My first teaching job in France was teaching some of the most adorable 3-5 year olds I’ve ever met, just outside of Toulouse. Before I moved to France, I was so nervous about finding a teaching job in Toulouse since I had no connections there. Lucky for me, everyone at TEFL Toulouse was really helpful and ended up hooking me up with several teaching jobs.
For the interview, I was asked what kind of experience I had had working with children and if I’d had any experience teaching. I talked about the practical experience I had at TEFL Toulouse during my training and mentioned how each class I taught was evaluated and I was given feedback. The interviewer seemed pretty impressed and suggested I teach a demo class the following week to see if I was a good fit. She gave me complete control over the lesson plan and a bunch of supplies to use for activities like bouncy balls, foam mats, paper and crayons! She told me to focus on play-based learning instead of grammar lessons, so the kids would learn naturally and I happily agreed.
I was completely clueless about what to expect with the first class, so I looked through the notes I’d taken in class on young learners for some ideas. I made a plan with some songs, games and activities that got the children up and moving.
For the demo, 7 kids showed up to class while the interviewer watched. The most difficult part was (although I was told the kids were beginner level), most of the kids had no previous experience with English, so we were starting from scratch. While I tried to keep the class “English only”, I did end up using a few French words here and there – the only ones I knew! – to explain activities. The kids were super high-energy and a little restless, since they’d come straight from school, which was a little tricky. I could tell their favourite part of the class was definitely playing games that got them out of their seats, like “follow the leader” and “freeze tag” while I narrated in English like “Okay everyone, follow Marie! She is jumping!“
Although the kids were a little nervous speaking English at first, they were happily running around yelling, “you’re frozen!” and, “catch me!” by the end of the class, which their parents seemed really impressed by. About a half hour later, I was offered a position at the activity centre for 40 euros per 45 minute class. Back home as a student in Canada, I was happy to make 10 euros an hour so I was super happy with this offer!
Since this was my first gig it took a few classes before I settled into a routine that worked well for the kids, but after I finally got it down, a 45 minute class would go something like this:
5 minutes – circle time: sitting with all the kids in a circle and singing a “settle down” song to get them in learning mode with some simple actions. Then I’d ask them simple questions like, “what’s the weather like?” or “is it Sunday today?”
2-3 minutes – familiar learning activity such as throwing a ball and counting the passes, with the kids putting their hands up when we got to their age
5 minutes – new words introducing about 5 new words with a theme (like colours, pets, family, weather) with pictures or props. Lots of repetition as a group before I got them to say the words individually.
5 minutes – activity to practice new words eg: a matching game or having the kids act out “dog” or “fish” while the other ones guessed.
10 minutes – active games such as Simon Says, Follow the Leader, Red Light, Green Light
I’d usually try to put our new words into the games, such as “Simon says swim like a fish!” or “crawl like a little baby!”.
2-3 minutes – song – some of their favourites were “Head and Shoulders” and “Happy Birthday”!
5 minutes – story time – reading a simple story in English that I’d borrow from the Jose Cabanis library in Toulouse. Asking lots of questions to get the kids talking like, “Who do you see in the picture?” or “It’s raining in the story! Is it raining here?”
5 minutes – winding down with colouring – drawing pictures using the new words we learned and practicing writing them down together. Great time to practice things like, “Can I have the red crayon please?”
5 minutes – closing circle – practicing our new words one final time and singing our “goodbye” song together
I stayed as this job for about a year until my visa expired (I am Canadian) and the best part was definitely the kids themselves. I loved how polite they were and how each one would always “faire la bise” when they walked in, kissing me on the cheek. Compared to kids back home, they were so well behaved and respectful! The way they spoke to each other and me was so kind and sweet.
I learned so much from this job and the kids amazed me with how quickly they picked up English and the progress they were able to make in a year. It was an unforgettable year in Toulouse and I would recommend the experience to anyone! Go for the TEYL add – on course at TEFL Toulouse straight after your TEFL course!
Nicole Riddell, certified by TEFL Toulouse July 2017