I will start off with some funny things adults have said in English, before I dive into the kids’ shenanigans.
A woman was talking to me in English about the US. She asked, ‘Do you know mes chaussettes?’ At least that is what I heard; it means ‘my socks’ in French. I was confused and asked, ‘Is that a company?’ ‘No, it is a state!’
I was talking to another lady, and somehow obesity and the US came up. I asked her, ‘Why do you think obesity is such a huge problem in the United States?’
She said in a mixture of disbelief and exasperation, like it was obvious,’It is because of the cheesecake!!!! And the BIIIG cookies!’
Someone was telling me about their sister’s ‘sausage’ dog. I said, ‘That is funny, because in English we call them ‘wiener’ dogs.’ And the guy raised up his fists into the air in a victorious manner and said emphatically in English, ‘Like, I’m a weeener?’ I died of laughter and subsequently felt terrible for doing it.
Back to the kids:
In my more advanced class, the ten year olds, I showed them cartoon characters like Dora the Explorer and Russell from Up and had the kids describe their appearance and personality for me. When I showed them Homer Simpson, one kid said, ‘He has got stupid!’
In one 7-year old class I handed the kids a worksheet about numbers and I was surprised to see how many kids made this mistake on the word search… Why make it easy when you can be creative?
I asked the kids to respond to the question, ‘How are you?’ on their personal white boards and then show them to me. Spelling mistakes were rampant… But this one made me smile. One girl wrote, ‘I’m fine, tank you!’
I have to speak French to the kids a lot because they are complete beginners, to explain activities and make the lesson clear and to keep order and discipline. I have improved tremendously since the beginning of the year but I know I make a lot of mistakes when I talk. Some of the 8 year olds are not afraid to correct me either. The other day, I was explaining that they were going to listen to a new song. A kid raised his hand and I called on him thinking he had a question, instead he said, ‘In French we say nouvelle chanson not nouveau chanson.‘ (I had used the wrong form of new because I messed up the gender of the word song) Normally I like being corrected but this was a bit forward.
We were learning commands, and I mined them for the students so that they could guess them. I put my finger to my lips for the command ‘be quiet’ ‘What is this in English?’ I asked, one kid did the action and said ‘Shhhhhhh!’
I used the book ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’ with a lot of my classes. In one class I handed out different sheets of paper with animals from the book to kids and had them line up in order in front of the class, and then we went through the book animal by animal. ‘Blue horse, blue horse, what do you see?’ Then we came to the end and I didn’t have a teacher drawing, so I had the teacher come up and I asked the kids, ‘After the gold fish, what’s next?’ One kid said excitedly, ‘ooo je sais, a black teacher!’
Like a typical French woman, she was wearing all black!
One day we were working on the alphabet in a class and it was hilarious! After working on the alphabet already for two weeks with songs and worksheets, the teacher wanted to make sure that the kids really knew their stuff. She chose names (French names that the kids would know) and spelled them out for the kids to guess. It is a split class with two grades, 6 and 8 year olds, so she let the 6 year olds write the letters down on the board so that it would be easier for them. The teacher said, ‘I!’ A little girl named Annie in the front wrote down the letter A. The teacher saw this and gave her a tap on the head with her yardstick. Annie said, ‘Aie!’ ‘Exactly, that’s it!‘ (Aie means ouch in French and is pronounced I)
Then we had kids choose a name and spell it out for the rest of the class to guess. We encouraged them to choose a name of someone who wasn’t in the class to make it harder, but a lot of the kids did anyway. One boy spelt out the name Annie. She was completely oblivious. ‘You didn’t recognize your name Annie!?‘ Annie smiled the most adorable, guilty smile.
When it was the turn of one little six year old named Constatin, he started by calling out ‘C!’ The teacher interrupted quickly, ‘but not your own name!‘ He gave a start, ‘oh!’ And then he changed his track.
Then we started playing hangman (with French words of course, they don’t know enough English ones yet for it to be a challenge).
One of the little kids made a request, ‘Est-ce que vous pouvez choisir un prénom d’un animal?’ ‘Can you choose a first name of an animal?‘ (first name???)
The teacher chose phoque which means seal (not an easy one to guess with letters). The kids were desperate to find the answer as they were about to lose. One kid asked the teacher, ‘Is it a name of an animal that we know?‘ She laughed and said sassily, ‘No it is the name of an animal that we haven’t discovered yet!‘ The another kid asked, ‘Does it live in the sea?!?!‘ She responded, ‘My lips are sealed!‘
The 6 year olds were not very strategic in their letter choosing. One little boy, Guilluame, the cute one from the dinosaur claw story, always chose W when he was called on. The 8 year olds would groan in frustration and anxiety as the teacher drew another body part on the hangman.
After the lesson, as the kids were leaving to go out for recess, the teacher stopped Guillaume. ‘What is in your mouth?!‘ He didn’t reply and stubbornly kept his mouth shut but it was obvious that there was something in there. He tried to keep his mouth still but he couldn’t help giving whatever it was a little chew. A little crowd of 8 year old girls gathered off to the side to watch. The teacher tried to shoo away the girls and ordered him to open his mouth and tell her what was in there. Finally he relented ashamedly, ‘A fingernail‘. The older girls eavesdropping yelled ‘Eww! Gross!‘ And in unison ran away to recess. The teacher and I laughed so hard. Kids are gross!
On a rainy, gloomy day I asked the kids, ‘How is the weather today?’
The kids raised their hands and responded,
‘It is cloudy.’
‘It is rainy.’
‘It is cold.’
‘It is sad!’
‘Yeah the weather is depressing to me too kid!’
I use head, shoulders, knees, and toes with some of my classes. They love it! But even though they can sing the song doesn’t necessarily mean that they have mastered the vocabulary.
I quizzed my 6 year olds after singing the song with them. I pointed to a picture of toes and a kid said, ‘andtoes’
Other kids had no idea what the vocab was when I pointed to a picture of knees, for example. I gave them a hint, ‘Think about the song guys, you know the song!‘ Still nothing from some kids. Then I would prompt them by softly singing the song. ‘Head, shoulders, …..’ And then they could add, ‘Knees?’
One time was teaching the kids about morning routine (wake up, brush your teeth, etc). When I got to’ wash your face’, one girl could not contain herself. ‘Wash your fesses?!?!?’ She just could not get over the fact that it sounded like the french word for butt (pronounced ‘fess’).
In a seven year old class, we sang a song about weather that had the lyrics ‘It’s rainy in the U.K.’ I explained that the UK stood for United Kingdom. Did they know what that meant? (It is Royaume Uni in French) I gave them hints, ‘It is an English-speaking country that is close to France.‘
They were not even close at the beginning. I should have known though, this is the class where a boy asked me if lived in France or still lived in the US.
‘China?’ ‘Nope that is far and they don’t speak English.’
‘New York?’ ‘Also far, and a city…’
‘Florida?’ ‘Nope… Guess again.’
Eventually they got it right.
On April 4th one of the teachers announced to her six year olds, ‘I have some sad news, this is Erin’s second to last week teaching here. So, she will be here this week and next week only. And then we won’t see her anymore.‘ The kids went ‘Awwww!!’ but one of them spoke up to her table mates determinedly. She said in a know it all voice, ‘I know what this is, guys, it is a poisson d’avril (April’s fool’s joke)!’
The next week when I entered the classroom, the little boy nearest to the door said excitedly to me in a sing-song voice, ‘We have a surprise for you!!‘ The girl sitting next to him shot him a look and snapped, ‘But seriously, why would you tell her that?!‘ He shot back, ‘Well, I didn’t tell her what the surprise was…‘
So indiscreet! While the teacher and I were getting ready for the lesson in the front of the class, one of the kids yelled over to the teacher, ‘But I didn’t finish my gift!‘
She rolled her eyes at me and laughed and said in a stage whisper ‘Well do it quickly while hiding it, but hurry up!‘
Then the kids right in front of us started talking about their presents, and the teacher shushed them, ‘Remember, Erin understands what you are saying.‘
(I have been speaking French with them for months now)
One of the kids in front asked me, ‘Do you understand a lot? Or do you just understand a few words?‘
I smiled, ‘I understand a lot.‘
He puffed up with pride, ‘Well, me, I understand a few words of English!‘ And that is what I love about this job!
At the end of the class they all ran up to me and handed me drawings that they had made.
All in all, my last week at the schools went well. I received drawings from some of my classes and a purse from the teachers of one school, which was completely unexpected!
I brought in candy to give out to the kids, but I made them work for their treats by answering questions. And I varied the questions I asked too, which was even more difficult for the very young because I know that they are used to listening to what the other kids answer and responding in the same way. So when I asked kids, ‘What is your name?’ I got a lot of, ‘It is blue!’ 🙂