What exactly is intensive French?


Intensive French (IF) is a second language teaching approach in which French is taught intensively for most of the day during five months in Grade 6. The students in the program receive about 80% of their instruction in French during the first half of the year and 20% during the second half; the rest of the curriculum (except for Mathematics) is “compressed” into the second half of the year.

Intensive French is a literacy-based approach to teaching French as a second language that is incorporated into the core French program for five months of the school year at Grade 5 or Grade 6. It is based on the use of French for authentic communication in the classroom and the development of literacy skills in French. Classroom activities are related to projects and there is a high degree of interaction between teacher and students, as well as among students.


The key ingredients for IF success are:

• Intensity of French instruction
Students and teacher speak only French during the first half of the year (80% of the day). The focus is on learning to communicate in French and not on other content learning in particular. To this end students focus on topics which are grouped into relevant and motivating themes. Real-life projects within these themes help students to see the practical value of what they are learning. Instruction concentrates on the oral as well as the writing and reading skills.

• Time of concentrated exposure

It has been shown that the most efficient way to learn another language is to spend concentrated time with it. Higher results are achieved with 60 hours concentrated into three weeks with four hours a day than with 60 hours spread over three months with one hour a day, even though the number of hours is the same.

• Enriched communicative FSL methodology
In order to make optimum use of the increased time in French, an enriched curriculum is required. This enrichment is provided through adopting a whole language approach to the teaching of French. The curriculum is cognitively demanding and increases in complexity of language use, tasks and knowledge base during the five months. It integrates some topics from other subject areas, such as Science (environmental issues), Social Studies (Canadian and world geography, Canadian and world history) and Health (rules for good nutrition).

• Literacy-based approach
Students are constantly involved in activities that develop listening, speaking, reading and writing as they use French to communicate, perform tasks and projects and participate in daily classroom activities. The literacy skills developed in IF can be transfered to and used in English thus enhancing literacy skills in both languages.

• Interactive pedagogy
Regular use of an interactive pedagogy, such as cooperative learning (working in pairs and small groups) and project-based learning is an essential part of IF. Projects permit students to use language in many different contexts, enabling them to use more types of language functions (explaining, gathering information, asking questions, negotiating meaning) as well as integrating knowledge from different sources using complex language structures. It contributes significantly to the development of cognitive, social and personal capacities as well as the organizational skills of the learner.

What is the difference between intensive French, core French and French immersion?
Core French is a basic second language program intended to enable students to communicate purposefully in French and develop an openness to cultural diversity. The program is available in elementary schools at the Grade 5-7 level offering, on average, 80 to 90 minutes of instruction per week.
Intensive French is an intensive French language acquisition program involving a period of intensive exposure to French (80 % of one half of the Grade 6 year and 20% for the remaining half). The program continues with strong French instruction in the following years.
French Immersion is an intensive French language acquisition program with the goal of developing functionally bilingual students through teaching most of the curriculum with French as the language of instruction. The program is offered beginning in Kindergarten (Early French Immersion) or in Grade 6 (Late French Immersion).

What do we mean by “compacting the curriculum”?
Basically it means compressing the curricula of the different subjects in grade 6 (e.g., Science, Social Studies, English Language Arts) into the second half of the year. Simply put, all the subject matter learning outcomes will be maintained, but the number of resources used to achieve these goals will be reduced. This is possible because a lot of the learning outcomes (especially the process ones) can be met effectively during the Intensive French part. Students will not have to do “extra work” to meet all the required learning outcomes.
There is a theoretical basis for compacting the curriculum, called the “transdisciplinary approach” to second language instruction. Since there is a common underlying proficiency in first and second languages, many of the objectives of the English Language Arts curriculum can be met in the learning of French. In addition, there are many underlying learning outcomes that actually overlap the different subject areas. These can easily be identified and, by eliminating needless redundancy, the time of instruction can be reduced.

What happens after the intensive year?
A follow-up program called Enhanced French

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