Teaching French is a real passion for our IEF teachers. In fact, our entire teaching team practises their profession with motivation, enthusiasm, good humour and always with the objective of providing students with a quality course that corresponds to their level, their interests and their objectives. An enriching job at all levels that Carole, IEF teacher, will share with us!
Interview with Carole, FLE teacher
How did your desire to become an FLE teacher come about?
My dream since I was a little girl was to travel the world, to discover new cultures and to share my own. So I decided to study languages at university to find a job that would allow me to travel.
In the early 90’s, I went to an English high school as a French assistant. This first experience gave me a taste for teaching, but I really understood that I wanted to do this profession five years later when I taught French as a lecturer at the University of Cork in Ireland.
Can you tell us about your professional career?
My background is quite atypical like that of many teachers of French as a foreign language and before starting a real career in this field, I had various professional experiences in the field of trade, tourism and art in different countries of the world.
It is thanks to my English studies that I became an EFL teacher. Indeed, while I was preparing for the agrégation in English, I took the opportunity to work as a French lecturer at the University of Cork. The contact with the students and my growing interest in teaching French language and culture were the factors that encouraged me to follow this path. Two years later, I resumed my studies by correspondence to obtain a Master’s degree in French.
After having taught in Mexico, Ireland and Spain, I decided ten years ago to settle in Montpellier, a cosmopolitan city with an international outlook. In addition to my teaching activities, I regularly participate as an examiner/corrector in DELF DALF sessions in Montpellier and I design exam subjects for France Education International.
Teaching French at IEF
How are the courses at IEF?
IEF offers a wide variety of courses. The majority of students attend classes in the morning and themed workshops two lunches a week.
In the afternoons, students take oral practice classes, private classes adapted to their specific needs, or preparation for the DELF and DALF exams.
What pedagogy do you rely on to teach your classes? What methodology do you use in your class?
My teaching method is similar to the flipped classroom. I ask my students to spend time outside of class practicing activities that can be done on their own, such as reading comprehension, oral comprehension, written production and grammar exercises. If I take the example of a reading comprehension done at home, it will be the starting point for other activities in class. They could be grammatical, lexical and cultural and could trigger oral interventions. Afterwards, the chosen theme will be developed through activities that will require the students to be really involved and to accomplish a specific task, such as choosing an Airbnb or presenting the results of a survey conducted among the inhabitants of Montpellier.
The actional perspective is therefore very important because it allows the learner to communicate and perform tasks that are close to everyday reality or that are for the most advanced levels always related to current events and call upon the experience and knowledge of students.
In this respect, the city of Montpellier and its events are a great playground that I regularly use for my courses. There is nothing like observation activities at the Jardin des Plantes, at the museum or interaction with the French at the market to make the students’ eyes shine!
How do you prepare your lessons? What materials do you use?
As I regularly change levels and students, each class is a new challenge for me. That’s why I always come up with a new way to present my course and I look for new teaching materials that I glean from my daily life to make the class even more interesting. There is no such thing as a routine, every day has its surprises and that’s what makes this job exciting.
I use many authentic materials to design my activities (newspapers, magazines, reports, TV and radio programs, newscasts, films, novel excerpts, local documents…). Internet is also an essential tool thanks to which we can use many documents, some of which have been elaborated for us teachers of French as a foreign language (TV5 Monde, RFI…).
And of course, as I explained before, Montpellier as a place is also a great support for a course!
How do your classes work? How do you ensure that each student progresses in your class and achieves their goal?
Like all teachers at IEF, I announce at the beginning of each week the objectives of the course. These objectives are common to all but must be adapted to each student. In order to do this, I have to listen to each student and be able to identify his or her profile in order to provide personalized help. This can be extra work given at the request of the student or advice given throughout the learning process.
How do you go about creating a pleasant atmosphere in a group where everyone arrives with their own cultural and linguistic baggage?
The class atmosphere is very important, especially since there are regular departures and arrivals of students. Each student is unique and it can sometimes be difficult for some to fit into a group. This is why I regularly start the Monday class with an icebreaker activity where students will ask each other questions, get to know each other and exchange information from the first hour of class. A pooling of the information gathered during this session is then a way to bring the class together and start the course in good conditions. The activities that follow often involve collaboration that strengthens the bonds between students.
Teaching French online
Given the current situation, in recent months you have been practicing your profession online. How are the online courses going? How are they organized? What skills are being worked on?
The skills worked on are the same as those in the classroom, i.e. written and oral comprehension as well as written and oral production. However, they are distributed in a different way online, that is to say that there are two times face to face and one time in autonomy. The first period, which takes place in videoconference between the teacher and the group, allows for an initial exchange on the theme of the day during which the students will become familiar with the lexicon, the cultural context and the syntactic tools that will allow them to carry out the activities independently. The second period lasts one hour and each student working alone can progress at his/her own pace.
The third and final period allows for a review of what has been done and for oral practice in groups of two or three to have the opportunity to put what has been learned to good use.
What do you think are the differences between a face-to-face course and an online course? Do you prepare your courses in a different way?
Although the objectives are the same, the way of working and learning differs because the student has more time on his own. As I mentioned earlier, this allows the student to progress at his/her own pace without hindering the progress of other students.
Although the content of the course is much the same, the interaction part is different. I often ask students to prepare presentations for the next day as homework and share them with others in a small group. This gets them to think about the topic and be better prepared for the interaction.
The field activities cannot be set up online but I am thinking about how I could set up interactive activities with French people who would intervene during the online course.
How do you manage to create a classroom atmosphere online? Is the classroom atmosphere different from that of a face-to-face class?
The online and face-to-face class atmosphere can be different because as I pointed out earlier, face-to-face students often meet outside of class and get to know each other better in those moments.
However, I have noticed that the online classroom atmosphere is good. The technical means do not always allow for the same spontaneity because students are often forced to turn off their microphone when they are not speaking and that is why I have them work in small groups so that they have the opportunity to communicate more freely and get to know each other better.
It is also important to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the class with small conversations that relax the atmosphere and allow us to learn a little more about each other. I take advantage of this time to correct or review small syntactic or lexical points that are useful to everyone.
Can you track your students’ progress in the same way online? Are the students progressing as well as they would in the classroom?
It is quite possible to follow the progress online thanks to the homework that is given and corrected every day as well as the end of week evaluation. In addition, the numerous activities offered on the KLF platform are a good indicator of progress for both the teacher and the student.
I would say that students progress differently online than they do face-to-face. I have noticed that students master the written skill better online because they spend more time on it and thanks to the rich and varied activities of the KLF platform, they can see or review the syntactic or lexical points that they have difficulty with.
By being in daily contact with the language, it is natural that face-to-face students are more comfortable speaking and gain confidence after a few days in Montpellier.
Thank you Carole for sharing!