Category Archives: 2.2 Education Systems & Prof. Responsibilities

Teaching and Learning a Foreign Language

Going into the learning from life placement I had no previous experience of teaching a foreign language in the primary school. Teaching English as a foreign language was something that I found very daunting as I did not know how children in other countries learned the language. All I knew was how I was taught French as a foreign language at the end of primary school and throughout high school.

English is a language that most children learn in France. The begin learning English in CP which is the equivalent to primary one in Scotland.  Learning a foreign language from an early age allows the children to become more competent in the language as the younger you begin a language the easier it is. This is why I believe the 1 +2 language approach is Scotland should be well implemented. Children in Scotland should be afforded the opportunity to learn a foreign language form the start of primary school. This would allow them to have a greater understanding of the language and have an advantage going to high school.

Speaking is the main focus when learning a foreign language in France. This is something I learned when teaching English in a French primary school. The teacher informed me that I was not to write words on the board or ask the children to write in their jotters when beginning a new English topic. Speaking and repetition of vocabulary is the best way for children to learn a new language. From my experience of learning French in both primary school and high school we do a lot of reading and writing. Speaking and listening is not the main focus (Maxom, 2010). However, from being in France and having the opportunity to teach English as a foreign language I believe that I will take what I have learned and utilise this knowledge as a teacher. I think that Scotland needs to adopt this approach as speaking and listening are the most important aspects of learning a language. When a baby is born it learns how to speak through listening to others and repeating. Teaching a second language should be no different.

I came to France having no previous experience of teaching English as a foreign language, therefore, I had to learn quickly the various methods used in the various years. This was daunting at the beginning, however, after a few lessons I believe my confidence grew and I was able to make lessons engaging as well as see results week on week with my various class. Teaching English was so rewarding as I could see how much the children enjoyed learning and how happy they were when they mastered new vocabulary. The enthusiasm in relation to learning English was unbelievable. I never realised prior to coming here how much the children enjoyed learning another language. This also emphasises the need to adopt this method in Scotland. I believe that children in the early years would love the opportunity to start learning a foreign language. Learning simple things such as colours and animals and building up vocabulary over a child’s primary school journey will allow them to go to high school with a greater understanding of the language.

This experience has given me a greater passion for languages and I only wish I was given the opportunity to learn French from a young age. By the time I started learning French I was nearly twelve years old and learning consisted of a lot of reading and writing. I believe that when I become a teacher I will encourage the learning of languages within the school. I would prioritise language as a curricular area as I believe just now it is something that is often forgotten about. Some teachers do need feel confident enough to teach, therefore, don’t bother to include it. Becoming more confident in French I believe that I would be able to use this to my advantage offering to teaching the language throughout the school years when I qualify.

Half-day Wednesdays

In France children only attend school four and a half days a week. In some areas of Scotland schools have a half day on a Friday, however, in most places children attend school for five full days a week. However, this is only something that has been implemented over recent years. Children in France used to have a day off on Wednesdays, only attending school four days a week. It was the disruptive behaviour after holidays that made the French government change the structure of the school week. he ministry of education confirmed on Tuesday that a third of French primary schools, or 31.8 percent to be exact, teaching 28.7 percent of the country’s young children, will return to the four-day week based on a decision made by their local authorities (Taylor, 2017) .

Despite the school week changing to four and a half days only in recent years, President Emmanuel Macron is changing the week back to four days commencing after the summer holidays. This is taking the French education system back to the way in which it used to be. France’s new president Emmanuel Macron announced his intentions to change the primary school timetable early on in his presidency, saying that he would give authorities the option of returning to the four-day week in place of the four and a half-day week put in place by the previous government.

The day off will only apply to primary schools. Middle and high school pupils will still have to attend school for half a day on a Wednesday. The children in my CM2 class, being the oldest in the school and about to move on to middle school were disappointed at this news.

I don’t know how I feel about having an entire day off, but I do believe that having a half day on a Wednesday is a very good thing. In Scottish schools that have a half day, this day is commonly on a Friday, the last day of the week. However, having lived in France and experienced many half day Wednesdays. I believe that Wednesday is the perfect day of the week to have a half day. It is the middle of the week therefore, it gives both pupils and teachers the chance to finish school at 11:30 am and have the opportunity to recharge before finishing the week. I have found that it works very well, and I always feel more energised going into Thursday and Friday having finished early on the Wednesday. I believe that if Scottish schools wanted to implement the half-day this day should be considered as I believe it makes more logical sense than a Friday.

Having discussed the differences between France and Scotland regarding the half day I have found that it makes a lot of sense to have a half day. My teacher expressed that finishing school early allows teachers to have the chance to spend time marking and planning. As school begins at 8:30 and finishes at 3:40 on full days, teachers don’t have a lot of spare time to plan and mark. This is something I had never thought about before, but I can imagine it must be a great help having that extra half day. This made me think back to placement in first year. I was in school all day, every day, going in early and leaving late. By the time I arrived home in the evenings I did not have a lot of time to plan lessons and well as complete various sections of my folder before it was time to go to sleep. This meant that the experience was very stressful, and I did not stop doing work for four weeks straight. My learning from life experience has not been like this as I have had Wednesdays to get extra work done.

Parents will be happy about the law changing b back to the way it used to be. At the time that Wednesdays were set to become a school day, some parents were outraged as this was not the way that things were in France. Before the change in law under the government of Francois Hollande children were off school mid-week. This is the way the school week traditionally worked in France. Parents complained when the new president at the time wanted to change this, it was said that people couldn’t go about their usual Tuesday routine as they now had to consider school on Wednesdays (Chu, 2013). I found this bizarre as I thought a day off during the week would cause more hardship than anything for parents that have to work.

This is an aspect of the French Education system that I believe really works. Evidence shows that it is beneficial for both children and teachers.

Placement Reflection

Learning from Life has been a truly amazing experience. I have loved every aspect of my placement and would not change a thing. I am so happy that I decided to come to France and did something I have never done before. Working in a French primary school allowed me to see how the Education System differs to Scotland as well as gain skills in relation to teaching English as a foreign language.

From a personal perspective this has been one of the best experiences of my life. I was apprehensive going into the placement as I had no idea what to expect. However, from the first day arriving in France I knew I had made the right decision. Being submerged in a new culture and environment was daunting but also very exciting. I wanted to make sure that I took advantage of every opportunity afforded to me during my time in France.

This placement not only allowed me to live in the beautiful city of Orléans but also travel on the weekends to Paris, a city I have fallen in love with. This experience has also brought me closer with people on the education course that I had never spent much time with before. This made the experience even better as I was able to share it with friends. Having the opportunity to travel around the country and try local delicacies has all added to the learning from life placement.

My role throughout the course of the placement has been to teach English as a foreign language. This is something I have never done before so was nervous in the beginning. However, I soon got to know the children and became more confident the more I taught. Having a native English speaker in the school was very exciting for the children. I was able to talk about what it is like going to school in Scotland, discussing the similarities and differences. I taught in CP (primary 1) and CM2 (primary 6/7). This was very fun as I had the chance the work with the youngest and the oldest children in the school. I was able to develop my teaching skills as well as gain experience of working in the early years.

My next university placement with be working with early years, therefore, I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with this age group whilst in France. I now believe I have a good understanding of how to teach young children. I have found that lessons work best in the early years when they are interactive and involve an aspect of creativity. I have built great relationships with the children over the past six weeks and it was very sad to say goodbye.

I believe I have achieved a lot throughout this process. I have challenged myself and taken advantage of every opportunity afforded to me. I have been able to develop my French linguistic skills as well as gain knowledge and understanding regarding teaching English as a foreign language. I have grown as a person and believe that learning from life has allowed me to do things I might never get the chance to do again. Living in France for two months and teaching in a French primary school has been one of the best things I have ever done. I will take with me everything I have learned and the connections I have made. I will be able to use the tools and skills gained here throughout the course of my teaching career.

Having the chance to see how the French education system works has given me many ideas for future teaching and learning. There are aspects of the French education system, with particular reference to learning a new language that I want to adopt when I qualify as a teaching professional. My passion for languages has grown throughout this experience and I want the children I teach in the future to have the best opportunities for learning a foreign language.

Overall, the learning from life experience has been the perfect end to my second year at university. I am proud that I challenged myself and did something that I will never have the chance to do again. I formed a great relationship with the teacher as well as the pupils and created French resources to take back with me to Scotland. I have arranged to stay in contact, so I always have a connection to France.

Week 3: Tuesday

On Tuesday I had the morning to plan before going into nearly a full day of teaching. This was very daunting as I had to teach various topics to different classes. I used the morning to translate different phrases, so I was able to speak both English and French to the younger children in CP as I was aware that their level of English is not great. I used the morning to make resources such as flashcards and PowerPoints. I was aware that one of the CP classes wanted me to talk to the children about myself and Scotland, so I thought it would be a good idea make a PowerPoint presentation full of various pictures of Scotland. It was important that I prepared a French translation for everything that I planned to say in English as the younger children would not understand what I was talking about.

There are three CP classes in Romain Rolland and I had the chance to teach each class today. I taught the first class about greetings and how to introduce yourself. This was very repetitive as I had to ensure that the children were able to remember, as well as pronounce the words. I taught them how to say, hello, goodbye, my name is, I am ____ years old and I am a boy/girl. This was a lot of information for them to take in. I made sure to use the white board to write and always gave them the French equivalent. I believe that moving forward with this class I could include games. Making the lesson more interactive will allow the children to remember phrases more easily. I am teaching this class again on Friday and I plan to prepare various games/ nursey rhymes. I think this class will enjoy it as they were very enthusiastic about English. They were all very keen to answer my questions and became more confident as the lesson progressed.

Teaching children in this stage of the school was very rewarding as they soaked up all the information like a sponge. This allowed me to reflect on the teaching of foreign languages in Scotland. It has been proven that the younger you begin learning a language the easier it is and the better you will be. Therefore, I think that languages should prioritised in the Scottish primary curriculum. From primary one children should be afforded the opportunity to have at least one or two lessons of language a week. Just doing a little bit every couple of days will allow the children to become more confident when they progress throughout school. Another thing I have noticed is that when I am teaching English, I have been told to speak in English as much as possible and try not to use French unless they really don’t understand. This is something that is not done in Scotland. I studied French to higher level and all of the way through high school we were spoken to in English. I believe this is a contributing factor as to why British people don’t find it easy to pick up a foreign language. I hope that when I become a qualified teacher I have to opportunity to teach a language in the way in which I know children will learn best. I would have jumped at the chance to learn a language from a young age, however, this is something that is not considered a priority within the Scottish education system. I have only been in France for just under three weeks and I have already picked up so much of the language merely from being around native French speakers. This shows that speaking in the language you are trying to learn is essential in developing your skill.

In the afternoon, I did the same lesson on greetings with the second CP class. They were very enthusiastic and responded well. However, this class found it more difficult to remember the words and sentences and needed more prompts than the other class. This shows that although that children are all the same age they are working at different levels. I found it very strange standing at the front of the classroom talking to a room of children who don’t speak my language. Teaching a foreign language is something I don’t have any experience of and I am finding it difficult. Explaining thigs in a way in which the children will understand whilst always using actions is very important, especially with the CP classes. I believe that moving forward I need to ensure that I have a sound I have an activity for the children to do, so that I am not up at the front of the classroom at all times.

I found that by my final class of the day I was a lot more confident teaching. I taught the same lesson three times and each time I believe that I improved and found the best way to engage the children in the lesson. I found that talking very slowly whilst constantly repeating the vocabulary was the most successful way to teach the children. They were very enthusiastic, and it is clear to see that they enjoy English lessons. On Friday I have been asked to teach the topic of colours. I believe that this is a topic will be a good one to teach as I can use flashcards as well as books and games, making the lesson interactive. The children respond very well to interactive lessons; therefore, I must ensure that I am always thinking of new ways to keep the children engaged.

Overall, I had a very successful first full day of teaching. I was very nervous going into this day, however, it has now given me the confidence to be creative and come up with new methods and ideas. I now have a good understand of how the CP classes work and what teaching strategies work well. I am looking forward to getting to know the children throughout the school more over the coming week as well as the other teachers.

Monday 19/03/2018

I went into my second week of placement very enthusiastic and excited about the week ahead. Having already spent a week in a French school environment I was eager to get back into the school routine. This was my first Monday in ‘l’ecole Romain Rolland’ and I was interested to see if the Monday routine was any different from the other days due to the change in teacher. A supply teacher takes the class on the first day of every week as their normal teacher only works four days a week. I had the chance to meet this teacher last Wednesday. Last week I reflected upon the fact that this teacher could not speak English and the difficulties I faced because of this. I made a real effort to converse with the teacher in French on this day. Throwing myself into the French language is the only way I’m going to improve my communication skills.

The children had an English lesson, there is an English language assistant that works on various days throughout the week. The topic the children were working on was clothes. Repetition was a major part of this lesson. The teacher gave the children a worksheet detailing pictures and names of various items of clothing. He would say the word and ask the children to repeat after him. Once they became more confident he would ask individual children to stand up and tell that class what they were wearing. It was clear to see that the children in CM2 find English difficult due to the different pronunciation of words. This is something that I must consider when I am assisting the children with their English. Through what  I have witnessed so far, speaking the language is key in successful learning. This allowed me to consider the way in which we teach language in Scotland. I believe that we focus more on


reading and writing and not as much on the conversational aspect of the language. I believe that when I become a qualified teacher I will ensure that the spoken aspect of foreign languages is not forgotten. I have also had the chance to gain insight into the way in which the children learn best, I can adapt this to ensure that the children get the best out of their English lessons.

I noticed that throughout the day the majority of lessons are taught through textbooks, worksheets and the teacher writing on the blackboard. It is a very traditional way of learning. In Scottish schools we try to have an interactive classroom, with teachers thinking of creative ways of teaching lessons. This is something I believe should be enforced in the French education system. I believe that children benefit from the way in which the Scottish system enforces education. However, despite the lack of interactive lessons, or range of subjects taught the children in France are always engaged and enthusiastic during lessons. Therefore, this traditional method of teaching may be what works in school to gain the best results.

The children took part in physical education on Monday at the local gym hall. This was about a ten-minute walk from the school. This was the first time that I had observed a gym lesson. Every other lesson that I have observed has been in the classroom. It was interesting to see the children in a different environment outside the school. They were very enthusiastic and rearing to go. However, some of the children forgot their gym kit and therefore had to sit out and watch. The teacher was very strict about this and didn’t make any exceptions. This was the first time I had seen the children do something that wasn’t written in a textbook, I believe that curricular areas such as physical education should be practiced more often within the French school system. I believe that moving forward in this placement I will try and make lessons as interactive as possible so that the children are involved in their learning and are not merely sitting and writing. Having gotten to know the characters within the classroom I believe they would thrive in a more creative learning environment.

One thing I have noticed this week, especially on Monday with the supply teacher was the very literal hands on approach they take with the children. The push, shove and grab the children at times. This is something that shocked me as this would never happen in a Scottish primary school. Putting your hands on the children is not something that happens. However, in France this is seen as normal. The children don’t react when it happens to them, they simply learn their lesson and move on. This is one of the main differences I have noticed thus far. I don’t believe that it is the right approach to take in primary schools, there are better ways to go about disciplining the children. It is interesting to see how different teachers handle pupils. The student’s normal teacher Amélie is very different with the children I have never seen her physically interact with the children. She is very calm, and the children respond to her very well.

In the afternoon CM2 swapped with the class next door. I stayed in the same classroom with a different group of children to help them with their English lesson. However, I was not involved in this lesson as the teacher decided to do it herself.  Swapping classes in the later stages of primary school in France is common to prepare the children from the transition from primary school to high school. The teacher started off the English lesson by asking one of the pupil’s questions about himself in English before moving on to testing various pupils on a poem they had learned in English. This class proved to be very confident in English. I noticed there were certain member of the class that were misbehaving throughout the lesson. This is something I have not been used to thus far. The other children in the class were growing more and more annoyed at these children. This is something the teacher tried to address by raising her voice, however, they continued to act out. It wasn’t until the game of Simon says begun were the disruptive children good. This shows that the traditional teaching strategy of working out of textbooks does not work for everyone and sometimes children need to be more active.

First Day in a French Primary School

I was both anxious and excited going into my first day of placement. Arriving at the school was surreal, I couldn’t quite believe I was going to be teaching English in a French primary school. After entering the school with my host Nina, I was given a very warm welcome by both staff and my host teacher Amélie. I was very happy to find out that she was fluent in English as the language barrier was something that I feared going into the placement. Although I have basic French and studied the language when I was in high school, I am not very confident. It was good to find out that I was with a teacher that I could converse within in my mother tongue as well as someone that could help me improve my French speaking skills.

The Language Barrier

I realised very early on in the day how difficult it was to try and understand native French speakers. The children in my class were all very excited about me being in their classroom and attempted to ask me question after question, in French. At this point I panicked a bit as I realised my level of French was not going to cut it. Throughout the day I tried to pay attention to everything both the teacher and children were saying. I could pick out various words, but the fluency along with the speed was too much to keep up with. This made me realise that during my time in France I would like to improve my conversational French. The language barrier was also an issue in the staff room at lunchtime. I was sitting at a table with teachers talking at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour. This also made me realise how long a two-hour lunch actually is. It seemed like an eternity sitting in silence not understanding what anyone was saying. I knew it was going to be difficult going into a primary school setting where English wasn’t their native language, this is something I believe I will get used to over time. I hope that being submerged in the French language will allow me to improve.

My Role

I was already aware going into the placement that my role within the classroom was going to be helping as a language assistant. As this was only my first day I spent a lot of the time observing various lessons. However, when it was time for the children to begin their English lesson, I was given the opportunity to stand up in front of the class while the children asked me questions in English and I answered them in English. This was v

ery good as it allowed the children to get to know me better and ask me questions about both myself and my country. They were very excited to find out that I was from Scotland. I had to ensure that I spoke slowly and clearly to allow them to understand the English along with my Scottish accent. Having this small input in the class allowed me to gain an idea of the level of English the children had as well as the kind of activities I will be doing during my time in school.

Lesson Structure

Although I have only been in the school for one day it was clear to see that the French school system is very structured. Mathematics and French are always taught in the morning and are kept to a strict time limit. I did not see any expressive arts classes today as they focused on literacy and numeracy. In France I believe that they teach the subjects that are considered more important and more creative subjects take a back seat. This is something very different from Scotland as we ensure there is always time for expressive and creative subjects. Because the children have three breaks throughout the course of the day, this is the time where they can unwind and have fun. This may be why there is a lot less play within the four walls of the classroom. However, I have only experienced one day of work, so I cannot confirm that this is the way in which every day will be structured.


It was great to see the high level of respect the children have for the teacher and vice versa. The children are all very polite and eager to learn and participate in lessons. From the beginning of the day the children were positive and equipped for learning. The children all arrive within the necessary equipment needed for the day ahead, they don’t rely on the teacher to provide stationary as some students do in Scottish primary schools. When a lesson begins, the children all sit very quietly and get on with their work. There was not one person in the class that was disruptive or not getting on with their work. Something else that I noticed was that every member of the class would put their hand up when the teacher asked a question. They all wanted to be involved in their learning and would get excited if they were to be picked to answer a question. This is something I have never seen before in Scottish primary schools. Often, it’s the same children who put their hands up whilst others sit back and don’t offer an answer. This was very refreshing seeing children so enthusiastic about their studies.

Overall, I had a great experience during my first day in a French primary school setting. I got to know the children whilst having my first insight into the French education system. It was challenging at times due to the language barrier, but this is something I look forward to improving throughout my time in France. The first day allowed me to realise how lucky I am to be spending the learning from life placement in France.