Working & Learning Together at Isfeld

Mark R. Isfeld ~ 2013

by Katarina Smith

Katarina Smith

Katarina Smith

Mark. R. Isfeld Secondary is a dual-track grade eight to twelve high school. The school has an English and a French Immersion program. The immersion model at Isfeld offers many opportunities in relation to language-learning.

Immersion in another language and culture is an unparalleled way to acquire a language. In the French Immersion program at Isfeld, students have a profound opportunity to learn from each other and to grow with each other. The learning and growth that happens between grade eight and twelve is vast, and the French spoken and written by a grade eight student is markedly different from that of a grade twelve student. The older students provide a special source of leadership for the younger students and the younger students complement and elevate the ideas of the older students.

One of the notable ways that Isfeld supports and enhances these learning opportunities is by bringing together the junior and senior French Immersion students in group activities. Earlier this year, the grade twelve students spent a social day at Miracle Beach with the grade eight students. The students participated in beach-related activities while working on their French as well as becoming acquainted with one another.

The grade eleven students recently prepared and presented French Christmas scenes for the grade eight classes. The grade eleven students were able to practice their writing and presentation skills and the grade eight students were able to see some of the activities in which they will be participating in the future.

Opportunities like these augment and enhance French language learning for the younger and the older students of the French Immersion program. It is highly beneficial to intersperse the learning between grades as well as a lot of fun for the students. The time they spend together exploring their French knowledge is very effective for their learning.

The French Immersion teachers feel that combining grade levels is a productive way to reinforce and advance language comprehension skills. Stephanie Finlay, a French 8, 9 and 10 teacher, thinks that because the students are hearing language that is “not just their teachers’,” they are able to learn the concepts differently than they would in a classroom setting. This mixing of grades also allows for superior learning experiences for all students. This is significant for the younger students who begin to “look up to the students in the older grades”, as Mika Taiji, a French 11 and 12 teacher, stated. She added that the younger students begin to want to understand everything the older students are doing and saying, and will therefore be motivated to put in the time and effort necessary to be able to understand. Taiji noted that the “older students learn what it takes to be able to mentor a younger kid. The younger kids are aware that they’re not the only ones who are learning, that the older kids can learn a lot from them as well.” Conversely, the senior students are able to use these opportunities to take ownership of their learning, and then to share it. Taiji really enjoys mixing up the grades and said that “for the older students … being a mentor … gives them a feeling of ownership for what they are doing”.

As a grade eleven student, I thoroughly enjoyed performing for the grade eight classes and felt that I had to learn to write to the specific audience of grade eight students and that they would have taken away a new skill as well. I love being able to be a teacher and mentor to younger students and I take pride in setting a good example. These group activities also give me the opportunity to learn from the younger students and to get to know them. All of these benefits make mixing grades a positive experience for me as a student.

Finlay is delighted with what the school has been doing so far this year and says that, because of this camaraderie, French Immersion students have become a “little community in the school’s community”. She likes that students recognize and greet one another in the hallways as a result of their participation in these activities.

The French Immersion teachers at Isfeld are eager to continue to take advantage of the valuable tool of mixing grades. The next step is to bring the elementary and secondary French Immersion students together – this would be a favorable learning experience for everyone.

At Isfeld, the variety of age groups working together leads to some extraordinary experiences. The intermingling of students at all grade levels is one of the many ways that Isfeld fosters and advances the robust learning community that exists and is enjoyed at the school.

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