4 Fun Classroom Games Guaranteed to Get Your French Students Talking
“I’m bored, can’t we play a game?”
How many times do you hear this phrase a week?
Want to make it disappear from your students’ mouths and have some serious fun?
Then you’ve gotta play games in your French class.
Games have the magical ability to really get your students buzzing in French, plus they’ll be enjoyed by all.
But beware: Not all games are created equal.
We all know teachers (we may have even done it ourselves) who, fed up with grumpy students, finally relent and allow students to play a game or watch a video with little educational value—simply for the sake of peace.
To avoid that situation from ever happening with you, I’m going to show you four awesome games that are both fun and valuable for language learning.
Why Play Games in the French Classroom?
There are some very compelling reasons for including games in your classroom from time to time, including:
- Happy students are more likely to engage in learning. There is ample research indicating that we learn most effectively when we are engaged in the activity and enjoying ourselves.
- Fun competition encourages students to achieve better results.
- Happily engaged students give the teacher time to observe and help students who may be having difficulties.
- Opportunities for students to use real French in context.
Context is very important for developing your student’s ability to retain grammar and vocabulary, so giving a variety of ways for students to engage in and access authentic French usage is important. In fact, you could even base your game off of a story or video that you’ve shown in French. For that, I recommend FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
However, to get the best result from games it is important to have a well thought out plan for your games. Without some forethought on your part, the games can quickly descend into a fun but pointless waste of time.
How can you be sure to stay away from pointless games?
Turn games into language lessons that demand students use French.
With a little setup work, you can transform most games into rich learning activities. When you can use a game to encourage all students to expand their French vocabulary in an enjoyable way, then you have won.
How Do I Turn My Students into Gamers Buzzing in French?
The key is to give your students the French language they need to communicate about the game in French. To do this, line the walls of the classroom with posters displaying the language of games.
How you teach these phrases is up to you, but you must insist the students speak in French to play their games. The real learning takes place when the keen students start using these phrases and the rest of the class follows suit.
Here are some examples you might include, to give you the idea:
- Est-ce qu’on peut jouer au..? ” (Can we play…?)
- C’est à qui ? (Whose turn is it?)
- C’est à moi (It’s mine)
- C’est à toi (It’s yours)
- C’est parti (We’ve started)
- À tour de rôle (Taking turns)
- À ta gauche (To/on your left)
- À ta droite (To/on your right)
- Vous êtes prêts ? (Are you ready?)
- On est prêts (We’re ready)
- Qu’est-ce que tu as dit ? (What did you say?)
- On peut continuer ? (Can we continue?)
Provide English translations for the phrases, but the students must use only the French—do not allow English during the game. How you enforce this is up to your personal teaching style.
With such language at their disposal, simple games such as battleships, snakes and ladders or hangman can have your classroom buzzing in French.
However, there are also fantastic classroom games that demand students read, speak and write in French. Here are four of them:
4 Fun Games for the French Classroom That Get Your Students Talking
1. Written Dictation (Team Game)
“Written dictation” does not sound like fun, but played this way it’s a winner and your students will have a ball.
- Place several copies of French text appropriate to the students’ level around the classroom. To be effective, the text needs to be at least 8-10 lines long so that students cannot memorize it all in one go.
- Each team has one or two runners, a scribe and a checker (to check for errors).
- At the bell, the runner(s) goes to one of the copies of text, memorizes as much as they can and returns to repeat it (verbally, in French) to the scribe.
- The scribe then writes it down while the runner returns and memorizes the next section of text.
- The checker is allowed to point out mistakes (in French, “Il y a une erreur là”) in the scribe’s writing. After some time, change places so that everyone has a turn at memorizing, speaking and writing French.
Deduct points for errors and the team with the most points wins.
Every student has practiced reading, memorizing, speaking and writing French—plus they’ve had fun doing it: That is an educational game.
2. “À quoi je pense?”: 20 French Questions (Full Class)
The student in the hot seat thinks of an object or person, and the class then has to guess who or what it is by asking questions. The answers may only be “oui” or “non.” If the class cannot work out the object/person, then the same student has another turn.
Prepare the kinds of questions (in French) students will need to ask and display them on posters around the room. You now have a permanent resource, a rich source of language and fun that you can use with all age levels.
Examples will include phrases in French such as:
- Est-ce que c’est un animal ? (Is it an animal?)
- Est-ce que c’est une personne ? (Is it an person?)
- Est-ce que c’est un homme ? (Is it a man?)
- Est-ce que c’est une femme ? (Is it a woman?)
- Est-ce que c’est dans la classe ? (Is it in the class?)
- Est-ce que c’est un(e) athlète ? (Is it a sports person?)
- Est-ce que c’est une personne du passé ? (Is it a person from the past?)
- Est-ce que c’est une personne vivante ? (Is it a living person?)
The students are practicing listening, thinking in French and speaking skills. This turns playtime into some really serious learning time.
3. Musical Chairs with a Twist
This game is good for encouraging speaking and listening to French. Younger teenage students never seem to tire of this game. Here’s how to play:
- Students sit facing each other in a circle. There should be no spare chairs.
- One student stands outside the circle. While all students have their eyes closed, the teacher taps three students on the shoulder.
- Eyes open and the “outside” student now comes into the circle, and begins asking individual students a question in French. An example of the type of questions the student might ask could be: “As-tu les yeux bleus?” The reply must be full sentence, “Oui, j’ai les yeux bleus” or “Non, je n’ai pas les yeux bleus.”
- Each student is required to give a correct answer in French, except for the students that were tapped on the shoulder. When a question is addressed to one of the three students chosen by the teacher, they simply call out “Hatschi Patschi” or any French word you choose.
- On this signal, all students in the circle (including the student who was asking questions) run to a different chair.
- The student left without a chair is now “it” and the game begins again.
4. Fly Swat
This is a really fun—be warned—sometimes riotous game for those really difficult days such as the last period before the summer holidays. With some thought, this game can also have a great educational purpose.
- Write or ask a student to write some French words or numbers on the board, at least 15.
- A volunteer student reads out a clue or partial sentence in French, e.g., “2+6-5=…” or “il fait …” with the blank matching one of the words or numbers on the board.
- One member from each team races to the board and attempts to slap the correct answer, e.g.,“3” or “beau” with their flyswatters.
Points are awarded for correct answers.
The student reading out the clues practices reading French and pronunciation, while the other students practice listening and reading: another win-win game for teacher and students.
Get your priorities right and have some fun too.
It’s important not to fall into the trap of feeling you have to play games all the time to keep the students amused, but these games do have their place.
Use them wisely and you will foster a lively learning environment full of rich French language. Your students will be so busy playing games they won’t even realize how much talking they are doing in French. And that is a victory.