Early Childhood / Maternelle (TPS-K)

Beginning with our new Toute Petite Section class (early preschool for 2 ½ year-olds), FAIS uses play-based inquiry in a nurturing French immersion learning environment as a springboard to the IB Primary Years Programme for preschool through 5th grade.

Maternelle (Cycle 1 in the French curriculum) is the early childhood section of our Lower School, and includes Toute Petite Section (TPS), preschool, prekindergarten, and kindergarten.

Toute Petite Section (Early Preschool for 2 ½ year-olds)

FAIS has always welcomed children as young as 2 ½ years old in our mixed-age preschool classes. But we’ve long believed our youngest students would best flourish in an environment that meets their unique needs. In fall 2018, we opened Toute Petite Section (TPS) – our very first class structured specifically for 2 ½ year-olds!

Like the rest of our Maternelle classes in preschool-kindergarten, TPS is a nurturing French immersion setting where:

  • Authentic connections with the natural world are used as extensions of the classroom – from experiences in the garden to explorations in the forest, nature trails, and Discovery Park
  • Each child is able to identify, negotiate, and take risks, as well as create meaning through inquiry-based learning
  • Concept-driven curriculum offers a springboard to our International Baccalaureate (IB) framework
  • Children make sense of and connect to their social world and spaces
  • Early immersion in language and culture makes it easier to learn, read, and build vocabulary
  • Children are given the time to develop at an appropriate pace and in a natural learning rhythm
How the class is structured:
  • Class size up to 12 students
  • One French teacher (native speaking) and one teaching assistant

  • Enrollment throughout the school year, once students turn 2½ years old

How TPS is different:
  • Play-based education, using the senses to explore and experiment

  • Child-driven, creating more engagement and ownership of the learning process
  • An emphasis on materials carefully selected for their potential to enhance learning and discovery.

  • Preparation for the structure of preschool (ages 3 - 4)

  • Gradually teaches the capability of working and playing in a group with peers in TPS but also with other members of the community ( from K to 5th grade)  who will be invited to participate in, model and guide activities and experiences.

  • Introduces the concept of guided inquiry and how things work (form, function, and causation)

  • A schedule tailored to a stronger need for flexibility which allows for more time outdoors and helps connect students to nature while developing an appreciation of their natural environment.

  • A smaller child to adult ratio.

“I could not be more thrilled with the TPS program. There is clearly so much care, attention, and purpose put into the classroom. My daughter looks forward to school, is happy to be there, and drop-off is a joy knowing she is happy and I have full confidence she is in the best care.  I love that they spend so much time outdoors, discovering and playing.”

Preschool, Prekindergarten, Kindergarten

With an emphasis on socialization, this section of Maternelle (Cycle 1) helps students build strong relationships with other children and adults, establish autonomy and independent identities, and further develop their motor and language skills.

An overall objective of the program is to provide a wide variety of experiences that will prepare them for more systematic learning in Cycles Two and Three. Kindergarten is an essential period of transition. In kindergarten the goals of Cycle One are met and the precepts of Cycle Two—the fundamental concepts that are specific to the first and second grades—are introduced.

Learning to Work Together

Our primary objective is to teach children how to interact with one another and to begin to learn basic norms of social interaction. They will assume responsibilities according to their capabilities, learning the importance of accounting for their actions and listening to others. They will develop language skills that will enable them to better exchange ideas and feelings.


Children are prompted and encouraged by teachers to provide oral accounts of their first experiences, thereby truly learning how to communicate. Teachers also encourage students to apply their new language constructions; specific language exercises also contribute to children’s awareness of syntax.

Through oral expression, students learn to:

  • Engage themselves in a variety of spontaneous verbal exchanges
  • Express themselves in a variety of situations such as dialogue, story, explanation, justification, and summary
  • Enunciate well
  • Use vocabulary that is appropriate to purpose and context
  • Progressively learn a complex syntax structure through language games and repetition 


Exploration of written language:
As students become better acquainted with oral expression in Cycle One, books and other written materials are used in the classroom to help establish their growing familiarity and comfort level with written language and literature. 

Movement and Physical Activity

Physical activities undertaken in Cycle One help develop motor-skills harmony and intellectual and emotional development. Action and language are key components in children’s development as they explore the space around them. First, children exercise their motor exploration faculties with freedom of movement and action. Gradually, they move from handling familiar situations and learn to adapt to their expanding environment. Over time, the activities gravitate toward the discovery of self, of others, and of the surrounding environment.

Discovery of the World

Children discover the world immediately around them, both natural and manmade. They will construct knowledge through observation or manipulation and will verbalize and offer critical judgments based on their experiments. Oral expression is a major component in this field of activity, which includes the discovery of the worlds of science, math, history, and geography.

Imagination and Creativity

In Cycle One children develop their sensitivities, imaginations, and abilities to create. The main goal is to encourage children to discover the arts and to react to them emotionally. Through varied exposure to works of art, children expand their imaginations and learn to express their feelings. Children take pleasure in building, inventing, and in the exchange of ideas, feelings, and impressions.

Becoming a Student

The overall goals of Cycle One are to teach our students to understand what a school is; what distinguishes themselves from others and makes them unique; how they should live with one another in a structured community with a clear set of rules; and how they fit in the overall structure of the school. Becoming a student is a progressive process that requires the teacher to use both flexibility and rigor.

Language Immersion

Prekindergarten story time in the FAIS Library


Language immersion is more than learning another language. FAIS uses language as a lens to help students understand other cultures, think with a global perspective, and navigate the broader world around us.

Learn more

International Baccalaureate

Lower School science class in the FAIS Forest


The IB is a worldwide network of schools committed to creating a better and more peaceful world by developing inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people. FAIS uses the IB as a framework for delivering our French-based curriculum in a language immersion setting.

Learn more

Stories from FAIS Families

Grandmother with granddaughter


The reasons our families love FAIS are as broad as their backgrounds. We hope these firsthand experiences help capture what it’s like to be a member of our community, from parents and grandparents to students and alumni.

Learn more

Questions? Want to learn more?

Finding the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.

Whether you’re beginning your journey with preschool, prekindergarten, or kindergarten…or weighing your options for middle school…let’s explore how your child would flourish in our community.