Is your French classroom feeling drab, humdrum, old-school or uninspired?
Whether you’re teaching French to kids or to adults, changing your classroom can make a world of a difference in your students’ performance, excitement and overall motivation.
A little creativity goes a long way. Your classroom revolution doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. All you need is to think about the possibilities and have the vision to make it happen—or to simply follow our guidelines!
These exciting classroom ideas will dramatically improve your students’ learning experience by keeping lessons fun, fresh and engaging.
Here’s how to get started.
4 Exciting French Classroom Ideas to Support Your Students’ Learning
1. The Reading Corner
If your classroom doesn’t have a reading corner, you’re missing out!
One of these will do a great job helping learners establish good reading habits early. Turning your reading corner into an exciting storyplace will do a lot to let your students know that you value and encourage independent reading.
If you’re looking to pass along your love for French literature, this is a very effective method to achieve it while also forging long-lasting memories. Your enhanced reading corner can help significantly raise your students’ curiosity and should instill in them a passion for reading.
Exposing your students to a chosen theme and elevating it will do wonders to increase their familiarity with and interest in the culture of French-speaking countries. Being around elements that symbolize key components of French culture should facilitate greater assimilation of the language and culture, promoting the feeling of immersion while also triggering their imagination.
So, create a space of comfort and imagination, and let students learn to love reading.
Tips to rearrange your reading corner
- Start by picking a theme.
It can be anything, really, as long as it has a tie to the cultures of French-speaking lands. Great themes help develop your students’ imagination and interest for history, art, culture and, of course, literature.
The mythical and legendary forest of Brocéliande, Corsica or Versailles, for example, are great themes for a reading corner. No matter what you choose, be creative!
- Pick colorful elements that represent your theme.
Give your old furniture a new life by upcycling it to blend seamlessly into its newly updated environment. Paint over your bookshelf to give it that special vintage feel, and choose stickers, pictures and posters to match the theme.
If you’re on a budget, big crafts stores have tons of cheap options to start do-it-yourself projects—or to get stuff that your students can turn into themed artwork in class.
- Make your space inviting.
It should feel warm and welcoming while still staying in line with your theme. For example, bring elf figurines and tree branches for the Brocéliande theme to recreate the feeling of stepping into a mysterious, ancient forest. Buy and display a Corsican flag (or even just print it) along with various posters showing the unique landscapes of this French region if you’re going with the Corsica theme.
Hang posters of the gold sun symbol along with portraits of Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette for the Versailles theme. Etsy and eBay offer a great selection of new and secondhand elements you can use to incorporate in your reading corner. Let yourself be inspired and have fun with it!
- Play with music and sounds related to your theme.
For Brocéliande, play ambient music focusing on the sounds of the forest, Corsican music for Corsica and classical music for Versailles. Create your own playlist on Spotify and play it on any of your devices to make your reading corner incredibly more realistic. Spotify is free to use but has regular commercials unless you pay to upgrade.
- Add lots of books to your reading corner!
Pick from a variety of genres at various reading levels, with at least 10 titles per student. Create sections matching a genre, such as novels, history books, comics or poems and organize books alphabetically.
Alternatively, create sections based on the books’ overall themes, including “Aventuriers” (Adventurers), “Découvertes” (Discoveries) or “Héros Légendaires” (Legendary Heroes). It’s more unconventional, but it will sure pique your students’ interests. Of course, be sure to devote a significant section to books matching the chosen theme of your reading corner!
How to get students to come to the reading corner
If your decoration wasn’t enough to lure them in, do what it takes to get your students to check out and spend time in your reading corner:
- Host book exchanges.
Set up a book exchange program where students can bring a French-related book they own and have read and exchange it for one of the books in the reading corner.
- Have story hours.
Organize story times and reading sessions where you read from one of the books once a week. Send colorful invites matching the book theme you’ll be reading to announce the session and get your students excited!
- Host “read and sip” activities.
Bring traditional French hot chocolate and cakes to encourage students to spend time in the reading corner and browse new books over some sweetness! These last two ideas could be part of an after-school club or program, and you might succeed in getting funding from your school’s administration for such activities.
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2. French Billboards
Billboards are terrific if you’re looking to add color to your classroom all while supporting your students’ overall learning experience.
Plus, creating them in class is a fun, hands-on process that’s a delight for your students. They do wonders to increase the motivation and happiness of your students. Breaking away from the dull classroom makes a big difference in their levels of enthusiasm!
They also result in better retention and assimilation of concepts. That’s because billboards are a colorful way to support your students’ learning of new vocabulary, grammar functions and conjugations. They support skills retention by stimulating memorization through continuous visual exposure and help new ideas stick without conscious effort.
Tips to create inspiring French billboards
- Your journey to making the perfect French billboards starts with some art supplies.
Head for a do-it-yourself store near you to make your own custom French signs. Shop for oversized billboards of various shapes and colors, and use pens, crayons and glitter to make them stand-out.
Alternatively, supermarket giants have a great selection of arts and crafts elements that can help take your billboard to another level without drowning your budget!
- Select a topic you want to illustrate and identify key elements.
Ask yourself what you want your students to take away from simply looking at your billboard. For example, if you’re creating a billboard about passé composé (present perfect/preterite), you might write down the subject of the sign (its title), the main function of this tense in just a few words (subtitle), its unique structure and some examples for each verb to illustrate the formation of the tense.
Make important keywords and elements stand out using colors and larger-sized letters. Write the title in bold letters to catch their attention. Similarly, put important words in bold font and pick different colors for verb roots for verbs of different groups.
- Associate visualization and text-based learning.
Theme-based billboards are a great way to break away from boring vocabulary lists. Start by collecting elements that illustrate your theme and assemble them using collages. Use anything that supports your topic, from pictures to drawings and even news clippings, and write the vocabulary in French underneath.
For example, if your topic is les vacances d’été (summer holidays) a good start is to collect pictures from travel guides and magazines showing various popular holiday spots, such as La Bretagne (Brittany), La Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) or Les Antilles (Antilles). Include some popular summer holiday activities, such as faire de la plongée (to snorkel) or se faire bronzer (to sunbathe).
Be mindful that the billboards should be legible from afar, having pictures that are large enough and writing in large, easy-to-read letters as well.
How to make French billboards work for your students
- Hang them everywhere.
To make keep the whole classroom more intriguing, scatter your billboards all over the classroom. Alternatively, assign a wall for nothing but your billboards (“the billboard wall”) and hang them there. It will draw the attention of your students!
- Make sure they’re relevant and practical.
Design billboards based on essential and technical functions. They shouldn’t stray too far from key lessons you’ve been teaching in class. You should have a combination of grammar and vocabulary billboards to keep your students stimulated and engaged with fresh content.
- Bring students together for collaboration.
Involve your students by turning this into a French class project. Pick as many themes as you have students or, alternatively, ask students to work in pair to promote collaborative learning. Ask students to chose a theme or assign it to them randomly, and let them design their own billboards.
- Turn it into a real billboard competition.
When all billboards are completed, ask each student to vote for their favorite billboards. They can vote for anyone’s but their own. The best student’s billboard wins a small prize, such as a French pastry or a bag of your favorite French cookies. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Lu‘s cookies can be found in virtually any supermarket now!)
Showcase the posters by turning it into a full exhibition, and use the exhibition as an opportunity to meet the parents.
3. Seating Arrangements
Traditional classroom settings tend to be too formal, sterile and boring.
There has to be a better way to arrange the classroom than having all of your students staring at the backs of each other’s heads, right? Good news is, the days of 30 desks lined in neat rows all facing the teacher’s desk up front are long gone.
Changing the seating arrangement can dramatically overhaul your students learning experience and can even push you to explore new teaching methods. Here’s how.
You can expect higher engagement and greater attentiveness from your students. Playing with seating will keep your French learners on their toes: they won’t know what to expect, except that their next French class will be interesting!
You can also improve collaboration between students. Rotating them between various seats does wonders to help develop their emotional intelligence early as well as their ability to communicate with others in French
Tips to enliven your classroom through desk placement
- Regularly change your seating arrangement.
Display the desks as a U-shape or, if you can, a partial circle. Leave room to move to the blackboard and leave the circle freely. You should be constantly moving from the center of the circle out around the room. The big plus about this seating is that everyone will have a front row seat.
Alternatively, organize desks into small teams of 4 or 6 when you’re working on group-based activities. Another great seating strategy is to place desks face-to-face. That will enable students to work in pairs more effectively. Be sure to checks on team and pairs regularly if you opt for these seating arrangements, just to make sure nobody gets sidetracked or starts chatting in English.
- Use objects in role plays, debates and class discussions to elevate your seating arrangement.
Before class, place various objects atop your students’ desks. A different object can be assigned to each group if you’ve chosen to organize desks into small teams, or to each student if you opt for the U-shape seating or face-to-face arrangement.
Each object should represent a particular role or point of view. For example, choose a book to represent the writing profession, a CD jacket to represent singing or a fake police badge to represent policemen.
Students will randomly choose their seats without knowing what these objects represent and be asked to act the part when the activities begin. If using it in a debate, simply pick two different types of objects that symbolize each point of view and place them atop the desks.
For example, for “Should we eat healthy foods?” you could use apples and bags of cookies and place them at random. Students who sit in the “apple” section will be on the affirmative side and students who sit near the bag of cookies will counter the arguments.
How to run your French class more efficiently in various seating arrangements
- Mix it up.
Don’t be afraid to rearrange your seating arrangement depending on the type of activity you’re doing on a given day, or if a particular seating doesn’t work for you. You’re in charge!
- Keep things engaging.
Be sure to constantly interact with your students and to keep teams engaged. It’s really important to stroll around and listen to your students’ discussions so you can help them and make corrections if necessary.
The idea is to keep lessons interactive and use seating as a facilitator. By bringing students closer to you (for the U-shaped seating) and to each other (for both the group and face-to-face seating), you’re breaking the formal barriers of the traditional classroom, thereby empowering students to take action and communicate with more confidence.
- Ask for students to change their seats regularly.
It’s a good idea to rotate students from one group to another or to have them seat themselves freely. The goal is to make sure that all students will effectively learn to communicate confidently with each of their classmates at least once. If you don’t assign seating but notice that some students tend to stick together, simply separate them and move them around.
4. Welcoming Atmosphere
It’s important to achieve a well-run, warm classroom to keep your students engaged and enthused during French class.
Can you really expect much to change, just based on how the room looks and feels? Oh, yes!
For one, you’ll notice markedly happier students! That’s right, your students will love stepping into your class and experimenting with your various setups. The ability to discover and move around from one station to the next should increase their overall curiosity in French class.
Letting them be free and more natural with their movement should empower them with their French communication. When students don’t feel the pressure from the solemn classroom, they’re more willing to speak and engage with others in a foreign language.
You can also be prepared to notice more focus in the classroom. By giving your students an opportunity to learn the way they most naturally do, they won’t get distracted and lose focus. By getting them to be more attentive, your students should be able to retain information better, as well as memorize and retrieve new knowledge with greater ease.
Here’s how to do it.
Tips to address environmental preferences
- Play with light to make your classroom more inviting.
Create both well-lit and dimly-lit areas to appeal to different learners. To achieve it naturally, use plants and flowers of various sizes and colors. They’ll block the sunshine if your classroom is exposed to lots of light from the windows, but they’ll still liven up the atmosphere.
A smart strategy when using floral elements and vegetation is to hand-write their names on tags in French and display a small card featuring fun facts about the flower or tree, or even famous quotes and poem verses mentioning it when available.
Another good way to play with light is to use a combination of brighter and darker pictures of famous French landmarks, cities or personalities. That’s because some students learn best in bright light while others can become more focused in dark light. Find out what works best for them and experiment!
- Provide opportunities for students to move around and explore the diverse study areas of the French classroom.
They should feel comfortable when stepping into your class and engaging in the learning activities. Many of us think that students learn better when sitting still, but according to various research findings, many students actually need increased mobility while learning.
Don’t be mistaken, though. You’re still in charge and should enforce boundaries. Students shouldn’t move around at their own whim, but rather move on from one study area to another as you start and end an activity period to assimilate new ideas more effectively.
- Establish exciting stations.
Set up four or more different stations, each with different types of activities and materials to explore. You’ve already got the reading corner, right? Try a few more like this!
For your “Play Area,” buy (or craft from cardboard and markers) a treasure chest and fill it with French board games. Your best bet to find those is to go on Amazon and find an option that works best for you. When purchasing board games, explore Amazon France or even eBay France for a great selection of secondhand French games.
For your “Listening Area,” play French songs in the background or stream the latest French movies if your school has a TV screen.
You might even have an “Authentic Video Area” where a computer has FluentU on the screen. Then students can watch videos and play around in the Learn Mode exercises together.
Don’t forget to create a “Quiet Study Area” for your more seriously studious students, and be sure to fill it with plenty of French books and magazines to keep them engaged.
How to create an environment that promote effective French learning
- Be mindful of your students’ learning styles and model your environment accordingly.
Some students get hyper-energized in loud and bright settings while others prefer quiet time to achieve more. It’s a matter of knowing your students’ personalities and understanding what they best respond to.
Keeping a variety of study stations is a great way to make sure that you’ll address each students’ specific learning needs as well as help them identify a learning style that works for them.
- Don’t be afraid to change it up if it doesn’t work for your students.
Ask them for their opinions on their experience with the various stations and compare their progress with past arrangements. If you feel like certain areas are proving to be distracting, get rid of some of the “play” elements that don’t support learning as well as others.
Now you know how to rock your French classroom display!
Don’t be afraid to give some of these ideas a try and turn your French learning experience into something that’s one-of-a-kind!
Your students will be forever grateful.
Bon courage ! (Good luck!)
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