Successful Approaches to Immersion Teaching (2023)

by Chris Livaccari

Language immersion programs present a range of opportunities and challenges for practitioners. Many language teachers welcome the opportunity to create an immersive language environment in which their students are able to achieve high levels of proficiency and fluency in the target language, and to learn academic as well as everyday language. However, because immersion teachers are not just teaching language but also teaching other academic subjects, they have several extra issues to consider. In any immersion program, language and its partner subjects are equally important, and the most successful approaches balance them evenly.

In this way, successful immersion teaching is the pinnacle of good instruction. Its form of interdisciplinary learning exemplifies the possibilities of education in general. Immersion teachers start from the assumption that barriers between various subject areas are at some level artificial, and that engaging, dynamic, and effective instruction in all subject areas contains many of the same core elements. By their very nature, immersion programs demonstrate the interconnectedness of all knowledge and experience.

(Video) An Immersion Education Explained

Immersion teachers must first clearly understand what content must be taught at each grade level. They need to be familiar with “comprehensible input,” which emphasizes that students should be exposed to new words and patterns in contexts that facilitate comprehension and assimilation. Teachers should consistently weave together familiar language with new words and information, so that students continually develop their language proficiency. In this way, language acquisition in an immersion program closely mimics the natural learning curve for a first language, in which a child is constantly prompted to assimilate new language and meaning from unfamiliar words and expressions. Immersion also includes more elements of discovery- and inquiry-based learning than do other kinds of instructional practices. Students must constantly and consistently decipher inferences and context clues.

Immersion programs come with a high standard that teachers must reliably meet. Language-immersion instruction consists of language and content lessons, including functional usage of the language, academic language, authentic language, and socioculturally correct language. Unlike a standard foreign-language classroom, the im¬mersion setting provides more opportunities to teach students colloquial versus academic language. Immersion techniques also introduce a language’s cultural and social contexts in a meaningful and memorable way. It is particularly important that immersion teachers connect classwork with real-life experiences. For example, students should learn when to say, “what’s up” and when to say, “it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.” They should grasp when to say, “it’s freezing out here” and when to note, “today’s temperature is fifteen degrees below the average mean temperature for this time of year.” By applying a broad range of communication styles, instructors instill the expectation that students will use the language in real-life situations as well as in their studies.

(Video) Why immersion isn't a great language learning strategy for beginners

The Top Five Immersion Teaching Skills

  1. The ability to use visuals, gestures, body language, expressions, modeling, and movement to complement verbal cues. For students to learn a new language in meaningful contexts, teachers must use every instructional strategy available to them, including the use of actual objects (realia), pictures, videos, and gestures to express meaning. This will allow students to develop comprehension without direct explanation.
  2. The ability to motivate students to stay in the target language. Students who are still new to Chinese should be encouraged to respond to teacher prompts and questions in English if they are not yet able to express themselves in Chinese. As students get older, however, they should be increasingly encouraged to use Chinese exclusively in all of the classes conducted in Chinese. As students progress toward higher levels of proficiency, they should also be discouraged from mixing the two languages, and urged to stay in one or the other language, as appropriate.
  3. The ability to ask open-ended questions. Effective teachers, no matter the subject or setting, steer clear of questions that elicit only “yes or no” answers. Instead, they challenge students’ thinking, nudging their higher-order cognitive skills and giving ample time to articulate each response. In immersion classrooms, it is especially important that teachers encourage students to give longer and more varied replies. For instance, they can ask students to expand upon or support their answers with examples or evidence. Following up in this way helps students practice a wide range of expressions and to keep incorporating fresh words and patterns into their productive repertoire.
  4. The ability to regularly assess students’ compre¬hension and skills development. Teachers need to monitor students’ understanding through questioning techniques and formative assessments. They should also be consistently pushing students to use new words and expressions, more complex language structures, and more culturally appropriate language in their interactions and responses. Teachers should encourage students to use more specific vocabulary, as opposed to generic expressions, as they continue to develop their skills.
  5. The ability to think strategically about the various types of student interactions and to vary them, promoting a dynamic learning environment. Teachers can mix the following types of interactions: teacher-students, student-student, whole group, and small groups. In small-group and project-based settings, teachers need to carefully evaluate the makeup of the various groups. Each student should work with various people in the class, but there should also be opportunities for long-term and ongoing student interactions.

Voices from the Field: Successful Immersion Teachers Identify Key Qualities and Competencies

Marty Chen, Chinese Dual Immersion Coordinator, Utah State Office of Education

Chen believes that the most important thing for immersion teachers to remember is that “they are not just language teachers, but also elementary teachers. . . . They need to be language teachers, classroom teachers, and also caregivers.” She finds that teachers’ overall challenge is that “kids do not have a target-language-rich environment after school” and so teachers need to incorporate “social language . . . not just content language.” She urges teachers to incorporate social language into their classes, exposing their students to as many varieties of language as possible, or else students will only learn academic language. For example, when performing an action in class, teachers should describe it every step of the way. Teachers can also think out loud, another way of including more casual language. This can be difficult, particularly since a teacher “cannot use language that students cannot understand . . . comprehensible, meaningful input is extremely important.”

Still, says Chen, “I don’t see a lot of challenges, I see a lot of accomplishment. . . . Kids who go through a Chinese immersion program learn to think, their survival skills are stronger, and they are forced to learn to figure things out on their own. . . . In this environment, kids don’t just receive things conveniently . . . and it’s very exciting when kids make their own meaning—it totally makes my day when students succeed and kids brainstorm new ideas.”

Enthusiasm is also essential: “Teachers also need to be excited about what the students are going to learn. Kids easily perceive your feelings, and they can tell if you love your job or not. If you are creating very surprising environments for students and keep kids guessing all the time, then you won’t have many classroom management issues. Also, back to the caregiver issue, if the students know that you care, they will want to perform for you. . . . You need to build up enthusiasm. If I am going to teach something on Thursday or Friday, I need to start building up anticipation on Monday or Tuesday. I want the kids to think on their own and be excited about what they are going to learn and what’s coming up.”

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Yin Shen, Curriculum Specialist, Woodstock Elementary School, Portland Public Schools

Shen explains that she sees classroom management as far more than keeping students well behaved. It’s “not just a set of rules and regulations, but really the test of whether or not a teacher can plan engaging, practical activities that keep students engaged,” she says.

In order for Chinese language immersion teachers in American schools to understand American practices, careful observation is crucial. “The expectations in a Chinese educational setting are so different,” stresses Shen. “It’s important to get into an American classroom to watch the interactions between teacher and student. Chinese teachers have their strong points and US teachers have theirs.” She recommends that teachers carefully and critically “observe both systems and be aware of both sides’ strengths and weaknesses. Classroom management should never be separated from teaching and instruction—they are interwoven.”

“Immersion teachers need to talk a lot, and talk about everything. Every little action needs to be carefully thought through and very intentional. You need to keep the language going, and must keep talking about everything—even little things—so that the students will be able to learn naturally,” Shen emphasizes. “If you do this, students will learn so much. Their general skill level will improve a lot, compared with other students. Immersion students become more capable and work harder, and the work they produce is of a higher quality. . . . This is why parents in immersion setting are happy, because their students can learn so much. . . . It feels so rewarding as a teacher when kids come knowing nothing of the language and after a year know so much.”

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Shen sees the benefit in a give-and-take teaching experience. “The teacher-student relationship is like that of a director and actors,” she says. “As the director, it’s my job to make them shine and a good director can produce a high-quality show. But the shining stars are the students, not the director. . . . If you get close to the students, they won’t feel any gap. In immersion classrooms, you need to use songs, stories, dances, all these things. It’s sunshine all day long in my class. . . . Immersion teaching keeps you young, energetic, and happy, and the time goes very fast.”

Pearl You, Chinese Program Coordinator, Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School

“The biggest difference between immersion teachers and language teachers is that immersion teachers need to focus on content teaching. Immersion teachers spend a lot of time with students and they need to do everything possible to make meaning comprehensible for students,” reports You. “Immersion teachers just spend a lot more time with their students. . . . They need to use manipulatives, body language, and visuals all the time.” Staying flexible will help keep students’ confidence up, while for teachers, You says, “every day is a new day.”

Hsiuwen Hsieh, Director of Education, and Aiping Dong, Chinese Language Immersion Teacher, Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School

Hsieh and Dong recognize that immersion teachers need to fully grasp the fundamentals of both first- and second-language acquisition. They also underscore the need for empathy, for teachers to put themselves “into their students’ shoes and consider how you would feel if you were in their position,” to understand “what kind of stress students go through and the best ways to help them cope.”

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For young students, the Chinese language immersion itself is not as overwhelming as other school experiences. “They are more overwhelmed being separated from their parents than learning a new language,” Hsieh and Dong believe. Their students “are not just learning two languages—they are learning a tolerance and respect for other cultures and other points of view.” Since learning in two languages adds complexity, “success in an immersion program requires a lot of struc¬ture, a lot of discipline, and a lot of hard work.”

Hsieh and Dong have found that most effective general teaching strategies can be applied to the immersion setting, so different kinds of teachers can learn from each other: “All the tricks that English teachers use can be used in the Chinese immersion classroom.” Effective teachers who use “thematic units and teach in learning centers” won’t have as much trouble making the transition to an immersion program. It’s about being flexible, creative, and getting the students excited about making meaning in the classroom.

Norman Cao and Yiling Han, Chinese Language Immersion Teachers, Global Village Academy

Cao and Han believe that “the key thing in immersion teaching is to be more open-minded, and to keep learning constantly. It’s up to the teachers to constantly make connections to themselves and to what they’ve learned before, and connections between English and Chinese.” Cao notes in particular that students who go through this type of program have “a tonal awareness and ability to speak with native-like intonation,” as well as “the ability to comprehend meaning even without knowing specific words in a sentence.” He tells the story of one little girl who came into the program with no Chinese background at all, while her classmates had already studied for one year. She spent the first three weeks of school crying all the time. However, she came up to speed within a couple of months—now she is a top student in the class and “the complex sentences she can make are just amazing!”

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What is immersion approach in teaching? ›

Learning by immersion means that the children are immersed in a "language bath". They hear, speak and learn the language in authentic everyday contexts and experience it in their familiar surroundings. They thus learn the new language as naturally as their mother tongue - without any pressure or vocabulary stress.

What is the best approach to teaching and learning? ›

Experiential learning is a great teaching method because it encourages creativity, helps students learn from mistakes, fosters reflective thinking, and prepares students for future experiences. It can be effective for several subjects, especially during science experiments, sports coaching, and group projects.

What is the importance of the approaches and methods in teaching? ›

The importance of teaching methods

Teaching methods are the broader techniques used to help students achieve learning outcomes, while activities are the different ways of implementing these methods. Teaching methods help students: master the content of the course. learn how to apply the content in particular contexts.

What is effective teaching approaches? ›

Effective Teaching Strategies are Instructional strategies that are well-chosen for the present students, content and context, and implemented with a high level of skill and efficiency.

Why is immersion an important approach? ›

This approach to language education helps students learn and practice vocabulary the way that native English speakers would. In addition, all that practice helps students remember vocabulary better. As a result, you can learn English faster than through courses alone.

What is the importance of immersion to the students? ›

Enhanced cognitive skills: immersion students typically develop greater cognitive flexibility, demonstrating increased attention control, better memory, and superior problem solving skills as well as an enhanced understanding of their primary language.

What is the most effective approach for a student to learn? ›

Cognitive Approach

The cognitive learning approach is focused on memorizing and remembering. Don't misunderstand to be a process of cramming information. Instead, it is a deep method that allows the brain to understand the information and then remembers it for long-term.

Which teaching approach is best in early education and why? ›

Playway Method:

A very widely accepted and popular method of Play school teaching has been the playway method. Essentially, this school of thought believes that the best way of teaching a child is through taking up activities.

What is approaches to teaching and learning? ›

We define teaching and learning approaches as theoretical concepts that describe on a meta-level how learning should be facilitated (for competence-oriented teaching and learning). Pedagogical approaches are linked to course formats and teaching methods, but not in a one-to-one matching.

What is the purpose of approaches to learning? ›

The Approaches to Learning domain focuses on how children learn. It refers to the skills and behaviors that children use to engage in learning. It incorporates emotional, behavioral, and cognitive self-regulation as well as initiative, curiosity, and creativity.

Why is it important to select teaching and learning approaches to meet learners needs? ›

Identifying and meeting individual learner needs boosts their morale and encourages them. In some cases, the learner does not gain much from mass instruction. As such, when the teacher provides individually prescribed instruction (IPI) it significantly helps many learners to understand and grasp educational concepts.

What is the importance of using different teaching approaches inside the classroom? ›

Using these different teaching methods, which are rooted in theory of different teaching styles, will not only help teachers reach their full potential, but more importantly engage, motivate and reach the students in their classes, whether in person or online.

What are the most common approaches in teaching? ›

List Of Teaching Methods
  • Teacher-Centered Instruction. ...
  • Small Group Instruction. ...
  • Student-Centered / Constructivist Approach. ...
  • Project-Based Learning. ...
  • Montessori. ...
  • Inquiry-Based Learning. ...
  • Flipped Classroom. ...
  • Cooperative Learning.

What are the three main approaches to teaching and learning? ›

Three approaches to teaching and learning in education: Behavioral, piagetian, and information-processing.

What is the most important thing during immersion? ›

Sure, there's no denying you'll have a blast in the process. But, learning through immersion should be exactly that — being immersed. Completely surrounded, living and breathing the language. Not taking constant breaks, speaking in your own tongue and ordering in restaurants where locals speak your language.

Why immersion is the best way to learn a language? ›

Immersion is a fantastic way to learn a language, because it allows you to truly experience almost all aspects of life in the language you're learning. It's also fair to say that immersion seems to be the holy grail of language learning. It's the key to being successful.

Why immersion is an important approach in giving service to the communities? ›

Community immersion allows individuals who are not familiar with the people and communities where they will work immerse themselves in these settings. This gives them the opportunity to reflect on their assumptions, attitudes, and the knowledge base of their profession and to gain cultural competence.

What is work immersion in your own words? ›

What is 'work immersion'? “Work immersion” is a key feature in the DHA curriculum which involves hands-on experience or work simulation in which students can apply their competencies and acquired knowledge relevant to their track.

What are the most benefits of work immersion? ›

Help students make informed career decisions by assessing their aptitudes and interests, and exploring potential careers. Improve students' maturity, confidence and self reliance. Provide a link between school and local community.

Why immersion education is the best way to prepare your child for the 21st century? ›

Increased cognitive flexibility: Students learning two languages at once show enhanced problem-solving and creativity skills vs. monolinguals because they learn that there are multiple ways to represent an object.

What are the effective approaches to learners with learning difficulties? ›

Sequence slowly, using examples. Speak clearly and turn so students can see your face. Allow time for students to process requests and allow them to ask questions. Use graphic organizers to support understanding of relationships between ideas.

What learning approach did the learners respond to most positively? ›

What learning approach did the learners respond to most positively? Interactive teaching.

Which of the following approaches is the most effective way for a new teacher to improve implementation of a recently adopted curriculum? ›

Which of the following approaches is the most effective way for a new teacher to improve implementation of a recently adopted curriculum? Option D is correct because peer observation is the most effective way for teachers to get an objective view of their teaching and make needed changes in their teaching strategies.

Which approach of teaching is most appropriate in modern age? ›

Kinesthetic learning is a great modern teaching method for all learners because it gives students more ways to explore concepts and get hands-on, real-life experiences in their learning environment that translate to better learning outcomes.

What approaches do you use to teach students with different learning styles? ›

Tips for Accommodating
  • Engage the student in conversation about the subject matter.
  • Question students about the material.
  • Ask for oral summaries of material.
  • Have them tape lectures and review them with you.
  • Have them tape themselves reviewing material and listen to it together.
  • Read material aloud to them.
6 Apr 2021

What are the new approaches of teaching? ›

Collaborative Learning, Spaced Learning, Flipped Classroom, Self Learning, Gamification, VAK teaching, and Crossover Learning are various types of Modern Teaching Method.

How do you explain approaches? ›

Explaining your approach involves two things. First, you must identify your core goal. Second, you must generate a step by step process that you can say out loud. You may not end up with the most perfect solution, but that's okay.

How should you approach learning? ›

Learning new skills can take time and patience.
Use these steps to get there quicker:
  1. Set your learning goal. ...
  2. Break down your skill set. ...
  3. Identify potential barriers. ...
  4. Apply the "80/20" rule. ...
  5. Focus on one skill at a time. ...
  6. Prioritize personal development. ...
  7. Set more long-term goals. ...
  8. Find opportunities to practice.

Why is it important for you to know the different approaches in assessment? ›

Well-designed assessment methods provide valuable information about student learning. They tell us what students learned, how well they learned it, and where they struggled.

What is the importance of effective teaching? ›

Effective teaching impacts students' academic, physical, socialemotional, and behavioral well-being. Effective teaching occurs best when all education stakeholders, including parents, policymakers, community members, and educators, share responsibility for continuous improvement and student achievement.

Which of the following is considered as best teaching approach? ›

A demonstration is the best method of teaching. Demonstration: A method of teaching that is experience-based and designed to illustrate a procedure, process, or phenomenon in a step-by-step manner is called a demonstration.

What are the different approaches or techniques that you will apply in order to teach the child reading and writing of words in English? ›

Some of the more popular approaches are briefly described below.
  • Phonics approach. The phonics approach teaches word recognition through learning grapheme-phoneme (letter-sound) associations. ...
  • Linguistic method. ...
  • Multisensory approach. ...
  • Neurological Impress Technique. ...
  • Language experience approach. ...
  • Reading comprehension support.

What are the two basic approaches of teaching? ›

There are two main types of teaching method which are non-participatory method and participatory method.

Why do teachers have to use different approaches and strategies in teaching? ›

Teaching strategies play an important role in classroom instruction. Without the use of a strategy, teachers would be aimlessly projecting information that doesn't connect with learners or engage them. Strategies help learners participate, connect, and add excitement to the content being delivered.

How many types of approaches are there in teaching? ›

For all of the teacher out there who find it hard to differentiate instruction, you have no excuse, as there are over 13 different teaching approaches and styles.

What is an immersion give example? ›

Immersion is the act of dipping something in a substance, completely covering it. It might be something physical, such as plunging your body into water, or metaphorical, such as becoming totally immersed in a project.

What is work immersion in simple terms? ›

What is 'work immersion'? “Work immersion” is a key feature in the DHA curriculum which involves hands-on experience or work simulation in which students can apply their competencies and acquired knowledge relevant to their track.

What is immersive learning in education? ›

According to Training Industry, immersive learning provides individuals with an "interactive learning environment, either physically or virtually, to replicate possible scenarios or to teach particular skills or techniques. Simulations, role play, and virtual learning environments can be considered immersive learning."

What are the 5 approaches to teaching? ›

The five major approaches are Constructivist, Collaborative, Integrative, Reflective and Inquiry Based Learning ( 2C-2I-1R ). “…

What is the impact of work immersion to the students? ›

This aims to better equip senior high school students for college, work or business; develop life and career skills; and have attitudes, appreciation and respect for work. It also allows them to have a smooth transition from school to work after they gain valuable experience.

What does immersion mean? ›

: the act of putting someone or something completely in a liquid or the state of being completely in a liquid.

Which words best describe immersion as an experience? ›

synonyms for immersion
  • captivation.
  • concentration.
  • engagement.
  • engrossment.
  • enthrallment.
  • fascination.
  • hang-up.
  • holding.

What is work immersion and benefits? ›

What is work immersion? Immersions prepare students for the real world by training them how to work in a company and eventually excel in a specific career. The school needs to ensure that its students gain various competencies that would have these future professionals ready for employment.

How does work immersion help you in the future? ›

Work Immersion will help the students to know what course they want to take in college. Work Immersion can be seen as giving the students a way to improve themselves by experiencing real work simulation.

What is the importance of work immersion in senior high school students? ›

Work immersion provides Senior High School learners with opportunities to become familiar with the workplace, simulate employment, and to apply their competencies in areas of specialization or applied subjects in actual work environment to prepare learners for all curriculum exits.

What are the benefits of immersive learning? ›

The Benefits of Using Immersive Technologies for Workplace Training
  • Risk Reduction. Learners can engage with different types of training experiences within VR and AR environments to make mistakes without real-world consequences. ...
  • Time to Train. ...
  • Cost Savings. ...
  • Contextualization. ...
  • Emotional Reaction. ...
  • Memory Retention.
15 Aug 2022

Is immersive learning better? ›

Immersive learning creates an interactive environment in which learners have the power to customize their experience. Immersive learning engages the senses, allowing employees to watch, listen, and interact within the learning experience — and research shows that it can increase knowledge retention by up to 75%.

What is work immersion for students? ›

Through Work Immersion, the students are exposed to and become familiar with work-related environment related to their field of specialization to enhance their competence.


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