All posts tagged: advice

What to Expect as a Primary English Assistant : 8 Questions and Answers

After my first TAPIF placement in Chambéry, I noticed that much of the TAPIF blogging community focuses on assistants in secondary schools. This is completely normal, as there are far more people placed at the secondary level! There are many commonalities between the expectations and experiences of primary and secondary assistants; there are also many specifics that are quite different. So, I wanted to create a resource specifically for primary teaching assistants, since teaching in elementary schools comes with its own challenges and circumstances that aren’t talked about as often. I’m about to start my third year teaching primary level English, and in that time I’ve experienced many different types of classrooms, colleagues, and schools. I thought now would be a great time to update my initial Primary Assistant FAQ post to include some of the new insights and tips I’ve gained in my two years as a teaching assistant in the académies of Grenoble (Chambéry) and Aix-Marseille (Marseille), as well as anecdotes from the many primary assistants I know and have worked with. This …

Starting a Pen Pal Exchange

In my two years of language assistant-ing one of my favorite activities has been establishing pen pal correspondences between my classes and American students. Having worked for a year in an American elementary school, I had pretty easy access to teachers interested in participating, and this past year, I managed to hook up no less than six of my classes up with a U.S. counterpart! In primary schools, the concern is often that the students don’t know enough English to truly exchange with a native speaker, but I want to assure you against this idea completely! It’s not always simple, but my students have managed to communicate a lot to their pen pals, and I have never seen them SO excited to read new English words as when they received letters back. That being said, you do have to be strategic about the kinds of correspondence you propose in order to maximize success for all of your students! Luckily, basic things like telling your name and age and describing your family and physical appearance are …

The Great Marseille Apartment Hunt of 2016

The wily explorer arrived to the Marseillais jungle with an accommodation booked for one week, and one goal: to finally capture a rare wild apartment. Having hunted before in this country (albeit a different region), she felt thoroughly prepared. She conjured memories of her last wild apartment hunt in the mountainous region of Chambéry;  a lot of time spent in mortal terror, exhausted from travel, terrified at the prospect of making calls in a foreign language, ultimately unsure how she finally managed to finally trap one. “I know it’ll be difficult,” she thought. “But at least this time I know what I’m up against.” Oh, how the explorer was mistaken. She arranged her hunting tools first: a French phone number, a grammatically corrected introduction, an empty notebook, an internet connection. Then, she took a deep breath and lunged into the hunt. She traversed Leboncoin, crossing occasionally into Appartager and dipping toes into PAP and local agencies. She left voice messages, text messages, email messages but still the wild apartment eluded her. She filled four pages …

Art Lessons to do with your Primary Students

One of my regular duties as an English teaching assistant was teaching weekly arts plastiques lessons for CP and CE1 (1st and 2nd grade). Their teacher occasionally came up with ideas, but she wasn’t very crafty (her words), so most weeks she left it up to me. Going off of various topics they were working on in other subjects, I came up with a number of fun crafts that we used to decorate the classroom, the hallways, and a few that they got to take home as well :). I also have a small amount of art activities I did in my preschool classes, which they loved! It took me a while to figure out how to do these kinds of lessons well, but I’m so glad I persevered, because doing a craft is so much more rewarding than just reciting vocabulary. It was sometimes tough, because the school (and I don’t think mine is an outlier in this) did not have the type of resources I am used to in American school art classes. I tried to use the available …

Flashcard games!

Here we go, current/future assistants, just in time for the start of your contracts. My favorite, easiest games that require little-to-no prep!! Plus, see here for my favorite art activities! Flashcard games GALORE!!!!! Flashcards and other visuals are so important to teaching new vocabuluary. Your colleagues may have flashcards you can use, especially for basic things like the weather, days of the week, or emotions, etc. But if they don’t, you should ABSOLUTELY create some. Simple clip art or hand drawn faces/sunshines/rain clouds/animals are all you need. There are tons of games you can play with vocab flashcards….here are a few of my favorites: Show me – Very simple premise: ask a student to show you one of the vocab words. They come to the board and point to it. Or, you can pass out the cards and call out a word and the person with the corresponding card must hold it up. Another variation is to hang the flashcards on all sides of the room, and students must point to them when each is called. What’s …

My Suitcase Can Only Weigh HOW MANY Pounds?! And other packing concerns.

I’ve gotten a few questions recently about packing for TAPIF. Figuring out what to bring for seven months, in a strange country, for a professional job, which takes place over mostly winter-y months, all while keeping in mind airline limits is not a simple task. My number one recommendation is: make sure you can carry what you pack. You’ll inevitably have to lug your luggage through the airport, onto a train, through a metro system, across cobblestones and up 5 flights of stairs, and while passersby are generally kind to someone in need of an extra hand, you’ll be much more confident if you know you can at least manage it on your own if no one is around to help. After that, what you bring and what you leave behind is more or less your prerogative, but here are some of the guidelines I used.

Primary Assistant FAQ

In my time obsessively stalking all TAPIF blogs past, current and future, I’ve noticed the prevalence of secondary assistants across the interweb. It makes sense: there are way more of them! There are commonalities between the expectations and experiences of primary and secondary assistants, but seeing as most of the info out there seems to be geared towards the secondary level, I want to share some ideas that will be specifically helpful to current and future primary assistants, as they can be very different jobs.