Sunday, 1 December 2013

French sports students learning English

I'd like to introduce you to one of my favourite classes - my STAPS students. They are all studying sport but English lessons are mandatory for them. Rather than write this blogpost completely by myself I thought it might be fun and useful for my students to have a say about what they think. They are all French students studying  their chosen sport and also the rules of other sports. In order for STAPS students to have the best opportunity to improve their English they are divided into three classes to keep class sizes down. I am responsible for one of these classes.

My students spend most of their week studying sport at two locations with activities at various stadiums. Although their level of oral English is not high they are a very personable and open-hearted bunch willing to display their personalities more than some of the more academically oriented classes I teach elsewhere. Roguish charm and a willingness to help their classmates characterises these students. You can see this in the photos and they were comfortable enough to agree to a class photo. This also sets them apart.

I like travelling by train and bus to work from my home in another region because the train is more direct and the city where I work is charming and super bourgeois. It's also the only campus where I get to have a short conversation meeting other other English teachers. The teaching campus contains the sciences faculty and sports fits within that. Those of you will think it ironic that someone who is not into sport (though into dance) should end up teaching sports students but it has been an interesting and rewarding experience.

The class runs for three hours on a Wednesday. For several weeks we practiced the words and movements of a traditional NZ haka. I wanted to give them a unique 'sporting' experience, get out from behind our desks and have some fun. It was an uphill struggle to get them to display the menace and intimidation required to do a more authentic haka. I kept asking for more testosterone  and we all laughed about that. Goodness know what other students who walked pass thought.

We practised in wind and rain outside because somehow it was always too loud for neighbouring classes. I would have like to have got them to performance standard but it wasn't important to them, more the experience. French culture doesn't have anything comparable. So there I was, Frances Lawson Haka coach in France, a unique experience for me. I also enjoyed introducing students to key NZ sportspersons and the concept of extreme sports of which NZ excels. There's a lot more I'd have like to do but there's so much evaluation/testing required it gets in the way of actually teaching. This is, after all, university level.

I'll leave you with the ideas and opinions of my sports students:
  • In  my opinion studying English is very important for all students, not only for sports majors.
  • During our class with Miss Lawson we watch videos about sport, we debate sports subjects and we do grammar. The class is very entertaining. I like when we work on the whiteboard.
  • I'm studying sport. We practice different sports like dance, swimming, football/soccer, judo, gymnastics, horse riding. During our studies we learn about the  movement of the body with biology, anatomy and biomechanics.
  • I decided to study sports because I would like to become a physical trainer for professional athletes one day. Therefore it's important to learn English because then we can train English, American or German athletes.
  • I like learning about other cultures including NZ culture
  • It's fun, not boring in our class
  • We study for nine months from September to May.
  • My class has a very good ambiance.
  • I like playing games in class where there is a little competition
  • I like doing the worksheets
  • I don't like speaking because I am shy
  • I don't like learning grammar
  • I don't like writing or reading in English
  • I like doing the haka because not many classes do it
  • Grammar is boring and difficult
  • I like the interaction between students and the teacher but I don't like the debates
  • I don't like evaluations/tests
  • I don't like having to go outside because the other teachers can be annoying - they don't want to be disturbed by our haka
  • In English with Miss Lawson we learn how to have a conversation in English and debate sports topics. There's also listening comprehension
  • I like doing the haka when the temperature is cold
  • I like doing the Poutini haka,it's fun. I think I like everything
  • The whole class is interested in playing games in class
  • I like talking about real life in English
  • My best memory is the haka; it's a very good experience for me


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