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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Integrating Language and Content: Lessons from Immersion


Among the most interesting and effective innovations in second language education during the last three decades have been the immersion programs developed in Canada. The first immersion programs were developed to provide Canada's majority-group English-speaking students with opportunities to learn Canada's other official language. Since that time, immersion programs have been adopted in many different areas of North America, and alternative forms of immersion have been devised.

This report presents a selective review of research findings from the extensive evaluations that have been undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of immersion programs in Canada and the United States. It focuses on selected aspects of second language learning and discusses implications of immersion research findings for the design and development of second language programs in other school settings for other kinds of learners: for example, for students learning through other forms of content-based instruction and limited-English-proficient students.

The intent of this review is not to advocate immersion for all second language learners but to learn from the experiences and research findings in immersion for majority language learners. The lessons to be learned from immersion are related to the importance of (1) integrating language with content instruction, (2) classrooms that are discourse-rich, and (3) systematic planning of language along with content instruction.

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