Trivia for Teachers: Are Immersion Classrooms the Most Effective Way to Teach ESL Students?

english-immersion-classroomsWe thought it was about time that all you teachers out there got a pop quiz for a change! So go ahead, take a time out, and look over this short quiz to test your knowledge about immersion classrooms as a method for teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Just a quick review: immersion classrooms are classrooms that emphasize a rapid transition to English by teaching and speaking to non-English speaking students only in English. 

Scroll down and read over the questions listed below and then decide if you believe the answer is completely true, completely false, situational or inconclusive. Don’t worry, these quizzes will not affect your grade – we still think that if you are taking the time to learn something new, you deserve an A+ as far as teacher quality goes. Good luck! 

1.  When teaching English as a second language (ESL), immersion classrooms are bad learning environments because children who do not speak the language of the classroom cannot keep up.

True          False          Situational or Inconclusive    

2.  Immersion classrooms work more in favor of younger students than of secondary students.

 True          False          Situational or Inconclusive  

3.  Schools expect immigrant students moving to the United States to become fluent in English in 3 years or less.

True          False          Situational or Inconclusive 

4.  If a student can learn to read in their native language, they will be able to read a foreign language.  

True          False          Situational or Inconclusive  

5.  Immersion education is better than bilingual education for students in the long run.

True          False          Situational or Inconclusive  

Answers and Explanations: 

1.  Situational. There are several factors that make immersion programs successful learning environments or not. Qualified teachers who care, smaller class sizes, and access to helpful teaching resources seem to be the most important factors in whether a program is successful or not.

2.  True. Research shows that children and adults who learn another language after the age range of 6-12 have a much harder time. This is because a child's brain will automatically differentiate and sort the multiple languages the child is exposed to into separate speech centers in the brain as it develops. Mature brains lose this ability after the sensitive period for language development has passed. They must learn to subconsciously translate the second language to their primary language.  It takes much more time to become fluent this way.  

3.  True. No Child Left Behind requires students to become fluent in English after 3 years. However, this is an unfair expectation. Immigrant students and their families are often not literate in their native language which makes becoming literate in a second language more challenging. "It can take up to 8 years to learn enough English to function effectively in academic content areas" (Kauchak and Eggen 114).

4.  False… though this was a bit of a trick question. According to, the verb read is “to have such knowledge of (a language) as to be able to understand things written in it.” To be able to read a foreign language, you must be familiar with the words and know their meanings. However, skills such as sounding out words, decoding meanings, and grammar knowledge are transferrable although variations in rules will be inevitable among languages. 

5.  Inconclusive. There are too many variables that affect the success of a program or method (as discussed in the answer to question one). One argument that is pro-bilingual education suggests that in the later grades bilingual education gives students a deeper understanding of English because students learn better in their first language and understanding can be transferred from the first language to the second language as they learn it. Strong evidence has been presented to show that immersion programs teach English more quickly.  However, the depth of the understanding of the language is called into question since the program places more emphasis on learning quickly and perhaps less fully.  

Got ELLs? Check out these free resources!

Follow our Curriculum Manager’s ESL blog for helpful tips and insight that you can carry over into your classroom today.

    View one of our free Webinars (be sure to request a certificate of attendance):

    Using Learning Centers to Meet Needs in Multilevel ESL Classrooms 

    ELL Emerging Literacy:  What We Know; What You Can Do

    Why Phonics for ELLs?


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    Apr 04 2012

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