It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
No, we’re not back in the French Revolution.
I’m talking about high school.
With high schoolers, moods can change in an instant, so sometimes as French teachers it can feel difficult to reach them.
To jazz up the atmosphere in your classroom and get your students engaged no matter what type of day they’re having, grab their attention with interactive activities.
Here are five such activities that will create authentic interest, and even leave them hungry for more!
Why Use Interactive Activities with High School French Students?
It produces results. Interactive learning can improve students’ retention abilities and their predisposition to learning. When students are genuinely interested, even those who usually have limited focus or short attention spans will be on board.
The fun, collaborative aspect of interactive activities also tends to have an emulating effect. If you are looking for a way to get your students engaged, what better way than to make sure their classmates are enthused about it?
It creates real discussions. We know that French isn’t a dead language, so keep in mind that the primary purpose of learning French is to be able to effectively communicate. These activities allow students to develop and learn such skills through interacting and engaging with each other.
It keeps lessons interesting. Most high school students have various reasons to not give it their all in class, and will eventually give up if they feel unchallenged or aren’t properly stimulated. So you really need to get your students excited to come to your classroom, and to inspire them while they’re with you.
A 2014 study by Dr. Debrah Malpass has shown that only 9% of high students who take French language course progress to A-level due to lack of interest. The vast majority gives up before reaching higher levels. In short, language pedagogy should move beyond routine grammar-translation exercises.
It puts them in authentic situations. Interactive methods create a comfort zone where students can focus on language. For students who have little exposure to French outside the classroom, these are great tools to help get them familiar with the language. They may also boost their ability to master the French language, use it in context and to communicate their thoughts.
5 Fun and Effective French Interactive Activities for High School Students
1. Twitter en français
That’s right: You’re bringing Twitter to the classroom!
And here’s why: You want to excite your students about the endless possibilities of learning French, and prove that reading authentic discussions of current events in French isn’t as hard as they might have thought.
In short, you want to empower your students by showing them a concrete example of why their journey to mastering French will pay off. You’re aiming to instill in them the desire to pursue their daily browsing activities on Twitter in French–just by proving that they are perfectly capable of it.
Twitter is familiar and easy, as each tweet is limited to a mere 140 characters.
Encourage students to follow French news, current events or noteworthy French figures. Here are some great Twitter accounts to get started:
Newspapers and Magazines
- Le Point @lepoint
- Le Monde @lemonde
- Le Figaro @lefigaro
- France 5 @france5tv
- Agence France Presse @afpfr
- Télérama @telerama
- L’Express @Lexpress
- L’Etudiant @Letudiant
- GQ France @GQ_France
- François Hollande @fhollande
- Nicolas Sarkozy @NicolasSarkozy
- Marine Le Pen @MLP_Officiel
- Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet @nk_m
- Anne Hidalgo @Anne_hidalgo
- François Bayrou @bayrou
- Ségolène Royal @RoyalSegolene
- Fleur Pellerin @fleurpellerin
- Alain Juppé @alainjuppe
Companies and Businessmen
- SNCF @sncf
- Orange @Orange_France
- Air France @AirfranceFR
- Christine Lagarde @Lagarde
- Xavier Niel @xavier75
- Nicolas Hulot @N_Hulot
- Pascal Negre @pascalnegre
- Louis Dreyfus @ldreyfus
Sports and Athletes
- Paris Saint Germain @FF_PSG
- Olympique de Marseille @OM_Officiel
- Paris for Olympic Games 2024 @Paris2024
- French Hockey Federation @FF_Hockey
- French Horse-riding Federation @FRA_Equitation
- Teddy Riner @teddyriner
- Nikos Aliagas @nikosaliagas
- Amanda Sthers @AmandaSthers
- Ingrid Chauvin @ingridchauvin1
- Sandrine Quetier @sandquetier
- Cyril Hanouna @Cyrilhanouna
Trends are popular topics on twitter. They are characterized by a hashtag (#) and show what is buzzworthy in a particular location. To look for trends on Twitter in France, scroll to your “Trends” box, click “Change” and set location to “France (All Cities).”
How This Works
Create groups of two to three students and ask them to choose a French personality or trending theme, and then produce an interactive presentation documenting their journey investigating the matter. Tell them that the goal is to enable them to be immersed in the French culture.
Students should replicate their regular Twitter activities in French: Read tweets that concern their topic (posted from and about a topic), read related articles and participate in discussions with French Twitter users by commenting on their posts.
Then, groups will document their findings. The data they have collected on Twitter should enable them to address the following questions:
- Who is the personality in question/What is the issue? Students should give background on the personalities and trending topics (i.e. Why this is someone/something of note, number of followers, number of discussions, why it matters).
- What is going on? Students should highlight key facts and recent news based on tweets to eventually drive discussions and questions with other students.
- Contributions. Students should document how they engaged in discussions with other French Twitter users. What led them to their opinion? What were the results?
- Discussions and Q&A. Students should lead interaction with other classmates. Classmates should take notes and bring up constructive feedback to the presenting group.
Rotate so that all groups participate. As much as you can, enable your students to bring their own touch to the presentation. The goal is that they share their journey on Twitter with the class. The format is flexible, as long as it showcases each group’s efforts to understand real French discussions on Twitter.
2. Newsworthy Meeting
Start the day with 20-30 minutes of interactive time that encourages students to go beyond the simple greeting, weather and sharing activities—and instead focus on newsworthy events (politics, economy, entertainment, etc.).
Include this in your routine either daily or weekly, as your schedule allows. Students should be prepared for the exercise by having read the news and being able to provide fact-based opinions and develop technical vocabulary, if necessary.
How This Works
One student should come to the blackboard and serve as “anchorman” or “anchorwoman,” recapping in French the 4-5 headlines of the past couple of days. Ask your students to bring their own style to the exercise. (And no English allowed!)
Encourage the presenter to turn it into an authentic news broadcast. They could customize their own desk plate, write on the whiteboard, bring their own signs… anything that reflects their creativity!
The student hosting the news could even bring other classmates to act as stakeholders and contribute as “invited guests.” For example, if the issue is the E.U. refugee crisis, it could be interesting to ask a friend to contribute as Angela Merkel so the newscaster can conduct an interview and touch on current issues differently.
They could also turn the show into a mini comedy à la John Oliver. It doesn’t have to be formal, and sarcasm and humor are greatly encouraged, too.
Anchors should interact with other students, so asking for the audience’s opinion is highly encouraged at the end of a segment. There should be some discussion before moving to another headline.
At the end of the meeting, the public should give constructive feedback to the anchor: Did they like the “show”? Why? What could have been done better/differently?
Feedback is important, as it will enable the anchorman and classmates to improve their presentation skills. Over the course of the semester, each student should be able to host their own meeting once, ideally more.
3. Creating Comics
Comics are another approachable type of written media. Yet comics are falsely easy; they have their own etiquette, including short sentences, spoken language, onomatopoeia and abbreviations.
Asking your high school students to create and share comic strips is a great way for them to familiarize themselves with this world, and to express their creativity.
How This Works
Ask your students to pick comic strips from French newspapers (Le Monde, Le Point, Charlie Hebdo, etc…) and then white out the words so they can add their own.
Another option is to have students create blank comic strips from free websites (Bitstrips, Makebeliefscomics, etc…) or to use any existing comic strip that has the word bubbles already whited out (Reddit, Google Images, etc.).
Next, it can help to pick a theme. Here are a few ideas:
- Le Scientifique fou (Crazy scientist)
- Différences culturelles (Cultural differences)
- #Foodporn (#Foodporn)
- Les Aaddicts du shopping (Shopaholics)
- Comment fonctionne le Parlement français (How the French Parliament works)
Give them a list of target vocabulary words, and give each word various point values: the more complex, the more points they get.
- For example, burette (burette), cellule (cell), hypothèse (hypothesis) or immunologie (immunology) are great target words for the theme “Crazy scientist.”
Creativity and storytelling will be rewarded, and students could even receive more points if they use idioms. In the end, students with the most points wins.
Let your students place the words into the bubbles and watch the stories unfold! But make sure you’re not the only one who gets to read the works: Why not turn your students’ French artwork into an exhibit?
4. French Debate
Debate is part of French culture, just as much as eating baguettes and drinking wine. In France, people don’t watch talk shows—they watch debates! Let’s make it a full component of the French classroom through this activity.
How This Works
Organize your students into teams of three: one first speaker, one second speaker and a rebuttal speaker. Two teams will debate on one subject (one proposition, one opposition). One group of students will serve as judge on all debates.
Pick a debate-worthy subject. Prefer current events, philosophical subjects and general trends, as those generate more passionate discussions and can cover a wide array of areas. For example:
- L’Europe doit-elle accepter plus de réfugiés ? (Should the E.U. accept more refugees?)
- Marine Le Pen: danger pour la démocratie française ? (Marine Le Pen: a threat to the French democracy?)
- Y-a-t-il quelque chose que l’argent ne peut acheter ? (Is there anything money cannot buy?)
- Le français peut-il devenir la langue de l’avenir ? (Can French become the language of the future?)
- Faut-il bombarder Mars ? (Should we nuke Mars?)
Give them time to prepare, so announce topics and name teams two weeks in advance. Stick to debate rules, and respect speaking order and time limits. Speakers should make their presentations in the following order:
- First Speaker, Proposition Team – 5 min.
- First Speaker, Opposition Team – 5 min.
- Second Speaker, Proposition Team – 5 min.
- Second Speaker, Opposition Team – 5 min.
- Rebuttal Speaker, Opposition Team – 3 min.
- Rebuttal Speaker, Proposition Team – 3 min.
The first four speeches are constructive speeches, where teams build their arguments. New arguments may be introduced in any of these speeches.
The last two speeches are rebuttal speeches—summary speeches. This is where debaters make the case for their side of the debate and try to downplay the major points of the other team. No new arguments are allowed in rebuttal speeches.
I recommend allowing each student to bring just a one-pager with their key thesis, stats and facts to reference as needed during the debate.
At the end of the debate, judges will deliberate and share results with the teams and public. They should recap the best arguments on both sides and motivate their judging. Judges should bring constructive feedback and a detailed descriptions of the reasons for the outcomes, as well as potential comments to help debaters progress.
5. Graphic Organizer
This final activity is a more interactive way of reading articles/texts. Students are encouraged to extract essential words, information and stats based on their readings.
How This Works
The graphic organizer works like an infographic. It rearranges an article by showcasing key findings, data and opinions in a simplified, organized manner—which highlights how elements are linked to one another.
Teach your students how to create their own. Start with a piece of paper (or the blackboard to show it to them) and draw a cross in the middle: one horizontal line intersecting a vertical. You should have four equal rectangles, which will serve as the four main sections of the graphic organizer. The boxes can host anything: keywords, tables, charts, symbols, etc.
Then, teach students how to use it by using a newsworthy article as an example. Start by extracting the main ideas and thesis on the blackboard.
The upper left box should expand on the first main theme, the upper right box on the second main theme, and the bottom left box on a third theme. These sections include the core elements developed in the article. This is particularly helpful for AP French essays, but it’s also a great way for students to take notes during an oral presentation or lecture.
For example, if the subject is “France’s law on gay marriage,” one box could be about the background (key dates, key events, key stats), another could be the “pro arguments” and the third could be about “challenges.” Everything depends on the article!
The bottom right square is devoted to new vocabulary and grammar. This is where students can include unfamiliar words, business vocabulary, synonyms, antonyms, idioms and interesting structures. Eventually, they could even cut out this fourth section to keep as flip cards.
This is a perfect way for students to build their French language skills in context using words that they have personally selected. The graphic organizer should be personal, but you’re welcome to showcase various examples around the classroom.
The goal with all of these activities is to instill good habits in your students, which they can replicate throughout their French language study. Have fun with them!
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you liked these fun teaching ideas, you’ll love using FluentU in your classroom. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic French videos that people in the French-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities.
You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “suit,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun questions based on what the student already knows.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach French with real-world videos.