At FISW, our curriculum follows the structure of the French Ministry of Education, which divides primary school into three cycles of education. This organization provides the flexibility needed to accommodate each child’s diversity, ability and rate of development, and acknowledges that learning occurs in a different way, and at a different pace, in every child. Cycles allow all children to be stimulated and challenged, and help teachers evaluate each student’s knowledge and work habits. As is common in France, some classes might be organized by cycle rather than grade, resulting in split or combined classes. The class structure each year depends on enrollment patterns and what works best for all the students involved.
Each cycle of learning has one report card; students work on the same concepts within the entire cycle, and have that entire cycle of time to master the concepts before moving on.
The primary grades are divided into three cycles as shown below:
Cycle 1 - First Learning (Petits, Moyens, Grands)
Children start their schooling in the first cycle - the basic skills cycle, at the age of two and a half. The first cycle (maternelle) is three years (petits, moyens and grands) and prepares students for the subsequent cycles of elementary school. Preschool children enjoy their school time and begin forging special relationships with other children and adults in a warm and caring environment. This is their first opportunity at real social integration, when the foundation for future learning is established through varied and rich experiences. Children learn how to listen, be responsible for their actions, follow simple rules, share and take turns. They are immersed in the French language during the majority of their school time and develop their vocabulary and expression through the use of songs, poems, stories and games. Learning centers and physical activities allow them to develop fine and gross motor skills.
The kindergarten class (les grands) is a year of preparation for elementary school while still being part of the maternelle. The curriculum focuses on reading, writing and mathematical readiness. Students develop their language skills further as they start to “write” stories, and also learn letter and sound recognition. Kindergartners increase self-discipline, attention span and listening skills to prepare for elementary school. Science, art, music, and physical education complete the curriculum.
Cycle 2 - Early Elementary (1st, 2nd, 3rd Grades)
In first grade, students begin to read and write in both languages. Reading skills transfer from one language to the other. Students develop vocabulary and sentence structure and start to apply simple grammatical rules. Using a hands-on approach in mathematics, they learn numeration, simple geometry and word problems. Their knowledge of the world around them expands through science, history, geography, and civics. They become computer literate and learn how to use the library to do research. Art and music develop their sensitivity and creative capacities. Physical activities aim to reinforce the importance of physical fitness. Students can take responsibility for their actions and work cooperatively, establishing classroom rules. They learn good study habits.
Cycle two, the basic learning cycle, builds logically upon the curriculum of cycle one. This learning cycle teaches children basic reading and writing, with children finishing this cycle able to communicate in both French and English. Children in these grades are expected to be able to speak and write in French, as 75% of their day is taught in French.
Cycle 3 - In-depth Learning (4th and 5th Grades)
By cycle 3, students are fully bilingual and master both languages. They continue to develop their skills in reading and writing and reinforce their knowledge of grammar and spelling. Mathematical concepts such as multiplication, division, fractions, more complex geometry and measurements are introduced. Scientific experimentation and formulation of questions prepare them to propose rational solutions. Computers are used to give reports and do research. American and European history and geography give them the foundation for a better understanding of human life.
Students become aware of an individual's responsibility in society. They reflect on human values. Students take an active role in their own learning. Fine arts, music and physical education contribute to the students’ well-rounded development.