Cycle 1: Preschool, Pre-K, Kindergarten
The goal of cycle one, also known as the maternelle, is to establish a foundation for learning that children may build upon in subsequent years. During this critical period of time, children develop their fine and gross motor, sensory, and academic skills. Specialized teaching techniques are employed to promote problem solving, inquiry, and repetitive practice. Students learn to form relationships with fellow students through individual and team play, enabling them to develop the basic principles of social life. Within the classroom teachers create a nurturing environment that helps the children gently transition from the home.
Taught in a French immersion setting, students absorb language naturally and without translating back and forth. By the end of kindergarten children are able to communicate conversationally in French with their teachers and peers.
There are five main areas of instruction in the maternelle. Each area is critical to the development of the student and plays an important role in daily school life:
1. Reading, Writing, And Language Skills
2. Acting And Expressing Oneself Through Physical Activities
3. Acting And Expressing Oneself Through Artistic Activities
4. The Building Blocks For Mathematical Thinking
5. Discovery Of The World
1. Reading, Writing, Language Skills
Students acquire vocabulary through listening to their teacher’s directions, hearing stories or music, imitating their peers, and repetition of native sounds. In preschool children learn to recite the alphabet, trace letters, and write their name. Once in kindergarten students are introduced to syntax and phonics. They learn to couple words to construct sentences and are introduced to the difference in the present and past tense. Students discover cursive, a tactile means of expression that helps children connect shapes.
In kindergarten, children receive three hours of English instruction each week. They read classic children’s literature and modern stories to promote a love of reading. Students learn sight words, grammar, and phonics. They sing songs that reinforce social skills and a variety of learning skills.
2. Acting and Expressing Oneself Through Physical Activities
A certified French PE teacher helps children to discover the joy of movement and take calculated risks through guided physical activities. This skills-based class reinforces fine motor coordination, body awareness, focus, and intellectual reasoning. Students also develop interpersonal relationships, embracing their classmates’ differences and respecting their range of abilities. PE takes place twice a week, with optional additional after school sports classes.
3. Acting and Expressing Oneself Through Artistic Activities
In art children explore a variety of artistic methods sparking their imagination and creativity. Thoughtful approaches to artistic techniques develop their fine motor skills as well as their analytical reasoning. The activities are organized in order to introduce the children to different media including painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, collage, and cinema. French painters are discussed, and field trips to museums reinforce classroom instruction.
The children are also exposed to the performing arts. In music they develop their auditory skills through song, and explore a variety of instruments. They perform theater skits to build their vocabulary and presentation abilities. Many take after school classes in piano and circus performance to build on what they learned in school. In kindergarten field trips to the theater take place once a year.
4. The Building Blocks for Mathematical Thinking
In the maternelle children discover numbers and their purpose, explore shapes, sizes, and patterns, and learn how to approach a multi-step problem.
Discovery of numbers and their purpose
Students manipulate familiar objects (e.g. dominos, dice) to recognize quantities. They associate pictures to quantities and sequence small numbers. They learn the fundamentals of basic measurement, developing vocabulary such as “more than” or “less than”. Through games and activities they formulate questions and draw logical conclusions.
Exploration of shapes, sizes and patterns
Students learn to classify, group, and organize shapes. To strengthen their analytical reasoning they identify and replicate a pattern (e.g. red, blue, green, red, blue, green). They begin to understand basic measurement by comparing the size of objects. The knowledge gained at this level serves as a building block for geometry covered in cycles 2 and 3.
5. Discovery of the World
Situating oneself in time and space
During daily circle time, students discuss the days of the week, the seasons, and the time in the day. This process enables them to gradually comprehend the regular pattern of the timetable. Through daily classroom routines they understand the cyclical aspects of the day, and what their role is in terms of being part of a class (e.g. I sit at the red table next to Camille and am responsible for cleaning up afterward). They bring items from home for “show and tell” to distinguish between what is kept at home versus what is kept at school.
Exploring the living world, objects and matter
Children learn about the different forms of life, the life cycles, and habitat. They plant vegetables and flowers, handle insects and small animals. They also discover their own bodies with respect to function, hygiene, and nutrition.
Children learn to recognize the basic characteristics of matter by cutting, modeling, and assembling materials like wood, soil, paper, cardboard. To make the abstract more tangible they experiment, observe, and conclude. Examples: What happens if you freeze water? How does light affect shade?
Natural hazards such as fire or water are discussed in the context of safety. Children learn how to recognize unsafe situations and given tools on how to respond.
Age and maturity have an impact on the rhythm and speed of a student’s progress. While teachers observe the development of their students year-round, formal evaluations and conferences take place two times a year. During these conferences and through ongoing dialogue parents and teachers communicate on effective academic strategies and how to best transition children to primary school.