Inquiry-Based and Whole-Body Math Activities for French Immersion Senior Kindergarten and Grade 1 Students

Area(s) of Focus: math, kindergarten
Division(s): Primary
Level(s): Kindergarten, Grade 1

This project examines the ways in which kindergarten students develop math knowledge and skills, and French mathematics vocabulary, through whole-body activities embedded in rich play-based learning opportunities.

As French Immersion educators in the Thames Valley District School Board, we welcome students to French Immersion in senior kindergarten. Some students arrive with a year of school experience and others begin school for the first time with us in their senior kindergarten year. Very few students arrive speaking French. It is important for their educators to help them build essential foundations by setting up a math-rich, play-based environment, providing intentional materials to explore concepts, modelling French math vocabulary, and asking meaningful, open-ended and thought-provoking questions. We must be attentive to their overall development in general, and their language acquisition in particular. Often this involves “teasing out” their comprehension, skills and knowledge in the context of second language learning.

We investigated and acquired a wide variety of materials suitable to large-scale, whole body activity, such as large number lines that students can walk on, Giant Polydrons, Giant Octoplay and Clever Circles. Large ten frames, an open hundreds chart, a target, an open number line and other activities have been painted on our school yard, allowing students to expand their learning outdoors and explore mathematical thinking in unstructured times such as recess.

Team Members

  • Rebecca Stewart

    Thames Valley District School Board

  • Kelly Johnson

    Thames Valley District School Board

  • Mariam Beshara

    Thames Valley District School Board

  • Erica Stefina

    Thames Valley District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Understood how the students’ early numeracy skills evolved and how this related to their French language development
  • Reframed our thinking to address the diverse needs of the students in our full-day kindergarten classes
  • Investigated, selected and acquired materials that furthered the development of numeracy and literacy skills
  • Explored and learned about how manipulatives can be used in different ways
  • Observed and documented student growth using our new 2016 Kindergarten Program and Growing Success Addendum
  • Collaborated with a team of professionals in our building including the Instructional Coach, teachers, ECEs and the principal to develop a growth mindset for educators and students

Activities and Resources

The release time provided through the TLC project and through support of the principal allowed us to meet with our full-day kindergarten team and supports to work towards our professional learning goals.Our principal provided additional release time so that we could include our ECEs. Having time to explore the materials was very important in anticipating and planning for students’ French language needs.

We communicated with our school council and they funded the painting in the school yard.

Professional Development opportunities also informed our thinking about a variety of related topics, including pedagogical documentation, universal supports, learning trajectories, invitations and provocations, and helped to expand and enrich our mathematical interactions with our students.

We accessed many resources, including Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler about developing a growth mindset, What to Look For: Understanding and Developing Student Thinking in Early Numeracy by Alex Lawson, and Taking Shape by Joan Moss about young children’s geometric and spatial thinking.

Unexpected Challenges

Staffing changes for the 2016–2017 school year and school reorganization in October caused us to restructure our timeline and change the team members. The flexibility associated with the TLC grant was greatly appreciated!

We had difficulty getting information from our school board about how the release time would be paid for. In the end, they sent us an invoice that included a statutory fee that we had not anticipated, so we went slightly over budget.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

As we introduced new materials in our play-based programs, we observed as the children explored materials, and how their play and thinking evolved. We noted key learning, growth and next steps. We were excited about the growth in student thinking and the varied French vocabulary that came into play. Our students’ thinking took us in some unexpected directions. For example, their development of numeracy was very closely tied to geometric and spatial thinking. Another connection was using procedural language to describe what a student created. Problem-solving, both mathematical and social, was constantly part of the process.  Working with large scale materials and whole-body activities fits well with the parameters of The Kindergarten Program, provides opportunities to identify and address different needs, and appeals to a wide range of learners and learning styles.


We prepared a Google slide presentation which we shared at a staff meeting. We have also shared our project informally at professional development with kindergarten educators from our school board. Our colleagues have been excited about our project, and about the availability of TLC funding.

Project Evaluation

We felt that our project was successful because educators and students all learned a great deal. French language acquisition, mathematical knowledge and problem-solving were extended and enriched. As we take a step back and prepare the Communication of Learning for each of our students, we are noting the wide variety of learning that took place.

Resources Created

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