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Evoke Learning Remediation Program For French Immersion Students

This program is designed to assist French immersion students who are challenged by the acquisition of early reading skills or older students with continued reading difficulties.

Based on the doctoral research (University of Toronto, Ontario Institute of Studies in Education) of Nancy Wise, the WISE READING® Remediation Program helps French immersion students increase their phonological and phonemic awareness skills to improve word-level reading.

Phonological awareness, a meta-cognitive skill that enables students to understand the way sounds are used in language, is the foundation for learning to read. It is the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds (phonemes) in spoken language. Lack of phonemic awareness is generally the greatest factor in a student’s failure to read (Adams, 1990). Without phonological and phonemic awareness, too much effort is spent on decoding, working memory is consumed, and reading comprehension is impaired (Ehri, 2005).

Underlying Common Cognitive Processes Hypothesis – “The brain simultaneously engages in a variety of basic cognitive processes in order to read. These cognitive abilities are required for reading in all languages, and deficits in any one of these complex mental operations will impact reading in any language (Geva & Ryan, 1993).”

Wise’s research at the University of Toronto analysed the impact of phonological awareness instruction on reading achievement. At-risk French immersion readers were identified based on their text-reading performance and phonological awareness test scores. Significant gains were found in the phonological awareness skills of the treatment group. Results also indicated that the end-of-year French reading levels of the treatment group were superior to those of the comparison group. These findings suggest that a phonologically based intervention can effectively address phonological awareness deficits and facilitate reading acquisition in both French and English. These reading gains have also been shown to last well beyond the completion of the program.

Cross-Linguistic Transfer

“Studies have shown that phonological awareness skills transfer across languages despite linguistic or typological differences (Durgunoglu, 2002).”

Cross-linguistic transfer occurs when students learning another language have access to and use linguistic resources from their first. A general level of phonological ability is required for word reading skills to develop in both French and English. Phonological awareness skills transfer between languages; if a student has strong phonological awareness in one language, they are likely to have strong phonological awareness skills in their second language (Durgunoglu, 1998). Because of this cross-language transfer, it is possible to assess reading difficulties and subsequently provide phonological awareness training in English for students enrolled in French immersion programs. The WISE READING® Remediation Program is delivered in English.

Cross-Linguistic Transfer and Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis - “There are a set of non-language-specific capacities that support language development across multiple languages. While learning one language a child acquires a set of skills and implicit metalinguistic knowledge that can be drawn upon to support the development of another language. Reading skills in a student’s first language are related to those in a second language (Cummins, 1981, 2012).”

Word Reading Skill Development

Phonological and phonemic awareness prepare students for the next step in reading: decoding. Decoding is the ability to apply the knowledge of letter-sound relationships to correctly pronounce written words. Understanding these relationships gives students the ability to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven’t seen before. Decoding skills are strongly correlated between English and French (Lafrance & Gottardo, 2005).

Using effective instructional principles, practitioners work with students to develop word level reading skills and to strengthen the skills that promote orthographic mapping. Student progress is measured using standardized assessments to determine the success of the interventions.

Getting Started

“A phonologically-based intervention can effectively address phonological awareness deficits and facilitate French reading acquisition for early immersion students who are considered to be at-risk for later reading difficulties (Wise, N., & Chem, X., 2010).”

Prior to the commencement of the remediation program, students undergo a few standardized assessments (administered by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist) to identify the specific gaps in their reading skills and determine if they are candidates for the program. Students recommended for remediation work one-to-one with trained Evoke practitioners. Sessions are delivered online, which allows students to work from a quiet place with fewer disruptions and distractions and for them to proceed at their own pace. Student sessions can be scheduled for optimal learning time and lessons are interactive to engage the learner. Remediation sessions are 30 minutes in length.

Evoke uses the Simple View of Reading (SVR) model to help identify and remediate reading difficulties. SVR helps to highlight the weak components in a student’s reading so that appropriate instructional procedures and intervention can be provided.

In order to determine if your child is a candidate for Evoke Learning’s WISE READING Remediation program for French Immersion Students, please contact us here.


Questions About Evoke Learning's French Reading Remediation Program

My child has a learning disability. Will this program still help?

Absolutely! Students with a language- or reading-based disability experience the same challenges in both their first and second language. This is because of the underlying mechanisms of a learning disability (and reading disabilities in particular). The required skills and psychological processes of the brain are the same regardless of the language being learned. This is why reading disabilities can be seen across different languages and similar neurobiological features can be identified. The structure or sound-system (phonological component) is the same in different languages, and therefore difficulties will exist regardless of the language in which a student is being taught. We should not assume that a student will struggle more in a French immersion program than an English-only program. The basic skills and strategies used to overcome reading difficulties are transferable from one language to another, as demonstrated by Dr. Nancy Wise’s research and intervention. This means that interventions can benefit the student in learning both languages.

Does my child have to switch to the English program to improve their reading skills?

In the words of Dr. Wise, “When we encourage parents to switch their child from French immersion to the English program our actions perpetuate the elitist characterization of French immersion. With support, most students benefit from participation in French immersion. Researchers have been unable to identify specific attributes or characteristics that consistently predict success in second language learning (Lightbown & Spada, 2013) indicating that every student has a chance to be successful.” French immersion students who struggle with reading would also have difficulty with reading in an English program. The interventions that are appropriate and effective for students learning to read in their first language are effective for students learning to read French as a second language.

If this program is taught in English, how do we know the skills will transfer into French?

English phonological awareness has been shown to be a strong predictor of children’s reading success in French immersion programs. Comeau et al. (1999) reported that for French immersion children in Grades 1, 3, and 5, English phonological awareness was significantly related to reading achievement in both English and French a year later. In particular, two studies examined this relationship in young French immersion children.

Does it matter if my child’s first language is not French or English?

Not at all. In fact, Dr. Wise’s study included 29 children from diverse linguistic backgrounds. The results of her study and intervention indicated that the end-of-year French reading levels of the treatment group were superior to the comparison group. The French reading achievement levels of the treatment group were significantly higher than those of the comparison group.