Just then, it clicked.
The light went on.
You saw it in the student who had spent most of the period slouched in his desk, arms crossed, until he suddenly leaned forward, eyes fixed on you.
It was the pupil who was sometimes dumbfounded, other times frustrated, until the day conjugations started to make sense. Once a student who begrudgingly entered your door for a foreign language requirement, the learner now ended the year planning to major in French.
Each of those days, you left cherishing the win, knowing the next day might not be as rewarding.
But student success stories don’t have to be rare occasions.
A rich toolbox of classroom resources exists for French educators that can transform every lesson into a smashing success like the story mentioned above.
Read on to see how you can use a variety of resources to engage your French students and help them develop a love for the language and culture.
Teach Outside the Box: 5 New French Resources for the Classroom
The key to teaching French, or any language for that matter, is to connect with your students in a number of different ways. Not everyone enjoys textbooks and worksheets. To reach students bored by traditional teaching methods, you should use a variety of different resources that speak to all five senses. That way, you can help students improve retention and interact with the subject material in more hands-on ways than the routine lectures and PowerPoint slides.
Today, we’re going to look at five types of resources you can use to give your French learners a balanced education. These resources are effective ways to cover basic vocabulary for beginner and intermediate students, or augment upper-level content for older or more advanced learners.
What’s more, each and every one of these resources is practical. They engage students on their level of proficiency, therefore empowering them with a greater arsenal for communicating in French.
1. Teach with Videos in the Classroom
One highly effective resource to integrate into your classroom is video, a ubiquitous communication method that helps students connect what they hear to what they see. The videos you select can also show native speakers using the language in a practical way and at a more realistic pace than students might find in their workbook exercises.
Introduce students to relevant discussions in today’s French culture while improving their listening skills. One way you can do this is by showing them news snippets in French. France has a number of highly recognized news sources, but the videos available from Le Monde, L’Express and Le Nouvel Observateur are good places to start. Each of these publishers provides coverage of mainstream events with their own take on the political climate in France. Older students will also benefit from comparing and contrasting how each source conveys information.
For free resources, look no further than YouTube. There, you can find French content for all audiences. The beloved children’s series Le Petit Nicolas now has its own YouTube channel, as does Kaamelott, a kooky take on King Arthur in the spirit of Monty Python. Popular French cooking channels, such as the Gastronomes Engagés, L’atelier de Roxane and ChefClub, can also complement units on the imperative or food vocabulary.
2. Use Food to Create Classroom Conversations
Your time in the classroom has likely included a lesson covering markets, restaurant conversations or the occasional crêpe day. But did you know that food is a powerful resource for engaging students? Especially when you integrate it into your curriculum in creative ways. Perhaps more than any other subject, food can help improve your students’ vocabulary and conversational skills. After all, the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.
For example, have students order food at in a makeshift market or restaurant, then, take their conversation to the next level by using advanced, nuanced vocabulary. Early curriculum units will cover shapes, colors and sizes, such as round, long and green, but you can encourage students to supplement these words with vocabulary that more specifically characterizes the food with words like spicy, sweet and salty. To do this, bring food into the classroom and discuss not only a macaron’s color but its taste: how amande differs from vanille.
Bringing in new foods throughout the year, even monthly or quarterly, can help students retain this vocabulary, especially if they record vocabulary and notes in a year-long, interactive culinary notebook. A notebook holds unit vocabulary, but you may also use it to introduce students to French frequency vocabulary. Look for adjectives that can describe food as well as a number of other subjects.
Empowering students with more ways to talk about a subject they know, such as food, helps them build confidence and see how their French is improving.
3. Improve Student Vocabulary with Flashcards
There is a reason that flashcards have aided students for decades in everything from addition to foreign language vocabulary: they work! Often used to supplement material at home, flashcards can be an excellent resource in the classroom. Whether you use them to display images or written words, flashcards help connect visual learners to materials and easily augment resources listed above.
Having students create or engage with flashcards in every unit reinforces material they learned over the course of several weeks. To use them in the classroom, consider a web-based tool such as Quizlet, which offers online flashcards covering a high variety and volume of vocabulary. Or, see a more comprehensive list here.
4. Make the French Holiday Calendar a Classroom Resource
Bringing holidays into the classroom can turn French class into a continual celebration. Rather than defer to the occasional popular holiday as a mid-year and end-of-year class party, use holidays and celebrations which are important to and indicative of French culture as benchmarks when planning your curriculum for the year.
To aid students in engaging with the material, use the holidays as subjects for writing prompts, or turn aspects of a holiday into an object lesson. For example, have students bring an extra pair of shoes for Père Nicolas around Christmas and return the next day to find them filled with treats. The memorable event can segue into a conversation about French traditions.
5. Employ Charts and Maps as Classroom Activities, Not Just Visuals
You may already refer to a general map of France to point out different regions of the country, but using different maps of France can help students broaden their understanding of the country and the francophone world.
On their own, maps act as excellent visuals. But integrating them into classroom activities can turn them into powerful teaching tools. Specific regional maps color discussions of French culture; street maps of Paris work to launch exercises in practicing directions; agriculture, food and wine maps show the diversity of the country while supplementing conversations about food or animals; and maps of the francophone world reveal to students the breadth and influence of French outside of France.
Meanwhile, charts allow students to draw comparisons between objects while improving their vocabulary. You can this with a plethora of subjects: life in la ville (the city) versus la campagne (the country), characters in a French film and so on. To take visuals to the next level, use them as games that employ more advanced vocabulary. For classroom Bingo, award spaces to students based on adjectives, such as items that are soft or objects that are noisy, instead of the nouns themselves. This makes for a more challenging game that engages students’ abilities to draw similarities and retain what they’ve learned.
To find charts and other visuals, review sites such as:
- Tes.com: Offers a wide range of French vocabulary maps and other resources.
- IE Languages: Provides engaging visuals that can be used in your games.
- Teachers Pay Teachers: Loaded with a variety of premium French resources like maps and diagrams which you can adapt to suit your curriculum.
Bringing It All Together
Drawing from an abundance of resources can help you engage students with varying interest in French, while aiding them in expanding their knowledge and learning how to speak with confidence. Above all, the adaptability you gain from these resources allows you to cover important material in unique, creative ways that suit your teaching style.
Enjoy and bonne chance!