Teaching programmes and the Common core of knowledge, skills and culture

The Consolidation Cycle (cycle 3)

Cycle 3 has two main objectives: reinforcing the base knowledge learned in Cycle 2 and helping with the transition from primary school to lower secondary school. It covers the last two years of primary school and the first year of lower secondary, in order to reinforce the continuity and consistency of learning between them. The "Sixième" class (first year of lower secondary) therefore occupies a particular place in this cycle, allowing pupils to adapt to the pace, educational organisation and lifestyle of lower secondary school while continuing on from CM1 and CM2 (Cours Moyen 1ère année, age 9-10 and Cours Moyen 2e année, age 10-11). Subjects covered in Cycle 3 include French, Modern Languages (foreign and regional), Art, Music, History of art, Physical and sport education, Civic and moral education, History and Geography, Science and Technology, and Mathematics.

During Cycle 3, pupils consolidate and reinforce everything they have learned in Cycle 2, particularly language proficiency, which is essential to learning other subjects such as French, Mathematics, artistic and physical expression.

During this cycle, pupils are also gradually introduced to academic subjects and their specific knowledge, language, approaches and methods, especially history and geography, science and technology. Pupils' capacity for abstract analysis increases and they begin to produce and structure their thoughts by taking in new knowledge. This introduction to academic subjects is marked during the cycle by the transition from a single teacher covering all subjects in primary school to one teacher per subject in the first year of lower secondary school.


Cycle 2 focused on the acquisition of reading and writing skills; in Cycle 3, the teaching of French helps to reinforce this knowledge, which is essential for all other subjects. The central objective is language proficiency, ensuring that all pupils can read and write independently so that they begin Cycle 4 with the skills they need to continue their education. This proficiency is achieved through daily writing practice and regular, numerous reading and oral activities, complemented by grammar, spelling and vocabulary activities that help them understand how the French language works and learn its rules.

During Cycle 3, the study of literary texts or artistic works takes on an increasingly important role; pupils gradually learn to identify subtext and go beyond the literal meaning to redevelop the work's figurative meaning and offer a simple interpretation.

The main points covered are:

comprehension and oral expression

Pupils learn to use oral language to give explanations, information or opinions in a clear, ordered way, interacting effectively and clearly with their classmates to compare reactions or points of view, refining their thoughts by identifying ideas or formulations to prepare a written piece or speech. They work on reading texts out loud, memorising them and reciting by heart. They practise making short oral presentations in front of the class, relying on notes, a slideshow or other digital tool.


Pupils continue to learn cursive handwriting so that their gestures are automatic and they can write effectively and quickly. They also learn to type on the keyboard and use word processing tools. Pupils write every day, in varied situations, to react to what they have read, to reflect and prepare a requested task, to reformulate or summarise results, to explain or justify what they have done, to express an emotion or personal judgement, or to exercise their imagination. They acquire a level of autonomy in their writing, learning to rework their own text and make use of drafts, notes and successive versions. By the end of the cycle, they are capable of writing a text of one to two pages in response to a precise, organised and coherent objective, in legible handwriting and respecting the spelling rules studied in class.


The goal in Cycle 3 is to develop independent readers, both at school and at home, who can read out loud or in silence, fluently and quickly. Pupils read a wide variety of texts and documents (tables, graphs, charts, diagrams, images, etc.) so that they are capable of understanding and learning other subjects, and to enrich their vocabulary, feed their imagination, arouse their interest and develop their knowledge and culture. Reading activities are linked to writing activities, whether these are written pieces related to what they are reading (exercise books or reading records for noting their reactions as a reader, copying poems, text extracts, posters, blogs), writing linked to comprehension work (reformulating, answers to questions, notes, diagrams, etc.) or creative writing using their imagination. In CM1 and CM2 (last two years of primary), they read at least seven works each year, and six in the first year of lower secondary: these are works from children's literature and classic literature.

Understanding of language (grammar, spelling, vocabulary)

In Cycle 3, the objective is to ensure solid grammatical knowledge of central concepts, highlight the main regularities of the French language in order to master its spelling, and begin studying the system of the language. Learning spelling (spelling of words and rules on agreement) and verb forms (conjugation) is central; the focus is on regular grammar and the most common cases; irregular or exceptional cases are memorised by pupils if frequently used. By the end of the cycle, pupils will have mastered nominal group agreements (article, noun, adjective), the agreement between the verb and its subject, and agreement of the attribute with the subject. Pupils learn language through practical writing, reading and oral expression activities.

Literary and artistic culture

From the main topics on the curriculum, teachers freely choose literary and artistic works to be studied and encourage personal reading; pupils therefore acquire basic knowledge of a common literary and artistic culture.

Topics on the curriculum:

In CM1 and CM2 (last two years of primary school, age 9 and 10): "Heroes / heroines and characters" (stories, tales or fables about a heroic character, cartoon books, films); "Questions of morality" (stories and fables); "Encountering the strange and magical" (tales and legends, mythological stories); "Experiencing adventures" (adventure novel), "Imagining, describing and celebrating the world" (poetry and tales); "Discovering yourself and forming relationships with others" (coming-of-age novels and autobiographical stories).

- In "sixième": (first year of lower secondary school, age 11) "Monsters and the limits of human beings" (extracts from the Odyssey or Metamorphoses, fairy tales, mythological stories and ancient legends, related to the history syllabus); "Adventure stories" (adventure novels and films); "Creative stories, poetry" (related to the history syllabus, a long extract from Genesis in the Bible); "Defying the strongest: tricks, lies and masks" (fables, stories, farces, plays).

Modern languages (foreign or regional)

Teaching of the modern language chosen in the preparatory class has two main, closely linked objectives: to learn to communicate in another language (understand and express yourself orally and in writing, and have conversations with others) and to discover another culture. Regular, daily exposure to the language helps pupils to make progress, often by using digital media and tools in lessons.

The same curriculum applies to all foreign and regional languages, each teacher adapting it to the language they teach, particularly as regards linguistic knowledge (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation). Five language skills are developed simultaneously: listening and understanding, reading, reacting and conversing, speaking continuously, writing and responding to writing. The skills levels used in all European countries, on a scale from A1 (minimal skills, beginner level) to C2 (advanced skills) are used as a reference point for teachers: by the end of Cycle 3, all pupils should have reached at least level A1 in the five language activities, and may have reached level A2 (intermediate level) in one or more activities.

With regard to the cultural dimension of modern language learning, three areas are explored in Cycle 3:

  • people and everyday life (the human body, clothes, lifestyles, physical and moral characteristics, the urban environment);
  • geographical, historical and cultural landmarks (geographical location, physical features and cultural landmarks, some historical and contemporary figures, a few main historical events specific to the area studied);
  • the imagination (children's literature, tales, myths and legends of the country or region, heroes/heroines and fictional characters, cartoons, TV series and films).

In this way, lifestyles, festivals and traditions, historical and geographical landmarks, cultural personalities in the region or country concerned, famous monuments and works, stories, legends and nursery rhymes are explored and studied in context thanks to the possibilities offered by classroom teaching, various activities, interests and events taking place during the school year. These cultural landmarks promote an awareness of differences, developing curiosity and the desire to communicate. Contacts with schools in the countries or regions concerned can help to facilitate and reinforce this linguistic and cultural learning.


During Cycle 3, the teaching of art gradually leads pupils towards more independent artistic practice, which they also learn to analyse in greater depth. Each pupil's potential for innovation and creativity is developed. Pupils learn how to draw on their own experiences to identify, name and choose the resources they use, questioning the effectiveness of tools, materials, formats and techniques according to their intentions and their projects. Specific work is carried out on the effects produced by the various ways in which artworks are presented to the public, in order to examine the relationship of the work to a display medium (frame, plinth, etc.), a place (wall, floor, closed or open space) and the spectator. Creative activities are continually linked to the exploration of leading contemporary and past, Western and non-Western artworks, in order to nurture pupils' sensitivity and imagination, enrich their capacity for expression and form their judgement. They acquire specific vocabulary so that they can gradually move from describing a work to analysing it.

There are three main topics on the curriculum, studied in each year of the cycle:

  1. artistic representation and presentation methods;
  2. artistic production and the relationship between the object and the space;
  3. the material nature of art production and awareness of the elements included in the work.

Practices are varied: two-dimensional (drawing, painting, collage, etc.), three-dimensional (modelling, sculpture, assembly, installation, etc.) or imagery (photography, video, digital creation).


The teaching of music combines expressive and creative activities, usually in a group, with listening to and analysing a variety of musical works. Its main objectives are to develop pupils' imagination, creativity and capacity for expression, train their ear, learn how to cooperate, shape their artistic culture and improve their capacity for analysis.

In musical practice, pupils reproduce works they have heard or participate in imagining and creating their own. They learn how to use their voices and bodies to sing a simple melody with expression, a song learned by heart through imitation, take full part in a group performance and gradually increase their repertoire of new songs. They also learn how to connect the music they sing to what they hear.

In music listening activities, pupils learn to describe and compare pieces of music from different contexts and identify relationships, resemblances and differences between several works. They structure their artistic culture by learning about a variety of important musical works, from all genres and all eras, suitable for their age group. They exercise critical thinking and express personal opinions by gradually going beyond first impressions and immediate emotions.

History of art

Pupils begin learning this new subject in the first year of Cycle 3 at the same time as history. From the first year of lower secondary, this subject is taught by teachers of several subjects, mainly Art and Music, French, History and Geography, and Modern Languages. Its main purpose is to structure pupils' artistic culture: they acquire and consolidate cultural references to major artworks and movements of the past and present, learning how to situate them in space and time, how to interpret them and relate them to each other, and developing their awareness of and tastes in art. This subject covers local, national and international art history, academic as well as popular or traditional; it requires contact with works of art and cultural organisations, directly and through digital resources.

In Cycle 3, pupils learn how to describe an artwork using simple and appropriate language, how to situate it in a time period and geographical area based on its main characteristics, how to express their impressions and opinions of a work and how to make an initial analysis. They also learn how to find their way around a museum or art gallery, adapt their behaviour to the place and identify the roles of the main people working there. They are aware of the influence of past and present art on their environment.

Physical and sport education

The main objectives of Physical and sport education are the same throughout the three cycles of primary school and lower secondary school, with levels of learning that increase through the cycles:

  • developing motor skills and learning to express yourself using your body;
  • becoming familiar with working tools and methods by practising sport;
  • sharing rules and taking on roles and responsibilities within a team;
  • learning how to look after your health through regular physical activity;
  • becoming familiar with a physical and artistic sport culture.

Following increasing levels of difficulty, pupils gradually learn to produce their best performance, adapt their movements to varied environments, express themselves in front of others through artistic or acrobatic activities, lead and manage a match in a team or between two players. Depending on their pupils, teachers freely choose the available materials and equipment and different physical and sports activities for the lessons (athletics, swimming, dance, circus arts, gymnastics, team ball games, racket sports, etc.), constructing an appropriate, coherent training programme. They ensure that each pupil participates in a variety of individual and group activities during the cycle.

During Cycle 3, pupils exercise and reinforce their motor skills in more challenging, diverse contexts. They learn to identify and analyse the immediate effects of their actions to perfect them and improve performance, which involves both oral and written work. In team sports and activities, they continue to learn various roles (referee, observer, etc.) and understand the need for rules. Through significant practice time, pupils test and develop the working methods specific to the subject, via action, imitation, observation and cooperation. As in Cycle 2, learning to swim remains a priority.

Civic and moral education

Civic and moral education has four main objectives during the three cycles of primary and lower secondary school:

  • emotional awareness education, to learn to identify feelings and emotions, put them into words, discuss them and understand other people's feelings and emotions;
  • education in rules and law, to understand the meaning of rules in the classroom, primary or secondary school and to make pupils (future citizens) aware of the role and importance of law in the French Republic;
  • education in moral judgement, in order to understand and discuss the moral choices encountered in life, requiring pupils to put forward arguments, debate and justify their choices;
  • experiencing engagement, encouraging pupils to participate in the social life of their class and school, acquire a spirit of cooperation and a sense of responsibility towards others.

In Cycle 3, this subject is allocated one hour every week. In the first year of lower secondary, it is delivered by voluntary teachers of various subjects. This is not theoretical education, but practical, concrete education that puts pupils in role play situations to get them to think, express themselves, act and react.

On the curriculum in Cycle 3:

  • Emotional awareness: expressing and sharing your emotions and feelings with others about literary or artistic works or during group discussions on classroom life; respect for and acceptance of others and their differences in language and attitude; understanding the meaning of the symbols of the French Republic. For example, pupils may take part in role plays, drama games, mimes, or take part in philosophical discussions supervised and led by the teacher on the topics of tolerance and mockery.
  • Rules and law: understanding, accepting and applying the concepts of rights and duties, applying the principle of equality between girls and boys, understanding the principles and values of the French Republic and the European Union, understanding the founding characteristics of the French Republic (institutions, the basis of law, the concept of citizenship, etc.). For example, pupils may define and discuss the rules of debate, analyse gender stereotypes using examples from manuals, literature or films, or study the founding texts of institutions and their history.
  • Moral judgement: learning to debate (speaking in front of others, listening to others, formulating and justifying a point of view), exercising critical judgement about information received from the media, differentiating between personal interest and collective interest. For example, pupils may exercise their critical judgement on events relating to life in the class, school or outside school to combat prejudices (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.).
  • Experience of engagement: learning to explain and justify choices, integration and personal involvement in a group, understanding the values of fraternity and solidarity, etc. Pupils may, for example, play an active role in a group project within the class, school or town, connected to an association.

History and geography

Once pupils have acquired basic knowledge in Cycle 2 and an ability to situate themselves in time and space, they begin two separate subjects in Cycle 3, History and Geography, and so continue to construct their relationship to time and space. These two subjects are closely linked, dealing with common topics and concepts and sharing tools and methods.


The objective in Cycle 3 is not for pupils to gain an exhaustive knowledge of History, which is premature at this level, but rather to lay the foundations of the initial historical landmarks, which will be consolidated and extended in Cycle 4. These landmarks help pupils to understand that today's world and contemporary society are the descendants of long processes, changes and choices made by men and women in the past.

Pupils observe the concrete traces of history (particularly in their nearby, everyday environment) and question their meaning; they are gradually introduced to other types of sources and other evidence, relating to worlds farther away in time and space. They understand that the narrative of history is constantly nourished and altered by new archaeological and scientific discoveries, giving a new, different understanding of the past.

By examining historical events, pupils learn to distinguish history from fiction and understand that the past is a source of investigation. In particular, pupils have the opportunity to compare historical facts and beliefs: the study of religious events systematically roots these events in their cultural and geopolitical contexts.

In CM1 and CM2, they discover key moments in the history of France in chronological order, from the traces of early occupation of the French territory up to the construction of the European Union. Following this introduction, in the first year of lower secondary, pupils look more closely at questions and approaches specific to historical science, by studying prehistory and Antiquity.


CM1 (year before last of primary school, age 9):

Topic 1: Before France

  • What are the earliest traces of human occupation in French territory?
  • Celts, Gauls, Greeks and Romans: what is the heritage from ancient cultures?
  • The main population movements (4th to 10th century).
  • Clovis and Charlemagne, Merovingians and Carolingians, after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Topic 2: The Kings

  • Louis IX, the "Christian King" of the 13th century.
  • François I, protector of Arts and Literature in the Renaissance.
  • Henri IV and the Edict of Nantes.
  • Louis XIV, the Sun King at Versailles.

Topic 3: The Revolution and the Empire

  • From 1789 to the execution of the King: Louis XVI, the Revolution, the Nation.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte, from General to Emperor, from the Revolution to the Empire

CM2 (last year of primary school, age 10):

Topic 1: The Republic

  • 1892: the centenary of the Republic.
  • Primary school at the time of Jules Ferry.
  • Several republics, one democracy: liberties, rights and duties.

Topic 2: The industrial age in France

  • Energy and machines.
  • Working in a mine, factory, workshop or store.
  • The industrial town.
  • The rural economy.

Topic 3: France, from the World Wars to the European Union

  • Two World Wars in the 20th century.
  • The construction of Europe.

"Sixième" (first year of lower secondary, age 11):

Topic 1: The long history of humanity and its migrations.

  • The beginnings of humanity.
  • The Neolithic "revolution".
  • The first States and early writings.

Topic 2: Foundation stories, beliefs and citizenship in the ancient Mediterranean in the first millennium BC.

  • The world of Greek cities.
  • Rome, from myth to history.
  • The birth of Jewish monotheism in a polytheistic world.

Topic 3: The Roman Empire in the ancient world

  • Conquests, Roman peace and Romanisation.
  • Christians in the Empire.
  • The relationship of the Roman Empire with other ancient worlds: the ancient Silk Route and China under the Han dynasty.


The geography curriculum in Cycle 3 is organised around the concept of "living": the ways that humans organise and use their living spaces, on all scales. This concept enables pupils to identify and grasp the objective and methods of learning geography. Using very practical case studies (work, consumption, leisure, etc.), pupils are introduced to geographical reasoning by discovering, analysing and understanding the dynamics between individuals and societies and the land and places that they use, design and organise.

Firstly, pupils discover and explore every day, local living environments. They then examine other scales and other social and cultural environments; finally, in the last year of the cycle, they analyse the diversity of "living" environments across the world.

The topics on the curriculum encourage reflection on the challenges and necessity of sustainable development in territories.


CM1 (year before last of primary school, age 9):

Topic 1: Explore the place(s) where I live

  • Identify the features of my living environment(s).
  • Locate my living environment(s) and situate it on different scales.

Topic 2: Living, working, educating and enjoying leisure time in France

  • In urban environments.
  • In a tourist area.

Topic 3: The consumer society in France

  • Meeting energy and water needs.
  • Meeting food nutritional needs.

CM2 (last year of primary, age 10):

Topic 1: Getting around

  • Everyday transport in France.
  • Everyday transport in another place in the world.
  • Getting from town to town in France, Europe and the world.

Topic 2: Communicating across the world via the Internet

  • A world of networks.
  • A population connected to the world.
  • Inequality of connected populations in the world.

Topic 3: Better living

  • Promoting the role of "nature" in towns.
  • Recycling.
  • Living in a green neighbourhood.

"Sixième" (first year of lower secondary, age 11):

Topic 1: Living in a city

  • Cities and their inhabitants.
  • The city of the future.

Topic 2: Living in a low density area

  • Living in an area with significant natural constraints and/or great biodiversity.
  • Living in an area with a low density of agricultural land.

Topic 3: Living on the coast

  • Industrial port coastlines, tourist coastlines.

Topic 4: The inhabited world

  • Distribution of the global population and its dynamics.
  • The variety of forms of spatial occupation in the world.

Science and Technology

During Cycle 2, pupils "explored" the natural world by observing, questioning and carrying out basic experiments. In Cycle 3, in "Science and Technology", they begin to make an initial rational, coherent representation of this world, by tackling genuine scientific concepts. They also acquire skills and knowledge linked to the world of technology. The "Science and Technology" subject in Cycle 3 will later be sub-divided into three separate subjects (Cycle 4 at lower secondary school): Physics-Chemistry, Life and Earth Sciences, and Technology.

In Cycle 3, pupils are introduced to scientific approaches with support and help from the teacher, in a practical manner: by formulating questions, exploring research areas, then offering explanatory hypotheses, testing them through experiments, observations or simulations, and communicating their results and conclusions. They develop their curiosity, manual skills, precision in using language and rigorous reasoning, and gradually learn to differentiate scientifically validated facts from opinions.

In terms of technology, pupils explore the technical world, in particular through the history of the development of objects, designing and producing models or prototypes. They improve their skills in using digital tools.

The Science and Technology curriculum covers four topics:

Matter, movement, energy, information

Pupils learn to distinguish between living and inert matter, and different materials (metals, glass, plastic, etc.) and their physical characteristics. They observe and describe different types of movements, examine the concept of speed, using examples that mean something to them (riding a bike, travelling by train, movements of the planets). Finally, they discover different energy sources and how these are converted to make them usable by humans.

The living world, its diversity and the functions that characterise it

Pupils learn how to classify living species and discover the relationships between them. By observing changes in species on Earth over time, they examine the concept of the evolution of the species. The role of nutrition in living beings, their development and reproduction are also studied in this topic.

Materials and technical objects

Pupils identify that objects respond to needs and that our changing needs lead to the development of new objects. Using everyday examples, they study how technical objects work and how they are made. Finally, they create a technical project, from design to manufacture.

Planet Earth. Living beings in their environment

In this topic, pupils learn to situate the Earth in the solar system and identify the conditions under which life appears and develops on our planet. Observing different habitats shows pupils that living beings are distributed across the Earth according to the conditions of their environment. In our use of natural resources (living species and geological resources), human beings modify these habitats. The study of natural phenomena, both geological (volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.) and climatic (storms, floods, etc.) is linked to the risks posed to populations.


During Cycle 3, pupils will reinforce the techniques they have previously studied such as mental calculation and written calculation techniques, until they become automatic (addition, subtraction and multiplication) and they will also learn new ones (division).

They discover new mathematical concepts: decimal numbers, proportionality, new measurements (area, volume, angles, etc.). In geometry, they manipulate concrete objects and discover new ways to represent space (templates, perspectives, front, side and top views, etc.). For working on numbers, and in geometry, digital tools - in particular, software - are used in addition to "paper and pencil" activities.

Finally, in Cycle 3, pupils begin a new form of mathematical exercise: problem solving. They discover that the mathematical skills and concepts they have learned are tools that will help them to solve mathematical problems. Examples of problems are taken from other subjects and from everyday life, and pupils are encouraged to find problems themselves.

The curriculum covers three major topics:

Numbers and calculation

Pupils continue to study whole numbers and large numbers (up to 12 figures) orally and in writing, becoming ever more proficient in the number system and knowing how to use it when calculating. They tackle decimal numbers (decimal point), learn to write a number as a fraction and solve basic problems that use fractions and decimals. They practise mental calculation, especially when estimating the magnitude of the result. They perform written calculations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. They use a calculator, especially to check their calculations.

Size and measurements

Pupils revise the measurements already studied (length, mass, content, price, etc.) and learn new ones (area, perimeter, volume, angle). They measure, compare and estimate measurements: the perimeter of a square or rectangle; the area of simple geometrical shapes (rectangle, triangle, disc), the volume of a cube, measurement of angles, periods of time, etc. They learn to use the common, official units for measurements.

Space and geometry

Pupils learn spatial recognition and use representations (maps, plans, etc.) to indicate a position or make movements. In geometry, they construct three-dimensional solids, manipulate them and learn how to represent them (templates, 3D software). They construct geometrical shapes using their instruments (graduated ruler, compass, set square) and give them properties (equality of length, perpendicularity, parallelism, symmetry in relation to an axis, etc.).

They are introduced to coding through location finding activities (for example programming the movements of a robot) or geometrical activities (constructing simple shapes on a computer).

Mis à jour le 23 mai 2017
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