A class of characters

“Why don’t you ever call us by our English names?” one of my CM1 students recently asked me.

After my pre-teaching observation period, I decided that I needed to learn my students’ names. Quickly.

I devised an activity that would be fun for them and invaluable for me—English names, with a twist. In class after class, I handed out pre-folded name tags along with lists of common English first names and instructed my students to choose one they liked and to write both their real (French) name and the chosen English name on the same side of the name tag.

It was great. They got to laughingly try to pronounce those silly English names. They got to ridicule me when I incorrectly pronounced their French names (NB: This is still a near-daily occurrence). And best of all, the activity exhausted an entire class period.

Weeks later and thanks to my name tags, I finally know all the (French) names. Unfortunately my older classes aren’t impressed and have begun demanding to be called on (and chastised) à l’angalis.

Last Thursday, I was feeling spunky and decided to humor my CM1 class at Saint Exupery.

Let it be stated that this is at once my favorite and least favorite class.

It’s full of sharp minds and quirky characters (sometimes oftentimes they clash).

It’s the one with a little girl whose hand shoots up before I finish a question and whose eyes bug out of her head because she wants to respond so badly. Every. Single. Time.

It’s the one with the boys who try in all seriousness to pronounce my name with an English accent and end up calling me “Cawa.”

It’s the one with the shove-it-in-your-face know-it-all who interrupts class to “helpfully” correct my grammar mistakes but sulks if I separate her from her chatty friend and then refuses to work with the partner I’ve chosen for her.

It’s the one with the little girl who rushes up to me at recess and says, “Coucou, Cara! Good afternoon! OwAhreYoo?”

It’s the one with the class clown who won’t stop talking. Until I call on him. Then he chokes up and blushes as I walk him through the pronunciation of each word.

And then there are the fictional characters.


Cara scanning the name tags: “James Bond, how are you today?”

Sabri: “Iyam…Iyam…nohwell.”


Cara: “What’s the date today?Sponge Bob?”

Deni: Aloof silence

Cara: “Deni!”

Deni: “I thought you were using our English names.”

Cara: “I did: Sponge Bob.”

Deni: “No, it’s ‘Bob l’eponge.’

Cara: “Fine. Bob l’eponge. The date, s’il te plaît.

Deni: “Fursday, Deecembare seex, toofoussandtwelve”


Cara: “Jack Sparrow, do you have a question?”

Johan: “Cawa? Do you have your driver’s license?”

Cara: “Yes…OK, back to the numbers. Thirteen. Be sure to pronounce the ‘n’ at the end, or else it sounds like ‘thirty.’ Yes, Jack Sparrow?”

Johan: “Do you have a motorcycle?”

Cara: “No. I have a car.”

Johan: “Here in France?!”

Cara: “No. At home. In the United States.”



  1. I love the names they picked, Cawa! Especially Bob l-eponge! Such an English one.

  2. To clarify, the list I passed out had “normal” English/American names. Most students simply chose things like “Jane” or “Kevin” but these three in question decided to push the envelope.

  3. […] I was, I said, “I’m angry and tired!” and after explaining the source of my mood, Jack Sparrow responded to the ritual “How are you?” Q&A session with: “I’m angwy fow […]

  4. […] instead of making myself red in the face while lecturing my boisterous CM1s about wasting my time, I speak firmly and quietly, the calm before the storm—impressing on them […]

  5. […] All week I said adieu to my students with sing-a-longs of “The Wheels on the Bus” and “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” With final games of bingo. With heated rounds of “Simon Says.” With chewy, fruity bonbons. Even with teary eyes to Jack Sparrow’s class. […]

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