Sometimes there’s no harm in sugar-coating.
Like, for instance, when you dress up French grammar to make practicing more fun.
When your students interact with grammar in engaging games, that practice might just become your students’ favorite part of class.
Plus both you and your students will appreciate you jazzing up the routine.
So I’ve put together this collection of 12 of my favorite classroom games I use to teach French grammar.
Why Grammar Games Are Important in the French Classroom
- Entertaining. Games are fun yet challenging to students who love getting away from “boring” grammar lessons. They allow the whole class to compete in teams or groups, and thus foster a competitive spirit among the students as well.
- Flexible. You can choose any grammar concept to focus on in a game to reinforce it, and can easily create your own games or variations for your classes’ specific needs.
- Authentic. These games allow for meaningful use of the grammar in context. They reinforce grammatical notions by repetition and exchanges between students who then become more confident. For contextual grammar practice, we recommend using the videos and games on FluentU.
- Familiar. Students are used to playing some of these games, so the familiarity will help them stay comfortable. Games can be used with every age group and for every temperament—from the cheekiest to the shyest.
- Relaxed. Language learning can be stressful for students, but games give them the opportunity to de-stress and play to their strengths. Furthermore, games allow both fellow students and teachers to create bonds with each other.
- Varied. The variety of these games allow students to be cast in the role of listener, writer and speaker, while requiring them to use all the grammar concepts they have acquired thus far.
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12 Killer Grammar Games for Your French Classroom
There are countless games to reinforce French grammar teaching, but here are twelve of my favorites.
1. Chutes and Ladders
You can make a grammar board game based on Chutes and Ladders—the game with a grid of 100 boxes, where the first person to reach box 100 wins. In groups of two to four, players take turns rolling a die to move their piece forward. If their piece lands at the bottom of a ladder, they get to climb to the top of that ladder. If they land at the top of a chute, however, they must slide down to the bottom of the chute.
To mix in French grammar, create question cards which students must answer after rolling, in order to move forward. If students answer the question correctly, they can move forward. If not, it’s the next player’s turn. With a few used sets of Chutes and Ladders, you could use the exact board game and pieces, and only need to create the question cards.
Alternatively, you can download pre-made printable question cards and a modified game board here, made specifically for French classes. You will just need tokens and dice.
This pre-made game has three types of questions, such as “Quelle est la classe grammaticale de ‘beau,’ ‘grand,’ ‘joyeux,'” and “Quelle est la classe grammaticale de ‘finis,’ ‘mangez,’ ‘parle.'” These are ideal for helping students identify adjectives, verbs, tenses, etc. You could also expand to the cards and add your own.
2. Totem Cards
Another pre-made game from La Classe de Mallory is a card game which I like to call Totem Cards. The game lets students practice identifying types and forms of phrases, and the winner is the first player to get rid of all their sentence cards.
Students will play in groups of four or five. There are two types of cards: totem cards (in a pentagon shape) and sentence cards (rectangular). Totem cards contain categories, such as “phrase interrogative à la forme negative,” whereas sentence cards contain full sentences, like “N’écoute-t-il jamais ?”
First, groups should deal out all of the sentence cards face down such that each player has the same number of sentence cards in a “draw pile.” Students are not allowed to look at their cards. The pile of totem cards (also face down) should be nearby.
To begin each round, a student will flip over the top totem card and place it face up in the center of the playing area, and each student then turns over their top sentence card from their draw pile, placing it around the totem card. Students then need to quickly read the totem card and their sentence card to see if they have a match.
If their sentence card corresponds to the type/form of sentence written on the totem card—like our two examples above—they should quickly grab the totem card. Whoever correctly grabs the totem card first gets to keep it, and give all of their discarded (face up) sentence cards (from the center of the table) to another player of their choice (which will then go in the other player’s draw pile). Then students should flip over another totem card to begin the next round.
If a student grabs the totem card but their sentence does not actually match it, the player has to take all of the discarded cards from the table and add them to their draw pile as a penalty.
If no sentences correspond to the totem card, students should simply flip over a new totem card to begin a new round. Whoever gets rid of all their cards first (from their draw pile) wins.
This game format can be used for almost any grammar concept when you want students to recognize different grammatical constructions. You will just need to make (or add) your own cards to target a different grammar topic.
3. Hot Potato
The simple game of Hot Potato can be adapted to focus on any grammar notion you want. You need a timer, a bean bag or ball, and a list of ideas of the grammatical concepts you would like to practice.
Have the entire class stand or sit in a circle. Give the students a topic, such as verbs conjugated with être, and then set the timer for 1-5 minutes. Throw the ball to a student to begin play. The student must say a word that fits into the given category (such as sortir in this case), and then quickly throw the ball to another student who must do the same. Play continues until the timer goes off.
Rather than eliminating the player holding the ball when the timer goes off, I like to use the idea suggested by Lucy S. of For French Immersion, which keeps these students in the game. For this variation, you’ll have to organize the class into teams before starting, and give each team 5 points. Then, when the timer goes off, the team of whoever is holding the ball loses a point. The team with the most points after x rounds (or x amount of time) is the winner.
4. Mad Magazine Race
I like using this next game because it really motivates students. You’ll need some French magazines to play, so if your school does not have a subscription to any French magazines, you can print out paragraphs from the Internet instead.
First, ask the students to search for a certain number of parts of speech in a magazine and cut them out (i.e. five adjectives, five nouns and 10 verbs of a particular tense, etc.). The first one to collect all the necessary grammar parts is the winner of the first round.
Then gather everyone’s words by category to prepare for the second round. So you should have a pile of nouns, a pile of adjectives, a pile of verbs, etc. Shuffle the words within each category, and then hand out 6 or 8 words to each student—some from each category.
Students should then try to make a comprehensible sentence using the words at their disposal. Complete sentences are worth points, which I allocate according to the difficulty of the sentence. For example, “Le garçon mange la pomme” (1 point); “Les jeunes filles sont entrées dans la maison.” (3 points).
At the end of the allocated time (20 minutes), the student who has the highest number of points is the winner.
5. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
A game that really engages students is Qui veut gagner des millions? You can use any grammar concept you wish to focus on.
To prepare, you’ll have to create questions on a game template presentation, ranging from easy ($100) to very difficult ($1,000,000). TES has a template which you can use to create your own questions, or here’s another PowerPoint template for the game.
If you were targeting the past simple, a possible question might be:
Conjugue le verbe “distribuer” à la deuxième personne du pluriel au passé simple.
A. Vous distribuez C. Vous distribuâtes
B. Vous distribuiez D. Vous distriburiez
To play, divide the class into two teams. You should have two sets of questions (i.e. two filled-in templates). Take turns asking each team a question. If the first team gets the answer right, the money is banked and they continue answering questions. If they cannot answer a question, the second team takes a turn.
The first team to reach a $1,000,000 (or the highest amount) is the winner. It’s best not to use 50/50, phone a friend or ask the audience, as this will complicate matters. My students think the game is great fun, so they are always enthusiastic when we play.
6. Reported Speech Charades
A great way to get students moving is to have them act out sentences in a game of charades. Divide the class into groups of four, and give each group a slip of paper with a French sentence on it.
The group has to act out what is on the slip of paper, so that the rest of the class can guess what they are doing. For example, the sentence on a piece of paper could be:
Je vais au restaurant avec un ami, et nous commandons un plat et une boisson que nous aimons beaucoup.
In this particular game of charades, however, the other teams must correctly state what they have seen in French using reported speech to win the points. In this case, for example, teams might guess:
Elle est allée au restaurant avec un ami, et ils ont commandé quelque chose à manger et à boire.
Ils ont beaucoup aimé le repas.
7. Murder Most Foul
Another useful game is a writing race game where students participate in a murder investigation. I adapt the online game from the site Polar FLE for the classroom. In both games, a murder has taken place. On the website, choose the level you want to work on (beginner, intermediate or advanced).
Then you’ll want to print out the texts from the crime description, character descriptions and the questions.
Divide your students—the “investigators”—into teams of five or six, and give each group the crime scene description, character profiles and the questions they will need to answer.
The first team to solve the crime (that is, to answer all the questions correctly) must then inform the class of their findings in a summary using the past tenses. After this final step, they may be named the winner. This is a great game to test students’ comprehension, their writing skills and to review the past tenses.
8. Bingo with a Twist
An old favorite of teachers is Bingo, which can be made more interesting with this variation. Hand out blank cards with 16 squares, and have students write in six adjectives, four nouns and six action verbs on their card. These words should be chosen from a list you’ve previously prepared, posted on the board. I recommend that you have at least 50 words on this list.
If you mix all of the options together on the list (don’t sort them by part of speech), students will have to think about which part of speech each word belongs to as they fill out their cards. You can change the requirements or types of words to adapt this game to your class’s needs.
Once students have filled in their chosen words, follow the normal format of playing Bingo. The first student to complete a line of four in a row is the first winner.
9. La Grille des Prénoms
I first heard about this game on Bonjour du Monde, and really like using it in class. Divide students into groups of four. Each group needs to draw a grid of four rows—one for each member’s first name—and the number of columns will equal the number of letters in the longest first name. Each student will then write their name horizontally, with one name per row, one letter per column, like this:
Once all the groups have done this, they then have three minutes to write down the largest number of French grammatical words possible, using letters from their grid. Just like in Boggle, letters that are side by side in the word should be touching each other on the grid, but they don’t need to be in a straight horizontal or vertical line.
Points are allocated depending on the length of the word, like so:
- 3 or 4-letter word = 1 point
- 5-letter word = 2 points
- 6-letter word = 3 points
The group that has the highest number of points when the timer goes off is the winner.
10. Trivial Pursuit
Here’s an innovative way to play Trivial Pursuit and practice French grammar at the same time. You will need the original board game, dice and tokens. Then download the cards here and cut them out. These cards use the following six categories:
- bleu — changer le genre de l’adjectif
- rose — changer le nombre
- jaune — changer le genre ou nombre d’un groupe nominal
- marron — accorder le participe passé
- vert — accorder les adjectifs au nom
- orange — trouver l’erreur d’accord dans la phrase
Once again, you can also make your own cards depending on what grammatical aspect you want to practice. This is a good game to practice the gender of the adjective, the plural of nouns and adjectives, the agreement of the past participle and adjectives, and to see whether your students can spot mistakes in a sentence.
Cards in hand—whether downloaded or created yourself—students can then play the game following regular Trivial Pursuit rules.
11. The Alphabet Verb Game
To prepare this game, you’ll just need a few sets of alphabet cards—with one letter of the alphabet written on each card. To play, divide the class into teams of six and then hand out six or more letters of the alphabet to each team. The number of letters you hand out depends on the number of students in the class and the time available.
Each team then has to come up with as many verbs as possible starting with that letter. For example, for the letter “a,” a team might have amener, aimer, adorer, etc. The team that comes up with the most verbs wins.
12. Online Grammar Games
Finally, if you have a computer room at your disposal, you can spend a class period with students playing online games. There are tons out there, but here are some of my favorites:
- French in a Click — This site has Hangman, Memory and “drag and drop” games.
- Le français en questions — For more advanced students, in this all-French game players must guess the missing word using clues.
- Bonjour de France — Select the level (A1 – C1) at the top of this page, and you’ll see all of the games for that level.
Playing games in class is extremely useful for getting in much-needed grammar practice without the groan. But don’t just take my word for it, start playing these grammar games in your French classes and have fun!
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