L'Atelier is founded and staffed by a team of three native French teachers, each with over ten years classroom experience.
This school represents our vision of the French école maternelle (a school for children nursery through kindergarten age). In this model, we offer:
- A strong academic focus.
- A warm and nurturing environment.
- Complete French language immersion.
Going beyond the traditional experience of an école maternelle, we place additional emphasis on:
- Creative expression.
- Inquiry and problem solving.
- The goal of creating global citizens.
Our Teaching Methods:
Learning through Manipulation:
The key word here is play. When children physically manipulate the world around them, they are experimenting, feeling things, handling things, and attempting to make sense of what they observe. We use play as a medium for guided exploration; our children make discoveries then translate those discoveries into knowledge and, finally, into understanding. Play is the child’s work, through which they begin to use reason, organize their thoughts abstractly, and make predictions.
Use of the Scientific Method:
The key word here is questioning. We place the child in a context where he or she will raise questions about his/her surroundings. The child first wonders, then hypothesizes, then experiments, finally observing his / her results and answering the original question, complete with the satisfaction of self-accomplishment. This approach is traditionally associated with science, but for children, it is how they grow to understand the perpetual novelties of their environment. In our classroom, the child is always a full participant in his / her learning. The teacher acts as a mentor with no pre-established answer. Because the process centers on investigating a question, we typically use the term unit of inquiry to describe our lesson themes.
The Importance of the Arts:
The key word here is expression. A free imagination is essential to the learning process, especially in young children. Painting, theatre, music, and other combinations of art and movement provide a mixture of creativity and self-expression with the physical experimentation that underpins a child’s intellectual development. Art also allows children to explore and express their feelings through a medium other than speech, to embrace rather than fear strong emotions, and to master them. The child then comes to better understand him or herself, as well as his / her fellow students, who often share the same feelings but may express them in different ways.
We recognize that the preschool years are crucial, as they form the setting in which a child learns how to become a student. We believe it is absolutely necessary that teachers nurture an emotionally secure environment in which their young children can enjoy the learning process and excel and evolve within it. A happy child approaches learning with a calm, eager mind. To that end, we promote a sense of classroom-as-community, a comfortable yet stimulating setting that encourages a child’s natural curiosity and hunger for understanding. We seek, with care, to build explorers, thinkers, and adventurers.
Three terms are key to our philosophy:
- Maternelle accurately describes the close bond that our teachers will develop with their children. We strive to foster the same sense of security and well-being in the classroom as the children enjoy at home. This is why we refer to the school, as in France, as l’école maternelle. The "motherly" approach enables children to form an affectionate bond with the language, a key part of native learning.
- Socialisation means learning to live together, to share and experiment, to recognize and accept each other as individuals within a group, and to view our young classmates as members of a community that we can lean on for support. These concepts help form the foundation of the child’s identity at school.
- Individualisation is reflected in our small class sizes and low student / teacher ratio, which allows us to give the personalized attention and care necessary for young children who are just beginning to develop as students. The fact that each child is his or her own person constantly influences our approach.
Implementation of French Immersion:
Early exposure to a foreign language is essential to successful bilingualism. The first year of an immersion program is typically a “listening year” in which the child observes and forms connections between what he / she hears and the visual clues provided by the teachers. We combine multiple dimensions of literacy and an appeal to the five senses to build comprehension - for example, by using hand gestures and physical objects to describe actions and introduce new words. This approach is modeled after the natural language learning process but in a more intentioned, accelerated form. We establish routines early in class to give our children the confidence to reuse vocabulary themselves, and we use songs and nursery rhymes to foster correct pronunciation.
While our teachers only speak French in the classroom, the children are free to use English or any other language. When a child responds to a teacher in their home language, the teacher reformulates that answer back into French. As the year progresses, we encourage the children to do more of this rephrasing themselves. The second year is increasingly “active,” as a child’s comprehension will have improved and he / she will feel more willing to take risks and address teachers and peers in the target language. Generally, a third of our students are native French speakers, a third speak some French, and a third speak none, so we are able to maintain an atmosphere where children learn not only from the teachers but also in practice with each other.
At L’Atelier, our educational standards are designed à la française. This connotes an emphasis on academic excellence, thought construction, and the importance of effort and diligence in learning new things and finishing one’s work. French methods are generally considered to be more academically rigorous than those of traditional American early childhood education. However, we also highlight individual personality, strengths, and creativity, and we feel that we strike a positive balance between knowledge acquisition and free expression within a supportive environment.
Does my child need to speak French to attend L’Atelier?
No. At L’Atelier, we seek a split ratio in our classes where approximately one third of our students are native French speakers, one third speak or understand some French, and one third have no French experience. Though our teachers use only French in the classroom, and we encourage it in our students, they are permitted to use whichever language makes them feel comfortable.
Does my child need to be toilet trained?
Yes. All of our students must be toilet trained by the start of the school year.
Will my child be able to attend an English-speaking school later on?
Of course. Your child’s time at L’Atelier will not preclude him / her from continuing on to any of the other excellent options in childhood education. A background in a secondary language is typically considered a plus for those students who apply to primarily English schools. We have years of experience and success helping to place former students in the schools of their choice. See Admissions for more on our Exmissions policy.
What about the tests?
Our children perform very well on the ERBs and on the OLSAT. Bilingualism builds a flexible mind that translates knowledge. Your child will not become “confused” between languages.
How do you group children together in the classroom?
We organize the children in small groups reflecting their abilities and work closely with them to make sure they progress at the pace that is right for them.
How do you keep parents updated on classroom activities?
We maintain a private classroom Instagram feed so that parents can see first hand what the children are up to. Each student also develops a personal cahier (notebook / portfolio) that we send home during vacation breaks.
How do you evaluate the children?
In addition to two mid-term parent / teacher conferences, we compile two detailed student transcripts per year to provide parents with information on each child’s academic, social, and linguistic progress.
If you have questions that have not been answered here or elsewhere on our site, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.