regular" track (you cannot start French Immersion here unless you started in grade one). That would be such a blow to his confidence I imagine, and I hate the idea of him feeling like he is not good enough or something, (French Immersion accepts everyone and once you are in, you are in, though teachers will recommend students struggling with it return to the regular track, but it's not mandatory).

I guess I have to find out for sure what happens if he starts to struggle in the gifted program. This is a pilot at our school for all of our school district, normally Gifted programming starts at grade 5. Because we have "streaming" here and all kids regardless of level are put in the same class with the same learning outcomes etc., those with kids who are ready for more end up putting them in French Immersion to get them that extra something. As a result, the demand for FI is insane, (like the FI schools have 23-25 portables in many schools).

I actually wrote the head of our school board to explain this to him when they were struggling to find a solution to accomodate the demand for FI, and suggested exactly this - start Gifted programming at an earlier age. Well they listened (though I'm sure there were others who suggested this also) and as a result, our school is doing this as a pilot.

IF he qualifies, would you choose Gifted or French Immersion? I have no special desire for him to learn French, but he needs something more and I don't want him to skip a grade. I have no experience with the Gifted program and don't really know much about it except that they do lots of near science projects.

Thoughts?? WWYD?
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#2 of 17 Old 04-19-2010, 10:59 PM
 
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DD did FI kindergarten and it really didn't meet her needs. There are a number of down sides to FI. For one, there's the same range of learning needs as in any other classroom PLUS french instruction/struggles, so in many instances the FI teacher is less able to differentiate for the kids who are ahead.

I would ask lots of questions about the gifted program. If they're not doing a huge testing process for entry at the start, I don't know on what basis they would exclude kids later.

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#3 of 17 Old 04-19-2010, 11:51 PM
 
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I'd go look at the FI programme again and the gifted programme and see what my intuition told me about which classroom my child would enjoy best.

Hey can you PM me which area starts in grade one? At this end of town (Scarborough) they all start in SK. We opted out of SK after we listened to the curriculum goals (count to 30 by the END of SK...ok but my son did that 2 years ago). We are kind of planning to see if we can sweet talk our way in at grade 1, but I'm not super hopeful.

Anyways ahem - yes. I personally love the concept of FI but I think the devil's in the details of implementation. Same thing with a gifted programme. I'd also ask if he passes the screening, could he transfer in grade 2 - that might make me lean towards FI.

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#4 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 01:09 AM
 
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I'm not at all convinced that French Immersion is the ideal place for a very bright child. If you think about it, very bright children usually need interesting conversation, challenging tasks, and the opportunity to be creative and think outside the box. French Immersion takes it in the opposite direction, back to the very basics of language where they spend the first couple of years mostly learning vocabulary. Even as the years progress and the French level gets higher, the teachers are simply not able to have the same kind of in-depth discussions with their students that that teachers teaching English to mostly native English speakers can.

That being said, I was a relatively bright child (although not gifted) and I did fine in French Immersion. I was never bored. I do remember loving English class once we got it in Grade 4 though, because I could work ahead and do more interesting things. I also know that I would have THRIVED in a Montessori environment so my vote is for a public Montessori program! I'm guessing you don't have those though. Second best is the gifted program in my opinion.
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#5 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 01:53 AM
 
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I would absolutely do French immersion. Early foreign language learning is such a gift for a kid.
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#6 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 01:59 AM
 
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I'd go with the gifted program.

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#7 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 06:05 AM
 
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Originally Posted by eepster View Post
I'd go with the gifted program.
If he scored high enough in the screening/testing and were accepted? Gifted program, hands down.

After all, gifted isn't a syndrom you have to meet x number of criteria to be diagnosed with. It means "scoring in the range designated as gifted in a test for intellectual ability" and if he is reading and doing math at a third grade level as a kindergartner that's what will happen if he is being tested at this point. And for educational purposes, it means "scoring in the range designated as gifted in whatever screening/testing process the school has deemed fit to make tracking decisions" and I'd trust that assessment for now. Test scores do fluctuate until they stabilize around age 7 or 8 but if he scores highly now at 5 or 6, as he probably will, there is no reason to assume that at some point his development will be slowed down to the point that he will be kicked out of gifted track. Do they actually retest every year? Or just at grade five? What would have to happen for him to still score at a regular 5th grader's level in five years if he is working at a third grade level now?

And if all the other high-scoring kids at his school choose gifted over French Immersion there will be no intellectual peers for him to find there. Give him the chance to learn with them.

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I would absolutely do French immersion. Early foreign language learning is such a gift for a kid.
True. But a gifted kid will be able to learn French just fine in a regular French class - meaning not an immersion class, but classes at regular intervals offered as part of the gifted track - as they hopefully will be? The pace in a son-selective French Immersion class will not be a good fit for him.

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#8 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 06:45 AM
 
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Personally I think there is so much to gain by learning French. I lived in Toronto for a spell and it was a plus to have French. Even though my French is not perfect I was often considered for opportunities just because of that ability.

That said though, French is something that you can learn later on. It may be more difficult but it is certainly possible and from what Ive heard from my friends classroom French may not prepare you to be fluent unless you have opportunities to apply it practically.

I would find out more about the gifted program as someone else suggested and find out what does one have to do to remain on that track. In terms of college programs and access of enrichment activities are usually pluses to such programs.

If I had the choice I would probably grit my teeth and go with the gifted program and then find out how else I could access French classes. It's a shame that you have to choose between the two.
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#9 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 07:13 AM
 
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If I had the choice I would probably grit my teeth and go with the gifted program and then find out how else I could access French classes. It's a shame that you have to choose between the two.
That's true - I imagine a gifted foreign immersion program would be awesome! Just keep on lobbying...

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#10 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 11:07 AM
 
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I'm not at all convinced that French Immersion is the ideal place for a very bright child. If you think about it, very bright children usually need interesting conversation, challenging tasks, and the opportunity to be creative and think outside the box. French Immersion takes it in the opposite direction, back to the very basics of language where they spend the first couple of years mostly learning vocabulary. Even as the years progress and the French level gets higher, the teachers are simply not able to have the same kind of in-depth discussions with their students that that teachers teaching English to mostly native English speakers can.
Well...yeah, see this is how it's often implemented now.

When I was in FI in the 70s, as a very asynchronous learner at that time, it was a fast-paced sink-or-swim programme. The teachers were exclusively francophone and the texts we used were the same as the french board, so there wasn't really a stop-and-start-over sense to the classroom.

Teaching in the same school in the 90s, I would have to agree with your assessment though. It's been rethought as a programme.

It worked for me for about 3 years in that there was enough to chew on, and then my issues flared up and by grade 5 and 6 I was miserable on several levels. But I am still really grateful for the language immersion.

Despite being relatively bright (although not as bright for my age now as I was for my age then ) I don't have a give for languages and I don't think I would have acquired french as well at a later time. My husband, however, had no immersion and is now trilingual.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#11 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 11:35 AM
 
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I would investigate what kind of special education gifted learning support will be available in the French Immersion program. If the answer is that French itself is all the academic enrichment offered - then I would probably choose gifted. Particularly since he is already reading at a 3rd grade level. Since he's capable of comprehending relatively complex chapter books, imagine his frustration in a 1st grade class reading simple stories with basic vocabulary. He is likely to acquire a fair amount of French vocabulary quickly, and then the "challenge" offered by an immersion program will disappear. He'll be left bored and frustrated by the curriculum. If the school can assure you that there will be some specialized, differentiated curriculum available for gifted students in French Immersion, I'd consider it. I'd also think about whether to rely on their promises. I'd want a few details - how much access to the resource specialist teacher (daily, weekly?), how the curriculum will be differentiated, whether it will be in-class or pull-out, is subject acceleration (taking a subject with an upper grade class) available, etc....

If you are concerned about language learning, there are lots of options available. French Immersion summer camps, middle school and high school exchange programs to Quebec and Europe, later immersion programs that start in middle school...lots of ways to learn another language, if it's a priority.
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#12 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 11:53 AM
 
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When I was in PS in Ontario in the 80s, there were no gifted programs...French Immersion was recommended to my parents as most 'enriched' alternative. At the time, as GuidJenn describes, it was a challenging level of French--we had francophone teachers, worked with grade level literature and social studies texts. It has given me a life long love of French and I am now functionally bilingual & work in a bilingual environment, and my family moved to Quebec two years ago, which is really only possible because of my knowledge of French. BUT, I don't think the majority of my classmates continued to use French after graduation, and many of my friends from high school have much less French now.

I would also say it really depends on the kid. My dd1, age 5, is probably mildly to moderately gifted. Because of her facility with English, we put her in an all French Montessori school last year (we live in Quebec now). It was a disaster! She was miserable about not being able to communicate with the other kids and not really follow the lessons in the classroom. We pulled her out and are now homeschooling because we aren't happy with the English language schooling options, ironically.

All this blah blah blah to say that you know your son best....what sounds appealling to him? In our case the Gifted program would be a better fit, and we would be thrilled to have it offered at an early age. French can be developed on the side through summer camps, travel, books, videos etc. As ollyoxenfree mentions.

But yes, you shouldn't have to choose-sounds like a hard choice!

(oh and I'm also curious what school catchment area you are in as we are contemplating moving to TO in a few years).
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#13 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 12:25 PM
 
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Just came back with a thought. You may want to speak to parents of students in the current French Immersion and gifted programs in your area.

It would be interesting to know how many students left French Immersion for gifted when it became available to them in grade 5. That might give you some indication of how well the French Immersion program serves the needs of gifted students.
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#14 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 02:44 PM
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I'd choose the gifted program if there was testing to qualify. Hopefully it would involve a higher level content in all subjects and be more challenging overall.
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#15 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 04:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by monkeybum View Post
I'm not convinced he's gifted - he has many of the characteristics, but not all. Also, I'd hate for him to get in for grade one and two etc. and then at some point not qualify and be returned to "regular" track
they don't keep testing the kids where I live. Once you are in, you stay in as long as your grades are fine. If they aren't fine, they try to figure out what the problem is. But the gifted program is based on IQs scores and the schools don't like to retest IQs. (the fact the they sometimes come back different upsets the whole system)

Could you start him in FI for a year or two and then move him? We used to live in Ontario near Quebec and French only school was a popular option for english speaking children for K and 1, and then their parents would switch to bilingual school. The kids who are totally immersed for a year or two really do learn the language better than kids who only get it half the time, or as a little add on later.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#16 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 06:21 PM
 
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I would want to look very carefully at the gifted program and what it would entail. Is it a full-time program? Where are they getting enough children to fill an entire gifted class at one school? Would they be bussed in from other neighbourhoods? What are their plans for incorporating French once the class hits grade 4? Will they join the regular English classes for 40 minutes/day? Will this class participate in other school activities? How will the teachers be trained to run this class differently than the classes they're used to running? Where is the funding coming from, and what is the likelihood that the program could be cut in a year or two? How will they address the different needs/abilities of the students within the class? How would this be done in the French immersion class?

I attended public school in Toronto in the 80's and 90's and qualified for a pull-out gifted program starting in grade 3 or 4, which was one day or one afternoon/week. I went once and never went back because I liked structure and continuity in instructors and programming. The "gifted kids" would come back each week with crafts they had done or with stories of a cooking class or recreational activity. I never once wished I had continued going. Instead, I participated in an extended French program, where I got 80 minutes of French instruction per day instead of the typical 40. After elementary school, I attended private school for middle school and high school. Every one of my classmates that entered grade 7 with a French immersion background excelled through high school in all subject areas/were always at the top of the class and have gone on to accomplish wonderful things in a number of countries. Of course some of those those who didn't have a French immersion background (me, for example!) have also been successful. But I really do feel that my peers who went through French immersion (at multiple schools) were better critical thinkers overall and had a broader view of the world. Of course there are so many factors involved in all of this, but those are my impressions.

Also, my academic background is in bilingualism and I always advocate for the earliest possible teaching of a second language. The brain of a 6 year old is so different from that of a 10 year old, and it really is amazing how quickly they pick up a new language. Research also continues to show many benefits of bilingualism for children.

So, I guess for me the choice would probably be French immersion, unless there are some truly compelling advantages to the gifted program that you haven't already listed.
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#17 of 17 Old 04-20-2010, 10:24 PM
 
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I'm in a different province and made the choice to send my very bright, speaking in full sentences at 16 mo, multiplying and reading well before age 5, dd to French immersion.

I figured I could and would supplement her curriculum at home with extra opportunities and materials that would challenge her abilities, but I couldn't give her a good accent in our country's second language at home or through later language courses.

My sister and I were in gifted programs, 25-30 years ago, so very different now, I'm sure, but looking back, I do not feel that I learned much or more from them than from learning opportunities I pursued on my own. I did not feel that I benefitted particularly growing up with the label "gifted" either. But that would be another thread. Maybe the OP might benefit from asking her question in the "Gifted" forum?

DD is now 12. Her accent is beautiful and she has a strong foundation in French and Spanish (the third language was introduced in grade 2, also taught in immersion classes). She also reads at least a full-length novel a day in English or French between schoolwork- and writes and spells at a high-school/ college level in English, despite the fact that her English teachers are francophones. ie. she is strongly gifted in English, which is not well supported by her FI school, and she could use more challenges generally..

We are going to be homeschooling her for grade 7 to give her a chance to pursue her some of her own interests, which include learning German and pursuing some sports and theatre interests, and traveling to visit family abroad. We plan to use the provincial English language curriculum for core subjects for the first year and let her pick options. If it doesn't work out, we'll return her to the FI program, I think.

Our decision to homeschool is more related to our desire to let our daughter take more control of her education and our understanding of her independent learning style, than it is to discontent with what the FI program is offering her in particular. I would never consider pulling her out to move her to our local gifted program, as I know of two families who have pulled children out of that program due to bullying and physical aggression by other students against their children, and I also know that the charter gifted school has suffered some growing pains and lots of staff turnover. I'm sure these problems are not universal, but I believe it is true that some gifted children may have other exceptionalities that could lead to behavior and classroom management problems if not properly supported. I think it is important in evaluating *any* program, gifted or FI or mainstream, to watch for any warning signs of these kinds of issues.

I don't regret the decision to start dd in FI and we have, in fact, started our 5 yr old, who is also very bright, in FI kindergarten this year.

A point was made earlier that FI classrooms have the range of behavioral/learning issues plus French on top. I actually find this not to be true, at least not in my dd's school, to the point that it feels discriminatory and really bothers me, actually. I have never seen a disabled child requiring an aide in any of her classrooms and there are several that I know of in English language schools locally. There is a very high number of girls compared to boys in her classrooms (the other local school, non-immersion, has a very high number of boys compared to girls).

I have a son in FI kindy now and another who will start in a couple of years and I will be watching very closely to see if it is the right environment for my boys, or if the educational style seems biased towards supporting girls. So far, so good, with my older son.

I think it may be partially self-selection on the part of parents. A friend lives across the street from the FI school my dd attends but did not enroll her speech-delayed child in FI, figuring that if she was challenged in her first language, why attempt a second language on top of that? But I also believe that this FI school does not encourage or support parents of students who are having difficulties to remain in the school. I know of parents who have pulled their children with learning disabilities or behavior problems out of this school after conflicts with teachers and no support from the principal. It is almost as if there is an agenda to get rid of "troublemakers" .

YMMV. I think that advice for you,, OP to check out both programs in person now is wise.

I think in your shoes, assuming the FI program looked like a good fit, I'd start my child in FI and investigate options to transfer to the gifted program later on.
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