Six helpful workbooks for teaching French to preschoolers

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In a previous post, I mentioned one of the workbooks that I had found on our recent trip to France. People travel to France to source fashionable finery, redolent perfume, exceptional art, or any number of other things…Montessori inspired pre-school books? This might be a first…

I went a little crazy buying workbooks for Mon Cœur (MC) while we were there – partly knowing I was going to continue to be at home with her and I wanted support for teaching her en français (in French), and partly out of a crazy dream I have to one day open a Maternelle bilingue (bilingual preschool).  I do miss having a classroom and working with students, so…perhaps one day…

I mainly purchased ones I could use right now with her – the 2-4 age range.  It will give us a good reason to return to France, and we simply didn’t have the room in my luggage for anything else!

Workbooks we’re using and like:

I noticed that the majority of the books were rooted in Montessori values, and stickers were used extensively to make an activity interactive, to provide a manipulative. The stickers are added motivation and MC loves them. Bonus: her little fingers working to peel each sticker are building fine motor skills.

Below are descriptions and a review of each book:

Toute ma maternelle Petite Section (Hachette)

Age range: 3-4 years old

Activities: Eighty-eight activities cover language, writing, math, and discovery of one’s world.  

Sounds, initials, introducing oneself, tracing rounds, straight lines, shapes, giving one’s age, directional prepositions (up/down, behind/in front of), shapes, and counting 1-6 are just some of the activities to be completed.

Personal review: I really like that for each activity, the educational goal is given: Draw rounds, differentiate sizes, memorize a short song and its gestures, find and associate identical images, recognize a three letter word, reproduce a repetitive pattern.  I also love how each activity has a short question to jump start the activity – what’s the weather like today?  Today, it is [x day of week], What time of day is it?  We are in [x season].  Each of these questions is accompanied by pictorial answers for the child to circle.  These questions are repeated throughout the book, so that by the time we finish, these questions will have helped build an understanding of days of the week, seasons, times of day, and weather.

Extras: This book comes with a “whiteboard” page with numbers 1-10 as well as a poster with the alphabet on one side and a picture of a house (and an accompanying story) on the other.

J’apprends à lire et à écrire (Hachette)

Age range: 3-6 years old

Activities: Fifty-five activities start out with simple one letter- one sound correspondences, and two letters-one sound, and then complex phonemes.  Letters are presented in a progressive order of difficulty, script (cursive) writing is introduced, and pictures are used to practice with words containing the focus letter.  As the book progresses the student goes from reading and writing single letters to syllables, to simple words and even phrases.

Personal review: I am not sure if I bought this book more for MC or me!  I am always looking for ways to improve my pronunciation, and this book presents letter combination and sound correspondences that will help me to (correctly, hopefully) teach MC the proper pronunciation to help with reading, speaking, and writing.

Extras: The book comes with lettres rugueuses, rough letters for little fingers to peel, place, and trace.

J’apprends à compter jusqu’à 100 et à calculer (Hachette)

Fun fact: in France, they begin counting with their thumb, instead of index finger.

Age range: 3-6 years old

Activities: This book presents 85 lessons for counting and the four operations in a Montessori-style manner, with raised numbers, and images depicting math used in everyday life.  There are lots of visuals to help introduce numbers, counting (one to one and counting on fingers), and writing numbers.

Personal review: Each lesson begins with a picture to make an observation. I love this starting point to begin a lesson, where MC and I can have a conversation about what we see and then relate that to the lesson. For math, at least through the number ten there is a focus on the numerical symbol, the number on the face of a die, the number as represented by fingers on the hand, as well as counting physical objects.

Extras: Stickers to use for activities as well as chiffres rugueux, rough numbers for little fingers to peel, stick, and trace.

Mon cahier Montessori des lettres (Nathan)

Age range: 3-6 years old

Activities: The alphabet is presented, letter by letter, not in alphabetical order, rather in order of difficulty.    This is more of a scrapbook where MC can collect pictures of friends, pictures from magazines, and stickers from the book for each letter of the alphabet.

Personal review: I think a notebook of letters could just as easily be made from scratch, using a composition notebook and pictures. It is handy though to have the stickers, and have a book with a researched order to present letters. I appreciate the guidance given to parents at the beginning of the book regarding letter order, and how to introduce the letters. This is a great ready-made book to allow us to survey the world around us (and to use the sticker inventory at the back of the book) to find and categorize people and things that begin with each letter of the alphabet.

Extras: Stickers

Ma Maternelle avec Montessori (Larousse)

Age range: 3-4 years old

Activities: This book presents a mix of activities, 85 total, that teach the letters of the alphabet, counting, arranging, and categorizing, and discovery and games.  The letters are arranged in alphabetical order here, with math and observational activities alternating between each letter.

Personal review: We have only just started this book, although MC loves it. For the letter pages, instead of having her practice writing a letter across a whole line, I have her practice tracing the large letter. MC is three and a half, so the thought of making her sit with a pencil and make a line of A’s is not appealing to either of us. She enjoys finding the letters in her environment and in print, and we make letters with play dough and tracing with our fingers. Leaving this part of the book blank for later, it will let us go back to review the letters and then practice writing.

In order to give consistency and repetitive practice of letters, we’ll be following the alphabet order in the book reviewed just above, Mon Cahier Montessori des lettres.

Extras: Sticker alphabet and cut out manipulatives for geometric shapes (for sizing and categorizing activities).

à la maternelle Je découvre et j’apprends en images! (Magnard)

Age range: From 2 years old

Activities: The 19 activities in this book are fairly short, designed to go with a toddler’s attention span.  Each theme has one large picture to talk about, with a question, a short fact, and then 2-3 activities incorporating simple graphics (making dots, coloring, tracing a route), math concepts (recognizing smallest and largest objects, recognizing shapes, coloring pictures that have a certain number of objects), discovery (recognizing fish from a set of other animals,  animals with horns, teeth, etc, ), language (matching objects that belong with certain characters, finding the object that does not belong, circling named objects), and reading (letters).

Personal review: I’ve used this book the most so far, as it is simple to use, I can skip around, and its focus is mainly on themes for discovering the world around MC.   Some themes include in the kitchen, the Three Little Pigs, the beach, at the market, pirates, the bath, flowers, etc.  

This book has been great because we can complete an activity in one sitting of about ten minutes, it introduces vocabulary to MC, and she loves talking about the large picture.  If we are starting a themed unit that is also presented in here, or reading a book that incorporates one of the themes, I love to use this book in tandem to reinforce concepts.

Extras: Stickers for certain activities. One sticker per page with one of two characters disguised to fit in with the activity’s theme.

What questions do you have about how MC is learning French or the workbooks we have chosen?

Read more about our France trip in the posts below:

Or, visit my Instagram for more pictures from the trip. 

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