Are you failing to keep your high school students engaged?
Maybe they’re too distracted by their phones to learn vocabulary.
Maybe they’re not as motivated as you are about conjugation and grammar.
What if there was a fun way to teach them French?
What if they even *gasp* enjoyed it?
Well, we’ve got some great news for you, because there is a way: games!
Playing French games can increase your high school learners’ participation while also considerably improving their French language skills.
Not sure whether this will work with your high schoolers?
Fear not, we’ve rounded up some terrific games just for students of their age group!
Why French Games Work with High School Students
- They facilitate learning: Games make it easy for high school students to create brain associations. This makes it easier for them to remember a specific grammar point or the meaning of a given word, and even derive pleasure from it. That’s because the memories associated with the game are generally positive and long-lasting, making it easier and quicker for their brains to recover the information.
- They keep lessons fun and engaging: Your high school learners aren’t always the most dedicated learners. Their attention tends to be elsewhere. Playing games is a great way to give them what they want while also making sure they learn French along the way. Knowing that studying French doesn’t have to be painful can also encourage them to stay on track in the long run: Experiencing distress is guaranteed to cause your high schoolers to give up on their French studies!
- They facilitate bonding: Some high school students tend to be disconnected from their teachers and different peer groups. Playing games helps bring the class together. Games create team spirit and put your students in a good mood. They encourage classmates to interact with one another and form alliances to reach a common goal. Even more than their French language skills, playing French games is a terrific way to develop their emotional intelligence.
- They create purpose: High school students need to have a reason to learn. Games have a clear end goal: winning. There’s a tangible reward in the end, and using their French language skills as a vehicle to support the game will help them concretely validate their progress.
- They tap into students’ competitive spirit: Your high school learners are competitive, and games can help them channel that energy to achieve positive outcomes in French. That’s because they’re about encouraging students to do their best and give it their all, even when there’s no money or expensive rewards at stake: praise, encouragement and knowing that they’ve done well suffices to validate their efforts.
6 French Games for High School Students
1. Le téléphone arabe (telephone, lit. “Arab telephone”)
Note: When introducing this game to your class, you’ll want to consider the culturally insensitive implications of the expression téléphone arabe. This may be a good opportunity for a discussion before the game itself.
This is one of the most famous French games there is and one that native French students, too, love to play. The game targets listening and speaking skills and forces players to really pay attention to details in conversation. It’s very amusing but has clear educational value: If you’re looking for a way to get your high school learners to realize the need to really focus, this is the game to get the job done.
The goal is simple: To relay a message with accuracy, without changing a word. Simple in theory, the game often leads to surprising changes that get your students laughing and wondering how messages can get so distorted.
To prepare the game, write several sentences on pieces of paper, preferably using words and grammar structures that they already know. Place them in a box and let the games begin!
The rules are simple: Gather your high school students in a circle and choose one student to start. Hand them the box and let them take one piece of paper, read it for themselves and whisper its contents in the ear of the student next to them, clockwise. They, too, will whisper the message the way they understand it, without changing anything, in the ear of the student next to them, and so forth until the last student hears it. It’s this student’s job to repeat the message out loud.
This game has no winner: The entertainment comes from comparing the original and final messages. Ask the first student to read the message and ask them to spot any inaccuracies. Feel free to discuss the results together, and proceed to another message, choosing another student at random.
2. Couples célèbres (famous couples)
This is a fun, cultural French game that will tap into your students’ creativity and sense of imagination while giving them a chance to express themselves. The game involves some research, role plays, and plenty of French expressions and vocabulary.
To play, start by writing down names of famous couples in history, literature and movies on pieces of paper and place them in a box. Opt for colorful characters that your students will enjoy learning about, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, or Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. This site features some interesting combinations if you’re lacking inspiration.
Then, create groups of 2 students where one will play each half, and ask one half of each group to take one piece of paper from the box. After every duo has been assigned a famous couple, ask them to discuss the pair, including who they are, what they’ve done, what made their relationship so unique and maybe even how it ended.
Then, ask them to prepare a 5-minute play for the next class session as homework. Leave it up to them to create costumes, decor or even a song about their characters, and to include all the vocabulary they need. The only requirement is that the dialogues must include the above information.
Each group will then work together to research and write down dialogues that will reflect their understanding of this couple, and present before their classmates. End the presentations by asking students questions about the couple in order to validate their understanding. Then, let them vote for their favorite couple: Reward the best duo with a small prize, like a box of French croissants!
3. Récit multiplié (multiplied storytelling)
This is a terrific game to develop French storytelling skills. Have your students ever wondered what their favorite story would be like if another character told that story? Well, this is just the game to answer that question! Conjugation and language skills aside, this is a fantastic opportunity to help your students gain empathy and adopt a different perspective by asking that they put themselves in the shoes of someone else.
To play this game, prepare command cards ahead of time. These cards will include commands such as:
- Vous racontez la même histoire à la première personne. (You tell the story using the first person.)
- Vous êtes le frère ou la soeur du méchant. (You’re the villain’s brother or sister.)
- Vous aimez le protagoniste. (You love the hero.)
Great commands should require that students transform the story using a different perspective and/or project certain feelings depending on the character’s perspective. Form groups of 5 student-storytellers: Together, they’ll tell the new story.
Then, pick a story: It can be anything from a famous fairy tale to a French novel you’ve just read together, a video you’ve watched in class or even a gripping news article. Le Parisien’s faits divers section often includes some quirky, real stories that could spark imagination.
To start, pre-teach difficult vocabulary and key expressions by writing them on the board, mimicking them or even translating them. These are recurring elements that will help students understand the story when they hear it, so be sure to equip them with the right tools early on!
Next, tell the original story, and ask a group of 5 students to volunteer: They’ll take a card, read the command before the class, and take over. Each of them has to participate, preferably equally, by continuing the story based on the instructions from the card. When the tale is over, ask the class to discuss, and ask another group to pick another card. Continue until everyone has participated.
4. Match de boxe argumentatif (word-based boxing match)
Looking for a way to involve your high school students in vibrant discussions but don’t know how? Then this thrilling game is perfect for you! Rather than organize a debate about theoretical ideas and concepts, this “boxing game” puts students in real-life situations where they’ll have to make their case in French.
To get started, write down questions on pieces of papers and place them in a box. To create the questions, ask yourself what questions tend to divide couples. Good questions include:
- Où partir en vacances cet été : à la plage ou à la montagne ? (Where to go on vacation this summer: beachside or mountainside?)
- Où déménager : à Paris ou à New York? (Where to move: Paris or NYC?)
- Quelle école choisir pour les enfants : bilingue ou traditionnelle ? (What school to choose for the kids: bilingual or traditional?)
Then, create groups of 4 students: 2 “athletes” and 2 “coaches” per group. Athletes will be presenting the arguments and face the other party. Coaches, however, will develop a strategy and whisper arguments during the battles.
Next step, play the game! Pick 2 groups for a face-off, and ask one of the coaches of each group to come before the class and answer a trivia question, such as:
- Quelle est la capitale du Royaume-Uni ? (What is the capital of the U.K.?)
- Qui est le Président de la République française ? (Who is the President of the French Republic?)
Whoever answers correctly, faster, wins a chance to pick a piece of paper and which side of the “couple” they want to advocate for.
It’s then time to start the fight: Let discussions happen naturally. This is not a structured debate, so encourage students to participate orally rather than stifle their contributions with formal debate rules. The other difference between this and a formal debate is that coaches can help presenters with argument ideas.
Give students 7 minutes to make their cases, and ask their peers to judge which member of the couple won.
The game ends after each team has played!
5. Le cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse)
This is a famous collective game invented by the Surrealists around 1925. They were known for developing their sense of imagination through graphic, yet absurd, evocations. Meant to entertain, this poetic game also taps into the subconscious mind and is said to help players gain awareness of passive, hidden thoughts. This article details the origins of the “exquisite corpse” game. This might be just the kind of anecdote that would capture your high school students’ attention, if you share it.
To play, form small teams of 5 students and let them work together. Each team will receive several sheets of paper and a pen. One student will write a word at the top the page, fold it so the word is covered but other students can write their own words, and so on, until the page is fully folded.
Students should follow the rough pattern Subject-Verb-Object, or more precisely: Le/la/les adjectif – nom – adverbe – verb – adjectif – nom (The adjective – noun – adverb – verb – adjective – noun). Remember, students don’t know what their classmates have written or will write, so it often leads to some very surprising, interesting results.
The game actually earned its name because of the quirky sentence created by its first players: Le cadavre – exquis – boira – le vin – nouveau (the exquisite corpse will drink the new wine).
Let the students uncover the folded words, read the results and discuss: This will get them laughing!
6. Le jeu du bac (dictionary game)
This game generally brings fond memories to native French speakers, who have all played it in their childhood. But this is no simple game: It’s the ultimate, most entertaining French vocabulary test there is!
The rules are simple: to find words that begin with a given letter and fit different categories. To start, create small teams of 5 to 6 students, and arrange their desks into small islands accordingly.
Ahead of time, write down all the letters of the alphabet on pieces of papers, put them boxes and give each team a box. Bring as many stopwatches as there are teams or ask students to use their smartphones for timing. Ask each group to choose a student who’ll be in charge of the timer: They’ll be responsible for tracking time.
Then, write down a template grid on the blackboard so students can replicate it and play. Alternatively, create a grid, print it and hand it out to your students. The grid should contain the letter in the first column and at least 6 categories, such as girls’ names, boys’ names, country names, fruit names, animals, job names, etc. This is a good example of a grid for this game. Students in each group will play individually: Everyone for themselves!
Next, a student from each group will pick a letter from the box and read it out loud to their neighbors: time to start the stopwatch. They have one minute to complete the grid, not a second more. When the time has passed, students will read their answers out loud, starting with the first category, and so on.
The goal here is to make sure that each student has found an answer, and that each answer is unique: Students with no answers get no points, and students who have found the same answers must cross off their answers and get no points. This will encourage students to think outside the box and come up with more complex words. The student with the most points wins!
Now that you know of some clever, fun French games for your high school students, we have no doubt that you’ll be able to speed up their French studies.
And once you get started, odds are you’ll ask yourself why you didn’t try these games sooner.
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