Lower School Curriculum
The Lower School of the French American International School delivers a comprehensive academic program of reading, writing, language, math, history, and science in English and French. The table below outlines the structure of the program. It consists of three distinct Cycles.
The bilingual journey begins in Maternelle. Children enter at Pre-K3, Pre-K4 or Kindergarten. Initially children benefit from classes that are conducted in French 80% of the time. After second grade we switch to approximately 55% French and 45% English in order to capitalize on the “transfer of competencies” between the two languages.
The Bilingual Advantage
Going Deeper: The Three Cycles
The teachers at all grade levels work closely together to develop and harmonize the taught curriculum and to share ideas about individual student learning modalities, and social/emotional considerations.
Lower School Program Highlights
Each year, students in grades K through 5 are involved in an overnight outdoor education program which complements the taught curriculum and extends their learning in the classroom.
• Kindergarten children embark on their overnight adventures age-appropriately, with a one night camping trip that includes a high ratio of bilingual adult chaperones. (TBC)
• 1st graders experience a hands-on, experiential program at a nature camp for four days at Camp Tuolumne Trails;
• 2nd graders discover a new environment during a five day trip to the Sierra Nevada Bear Valley Lodge;
• 3rd graders expand their knowledge of California History by spending five days in the gold country studying Native American cultures at Camp Lodestar;
• 4th graders spend five days in nature at Coloma Outdoor Discovery Camp;
• 5th graders culminate their lower school bilingual education with an exchange trip to Strasbourg, France, for up to two weeks.
These experiences outside the classroom help to develop a sense of community, responsibility, self-esteem and independence of mind in our students. They allow students to explore first-hand their relationship with nature and the environment, and give them an opportunity to speak French in a natural way.
To support our literacy philosophy and goals, we selected Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop out of New York to teach our English curriculum. The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) aims to prepare kids for any reading and writing task they will face or set themselves, to turn them into lifelong, confident readers and writers who display agency and independence in their future endeavors. To achieve these goals, the Reading and Writing Project supports teachers, administrators, and school change agents with professional development, curriculum, and instructional methods. The work of the Reading and Writing Project is informed by research in all of these areas as well as the more specialized categories of literacy.
By importing routines and strategies from the workshop philosophy into our French instruction as well, we create a more harmonized program for all of our students.
STEAM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
1. Singapore Mathematics
In grades 3-5 students are taught a harmonized math curriculum, one which blends the standards of the latest French curriculum with an international school version of the Common Core referred to as the AERO standards. To enable the rigorous teaching of English Mathematics, aligned with the French methods, we use the Singapore Math program.Singapore Math is a world leader. The highly successful national math program has been taught in the country of Singapore since 1982. Singaporean students have had top scores since 1995 on the Trends in Math and Science Study (TIMSS) given to 50 countries every 4 years.
With a philosophy of teaching fewer concepts annually, but teaching them to mastery, it’s a recipe for success. The use of manipulatives and hands-on activities that build conceptual understanding is in-line with our math philosophy. Students learn why the math works, along with how it works. There is a big emphasis on number sense and mental math. Singapore Math strategies, like bar modeling (that enables students to visualize multi-step word problems), build from year to year. If you were to put the Singapore curriculum on a continuum, you would find it between concept-based curricula, and skills based "traditional" curricula.
“We are not teaching math, we are teaching thinking through the medium of math.”
- Dr. Yeap Ban Har, Singapore Ministry of Education
Educational Leadership: Learning From Singapore Mathematics
2. Inquiry-based Science and Sustainability Instruction
Our approach to science instruction is rooted in the belief that children are naturally curious about the world around them and are capable of unleashing their inner scientist by asking questions, proposing hypotheses, gathering data, communicating findings and making connections with the state of the world today. Through specific bilingual units of inquiry grounded in Earth, Life and Physical Science, we have developed a harmonized curriculum, combining the best of French instructions and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). To support our inquiry-based approach, we have a well-equipped science lab and a part-time science coach who works with teachers and students to develop scientific skill and understanding.
Embedded throughout our bilingual curriculum is the concept of sustainability. Through the science investigations there is the larger goal of connecting student learning to real-life impact in our local and global communities. Working in this way provides opportunities for experiential learning in our rich Bay Area surroundings. We have developed close partnerships with the California Academy of Sciences as well as numerous local organizations. We work closely with our talented and active Friends of STEAM parent group whose support has helped bring to life our on-site urban gardening project as well as Science Night events and Earth Day celebrations.
Science is solving problems in nature. Engineering is solving problems that are man-made. Let’s redefine the classroom. Science can no longer be a place where teachers are providing responses to questions that students will never ask.
- Jim Ryan STEM Executive Director, SFUSD
3. Engineering and Digital Literacy
Our students have access to the Tinker Space where they work collaboratively delving into design challenges and taking opportunities to explore interests related to design and programming. Classes have experimented with coding, participating in the international Hour of Code. Moving forward, our 4th and 5th grade students will be part of a more formalized programming curriculum. After school opportunities for engineering and programming are also available for our students of all ages.
Part of educating our students to be global citizens is preparing them to have a safe and appropriate presence in the cyber world. We use the digital literacy curriculum developed by Common Sense Media. Our students in grades 1-5 learn about internet safety, privacy & security, digital footprint & reputation, self-image & identity, relationships & communication, information literacy, cyberbullying and creative credit & copyright.
Sustainability is integrated into our curriculum and the learning experiences at all levels. We recognize that there is a natural connection between sustainability and being a responsible citizen: in service to the Earth (Stewardship) and to each other.
In April we celebrate Earth Day, highlighting eco-friendly science investigations, initiatives, practices and projects undertaken throughout the year in all Lower School classes.