All posts tagged: esl

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 …

27 mars – clues

Today I had a lot of different slices in my head, but I can’t seem to get any of them out today because I’m excited about something else. Three of my fifth grade classes have been working on rooms in the house, hobbies, and family. vocabulary in English. These classes are really motivated and their classroom teachers do a lot of reinforcement of my activities on days when I’m not there, so their level is really high. I decided to try an activity that is a bit more difficult than our standard fare of flashcard games and charades. Tomorrow we are playing CLUE! It was always one of my favorite board games growing up, enamored of Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown as I was. I always wanted to play be Professor Plum. My sister was usually Madam Scarlet, and if I remember correctly, I believe my dad often played as Colonel Mustard. Tomorrow, we won’t have the same colorful characters. I’ve modified the game to include the vocabulary we’ve been working on all year long. Instead of wondering …

7 mars – English is hard

English is hard. Well, sometimes it’s easy: no crazy verb conjugations, no gendered nouns to memorize and accord with adjectives, no difference between formal or informal “you”. But then it gets complicated: pronunciation that has absolutely nothing to do with a word’s spelling, exceptions on exceptions on exceptions, not to mention all of the variations of English spoken around the world. This last one is what trips me up most often in my job. Overwhelmingly, British English is preferred over American English by my colleagues and those of my friends. Students are exposed to both, but by and large, BE is the rule. Things I’m asked to teach that aren’t natural to me, an AE speaker, include: Have you got brothers and sisters? I’m wearing trousers and a jumper. It’s 23 past 4. Today is Tuesday, the 7th of March Take out your copybook and rubber. François is a CM2 (5th grade) teacher who loves to teach English. In his class, I co-teach with him, rather than intervene on my own. He is teaching his …

4 mars – Things that I do in France that I don’t do at home

Eat yogurt When you first come to France, you expect the grocery store aisles of cheese and wine, but you don’t expect an equally long aisle dedicated to yogurt. It’s like a way of life in France. I don’t think I have a single colleague who doesn’t finish their lunch with a container of yogurt and/or a fruit. For some, it’s a simple fromage blanc, others prefer a classic fruit on the bottom, and still others go for a dessert flavored yogurt. Despite almost never craving yogurt in the U.S. I took up this custom, and now enjoy yogurt daily at the end of my lunch, and occasionally as a snack or with some granola. Drink tea The French are obsessed with coffee. And not even particularly good coffee: in fact, a high percentage of French people I know frequently drink instant coffee. A French teachers’ lounge would be incomplete without a coffee maker, and there is usually a line during every recess and lunch break. Luckily, for those who don’t drink coffee (myself included) there …

two very different lessons

This afternoon, I sat in on a lesson the school counselor was giving to my mom’s class of 3rd graders. They learned to be a “friend to some, kind to all.” They learned how to use “I Messages” when they had conflicts with their friends, and how to respond when their actions accidentally hurt someone. The class played a role playing game where the counselor gave a scenario, and with a partner, they had to play out how they would respond using the I Messages and Responses they had just learned. “I felt upset when you said you didn’t want to play with me. Next time could you please be kinder?” “You were mad when I said I wouldn’t play with you. But it’s because this game only has 4 players. Next time you can switch with someone to get a chance!” One year ago, I was helping the English teacher at my French school lead a very different kind of role playing game. This class of CM2, or 5th graders, was also learning about conflicts …

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.