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27 juillet 2021 - 15:23

Cours d'anglais au British Council en France
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Nishma Nussbaumer

So as the gazillionth lockdown finally came to an end just in time for spring, I was delighted that my first class back teaching face to face at the British Council would be the intensive HEC Prepa course.

Every June the British Council welcomes HEC prepa students for a week-long intensive course to improve their English. 

So first things first; Who is HEC? What is Prepa?

HEC is a prestigious Paris business school; one of the few select schools that owns the elite title of a grandes école. Prepa (short for préparatoires) refers to courses taken by some students usually in the two years after the baccalauréat. The aim of these courses is to prepare students for entry exams into Les Grandes Ecoles such as HEC.

So by the time our students reach the British Council they have completed their intensive preparation study for HEC and you would imagine probably want nothing more than to go to sleep for a month! Oh contraire! Incredibly, they arrive every year full of curiosity, energy and focus, ready to make the most of this great opportunity to improve their English. 

The course at the British Council

The course runs from Monday to Friday. Each day students work through a variety of activities aimed to improve reading, listening, writing with a particular emphasis on speaking. As part of the course students also do a cool vlogging project which they must create during the week in groups and present on Friday to their classmates and teachers. 

What do the students get out of it?

After a very intense year of sit down study one of the main objectives we have is to get the students up and out of their seats, working in groups all the while being as creative as possible. Through a plethora of activities aimed at drawing out their personal interests, passions and opinions students broaden their cultural knowledge of the UK and immerse themselves in all that is British! Students are also invited to get to know their teachers, ask us questions about the UK, British culture and our experience of living in France. By the end of the week the students leave the British Council feeling much more confident in expressing themselves in English, whether it be by giving a presentation, taking part in a debate or class discussion.

What do we as teachers get out of it?

As a teacher with a background in drama this is an opportunity for me to utilise my skills as an actor to help students build confidence and improve oral expression. Perhaps because the style of teaching we offer is in such contrast to what the students are used to, they are very open to drama activities which is wonderful for me as a teacher as I can be spontaneous and try new ideas.

Second  to that is the way the course is designed, the material is bountiful and as teachers we pick and choose day by day what we think the students will benefit from the most. Teaching on this course is a liberating experience, whilst at the same time very focused as we have just five days to give these students a meaningful language learning and cultural experience. Personally, this is my favorite way to teach; intensively but with a huge amount of freedom and a group of students who are open to learning “outside the box.”

Cours d'anglais au British Council en France
©

Nishma Nussbaumer

What were my personal highlights from this year's course?

Speed dating (with a twist)

Students had to find a clip of no more than 1 minute that meant something to them. I gave them a huge amount of freedom, they could choose anything. We had clips from films, tracks, a fashion show and one too many perfect slam dunks!

The task was simple: you have two minutes to explain why you chose it? What does it mean to you? And the catch? You have to tell every member of the class. (Now that’s what I call an overshare!) At the end we voted on the best speaker and the best listener. Great fun.

Hot Seating 

These students know each other, I mean like really know each other. Hardly surprising when they have sat side by side with each other studying intensely for one year. Knowing this, I set up an activity where they had to talk about someone they admire, they then paired up and whilst one student talked the other had to do 2 things: first make notes on what your partner is saying, second makes notes on how they are saying it, in other words what is their body and face doing while they talk? Do they move their arms a lot? Do they have a particular gesture they make? Do they smile? Do they make eye contact?

Then after 15 minutes of studying their partner we start hotseating. 

Three of them come up and we get to interview them AS their partner. It was hilarious and alarmingly accurate and from a teaching point of view a joy to see them forget about making  mistakes and embrace the real activity of being their partner.

The presentation of the vlogs 

As part of their course the students work on a vlogging project where they have to, in the most imaginative way possible, create a vlog all about their experience at the British Council. 

I have to admit that every year when I watch Nishma, our digital coordinator, talk the students through this, I wonder whether or not I would be able to do this in French… probably not. And yet every year I am blown away by what they show us at the end of the week. When on earth did they have the time to do that? How on earth did they do that? But let’s be fair, these are some of the brightest minds in France, so is it really that surprising?

This year was of a particularly high standard. The level of imagination was so impressive. We encouraged them to find a creative way of recording their experience. Did they do it? Oh yes they did! There was the group who did it in the style of a news broadcast, the group who came up with the slogan Pimp my English (genius) and the group who actually dubbed themselves over the top in a bid to deal with the restriction of the masks, highly effective and very funny.

All in all this year’s course was a  great success as made evident by the buzzing atmosphere in the room after prizes were presented to the winners of the Vlogging competition. Bring on next year!