Is your French classroom time seeming repetitive?
Dare we say even…tedious?
Are your students getting bored and not progressing the way they should be?
It can be tough to keep the energy level high in your French classroom.
For one thing, your school isn’t necessarily giving you the fancy resources you’d prefer.
And let’s admit it, just teaching French can be exhausting enough. Finding creative ways to fill class time that test and develop your students’ French skills in multiple ways is something that you may just not have the time or energy to do.
But don’t despair.
We’re about to change things up! In this post, we’ll introduce some exciting but reliable activities you can use to make your French classroom an interesting and productive place to be.
Let’s get those wheels turning.
Why You Really Need to Mix Up Your Classroom Activities
There are some very compelling reasons why it’s important to both vary your classroom activities and use varied classroom activities.
First, repetitive activities result in a lack of stimulation. They don’t properly test all French language skills. They may focus too much on reading and listening, but not enough on pronunciation or speaking.
Adding variety is the best way to address that! Whether it’s in the content, topics or delivery method, variety pushes your students to broaden their skills by stimulating them properly.
Challenge is critical to the learning process. The flip side to this is that complacency stifles progress. The danger of routine exercises is that they create a false sense of confidence.
Make sure your activities elevate your students rather than keep them in a safe comfort zone!
Repetitive or played-out activities will give you the impression that your students are progressing when they’re really just repeating the same things over and over! In language teaching, you need to put your students in different situations and give them the tools that will empower them to understand anything they may come across.
If you don’t do this, they will stop progressing. You may have them stuck at the same level: Raise the bar!
One fantastic way to do this is to introduce new elements to activities and to change the format of activities to make them more challenging: You’ll notice your students will actually do well, maybe much better than you thought. How does this happen? Challenges force your students to wrack their brains and utilize what they know.
Challenging and varied activities will do much more for their confidence. Such activities will prove to them that they really do know enough to communicate their thoughts!
Changing things up will also increase students’ engagement. If your class isn’t motivated, you’ll find that teaching becomes more of a challenge. How so? Well, it’s quasi-impossible to teach if nobody actually participates or makes an effort to keep the ball rolling.
One easy way to change things up and keep your students engaged is by using FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Below, we’ll introduce you to some great activities you can use in your classroom. They’re fun and challenging, and some of them are suitable for use as long-term individual or group assignments. No matter how you use them, you’ll be filling out your class time with activities that are really valuable for building your students’ French knowledge and understanding.
Keep your students on their toes—they’ll thank you for it.
French Kaleidoscope: 7 Classroom Activities to Get Your Students Practicing All Facets of French
1. French Trivial Pursuit
That’s right! Making your own version of Trivial Pursuit is a great way to boost participation in class while helping your students learn new things and test what they know—all in French!
First, start by creating a French culture equivalent of the famous board game: Build your own board using cardboard and color crayons or paint. Don’t forget to buy game pieces, wedges and a die. You can find it all at your favorite arts and crafts store, or just use pieces from another game.
Then make the question cards. All cards should be in French and include questions from each of the six Trivial Pursuit categories, with answers on the back. All in French, of course—no translations allowed!
Remember how everything is color-coded:
Bleu : Géographie (Blue: Geography)
Rose : Divertissements (Pink: Entertainment)
Jaune : Histoire (Yellow: History)
Violet : Arts et Littérature (Purple: Arts and Literature)
Vert : Sciences et Nature (Green: Science and Nature)
Orange : Sports et Loisirs (Orange: Sports and Leisure)
Keep it as authentic as possible, or customize your own categories based on what your students have studied in class.
Some fun ideas for categories include:
- Chansons françaises (French songs)
- Gastronomie (gastronomy)
- XXème siècle (20th century)
- Présidents français (French presidents)
- Star Wars
Make sure you have enough material to create a full category, and get creative when you create questions!
Next step: Find a French-culture-related prize to award to the winner or winning group. These could include a trip to a French bakery, picking the French movie of their choice for the class’ next movie session, etc…
All of the above could be a lot of fun for you, but it can obviously get time-consuming, too. If you lack the time to create a full game, or if you just want to up class participation, you can let your students contribute their own question cards. Or you can just take the easy road and buy French editions.
2. Acting the Context
This is a great activity for students as it allows them to express their creativity and find different ways to communicate their thoughts.
Here’s how it works: First, prepare the activity. Write a few topics on pieces of paper. Great topics can include French movie names, or famous French figures, such as Balzac, Victor Hugo or Nicolas Sarkozy. Fold them, and place them in an urn.
Invite one or more students, if they’re playing as a group, to the center of the classroom. Then, present them with the urn and ask them to pick one piece of paper. They should read it and optionally discuss it together for a few seconds, but not share it with their classmates: Then, they should act it out!
Students have one minute to make others guess the word by improvising a mini-play about the word in question. If they fail to make their classmates guess the word, they incur a penalty. Whoever guesses the greatest number of words wins!
3. French Website
Entrepreneurship and technology in the French classroom? Yes, please!
Put students in groups of three or four. The assignment is fairly simple but still challenging: Students will have to imagine the company of their dreams, then create a website describing the company’s mission statement, team, product or service description and contact info…all in French! No English allowed.
The company can be anything: a consulting company, a restaurant, a media firm—you name it. Whatever inspires them!
This activity is great not only for helping your students perfect their French writing skills, but also allowing them to build a portfolio in French!
4. Competitive Tongue Twisters
This is one of our favorite ways to practice French pronunciation while having fun! Tongue twisters are entertaining, utilize words that most French learners don’t always think of using in a playful manner, and can be the fun challenge your students have been looking for.
The activity is fairly simple: How fast and easily can your students say…
Ton thé t’a-t-il ôté ta toux ? (Did your tea remove your cough?)
Le ver vert va vers le verre vert. (The green worm goes toward the green glass.)
Make it fun by gamifying the exercise: Students earn 50 points if they manage to say the sentences correctly and quickly, and incur a penalty if they fail (have to say the tongue twister on one foot, while dancing, while acting, etc.).
Keep track of their scores on the board. Students have the option to buy immunity badges (200 points) and penalties that they can activate on other students (asking them to say three tongue twisters of their choice in a row, to repeat the same tongue twister five times, etc). Each penalty is worth 150 points.
Whoever gets the most points wins!
5. Film Study
French movie lovers, unite! This activity is always a hit with students for all the right reasons: movies are as entertaining as they are educational and cultural.
Film study is a great way to bring the classroom together and show your students how they can maximize their French skills by changing the way they watch movies in French.
Start by picking popular films or TV series according to students’ interests and age range. There are numerous movies that are just perfect for your French students:
Depending on the type of streaming or viewing service you are using, if any, you may have the option to play movies with or without French subtitles. You can either add them right away, or play a scene without them, and then replay the scene and add them.
Adding subtitles immediately will enable your students to follow the progression of the movie and hopefully only read them if they need. Adding them only for a replay will test them more and require their full attention, but may break the flow.
What you should definitely do, however, is build a discussion around the movie you’ve watched in class by doing at least one of the following:
- Study symbolism in the movie.
- Discuss the storyline and the acting.
- Comment on the costume and settings.
- Imagine what could have happened before the story or what happens next, etc.
This activity can lead to student assignments: Create groups and let students come up with a unique presentation about the movie. Some great topics can be “Love in XXX,” “XXX’s movies,” “Movement in French cinema,” “Why XXX is such an iconic movie,” etc.
Presentations are a great way to test your students’ oral skills but also to understand what they really got out of the film. They should be organized and prove a point, but the idea is to let the presenters express themselves!
Such mini exposés should last approximately 10 minutes, with a 5-minute Q&A session with the rest of the class to follow.
6. Actor for a Day
Acting is the perfect exercise if you’re trying to help your students come out of their shells. It helps build confidence and the ability to speak in public. It also helps them explore different ranges of emotions—all in a different language!
For this activity, let students make their own French movie!
This is a great long-term assignment that can both fill class time and be done as ongoing homework. Students can create their own videos and edit them. A 15-minute movie is ideal: It’s long enough to enable them to develop a story, but short enough that it doesn’t require too much time commitment on their part.
Students should work in groups of four or five and the entire exercise should take between three to five weeks. They will create their own storyline, write a script, learn it and act it! They should also create a poster for their film.
Everyone should have a part, even if it’s minor. If a student just has small parts to say, that’s fine as long as they’ve still contributed significantly to the writing. Contributions to the project should be equal!
You have the option to turn these “movies” into plays if your school or your students don’t have a camera. You may want to discuss with the school administration the option to incorporate the French plays into an end-of-the-year event or to book a room and invite parents to watch.
You can also keep it private and make these plays a classroom-only activity. Pick one or two groups of students per session and ask them to act their play as the opening activity of the day. If you prefer to proceed this way, it might be a good option to have them create a play based on a topic assigned by you.
Some great topics could include “French chef at work,” “A mad scientist’s first date,” “Meet the parents” or “Running for president.”
To make sure that all students have a solid understanding of how to write a script, devote a full lesson to script writing.
In this session, you should go over with your class the basic elements that make for a good script (taking 20 to 30 minutes): It all starts with standard storytelling elements. The groups should spend some time thinking about the following:
- Finding a title.
- Setting a date/location for the story.
- Envisioning and developing the characters (names, looks, personality traits, goals, fears, challenges, etc.).
- Clarifying the premise. (What is the story about? What’s at stake?)
Then, they should proceed to draft a story outline. Generally, multiple drafts are necessary and will require some back-and-forth between the team members before they actually proceed to write the script.
Eventually, they will be able to tackle the writing portion: They should not be discouraged by this endeavor! Tell them to have fun, be creative and let their imaginations shine! It’s all about what they want to say, and how they say it. Writing a script involves finding a good structure and sticking to it, some action and genuine dialogue. Here is a great guide to help them get started.
Students should treat this activity as a group homework assignment: It’s up to them to organize regular meetings to meet and make sure that the script progresses.
Assign the topic to the presenting groups up to five weeks in advance, just to make sure that every group has the same amount of time to write and learn the script, and that late presenters don’t have an unfair advantage over early presenters.
7. Le Jeu de la Barrière (Barrier Game)
This is a great game to develop listening and speaking skills. It tests your students’ comprehension and communication ability.
Pair players: One student will give instructions in French, and their partner will receive directions. Place their desks next to or in front of one another, and separate them by some kind of barrier, such as a large book, a piece of cardboard or a box lid. They need to be able to hear (but not see) each other.
Then, give the students who will give instructions an urn with various drawings, simple maps or pictures. If you are using colored pictures, ask your students to bring crayons.
Make sure the pictures are not too complex and easy to reproduce. Great examples include a house with a chimney on the right-hand side, two windows, etc., five stars circling a square, a simple, hand-drawn map of City Hall, a school, a restaurant, etc.
Positions, details and names and labels (optionally) are key. They will test your students at giving accurate descriptions and paying attention to detail.
As your students give their description, their partners will listen to the instructions and try to reproduce the picture exactly from spoken directions alone. Then, they will exchange pictures and see how close they are to the original. Your students should take turns: Whoever gave instructions now should receive them and vice-versa.
This activity sounds easy, but can be very trying for those who have never played the game. Students generally get better and better with practice, which is why they also tend to really love it.
Go ahead, find out how your students do with the Jeu de la Barrière !
Hopefully, these new activities will help turn your French classes into highly engaging learning sessions in no time.
Bon courage et bon travail !
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