What’s great about the TAPIF program is that you don’t need ample teaching credentials to teach English in France. And what’s not so great about the TAPIF is exactly that. I graduated from my university with a double major in journalism and French. I had no experience teaching English as a foreign language before I moved to France with the TAPIF program. In hopes of being in southern France quelque part, I requested the académie of Aix-Marseille or Montpellier with no preference for age. I received my affectation for three primary schools in Marseille, and then I renewed for a second year in a different primary school in Marseille. I wish I’d had more guidance during my first year from the teachers, but I had a wonderful school during my second year. And two years later, I finally got a better idea of teaching English as a foreign language. From songs to books, games to activities, I wanted to share some of my favorite primary school lesson ideas for the TAPIF program.
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Songs ideal for TAPIF primary school
If you retain anything from this post, it’s that songs are your godsend for primary school lesson ideas for TAPIF. You can be placed in anywhere from one to three schools, and you only work for a total of 12 hours per week. During my first year, I only saw some of my classes for 20-30 minutes total the entire week. That’s really not a lot to be able to create a good foundation of English. But I suppose it’s better than nothing. Not only do you have limited time with each class, but you also have a wide range of age and abilities. I worked with kids as young as 3 years old all the way up to 11 years old. Rien à voir !
Repetition is key for learning a language, but when the kids are young and simply can’t learn the way a high schooler does, you need to adapt. For example, when I learned French in high school, I used vocabulary lists, Quizlets, verb conjugations, etc. That’s very cumbersome and probably not too effective at the primary level. What worked immensely with my limited time and adapted abilities during TAPIF was songs.
With my maternelle classes, we started every single class with a song, and we’d work on the same song for weeks, even months. I printed the flashcards for each song, and we reviewed the words in the song. Here are some of my favorite songs I taught during my TAPIF years.
“Hello, how are you?”
Gee, if I had a nickel for every time I sang this song, I would have my TAPIF salary in a week’s time! This song teaches students how to ask “how are you?” and offers six responses: good, great, wonderful, tired, hungry and not so good. This was always a favorite with my kiddos, and they loved the hand motion for “wonderful.” Super Simple Songs also has helpful flashcards and activities that accompany this song.
“Open, Shut Them”
Once we mastered “Hello, how are you?”, we moved onto this song to practice opposites. “Open, Shut Them” is a song that allows students to practice their opposites: big/small, please/no, thank you, loud/quiet, fast/slow.
“Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
I mean, did you really teach TAPIF primary school if you didn’t sing this class children’s song until you sang it in your sleep? It’s an easy and goofy way to teach basic body parts.
“Rain, Rain, Go Away”
If you’re tired of singing the songs above (trust me, it comes sooner than you know), “Rain, Rain, Go Away” is another great option for maternelle and primaire students. This song reviews vocab words such as: rain, mommy, daddy, sister, brother, baby, family and go away.
“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?”
Both years that I did TAPIF, I taught Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by Eric Carle. We’d read the book, review the colors and animals and listen to the song. Even if reading the book is also great, singing really help the kids to remember better. This song and book review the words: bear, bird, duck, frog, dog, cat, fish and horse as well as the colors.
Books ideal for TAPIF primary school
Each class, especially with my little ones, I liked to start by reviewing one of our songs above. And then we’d often focus on one book for a month or two. Each week we’d review the vocabulary in the book and do a different activity. In high school, it’s easy to hand the students a vocabulary list and assign a paper or presentation. But with primaire, you have to go a bit slower since these kids are still learning to write, read and spell in their first language. I found that books were a great way to pique their interest and stick to one theme for weeks at a time.
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
There’s something about children’s books and bears! We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen is a fun book that kids absolutely love. Listen to Michael Rosen reading his book. You can add motions and so much onomatopoeia. Depending on the level of the students, I think this book would be better for CE1 and CE2 age. I taught this book in the maternelle, and I felt that a lot of the vocabulary went over their heads.
Here are some great flashcards to go with this book from Kiz Club. We did this adorable bear mask craft from Crafty Morning to accompany the book with my little ones.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle
Eric Carle books are a literal lifeline for TAPIF and ESL for elementary-aged kids. The vocabulary and plot of his books aren’t too complicated, and kids love the pictures. This book is perfect for reviewing animals and colors. Don’t forget the song that goes with this book. Here are some flashcards and games that accompany the book from Growing Book by Book.
I also loved using this coloring sheet with my students. Once they get to know the book, they remember what color goes with each animal. So, to switch it up, I’d say, “Color the bear pink and the duck orange.” That helps them distinguish between animals and colors as well as to grow in comprehension beyond just memorizing the song or book.
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
Once again Eric Carle comes in clutch for primary school lesson ideas for TAPIF. This book reviews body parts and other animals. The kids love doing the actions like the animals. You can watch the video of the book here. Once you’ve reviewed the vocabulary, you can easily play Simon Says to reinforce body parts vocabulary.
Ketchup on Your Cornflakes by Nick Sharratt
My TAPIF classes absolutely loved Ketchup on Your Cornflakes by Nick Sharratt. It’s a silly way to learn and review food vocabulary by asking questions such as “do you like ketchup on your cornflakes?” or “do you like salt on your egg?” Here are some flashcards and some activities (crossword, matching, word search, etc.) that accompany the book. You could also have your students make their own booklets based on this book.
Although not directly related to the book, you can watch and learn the song “Do You Like Spaghetti?” as it has similar themes. This book and this song are the perfect launching pad to discuss likes and dislikes as well as food vocabulary.
Games ideal for TAPIF primary school
Kids learn well by doing and by playing games — honestly, people of all ages, too! In general, the French education system is extremely dated in its methods and material for English classes. They’re often extremely repetitive and, I’m sorry but, boring. When you look at its European neighbors like Germany and Scandinavia, France’s English proficiency levels aren’t génial. Personally, I find this to be that English instruction in public schools tends to lack creativity and innovation. This is a generalization, and it’s changing. But I find that it’s more important to help students enjoy and be motivated, which research suggests as the key to success in foreign languages.
When you make your English classes engaging, informative and fun, I believe you’re making a difference. And so after properly reviewing the vocabulary, I liked to include a game or activity in each class period. Here are some of my tried and true games adapted for TAPIF lessons.
If Kristin didn’t have time to prepare or was lacking inspiration, memory it was! I always kept a set or two of flashcards on me so that we could play memory. It’s simple: put two of each card face down and mix them up. Each turn, students flip over two cards. They should say the word each time they flip over a card. If they match two of the same card, they win the pair.
Personally, I find bingo rote and a bit boring, but for some reasons, the students always loved playing this game. It’s an easy way to review the vocabulary, and it takes little material and preparation. You can make your own bingo cards here.
If you’re reviewing body parts and colors, this game is nickel. Twister is a fun way to review hand, foot, right, left and the colors.
If you hand your students a quiz, they groan. If you say that we’re playing Jeopardy, they cheer. It’s virtually the same thing: asking a variety of questions, but with Jeopardy, they can participate in teams and wager points. It’s also a great way to introduce American culture (and the legacy of Alex Trebek!) to your students. This game is best after several units, once they’ve acquired more vocabulary, and is probably suited better for CM1 and CM2 classes. Pick four or five categories with five questions in each, making them more difficult as the points or $$ amounts increase.
Lightning or Touch
I found these games on the ESL Kids site. I liked playing Touch, where I put all of the flashcards on the board. The students were divided into two teams, and one person from each team was chosen for each turn. I’d say, “3, 2, 1” and then one of the vocabulary words. The first student who touched the correct flashcard won a point for his or her team. Similarly, the game Lightning Flashcards as mentioned on the ESL Kids site is a similar set up. However, you show one flashcard, and the first student who says the word wins. I love these because they require very little preparation and can be repeated to enforce vocab.
Activities ideal for TAPIF primary school
Once again, having students doing or creating something is a fantastic way to learn, instead of just memorizing or repeating. Here are some of my favorite activities that we did during my two years of TAPIF primary school.
Cookies in a Jar
With multiple classes, we made Cookies in a Jar, or a cookie mix preparation in glass jars. We reviewed the words for the ingredients and filled our jars together. Have your students set aside glass jars several weeks before you plan to do this activity. Here’s a recipe and instructions from I Heart Naptime; be sure to adapt to your jar sizes and the metric system. This one is always a favorite!
Paper Cone Decorations
Around Christmastime, we made these Paper Cone Decorations with my little ones. It was extremely easy prep, very cute and adapted for the maternelle.
All About Me book
Depending on the students’ levels, an All About Me book can be a great way to open or close the year. It’s a simple way to include a wide variety of topics and to sum up what they’ve learned. In one of my classes, all of the students created their booklets and put them in a pile. They took turns picking up a random book, reading it and having the class guess whose it was. These activities together are a great way to practice writing and speaking. You can get the free printable here.
Valentine’s Day cards
For Valentine’s Day, we made cards and wrote short, silly love poems. You can explain Valentine’s Day traditions in the United States and have your students make cards for their friends and family — maybe even un amoreux ou une amoreuse 😉 Here are some ideas for Valentine’s Day lessons.
Want more primary school lesson ideas for TAPIF?
I’ve got you covered. I created a freebie with 101 Classroom Ideas for TAPIF or TEFL. In this 14-page free guide, I shared my favorite game, activity, subject and resource ideas. Download it here:
Don’t forget to reward your students with some English stickers. I bought these stickers for my students, and they loved them! It can be hard to start with the little ones who have zero English. But with time and practice, you’ll start seeing their English improve and increase as the year goes on. Bon courage !
You might also be interested in my post on what to do during your first months of TAPIF.