Shake Things Up! 6 Unexpected French Classroom Ideas
Are you short of ideas to brighten your French classroom?
We’re about to help you flip on that brilliant light bulb inside your brain.
See, there’s just one thing you need to know to start moving in the right direction.
When you fall into a set routine, students’ brains go on autopilot.
Students love to mix up activities so classes always feel new and exciting.
Even if they don’t tell you this directly, just know that their brains are whirring and acquiring more French every time you shake their expectations.
And if you can combine this with an opportunity to help them express their creative selves, all the better.
So, if you’re looking for innovative ideas to deeply engage your French learners and improve their knowledge of the language, you’ve come to the right place.
Here are six fun French classroom ideas to spice up your sessions.
How to Promote Engagement in Your French Classroom
- Keep activities varied and engaging. They should be fresh and lively so your students never get bored. A good way to achieve this is to incorporate a surprise element. It can be a different set theme or topic for the activities (e.g. “medieval times,” “Disney characters” or “Paris”) or even a time limit that gets increasingly difficult. It’s also important that your activities activate all four major language skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Even if the activity feels literary in nature, don’t limit it to writing. Encourage students to read their works out loud so they also practice speaking, having conversations with their classmates and listening to others.
- Reward students who participate. Some activities require that students go into introspection and share some personal information about themselves. Others demand that they show their creative side, which may not be something that your most sensitive, shiest students may be comfortable with. Particularly during these activities, it’s a good idea to give those students who make an effort to share with the class some small rewards.
The more personal the rewards, the better. As much as you can, borrow from their answers and creations and try to come up with a reward you feel they’ll like. For example, if a student lets you know they like sweets, reward them with French cookies or candies. If a student shares their desire to visit Switzerland, reward them with a postcard or picture of Switzerland.
- Use rewards as a way to promote competition. It can be a good idea to create a board that highlights the “student of the week” in your classroom. Name the last games and activities you’ve played in class and keep track of points earned during sessions so students can track their progress and are motivated to get to the top. It will also remind students of the activities you’ve incorporated in class to keep them excited.
- Don’t be critical when students speak. If you’re holding a writing activity, be mindful not to be too harsh with your criticisms. Writing is a skill that may take longer to develop. Rather, do what you can to highlight the positives and help students build confidence. Focus on their ideas and productions even if their language isn’t top-notch yet.
- Ask students for feedback. This will help you improve your activities and get new ideas for your next sessions. What did they like? What didn’t they? You can ask them as a group, hold a class vote, have one-on-one sessions, hand out a quick survey or even place a ballot box or suggestion box on your desk.
The goal here is to identify their favorite activities and see if you can add them to your curriculum more regularly, either as-is or with a twist. It will also help you to build a dialogue with your shiest students and help you understand why they may be reluctant to share about themselves in front of the class. The idea is to eventually show them that these activities support their own development, and aren’t meant to judge them on a personal level.
6 Brilliant French Classroom Ideas That Jump Off the Beaten Path
1. Atelier de Haiku (Haiku Workshop)
Haiku is a Japanese poetic form that follows a strict format. It’s a three-line poem written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Unlike much of classic Western poetry, haiku is much shorter, making it the literary exercise of choice for French learners, even at a beginner’s level.
Haiku workshops are particularly important because they show your students that they’re perfectly capable of communicating their thoughts and stories in French, even while using minimal words. They also support creative expression through literary art.
To prepare your workshop, change your classroom display and arrange desks so that they form clusters of four. While students should work on their own haiku, this seating arrangement will support the exchange of ideas between students and encourage them to share their haiku with their peers.
To get started, introduce your students to haiku. Let them discover it through observations and personal impressions. Read a few of your own creations out loud in front of the class and ask your students what they think about it. What do they think these poems all have in common? What makes a good haiku?
Alternatively, this resource contains several haiku in French if you’re not quite the poet yourself. There’s no wrong answer, but ultimately, you want students to identify the fixed structure of the haiku so they can proceed to write their own. Write three haiku on the board using proper formatting and ask your students to count syllables.
Once they’ve identified what makes a haiku, well, a haiku, it’s time for the second part of the session: Writing! Ask students to write their own haiku. Pick a theme or, if this is your first haiku workshop, keep it open and let your students write about whatever inspires them.
Throughout the workshop, encourage students to read their haiku in front of their group for feedback. Before the end of the class, ask group members to select their group’s favorite haiku. Recap the class by asking the writers of each group’s selected haiku to read their haiku in front of the class. This will help students understand what makes a good haiku so they can keep improving their skills for the next workshop.
2. Qu’est-ce qui fait tendance sur Twitter France ? (What’s Trending on Twitter France?)
This activity takes your French class into the modern century. You’ll be using Twitter to discuss French news and trends, in real time.
Social media is a goldmine of information and ideas. By bringing Twitter to the French classroom, you’ll be showing your students that they too can participate in discussions about real subjects in French with French natives.
To get started, form small groups of four and change your classroom seating into clusters. This will make discussions more interactive. Ask students to name one student per group who will read tweets out loud and guide group conversations. Only this student will have access to their phone or class computer/tablet so that the others will listen to them. Each group will pick one hashtag from the “What’s trending on Twitter?” section of the site.
To discover French trends from a smartphone, simply start by changing country settings to France. You can ask students to select “Paris” (or another available French-speaking place) as the location. Then have them tap on the search bar, type in a word or phrase and see the 20 different trending themes that will pop up. Ideally, all groups should be working on different trends, but it’s all right if one theme is used by no more than two groups at a time.
Then, let the conversations begin!
The students with the devices will start off by reading tweets from their trending topics out loud in French. Other students should respond to the Tweet-based opinions that have been voiced and the theme using their own comments. Eventually, each group names a presenter who’ll recap the trend and group discussions for the rest of the class.
3. Questionnaire de Proust (Proust Questionnaire)
The Questionnaire de Proust is an iconic personality questionnaire made famous by French writer Marcel Proust at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The questionnaire follows a strict question pattern and includes straightforward questions about one’s self. The idea behind the questionnaire is to help its takers unveil personal elements about themselves and discover who they really are. More than the content itself, answers can also reveal the writer’s personality, wit and creativity.
To get started, print out blank Proust questionnaires and hand them out to your students. Alternatively, use a projector and display questions on the board. To keep answers honest and accurate, it’s important that students take some time to ponder and write down their own answers. Questions are simple enough that they won’t need to compare with model answers. Rather, let them be creative and see what they’d come up with without knowing about the questionnaire at all.
Then, encourage students to share their answers. Go down the list of questions one by one, each time reading out loud Marcel Proust’s answer to the question and asking students for their own answers. To break the ice, feel free to give them some of your own answers as well.
4. Inventer son futur (Make Up Your Own Future)
This exercise always does a great job engaging students in the French classroom while also supporting their personal goals outside the class.
As the name suggests, you’ll be asking students to dream up their own futures and share them with the class. Ask them to project themselves 10 or 20 years from now depending on their age. For your younger students, you could pick a number so that their future selves would be roughly in their late 20s or early 30s.
Give them carte blanche on the format: It can be a song, a poem, a board with clippings and pictures, a PowerPoint presentation, a video or whatever they feel is most appropriate to express their ideas. The only constraint is that it answers these questions:
- Where will they be in the future?
- Who will they be?
- What will they have accomplished?
Give them two weeks to prepare their final pieces and present them for the class. Students love sharing their life goals and love hearing about their friends’ own dreams!
5. Portrait chinois (Chinese Portrait)
This is another highly popular personality test that helps reveal one’s personality, this time through rather unsettling questions.
During the test, takers will be asked to dream up a hypothetical identity that’s as close as possible to their real self. For example, they may be asked to associate themselves with colors, objects or people. The idea is to highlight one’s core personality traits, personal preferences or tastes. The test will also teach students to observe their classmates’ personalities.
To get started, simply print out blank portrait chinois questionnaires. Have them fill out the answers based on themselves.
Then hand out another copy of this questionnaire to everyone. This time, students won’t give you answers about themselves, but will instead be asked to base their answers on one of their teammates. In their answers, they should replace je (I) with il (he) or elle (she). To this effect, write down your students’ names on pieces of papers, put them in a box and ask each student to draw a single sheet. If they happen to draw their own name, ask them to put it back in the box and to pick another one.
Give them 15 minutes to write their answers. These should reflect the chosen student’s personality and be so accurate and distinctive that their partner will be able to recognize his or her self. When time is up, ask students to read their answers out loud individually, then ask the class: “Qui est-ce?” (Who is it?). The student who thinks they inspired the writing should raise their hand and say: “C’est moi !” (It’s me!). If nobody comes forward, ask the class to name the student they think hides behind the writing.
Eventually, let the writer give the answers and ask the student whether they agree with the answers or not. Let them discuss the answers together with the class as their audience, so the students can share a bit more about themselves.
6. Invente une légende ! (Caption This!)
This is a fun activity that reflects your students’ French language skills, creativity and humor.
As the name suggests, you’ll present your students with images and ask them to caption them. Captions can be neutral, funny or inspirational, but they should be written in proper French.
To get started, select pictures from magazines or the Internet. Use a variety of images, including portraits of political figures, cartoons in French, print ads and drawings. Make sure that images are expressive enough and have no text if possible. The idea is to keep the focus on the picture.
Then, form small groups of four and give each group a stack of images. Number pictures so students can more easily associate captions with images. Print out as many sets as there are groups or, if you don’t have access to a color printer, rotate sets of at least three pictures between groups and ask teams to exchange finished sets.
Let students find the best possible caption per image. One of the group members will write down the caption and its associated number. The goal is for students to work on the same images so that they can recap their selected captions for each image.
When all groups have worked on all pictures, it’s time to wrap up! Hold pictures up one by one and in the order that they’re numbered. Ask groups to give you their captions for each image, and let the class decide which group came up with the best captions. Keep scores. Whichever group found the most crowd-pleasing captions wins!
So, how fun are these French classroom ideas?
We’re convinced that your students will love them as much as we do!
Take them for a spin in your own French class, and be sure to let us know how they work out for you.