Immersion Essay Definition

Posted on by Gurg

“many things [about how to write] are best learned in the laboratory of pen, paper, and wastebasket; and in a writing class all the members are utilizing the lab simultaneously.” –Wallace Stegner

Required texts:

Do-Over!: In which a forty-eight-year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments by Robin Hemley

A Field Guide for Immersion Writing by Robin Hemley

The Southeast Review 30 Day Writer’s Regimen for Adults (visit to register ) The new Writer’s Regimen begins on February 1st, you MUST be signed up by this date. You will automatically lose one letter grade from your total grade on the corresponding short paper if you are not signed up by the time the series begins.

Course Description and Goals
What would happen if you only wore the color blue for a month? What would happen if you dressed up as a major literary figure everyday and not just on Halloween? What would happen if you decided to go for the Guinness World Record for jumping rope? This course will allow you to take your inner “what ifs” and turn them into art. In immersion writing, the writer not only seeks to actively participate in the world, but also writes about the world from a personal and overtly subjective viewpoint. In other words, it’s a pretty good excuse to go out and do things that are still within all federal, state, and local laws but might raise an eyebrow or two (or not raise eyebrows, immersion projects can be pretty tame too). This class will cover the basics of essay technique while giving students the opportunity to explore the vast and exciting genre of immersion writing. In addition to a book on technique, we will read two book a book based on an immersion projects:Do-Over!: In which a forty-eight-year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments by Robin Students will work throughout the semester on a self-chosen immersion writing project as well as write three short papers based on instructor suggested projects.

Students will receive feedback on their writing during an individual conference with the instructor, peer workshopping, and individual instructor comments on papers. By the end of the class, students should be able to create a satisfactory essay that may not be of publishable quality but that demonstrates control over various forms of the essay and an understanding of the reader/writer contract.

Gordon Rule: This is a Gordon Rule course. In order to fulfill FSU’s Gordon Rule “W” Designation (writing) credit, the student must earn a “C-” or better in the course, and in order to receive a “C-” or better in the course, the student must earn at least a “C-” on the required writing assignments for the course. If the student does not earn a “C-” or better on the required writing assignments for the course, the student will not earn an overall grade of “C-” or better in the course, no matter how well the student performs in the remaining portion of the course.

This is the Shared Essay Grading Rubric for all Gordon Rule classes. The funny thing is, this is not a true grading rubric because it does not say how much each aspect of the writing is worth. And frankly, it’s pretty vague, but here it is…………..


THESIS and CONTENT (Development)The essay has a thesis—a single, central point that is interesting, original, striking and substantial. The central idea is developed in the essay through well-chosen, appropriate, concrete details that show originality and freshness. Author shows rather than merely tells. Generalizations and assertions are defended. Arguments are logical.
ORGANIZATIONThe essay is organized and well structured (there is a beginning, a body, and a conclusion). The essay exhibits a clear strategy for persuasion and development. The organization works with the thesis so that the thesis and the organization serve the purpose of the essay. Essay does not digress from central point. Transitions help the paper flow smoothly. Introductory paragraph(s) is (are) interesting and appropriate. Concluding paragraph is clear and convincing.
PARAGRAPHSParagraphs are organized, unified and coherent. Each supporting paragraph has a controlling idea. In supporting paragraphs, topic idea helps further the thesis.
STYLESentences are well constructed. Writer avoids modifier problems. Sentences show variety of pattern and are rhetorically effective. The essay is written in a style and tone appropriate to the audience, topic and purpose. Words are appropriate and well chosen. Writer avoids jargon and sexist language.
GRAMMAR, SPELLING, MECHANICSWriter avoids errors in grammar, spelling, and mechanics.


Requirements of Course
All of the formal written assignments below must be turned in to me in order to pass the course. Attendance is also a requirement. (More than two absences will be grounds for failure, see “Attendance” below for more information on this.)

  • 14 Weekly Literary Citizenship Reports (which sounds sort of Orwellian, and maybe it is, but I hope not) and your 14 Ways to Rock list
  • 3 Short Papers (700 words each)
  • 1 individual conference with the instructor
  • 1 long essay
  • Final portfolio
  • Thoughtful, active, and responsible participation and citizenship, including discussion, preparation for class (including workshopping), and in-class informal writing


Breakdown of Grades:

Long Essay: 15%
Final Portfolio: 50%
Literary Citizenship: 15%
Short Papers: 15%
Classroom Participation: 5%

Grading Scale (I do NOT round grades, so a 93.6 is an A-, not an A)

Attendance: I hate to be alone in a classroom, it makes me sad and reminds me of junior high, however you all are adults and sometimes you have to make priority-based decisions about your time. All absences are treated equally. If you must make a priority-based decision about how to use your time, you’ll give me a one page comparison about how the readings for the day (if there are any) compare to a short craft essay or writer interview you have read in Brevity or The Southeast Review (if there are no readings, you can just write about the Brevity or SER piece). Brevity can be found on-line at and The Southeast Review can be found on-line at Since class discussions are difficult to “make up,” this is what I think will give you a similar experience. You are NOT to do simple summaries, but rather apply what you’ve read to your own writing and to what we’ve been discussing in class, in other words: say something interesting. This must be turned in within one week of the absence. If the one week deadline presents a challenge, please communicate this with me and we will see what accommodations can be made to the deadline. This way you’re still getting your daily dose of thinking about this cool stuff even if you’ve gotten mono or find yourself stranded out of town unexpectedly. If you have an extended absence, remember that you will need a separate well-thought out report for each of the days you are missing from the classroom experience. If an extended absence will make these reports difficult for you, please communicate with me and we can see what accommodations can be made. If you do not turn in a report for each day of absence by the last day of the semester: Your class grade will be dropped 1/3 for each absence (An A becomes an A-, An A- becomes a B+, etc.). These aren’t high-pressure-your-best-writing-ever things, just show me you could have talked and said some cool things in class if you’d been there.

Tardiness: Lateness negatively affects your participation grade. Three instances of extreme lateness (over fifteen minutes) equals an absence and will require a report as described above. It will be your choice of stories assigned for class you wish to respond to since it would be three different days.

You will sign up for one conference with me near the end of February. By this point you should have a good idea what your immersion project is and be able to discuss with me how you think your paper will be structured.

Late Work:
Late work will only be accepted in rare circumstances. Previously I was fairly lenient on late work, but it became a bit of a hassle for me, and by “a bit,” I mean a lot of extra work. Why should I have to do extra work because you haven’t done the work assigned? If you have an extenuating circumstance, please communicate this to me at least 24 hours before the due date and we will see what accommodations can be made.

The Civility Clause: Don’t be a jerk. In this day and age we know what that means in its many manifestations. You have the right to express your opinions and others have the right to be in a safe environment, thus we must all learn to balance these two things in our writing and in our everyday lives. Let’s start getting the hang of it now.

The Cupcake Clause: If your cell phone goes off or you are caught using your cell phone in class, you will need to bring cupcakes for all of your classmates to make amends for the disruption. If you decide not to bring in the cupcakes, you will take a 5 point deduction on your final grade for each occurrence. Easiest way around this? Turn off your phone and forget you have it while you’re in class.;

Note on Citation Style: You may use whatever citation style you feel most comfortable with so long as you do so consistently. Please do not do in-text citations in APA and your works cited in MLA, that’s just confusing.

Plagiarism is grounds for suspension from the university as well as for failure in this course. It will not be tolerated. Any instance of plagiarism (including self-plagiarism which means turning in the same paper for two classes without the permission of BOTH instructors even if the classes are not happening during the same semester or even from the same school) must be reported to the Director of First-Year Composition and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Plagiarism is a counterproductive, non-writing behavior that is unacceptable in a course intended to aid the growth of individual writers.

Plagiarism is included among the violations defined in the Academic Honor Code, section b), paragraph 2, as follows: “Regarding academic assignments, violations of the Academic Honor Code shall include representing another’s work or any part thereof, be it published or unpublished, as one’s own.” Additionally, turning in work you have completed for another course without prior permission from both the past and the current instructor will be considered plagiarism. A plagiarism education assignment that further explains this issue was administered in all first-year writing courses during the second week of class.. Seriously, this is an upper-level writing class, why exactly are you taking it if you intend to plagiarize?

Students with disabilities needing academic accommodations should in the FIRST WEEK OF CLASS 1) register with and provide documentation to the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC) and 2) bring a letter to me from SDRC indicating the need for academic accommodations. This and all other class materials are available in alternative format upon request.


Papers & Projects

Literary Citizenship Reports
1 page each for 14 weeks= 14 pages
O! Image of the solitary writer working until the wee hours of the morning, pouring your genius onto the page, what a crock of crap you are. To be a writer is not only to put words on paper hoping someday they will be seen, but is also to be a member of a larger community of people who also put words on paper hoping someday they will be seen. In order to be a good member of this community, you must support not only your own projects, but also those of others. Each week you will be required to take part in an Act of Literary Citizenship and to write a one page response to the event (not a summary, a response). Through these reports you will be compiling a list of “14 Ways to Rock.” Each week you will tell me what you learned about being a writer or how to write from your act of literary citizenship. The report will then explain how you learned this from the ALC. This will, hopefully, prevent you from summarizing because you will be explaining how you came up with your Way to Rock for the week. These ALCs can be anything you think makes you a good member of the literary community. Attending the Tuesday night readings at the Warehouse, listening to the podcast of a reading on the English Department website, gathering with friends to comment on each others’ work or discuss general issues about writing, all can count as ALCs. You decide what you want to do, it’s your community, you play a large role in shaping it. If you’re having trouble coming up with your Way to Rock for the week then most likely you’ve picked an activity based on your own laziness and maybe should challenge yourself a little more for the next week. You will turn one LCR in to me for comments early in the semester. This will be done via Blackboard by 5pm on January 11th. You will turn in all 14 LCRs and a list of your 14 Ways to Rock to me on April 24th. If you do one LCR per week as the assignment intends you to, you will find this exercise to be very useful. If you wait until early April and scramble, you will get little to nothing from it. I know which one I’d pick.

Short Essays
Due Dates:

  • Jan. 11 (5 pm Blackboard)
  • Jan. 27 (11 pm Blackboard)
  • April 7 (11 pm Blackboard)

2-3 pages=6-9 pages
You will make a journal entry for each essay or book chapter you read for class. You will also make a journal entry on various questions I will assign throughout the semester (some deep, some silly, hopefully all interesting). You will also be required to include at least 10 exercises from the Southeast Review Writer’s Regimen. I firmly believe that to explore your own voice as a writer, you must have a space to write that only you will see. Optimally, you should be spending at least 20 minutes per day writing in this private space of figuring out. One skill that every writer must learn is how to take material from this private space and turn it into public writing for an audience. Thus you will complete three short essays that, hopefully, had their beginnings as a journal entry. Each paper should be no more than a 700 word essay somehow based on one of the journal topics (just the right length for the journal Brevity, by the way). Seem easy to fake? Are you ready to try and put one over on me? Sure, go ahead, but this is a class of primarily majors and I’m a little worried about you if you want to fake something that involves what you are purportedly most interested in. Since this course is focusing on immersion writing, you will be asked to go out into the world and take part in various activities and write about them in your journal. Some may become fodder for these short papers, all will be good for your writing.

Long Essay
Due date: Workshop Draft: March 18th by class time to Discussion Forum on Blackboard for your peers, in class copy to me(regardless of what day your piece will be workshopped)

Draft to be graded: April 15th (in class, hard copy)
6-8 pages
You will select a longer immersion project for the semester (we’ll discuss this at length during class). This paper will be your reflections on the project. You are NOT just telling the reader what you did. You are NOT just telling the reader what you did. Oh, did I say that twice? Seriously, you are NOT just telling the reader what you did. We will discuss the concept of immersion writing and making meaning from experience throughout the course, this paper should exhibit your understanding of those concepts in a way that shows you have a firm grasp on the concepts of tone, audience, and pacing. Anyone not turning in a draft on March 18th will lose a letter grade on the graded draft. Anyone not coming to class the day their piece is to be workshopped will lose a letter grade. Participating in workshopping will include a minimum ½ page, 12 point font, response to each of your peers on the day they are workshopped. You will give your peer a copy of your response and you will give me a copy of your response. If you don’t do this, you will lose a letter grade on your paper. If you are absent from a class during the workshop days you will need to give your responses to me and your peers on the day you return. Good habits last a lifetime.

Due date: April 24
15-20 pages
This portfolio will contain revised work from the semester. Half of your grade is riding on this, show me you’ve got the goods…or at least show me you haven’t been sleeping through class. The portfolio should consist primarily of revised versions of work I have already seen. If this somehow presents a problem for you, please come talk to me about it. If you turn in a portfolio of mostly new work and have not talked to me about it ahead of time I reserve the right to fail you on the project. Part of the writing process is learning how to revise. If you’re always doing new work, you’re not learning this skill.


Class Schedule (Subject to Change)

Jan. 7: Syllabus and introduction to the class

Jan. 9: What is Immersion Writing?
Read: Introduction in A Field Guide for Immersion Writing pg. 1-10

Jan. 11: The Comfort Zone vs The Safety Zone
Due: First Short Essay due at 5pm

Jan. 14: Bad Writing/ Good Writing
Watch Bad Writing on Vimeo:
Record quotes from the movie you find especially helpful, infuriating, or meaningful in some way. (Pause the video and write things down, bring the quotes to class on the 14th so you can refer to them during the conversation.)

Jan. 16: Immersion Memoir
Read: Chapter One of Field Guide

Jan. 18: Immersion Project

Jan. 21: No class MLK Day

Jan. 23: Immersion Journalism
Read: Chapter Two of Field Guide

Jan. 25: Immersion Journalism cont.
Bring: Bring to class one example from the web or some other media that you feel qualifies as immersion journalism.

Jan. 27: 2nd Short Essay Due by 11pm

Jan. 28: Travel Writing
Read: Chapter Three of Field Guide

Jan. 30: Travel Writing cont.

Feb. 1: Immersion Project

Feb. 4: Travel Writing cont.

Feb. 6: Ethics and Immersion
Read: Chapter Four of Field Guide

Feb. 8: Immersion Project

Feb. 11: Issues of Craft
Read: Craft Talks from SER Writing Regimens (Specific titles TBA)

Feb. 13: Issues of Craft
Read: Craft Talks from SER Writing Regimens (Specific titles TBA)

Feb. 15: Immersion Project

Feb. 18: Issues of Craft
Read: Craft Talks from SER Writing Regimens (Specific titles TBA)

Feb. 20: Issues of Craft
Read: Craft Talks from SER Writing Regimens (Specific titles TBA)

Feb. 22: Immersion Project

Feb. 25: Do-Over: Intro-Chapter 5

Feb. 27: DO-Over: Chapter 6- Epilogue

March 1: Immersion Project

March 4: Conferences

March 6: Conferences

March 8: Conferences

March 11-15: Spring Break

March 18: How To Win A Workshop
Due: Workshop draft due for EVERYONE!

March 20: Workshopping

March 22: Workshopping

March 25: Workshopping

March 27: Workshopping

March 29: Workshopping

April 1: Workshopping

April 3: Workshopping

April 5: Workshopping

April 7: 3rd Short Essay Due by 11pm

April 8: Workshopping

April 10: Workshopping

April 12: Workshopping

April 15: Reflections on Workshopping and Revision
Due: Hard copy of Immersion Essay due

April 17: Experimental Writing

April 19: Experimental Writing

April 22: The Writing Business (Beyond the Classroom)

April 24: 14 Ways to Rock and Portfolio Due/ Course Evals

April 26: Wrap-Up

Note: This chapter was originally published by the Asia Society as a chapter in the handbook entitled Chinese Language Learning in the Early Grades. The full publication can be found at:

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What the Research Says About Immersion

by Tara Williams Fortune

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition
University of Minnesota

Over nearly half a century, research on language immersion education has heralded benefits such as academic achievement, language and literacy development in two or more languages, and cognitive skills. This research also exposes some of the challenges that accompany the immersion model, with its multilayered agenda of language, literacy and intercultural skills development during subject matter learning. This chapter outlines key findings for both advantages and challenges.

Benefits of Language Immersion

Academic and Educational

Without question, the issue investigated most often in research on language immersion education is students' ability to perform academically on standardized tests administered in English. This question emerges again and again in direct response to stakeholder concerns that development of a language other than English not jeopardize basic schooling goals, high levels of oral and written communication skills in English, and grade-appropriate academic achievement. The research response to this question is longstanding and consistent. English proficient immersion students are capable of achieving as well as, and in some cases better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of reading and math.[i]

This finding applies to students from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds,[ii] as well as diverse cognitive and linguistic abilities.[iii] Moreover, academic achievement on tests administered in English occurs regardless of the second language being learned. In other words, whether learning through alphabetic languages (Spanish, Hawaiian, French, etc.) or character-based languages (Mandarin, Japanese, Cantonese), English-proficient students will keep pace academically with peers in English-medium programs.[iv]

It is important to acknowledge that early studies carried out in one-way total immersion programs, where English may not be introduced until grades 2–5, show evidence of a temporary lag in specific English language skills such as spelling, capitalization, punctuation, word knowledge, and word discrimination.[v] That said, these studies also find that within a year or two after instruction in English language arts begins, the lag disappears. There were no long-term negative repercussions to English language or literacy development.

Does this same finding apply to students in two-way immersion (TWI) settings whose first language is other than English? In the past fifteen to twenty years, US researchers found that English learners' academic achievement also attained the programs' goals. By the upper elementary, or in some cases early secondary grades, English learners from different ethnicities, language backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and developmental profiles perform at least as well as same background peers being schooled in English only.[vi] Most English learners in TWI come from Latino families whose home language is Spanish. As an ethnic minority in the United States, Latinos are both the fastest-growing student population and the group with the highest rate of school failure.[vii] Research in Spanish/English TWI contexts points to higher grade point averages and increased enrollment in post-secondary education for this student group, compared to Latino peers participating in other types of educational programs such as transitional bilingual education and various forms of English-medium education.

Although the vast majority of TWI research has been carried out in Spanish/English settings, Dr. Kathryn Lindholm-Leary[viii] recently reported results from a study of two Chinese/English TWI programs. Students in grades 4–8 whose home language was Chinese tested at or above their grade level and the same as or well above peers with similar demographic profiles participating in non-TWI programs. Leary's findings align with those of other TWI programs.

Language and Literacy

The immersion approach first gained traction in North America because educators believed in its potential to move students further towards bilingualism and biliteracy. Immersion language programs took root in areas such as St. Lambert, Canada, and Miami, Florida, where educators felt that more than one language was necessary for children's future economic and social prosperity. Program designers wagered that making the second language the sole medium for teaching core subject content, instead of teaching the second language separately, would result in more students reaching higher levels of proficiency. These early immersion programs started by committing one-half or more of the school day for teachers and students to work only in the second language. Students were socialized to adopt the new language for all classroom communication and subject learning.

This approach to second-language and literacy development proved itself to be the most successful school-based language program model available. English-proficient immersion students typically achieve higher levels of minority (non-English) language proficiency when compared with students in other types of language programs.[ix] Immersion students who begin the program as English speakers consistently develop native-like levels of comprehension, such as listening and reading skills, in their second language. They also display fluency and confidence when using it.[x]Further, the more time spent learning through the non-English language, the higher the level of proficiency attained. To date, early total (one-way) and nearly total (90:10) two-way immersion programs demonstrate higher levels of minority language proficiency than partial or fifty-fifty programs.[xi]

Initial concerns about the possible detriment to English language and literacy development were eventually laid to rest. English-proficient immersion students who achieved relatively high levels of second-language proficiency also acquired higher levels of English language skills and metalinguistic awareness—that is, the ability to think about how various parts of a language function. Researchers posit that metalinguistic skills positively impact learning to read in alphabetic languages, because it facilitates the development of critical literacy sub-skills such as phonological awareness and knowledge of letter-sound correspondences for word decoding.[xii] The important relationship between phonological awareness and successful reading abilities is clearly established. However, we now also have evidence that instructional time invested in developing important decoding sub-skills in an immersion student's second language can transfer and benefit decoding sub-skills in their first language.[xiii]

Research about the relationship between character-based and English literacy sub-skills continues to grow. To date, evidence points to the transfer of phonological processing skills for children whose first language is Chinese and are learning to read in English as a second language.[xiv] Studies also indicate a relationship between visual-orthographic skills in Chinese, the ability to visually distinguish basic orthographic patterns such as correct positioning of semantic radicals in compound characters, and English reading and spelling.[xv] Much remains to be learned in these areas, however, when it comes to English-proficient children in Mandarin immersion programs who are acquiring literacy in Chinese and English.

In TWI programs, research illuminates what Lindholm-Leary and Dr. E. R. Howard referred to as a "native-speaker effect."[xvi] In a nutshell, the "native-speaker effect" describes the tendency of native speakers of a language to outperform second language learners of the same language on standardized measures administered in the native speakers' language. For example, if Spanish proficients and Spanish learners are evaluated using standardized Spanish-medium tools, Spanish proficients outperform Spanish learners. Similar outcomes occurred when tests were given in English and Mandarin.[xvii]

In general, research finds that immersion students whose first language is not English become more balanced bilinguals and develop higher levels of bilingualism and biliteracy when compared with English proficient students or home language peers participating in other educational programming. For example, Dr. Kim Potowski[xviii] found that the oral and written language skills of English learners in TWI were only slightly behind those of recent Spanish-speaking arrivals and significantly better than their English-proficient peers. English learners' higher bilingual proficiency levels are also linked to higher levels of reading achievement in English, increased academic language proficiency, and successful schooling experiences in general.[xix]

Cognitive Skill Development

There's a well-established positive relationship between basic thinking skills and being a fully proficient bilingual who maintains regular use of both languages. Fully proficient bilinguals outperform monolinguals in the areas of divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem solving.[xx]

Bilingual children develop the ability to solve problems that contain conflicting or misleading cues at an earlier age, and they can decipher them more quickly than monolinguals. When so doing, they demonstrate an advantage with selective attention and greater executive or inhibitory control.[xxi] Fully proficient bilingual children have also been found to exhibit enhanced sensitivity to verbal and non-verbal cues and to show greater attention to their listeners' needs relative to monolingual children.[xxii] Further, bilingual students display greater facility in learning additional languages when compared with monolinguals.[xxiii]

While much evidence supports the benefits associated with full and active bilingualism, the relationship between language immersion education and long-term cognitive benefits is as yet less well-understood. Some research does indicate greater cognitive flexibility[xxiv] and better nonverbal problem-solving abilities among English-proficient language immersion students.[xxv]

Decades ago, Dr. Jim Cummins cautioned about the need for a certain threshold level of second language proficiency before cognitive skills might be positively impacted.[xxvi] Accordingly, children who develop "partial bilingualism" in a second language may or may not experience cognitive benefits. While some studies report positive cognitive effects for partial or emerging bilinguals, Dr. Ellen Bialystok concurs that it is bilingual children with a more balanced and competent mastery of both languages who will predictably exhibit the positive cognitive consequences of bilingualism.[xxvii]

Economic and Sociocultural

Increasingly, proficiency in a second language and intercultural competency skills open up employment possibilities. Many sectors require increasing involvement in the global economy, from international businesses and tourism to communications and the diplomatic corps. High-level, high-paying employment will demand competence in more than one language.[xxviii] In the United States, world language abilities are increasingly important to national security, economic competitiveness, delivery of health care, and law enforcement.[xxix]

Beyond economics are the countless advantages that bi- and multilingual individuals enjoy by being able to communicate with a much wider range of people from many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Knowledge of other languages enriches travel experiences and allows people to experience other societies and cultures more meaningfully. Besides access to foreign media, literature, and the arts, bi- and multilingual people can simply connect and converse more freely. Becoming bilingual leads to new ways of conceptualizing yourself and others. It expands your worldview, so that you not only know more, you know differently.

Challenges Faced by Language Immersion

Designing, implementing, and providing ongoing support for language immersion education is no easy task. Pressing challenges include staffing, curriculum development and program articulation. Program administrators struggle to find high-quality, licensed teachers who can demonstrate advanced levels of oral and written proficiency in the chosen language. Once teachers are hired, the search begins for developmentally appropriate curriculum, materials, and resources that meet local district and state standards. Elementary-level challenges are met with additional secondary-level issues such as scheduling and balancing students' educational priorities as the program moves up and through the middle and high school years.

Inadequate teacher preparation for immersion programs remains a challenge in this field. Teachers need specialized professional development support to meet the complex task of concurrently addressing content, language, and literacy development in an integrated, subject-matter-driven language program.[xxx] However, teacher educators and immersion specialists who can provide useful and relevant professional learning experiences for the immersion staff are in short supply. In addition to professional development related to curriculum design and pedagogical techniques, both native and non-native teachers report the need for ongoing support for their own proficiency in the immersion language.[xxxi]

Chinese teachers whose educational experiences took place in more traditional, teacher-centered classrooms are aware of significant cultural differences and participant expectations. For example, US schools place a strong emphasis on social skills and language for communicative purposes. Children expect learner-centered activities with real-life tasks. Chinese teachers often hold a different set of expectations for students and thus, they frequently need support for classroom management strategies and techniques.[xxxii]

Immersion teachers face significant hurdles in the sheer range of learner differences. The impact of students' variations in language proficiency, literacy development, learning support available to the student in the home, achievement abilities, learning styles, and special needs grows exponentially when teaching and learning occurs in two languages.[xxxiii] Educators and parents struggle to identify and implement research-based policies and practices for learners who have language, literacy, and learning difficulties. Many immersion programs lack the necessary resources and bilingual specialists to provide appropriate instructional support, assessment, and interventions.[xxxiv]    

Promoting student understanding of more abstract and complex concepts becomes increasingly difficult in the upper elementary grades and beyond. Some upper-elementary immersion teachers, in particular those who teach in partial or 50:50 programs, report difficulties in teaching advanced-level subject matter because students' cognitive development is at a higher level than their proficiency in the second language.[xxxv] This challenge becomes more pronounced in programs where the immersion language is character-based, since literacy development is more time-consuming and demanding.[xxxvi]

One of the greatest challenges for immersion teachers is to keep their students using the second language, especially when working and talking amongst themselves. This challenge is particularly pronounced once the children have moved beyond the primary grades. For instance, studies in both one-way and two-way immersion classes point to fifth-grade students using English more frequently than their non-English language.[xxxvii] Facilitating student use of the immersion language in ways that promote ongoing language development is an uphill battle for teachers.[xxxviii]

Finally, outcome-oriented research reveals that immersion students, especially those who begin the program as native English speakers, don't quite achieve native-like levels of speaking and writing skills. Studies consistently find that English-speaking immersion students' oral language lacks grammatical accuracy, lexical specificity, native pronunciation, and is less complex and sociolinguistically appropriate when compared with the language native speakers of the second language produce.[xxxix] Further, students' use of the immersion language appears to become increasingly anglicized over time,[xl] and can be marked by a more formal academic discourse style.[xli] Even in high-performing immersion programs, advancing students' second language proficiency beyond the intermediate levels remains a much sought after end goal.

Bamford, K., & Mizokawa, D. (1991). Additive-bilingual (immersion) education: Cognitive and language development. Language Learning, 41(3), 413-429.

Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy, and cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bialystok, E. (2009). Bilingualism: The good, the bad, and the indifferent. Language and Cognition, 12(1), 3-11.

Bournot-Trites, M., & Denizot, I. (2005, January). Conscience phonologique en immersion française au Canada. Paper presented at the 1er Colloque International de Dediactique Cognitive, Toulouse, France.

Bruck, M. (1982). Language impaired children's performance in an additive bilingual education program. Applied Psycholinguistics, 3, 45-60.

Bruck, M., Tucker, G. R., & Jakimik, J. (1975). Are French immersion programs suitable for working class children? Word, 27, 311-341.

Caldas, S., & Boudreaux, N. (1999). Poverty, race, and foreign language immersion: Predictors of math and English language arts performance. Learning Languages, 5(1), 4-15.

Calderón, M., & Minaya-Rowe, L.  (2003). Designing and implementing two-way bilingual programs. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press, Inc.

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