First Week Of School Bus Craft Activity for Maternelle

Can you take a second to imagine this scenario?

Pretend that it's about 7am, and you're driving a huge, noisy, yellow bus through your neighbourhood, after getting up super early to inspect the bus and make sure it's safe.

You pick up student after student - who may range in age from 3 (YUP - here in NS, we have 3-year-olds who take the bus!!!) to 18.

After an hour or so, your bus is full of kids - sleepy kids, excited kids, nervous kids, hyper kids, hungry kids, kids with "attitude"... all kinds of kids!

Now imagine having to supervise all of those kids... while also keeping them safe on the road.

Watching for errant drivers, deer/wildlife, and who knows what else!

Driving through rainstorms, ice storms, snowstorms, in 30+ degree heat with no AC, etc.

All the while knowing that one mistake, one lapse in judgment, or one distraction (even though your bus is FULL of distractions!) could lead to tragedy for any of those kids and their families.

I can't imagine being a bus driver, and I truly think they are among the unsung heroes of the education system.

Can you imagine driving all those kids around and making sure they get to and from school safely every day?


I feel like I owe it to them to do a little bus safety review in the classroom, right from the first week of school.

A bus safety discussion and craft help me do my part in making sure my students are as calm and safe on the bus as possible.

Read on to see what we do!

School bus safety is SUCH an important topic, for every grade! Check out this blog post for some maternelle-specific activities you can do with your students to facilitate a school bus safety discussion. FREE bus craft template included! #frenchteachers #maternelle #larentrée

To kick off our discussion, I like to read the book Sami va à l’école by Mary Labatt.

A Quick & Easy Way to Celebrate Classroom Birthdays en Maternelle

When I first started teaching maternelle, I must admit... I liked to make things complicated.

Not on purpose, of course - I just wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted my students to have THE BEST EXPERIENCE EVER in my class.

So I had treasure chests and classroom jobs, students of the week and elaborate show and tell plans.

And for my students' birthdays, I had a big fancy poster where I spent ages handwriting their birthdays and adding pretty stickers. I had a special crown for my students to wear, and I gave them a gift (from the dollar store, but still!) and it was just... a lot.

A lot of time spent on things that my students could really do themselves.

Since that first year, I have definitely calmed down.

I work hard to ensure that my students still have an amazing experience in my class, but I have found that my limited time is much better spent on developing amazing lesson plans and actual learning activities, rather than birthday celebrations and fancy decorations.

(Of course, if you have time to do those things and THEY MAKE YOU HAPPY, then continue doing them!!! I just was no longer enjoying them after the first year - I had so much on my plate and was looking for things to take off of it).

Now, I make it my motto to never do things that my students can do themselves.

This includes birthday displays!

Read on to see what I do now.

At the start of the school year, we want our students to feel welcome and included in our classrooms.

One fun activity that I like to do during the first week of school in maternelle is a birthday cupcake display.

(And no, I'm not giving my maternelle students actual birthday cupcakes!)

Introducing Classroom Rules in Maternelle

We all know that maternelle is a... special adventure, especially in September ;)

When we school starts in September, some of our students may have never been in an environment where they have to follow group rules before.

(Or ANY rules ;) haha)

I remember one year having a student think it was okay to start a game of TAG in the classroom, while I was teaching!

Our students in maternelle are just getting familiar with school and all of the routines that come with it. Plus, they're really young, so sometimes learning rules takes some time to stick!

There's also the fact that not all of our students speak and/or understand French yet. So, how do I introduce classroom rules in maternelle? Keep reading to learn all of my teaching tips and tricks!

Introducing Classroom Rules in Maternelle

On Day 1, of course, we talk about classroom rules and expectations. Like I said above, this can be a challenge since not everyone can speak/understand French!

Laminating Tips for Classroom Teachers

I think I speak for educators everywhere when I say that laminating is both a blessing and a curse!

While it does wonders to make our teaching materials last for years, it is so incredibly time-consuming!

We all have a love/hate relationship with laminating, don't we? And who else only has one laminator for the whole school?! How are we supposed to get anything laminated before we need it?!

All jokes aside, I've found ways to make laminating more efficient over my years in the classroom.

I'm sure you might have already heard of some of these tips, but I hope that others are new to you!

We can master the beast that is laminating by sharing our best practices and time-saving tips...right? So, keep reading to learn about my suggestions for you.

Laminating Tips for Classroom Teachers

First of all, laminating is way more fun if you do it while you watch Netflix. ;) #justsaying

Also, it goes much faster if you can enlist some help!

I get my husband to help whenever possible. This means that I have to choose a show on Netflix that we both like, but it’s worth it!

I also sometimes send things home with parent volunteers to cut out. Only you can teach your students, but pretty much anyone can cut out laminated stuff!

Why You Should Sing With Your Maternelle Students

Rhyming is fun, and knowing how to rhyme is very important for anyone wanting to learn to read.

Last week, I shared with you how much little Andrea loved to rhyme, and how crazy she drove her parents with The Name Song (along with begging for 100 bedtime stories per night, most of which rhymed).

(If you missed it, you can read more about that HERE.)

I also explain how (according to a quick Google search - I did not personally do any research/check the validity/sources of this statement), fewer and fewer kids are starting school adept at rhyming, likely because fewer and fewer parents are teaching their children nursery rhymes and reading them lots of rhyme-y bedtime stories.

This is a problem for us maternelle teachers!

There is a correlation between rhyming mastery and reading readiness, so if we want our students to learn to read (and read well), we have got to make sure that they have rhyming down pat.

And, if they aren't learning nursery rhymes at home with their parents at the same rate we did when we were growing up, I think that we teachers should step in and provide them with that opportunity.


Sooo many teachers tell me that they "can't sing".

I'm sorry, but SO?!??!

Your kinders don't care, no one else can hear you, and comptines, chansons, and rhyming are WAY TOO IMPORTANT for your students to be missing out on.

So sing!!

If you still need convincing, read on for all of the reasons why you've got to be singing and chanting with your maternelle students (whether you think you're a good singer or not!) 😉

Think that you don't *really* need to sing with your maternelle students? Are you shy to sing with them or avoid it because you think you're not a good enough singer? Don't!! Songs and chants are SO IMPORTANT for our maternelle students if we want them to become strong readers - check out this blog post for all the reasons why!

(This post is specifically about teaching and practising rhymes via songs and poems - if you want to know more about why teaching our students to rhyme is so important in the first place, check out my first blog post in this mini rhyming series RIGHT HERE.)

We can teach SO MANY SKILLS via chansons and comptines and the rhythm and rhyme found within them.

Here are just some of the amazing benefits your students will receive:

6 Tips for Teaching Rhyming in Maternelle

When I was a little girl, I went through lots of weird phases.

I don't remember learning to rhyme per say, but I DO remember being obsessed with "The Name Song".

I think it was from a TV show, or possibly sung by Sharon, Lois, & Bram, but either way, it went like this:

Andrea, Andrea Bo-Bandrea
Banana Fana Fo-Fandrea
Me Mi Mo Mandrea

(Substitute any name of your choosing for Andrea, and rhyme accordingly).

I remember singing it over and over and over in the car, putting in everyone's name that I could think of.

I'm sure my parents LOVED it 😉

I don't know if that song was how I first learned to rhyme, or if it just provided me with (ample) practice, but my love of rhyming continued throughout my childhood.

One of my few memories from elementary school is actually writing a poem of which my second-grade teacher was so proud, she had the principal read it over the PA system.

(Pretty sure it wasn't that great - I remember the opening line being "The wind is blowing through the trees / honey is being made by bees"... passive verbs = gross! haha).

So yes, I loved rhyming as a kid, and had lots of fun playing with sounds in words and figuring out rhymes.

But, sources (aka Google haha) have informed me that kids these days aren't singing annoying rhyme-producing songs with their parents as often, and lots of kids are starting school barely having been read to.

This means that some (or many, depending on your clientele) of your students may start maternelle not knowing what rhymes are, how to identify them, how to anticipate them, and/or how to produce them.

But, if you've read my last blog post, you know that rhyming is mega important, and is a skill that our students need to master if we want them to become successful readers.

How can we help??

Read on for six tips you can use to help you teach and practice rhymes in your maternelle classroom!

Unsure how to introduce rhyming to your maternelle students? Or maybe you're looking for some more quick ways to sneak in some valuable practice time? These 6 tips for teaching rhyming in maternelle are sure to help you get started on the right foot!

Why You Need to Teach Rhyming in Maternelle

Teachers are busy.

We are busy inside of school, and outside of school.

During the school day, we are teaching lessons, wiping noses, tying shoes (jk, I don't tie shoes haha), tracking down lunches, writing notes in agendas, mediating conflicts, and loving our students as if they are our own.

After school (and often before school), we are planning, prepping, answering emails, attending meetings, and you know, trying to live our lives.

We have lots to teach!

In maternelle especially, we have so many things to teach that don't even necessarily fall under curriculum... but we know that our students won't be really ready for learning until these things are addressed.

Sometimes, we spend all of September and October just helping our students learn how to follow a routine and open their lunch containers... and then, suddenly it's Christmas and we feel like we haven't taught anything at all.

At this time, if you're anything like me, you might start to feel some pressure.

You might start to want to rush.

These kiddos need to learn to read! They need to write! They need to count and speak and listen! They need to be ready for grade one, and time is running out!!!

This blog post is a reminder (for you, but also for me - I have a habit of looking back on old blog posts to see what I was doing in previous years when I start to feel lost) that it's okay to go slow.

Some skills (especially pre-reading skills) might seem really obvious and like every student should know them.

We can probably skip those, right?

We can work on them in small groups later, but students who are "ready" to read need to start reading!

Like rhyming - surely every 5-year-old can rhyme??

We can put up a quick anchor chart and talk about it for five minutes, and they'll get it.



Rhyming is mega important, and a crucial skill to develop in your maternelle students.

Luckily, it doesn't take a lot of time to practice, but you've gotta do it. Over and over!

I didn't always realize how important it was, and I must admit that I didn't always spend as much time on it as I should have.

But, I am always trying to grow and improve as a teacher, so I figured I should look more into it.

Everyone kept saying that rhyming was important, but no one was really saying why.

But, I did some research, and now I can share that info with you!

We all know that rhyming is something that you need to teach your maternelle students... but do you know WHY it is such a crucial skill for them to learn? If you teach maternelle or première année, be sure to check out this blog post to find out just how much being adept at rhyming can help your pre-reading students! #maternelle #lesrimes #consciencephonologique

The first interesting piece of information that I found had to do with the correlation between rhyming and reading readiness.

Did you know that knowing their nursery rhymes is a predictor to how well your students will learn to read??

How to Quickly Warm Your Students up for Guided Reading

If you've been following my blog a bit, you may have already seen my post about My Favourite Ways to Warm up my Students for Guided Reading.

But let's be honest for a second, here...

Some days are less than ideal in maternelle, and you won't always have time for an elaborate warm-up activity!

Take Tuesday, February 19th for example.

How do I remember the exact date?

Well, that was the day of the February full moon!

Enough said, I'm guessing, haha - if you teach kids (of any age!), I'm sure you know EXACTLY what kind of day it was!

My students were literally and figuratively Bouncing. Off. The. WALLS. 

There was NO WAY they could do their literacy centres for 20 minutes straight, affording me all the time I would need to work with my groups. 

But, I had to see my groups, so I tried anyway, and WOW. 

By the end of Round 1, I had one student covered head to toe in marker, and another who apparently ate an entire crayon.

That day, I decided I needed to add a quick-but-effective guided reading warm-up alternative to my repertoire; something that would help me get through my groups as quickly as humanly possible.

Just for full moon days and classroom party days ;) 

Read on for my new favourite 2 minute guided reading warm-up activity!

How to Use Nonsense Words to Practice Decoding

Teaching five-year-olds to read is super fun, and one of my favourite parts of the job.

But, it isn't always easy!

Most students catch on to the idea of looking at the picture to help them figure out an unknown word, and many grasp looking at the first letter pretty quickly, too.

BUT, struggles can ensue when you ask your students to look at the rest of the letters, and blend the sounds together.

My maternelle students can feel really overwhelmed and stressed out when I ask them to "read" a new word.

And, finding engaging ways to get my students to practice decoding/blending in French without discouraging them used to be challenging.

SO MANY FRENCH WORDS in their books have sons composés or letters that don't even talk!

My kiddos would be so excited to come across a short word that they felt they could blend... like auto, for example.

They would take a deep breath, look at the word, and say " ah-u-to!"

And, of course, I had to tell them that no, actually, ah-u-to isn't actually a word, and even though they did correctly blend all of the letters, two of the letters work together to make a magic sound, etc. etc.

Frustrating for them, and frustrating for me!

I wanted to find a collection of short words where every letter says its sound, that would be easy for them to blend - there are piles of lists like that in English.

You know, like cat, hat, pig, pen, etc. etc.

But, there aren't actually that many in French.

So, my solution?

4 Rules for Teaching Syllables en français

Confession time!

As you probably know, I am anglophone. I grew up speaking English, in an English household, in an English community.

I fell in love with the French language in the sixth grade and never looked back, but I was taught completely in English up until grade seven.

(In grade six, I had the most amazing Core French teacher who completely opened my eyes to the French language and got me so excited to give learning a second language a go!)

Everything I was taught about reading, grammar, etc. as a child was in English.

Now that I am teaching 5-year-olds en français, I have to be sure I am teaching them the right things.

Most things are pretty evident, but not all!

For example... syllables!

English and French have different rules about syllables and when to divide a word into parts/how many parts are in a word.

Most of my students come from English-speaking homes as well, so I wanted to be sure I understood the rules correctly before trying to teach them.

And, it seems like not everyone is exactly clear on the rules for dividing words into syllables - even different resources/blog posts/etc say different things!

But guys, I LOVE rules, so I had to figure out exactly what French syllable rules are.

I did quite a bit of investigating on syllable rules and figured I might as well share them with you on my blog, so you maybe won't have to spend as much time as I did trying to figure it all out!

Are you an anglophone teacher teaching in a French early elementary classroom? Or, do you just need to brush up on the official rules of dividing words into syllables en français before you begin teaching them? Check out this blog post for four easy to understand rules for teaching syllables to French students!

How to Start the Year with Pocket Chart Poetry in your French Primary Classroom

Has this ever happened to you in maternelle?

It's September, and your kindergarten students know pretty much nothing about being in school.

You're bustling about trying to teach them how to properly use scissors and open their lunch boxes... forget about learning to read and write!

At the beginning of the year in maternelle, it can feel like you are putting out fires and running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Our main goal is to keep everyone happy, alive, and in one piece!

I've always struggled with letting go of the idea of jumping right into learning.

We have so much to cover, and so little time!

Plus, what in the world do you even DO with these 20 five-year-olds if you don't start teaching right away?!

I don't like wasting time.

Spending all of September and October learning how to walk in a line and use a glue sponge can feel like a waste of time sometimes, even though I *know* it's an important and crucial investment.

But man, sometimes, I just want to TEACH!!

This year, I snuck something new into our September/October routine, and it helped us out a lot.

This new activity helped my students pick up on some important academic skills while also learning about our routine and my expectations, so I felt like I was doing my job... and my students were building the foundation they needed for the rest of the year (behaviour-wise AND academically).

Curious about what I did differently this September?

Read on to find out!

Looking for a perfect activity to add to your alphabet routine in your French primary classroom? Pocket chart poems are perfect for la rentrée in maternelle and/or in première année. Check out this blog post for some tips and ideas for helping your students start the year with French pocket chart poetry!

How to Do Guided Reading with Students Who Have Limited French

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend of mine who teaches in another school board.

(We both teach en français, but I teach with the francophone board, whereas she is teaching French immersion with an anglophone board).

We both teach maternelle, and so we experience many of the same experiences and frustrations.

Even though my students have French heritage, most of them do not speak French at home, so it can be challenging for them to reach our expectations and outcomes.

Our outcomes assume that they DO speak French, and fluently.

One difficulty my friend and I both share is that even though lots of our students can't really speak French yet, we are still expected to teach them how to read.

Guy. I don't know if you know this, but...

You can't read if you can't speak!

It feels so silly to me that we are expecting our students to LEARN TO READ (aka use all THREE types of clues - visual, structure, and sense) when they can't even speak yet.

How is that fair to our students?!?!

If a student can't speak, they can't use the structure or the sense to help them read.

The end!

They can use the visual, sure... but how frustrating must it be for our students to try and decode a word like "hippocampe" based solely on the visual clues, when in English (or their first language), they could simply look at the picture and know the unknown word must be "seahorse"?


Teach them to "read" we must, and we do, but ouf! - what a unique challenge for us, eh?

Before we can get these students to successfully read even a simple level one book, they will need to practice the sentence structure AND the vocabulary over and over and over again.

Since my friend and I were sharing the same frustrations, I assume it is not a challenge unique to us.

I thought you might be looking for some tips and tricks to help with this, too.

So, read on for some of my tips & tricks for doing guided reading with these students who aren't yet speaking much French.

It can be a huge challenge to teach your French immersion students to read if they don't even know how to speak French yet. Check out this blog post for some ideas to help you meet these students at their level! #lectureguidee #maternelle #frenchimmersion

How to Reuse Your French Classroom Posters for Student Référentiels

If you're a teacher, I am CERTAIN what I'm about to say is something you already know from first-hand experience, but teachers don't receive a lot of (any?) money to help outfit their classroom.

I had to start my teaching career with recycled alphabet posters - none of which matched!

My students were probably so confused because in one area of the classroom, D was for dragon, in another, D was for dauphin, and for their writing folder linking charts, D was for dinosaure!

But I didn't have much choice - I didn't have the money to buy three copies of everything, or the time to make three versions of the same alphabet myself.

I've gotten a bit smarter and a bit more resourceful over the years, so today I want to share a little tip for you that has worked really well for me and my students.

We need to create/purchase sooo many resources for our classrooms, so today I will share a way to "double dip" and re-purpose any digital posters that you buy on TPT!

Everyone knows that teachers have to spend money out of their own pockets in order to stock their classrooms. If you've every purchased digital posters (alphabet, numbers, colours, etc.), check out this blog post for a simple tutorial on how you can reuse them for student référentiels, too!

*Before I get started, I want to take a second to remind you that pretty much anything you purchase on TPT is for ONE classroom only. You can check it out for sure on each individual product's Terms of Use page, but that's the default. If you want to share a resource with a colleague, you can purchase another license at a reduced rate on your purchases page. This is a tutorial for how to repurpose one purchase for your OWN classroom, not for someone else's! Thanks so much for respecting our time :)

How to Make the Most out of Your Small Group Math Time (en maternelle)

Fun fact: prior to last year, I always taught math whole-group.

I knew small group math would be valuable, but I didn't have the TIME to sit down and figure it out, and my students were still getting great results with how I was teaching math whole-group.

(I do a workshop model, with hands-on practice with a partner every single day, so my students were still getting lots of great math experiences.)

Buuuuut, as you may or may not know, I missed half of last year because I was out on maternity leave.

I came back to work in January, and I felt so behind in math!

My students still hadn't even mastered numbers 1-5, and not only had I not taught any content yet, but it often takes me a few weeks to get the workshop model off the ground.

I knew I wouldn't have enough time to make sure every student was meeting every outcome in the few months I had left.

With whole-group math, it can be hard to see who isn't grasping each concept until it's time for evaluations. By then, most of the class is usually ready to move on.

It can also be challenging to make sure every single student is staying on task and making the most of their hands-on practice.

If a single set of partners gets off task, you may have to spend all your time helping that group... and completely miss what the other students are doing.

It was simply impossible to make sure everyone was always writing numbers correctly, counting correctly, using 10 frames left to right, etc. - I'm only one person!

I still LOVE teaching math whole group, I do still teach math whole-group every day, and I still think it's extremely valuable.

BUT, I needed something more last year. When I finally sat down and hashed it out, I found something that I loved and wanted to continue with this year, too...

Small group math!

Read on to see what our routine looks like.

Looking for ways to make the most of your small group math time in your French primary classroom? Check out these tips and example routine and give small group math a go!

How to Get Started with Guided Reading in Maternelle

This is my seventh year teaching maternelle, and it STILL blows my mind I get to help teach children to read.

I remember my very first year teaching, when I had my first ever guided reading group sitting across from me at the table. 

I had absolutely NO IDEA what to do with them!!!

I had three pairs of eyes staring expectantly at me and no idea how to even START to teach them how to read the words on the pages of their new level one books. 

You need to know so many things to be able to read... what do you teach first? 

How can you make your students feel successful from the very first lesson?

I think other grades have an advantage when it comes to teaching reading (aside from the fact that their students' brains are older and more ready haha) - their students have all already been taught at least *something*, and have a jumping off point.

But what do you do when your students are starting from nothing?? 

How do you get guided reading off the ground? Where do you even BEGIN?!

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

I actually don't start my guided reading lessons with small groups.

I start them whole-group!

What?? How can that be? you may be wondering.

Well, read on to find out exactly what I mean!

Do you teach Kindergarten in French (French immersion or in a francophone school), and struggle to get started with guided reading? This blog post will help ensure you get off on the right foot with your maternelle students!

5 Blog Posts from 2018 You May Have Missed

We all know teachers are busy.

And I mean, BUSY.

I thought I was busy before, and then I had a baby, and all I can say is WOW.

You teachers out there with more than one child and no stay at home parent, you ladies & gents are the real heroes of the world. 

2018 was a whole new experience for me.

I went back to work when Leah was 5 months old, and her dad stayed home with her (thank you Canada for amazing maternity/parental leaves!)

Even with Ben at home, life got CRAZY and I had to get really good at prioritizing and really bad at procrastinating. 

(I have always been a procrastination queen, so it was a hard habit to unlearn 😉)

As a family, we have our feet under us a lot more solidly now and are once again finding time to do the things we enjoy.

For me, that means going to the beach, playing hockey, and stalking teacher blogs!

In case your 2018 was as insane as mine, I decided to compile a little list for you of my top 5 blog posts you may have missed in 2018.

As I said last week, I posted a LOT of content in 2018, and unless you are the most loyal of readers (if you are, THANK YOU! ❤️) it's pretty likely you missed some of it.

The following posts didn't get shared via Facebook or email (yet), and only just started making the rounds on Pinterest, so you may have missed them. 

Click on any of the titles or images to go read the posts in their entirety!

2018 a busy year for you? Check out these five blog posts from Maternelle avec Mme Andrea you may have missed last year!