While I do not claim to be any kind of teaching expert (read: somehow the secondary teaching assistants for l’Académie de Montpellier never got any training this year?), I thought I would try to make a blog post adding to the online community about TAPIF lesson planning that I have relied on so heavily for inspiration this semester. I have been a Freshman Composition and French tutor for the past two years and a camp-human (counselor and unit director) for four that I rely on in my current teaching world.
To start, I just want to explain how working with the teachers at my lycée has worked for me, as it seems to be a different experience for everybody. I have a locker in my school’s salle de prof with my emploi de temps in it that teachers weekly write in when they want me, so every week is different. Some weeks I work four hours, some all twelve; it really depends. And just as varied as my emploi de temps is what I am doing in those hours. Some of the most common uses of time I’ve had are:
- Sitting in on chemistry students’ presentations in English to ask follow up questions testing their English ability and, in the end, assigning a language grade.
- Circulating classrooms where students are working on independent projects to answer English-related questions.
- Acting as an oral examiner for a terminal English class where I sit, silently, and have students come to me one at a time to present a topic, and then assigning them grades based on this rubric.
- (Most common) Having the teacher tell me what topic they want me to work around and coming up with something based on that (I have not yet had a class where I was able to choose my own topic).
Most of my classes are either structured where I have the entire class together with the teacher sitting in (and usually ending up taking over my lessons a bit), or (more rarely) I get half the class for half an hour, and then they switch.
With the way that I like to teach my classes, based on effective French classes I’ve had in the past, I do not speak any French in the classroom, especially at the BTS-level, unless there is a behavioral issue. It is a lot of acting things out and drawing on the board, not to mention constantly writing key vocabulary on the board and explaining them by whatever means necessary: I try to never just translate. Whipe board markers (along with a waterbottle for pregnant pauses allowing students catch up) have become my most useful classroom tool.
Introductions: The most common topic I have covered all semester is (by fucking far; it is December 8 and I am still giving this lesson) just introducing myself. All of the teachers I have worked with really wanted me to talk about myself, so I made a power point about me, my family, Arizona, my university, studying abroad, hobbies, and American food (which was the most popular slide in every single French classroom, of course) and then answered a torrent of questions, both personal (Do you have a boyfriend, always very popular) and about America. The students took notes, and then the teachers had the students make a million creepy little scrapbook pages about me that I find floating around the school every once in a while.
Something I would have liked to do to have the students talk more themselves would have been games like
- Name Bingo where you project about twenty questions on the board and have students write them in on a 4×4 bingo board. You then read the questions out in a random order, and the students write in the answers on their board. Whoever gets “bingo” stands up and reads their answers in full sentences, “my mother’s name is Judy,” “I am fifteen years old,” etc.
- Common Ground where you push the desks aside and have the kids stand in a circle with one kid in the middle who says something like “I share common ground with people who have pets” and whoever it applies to leave the circle to find a new place. The last one left has to stand in the middle and say a sentence.
- Two Truths and a Lie where a student comes up to the front of the class and writes three things about themselves (2 true and 1 not) on the board, so you can visually correct their grammar or spelling, and then have the class discuss which one they think is false. Take turns from there.
Reality Television: I started by having the students tell me which reality TV shows they knew in France and describe them to me. I then talked about the three different types of reality television, Documentary Style, Structured Reality, and Reality Competition, showing a clips from a few different shows that fit these genres (I used Keeping up with the Kardashians, The Bachelor, The Amazing Race, Property Brothers, and Ghost Adventures), having them write down words they didn’t recognize to discuss and having someone in the class give a summary of what they saw afterwards. I would then pose several discussion questions to the class such as “would you ever want to find your husband/wife on a reality show?” “do you think this is an accurate representation of reality?” “which genre do you think is the most ‘realistic’?” and “which genre would you most want to watch?”
The 2016 Elections: This lesson was fucking rough but also the most rewarding by far. I projected my actual absentee ballot onto the board to start and described all the things Americans voted on in an election as a gateway to talking about the three branches of government, the difference between the federal and the state level, and what propositions were. I then showed this video to the class to explain the electoral college, and then I had the class take this small test to see if they were republicans or democrats by American standards (carefully explaining that Donald Trump is not necessarily a republican and if you tested conservative, you were not a bad person). I then just opened the floor to questions because the students had so many, and from there we had some of the best class discussions I’ve seen yet.
Numbers: I started this lesson by simply reviewing numbers and counting, and then we played two different games to practice. With the first, we played “Fizz/Buzz,” which my BTS students lovingly described as a drinking game, where we go around a circle each counting up in English, but multiples of three are replaced by “fizz” and multiples of five are replaced by “buzz.” Whenever somebody messes up, they are out. Be sure to encourage students that, if they are going to swear at each other over this, swear in English. For the other game, I used this website to come up with two lists of ten numbers between 1 and 1,000,000 on two different pieces of paper. I then divided the class into two teams and gave each a piece of paper and a whipe board marker. The students then sent up a representative to write one number while reading them a number from the list in English, changing between each number. The first team to get all ten numbers accurately on the board won. If they use any French, erase the numbers and they have to start over.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday: I only gave one Thanksgiving lesson. It was a disaster. Don’t do what I did. Just show them pictures of food. They’re French. They’d like that. Maybe talk about Black Friday and show them this news clip of Americans being assholes about capitalism or this SNL skit that is self-aware about how Americans can be assholes about capitalism.
Christmas: With my BTS students, the lesson I gave on Christmas was special in that I got to teach them Christmas songs to perform at a local English Christmas event at a church in town. I taught “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Silent Night” by handing out the lyrics to everybody, playing a Youtube video of how the song goes, and then doing a call and response with each line to teach the tune and pronunciation. With one of the classes I did this with, we ended early and ended up Youtube karaoking any English Christmas songs they liked and dancing around the classroom, which I would fully recommend.
And these are the main lesson plans I have sustained myself on for this semester! I have a million different plans for what I would like to do in the Spring, and I hope to do another blog post on those materials before heading back to America later in 2017.