Tuesday, July 3, 2012

French School...our first year - a look back

First Year of French School

Wow, I can't believe my girls are completing their first year in school in France.  Its seems like just yesterday that we arrived in this country.  Arriving with 3 girls who knew very little French...3 girls who were nervous, unsure and rather quiet those first few days.  For my youngest, quiet those first few months...but now, how they have blossomed!  Just the other day, I was sitting and listening to my children chat away in French to their friends...playing, pretending and just having fun like they did in the States...just talking in a whole new language!

All the school folders came home the other day and I'm just marveling in their work this year.  In many ways it's like any other year - to see where they start and where they end...but this year - it's very special - looking at their growth not just in regular development but also in the French language and culture.  I'm enjoying the French way of doing their school notebooks or "cahiers" as they are called here.  Collections of exercises, math, writing etc...all neatly put into notebooks.  

The first photos are from my 4 year old's class.  She was in Moyenne Section of Maternelle or the equivalent of Pre-K for the US.  They do a lot of focus on writing and writing readiness - lots of drawing of lines, patterns, copying designs - all to get them ready to write.  We have had several projects home throughout the year - but their "collections" came home in big booklets.

My 4 year old's memory book from her class

Inside, fun memories from the year, events, birthdays, copies of photos...They even noted her arrival from the US.

More copies of photos are added throughout the year for "Souvenirs" or Memories of school events, celebrations and special projects.

The second booklet contained samples of her work...This was the opening page introducing the teachers.  We had seen this booklet periodically throughout the year, but it's so beautiful to look at the progress from start to finish.

An exercise in following directions, outlining the tree and then adding apples inside.

More writing work...following patterns and learning numbers

French Pre-school work is loaded with patterns and copying specific styling

They also did some work with manipulatives and designed trees with different objects. 

She also came home with a French folder....

She started simple in French..colors and small phrases..

This was what she said to the teacher just last Month...written by the teacher but recounted by my 4 year old.

I have to say I was very impressed with the creativity of the Maternelle teacher.  Yes, French school is a bit more serious than Pre-school in the States.  They have "work" time where they do their projects in silence.  Preparing them for grade school.  But they also have a lot of fun and spend a lot of time outside.  The sitting still and doing her work was a bit hard for my spirited curious American child, and the teacher learned she has spunk...but her growth, love of learning and confidence has bloomed. 

My middle daughter just finished CE1 or "Second Grade".  She also had challenges this year.  One skill she was definitely behind in was writing...Students in France learn cursive in 1st grade...so by second they are expected to be perfecting their letters.  For my daughter, she had to start from scratch...the teacher was great in giving her some practice sheets and started slow...

Folders that came home, she had a grammar, verb notebook that gave her rules for practicing..Note the green booklets on the side - these were her exercise folders for the year...she filled them up!

Page from spelling words for one week..they worked on sounds and spelling at the same time.
She started practicing her letters and copying simple sentences in November....

By June, she was writing down words that she heard correctly and answering questions from her reading with complete sentences..

Finally, my oldest daughter is finishing CM2 or 5th grade.  She's off to middle school next year or in France it's called "College".  I love all these notebooks "Cahiers".  She will continue to use her grammar and conjugation books in middle school - sort of a French student's best friend when it comes to sorting everything out grammatically.

For her it was fun to see how Math was taught slightly differently...long division is written out in a whole different manner - and lots and lots of grammar.  Bit challenging for an American student who has not been taught it in that way.  Again, I'm just in awe of her progress and success.

The other interesting thing is when they are this young, their accent is beautiful!  I have had many French parents compliment my children for their progress in French and also their accents.  If people didn't know any different, it's hard to tell French is their second language.  Kudos to my girls!

Assortment of Cahiers from CM2 or Fifth grade

A math graphing problem and a bit of geography - "TB" stands for Tres Bien or the French equivalent of  excellent

This is how the French students write out long division - my daughter says it's basically the same..but prefers the American way...I think it's because she learned it first!

A bit light, but an example of grammar exercises - making sure there is agreement in verb and adjectives..a lot to think about.

The last day of school for my girls is this Thursday - July 5th!  It's a long year this year - but we are so looking forward to summer.  We need to keep up their French, as we don't regularly speak it in the home - all the girls are looking forward to next year..new year, new challenges and for one a new school!!  Happy Summer vacation!


  1. Wow! That is a really amazing accomplishment for your girls. This fall, I'm starting grad school and recently learned that some of my required classes are in German and French (the latter of which I haven't studied since high school!). It's amazing to see the progress they've made in not only learning a new language, but learning to learn in that new language. I can see why you're so proud. Happy Independence Day and end of the school year!

    1. Good luck with grad. school - all I can say is immersion is the best way...Happy summer!

  2. Haven't they done well! What amazing progress. I really enjoyed this post as I spent a month studying in a French teacher training college (several years ago) and visited a number of different schools and this brought back happy memories. I love to see beautiful French handwriting. Happy 4th July!

    1. I'm in awe each time I look at the handwriting - to truly believe it's my girls!...Thanks for commenting - Happy summer!

  3. Congratulations to all your girls. It's amazing how much they accomplished this year. Good job Mama! Enjoy your summer vacation. Are you going away anywhere? Greetings from Italy, Jill

    1. You, too enjoy your summer! I'm sure it will go by too fast! Thanks for commenting! We are off to Paris for a few days and also spending a week in the Dordogne countryside...other than that - enjoying our new home! Happy summer!


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