Teacher’s Helpers: 12 French Teaching Books for Reliably Awesome Classes
Or in the age of technology, the only reliable source of information when your WiFi is down.
It’s easy to forget about them, but when all else fails, they’re always there to bail you out.
As a French teacher, having the right books on hand can save your skin.
It can also help you brainstorm ideas, stay organized and gain inspiration.
Books may be an older resource, but teaching with books never gets old.
In this post, we’ll go over some oldies but goodies that will make your teaching both more fun and more efficient.
But first, let’s look at some ways that books can continually be a French teacher’s best friend.
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Different Ways Books Can Help You in the Classroom
- By giving answers to your concerns. It’s never too late to learn about teaching. Just as you’d turn to other French teachers for ideas and advice, books can also provide concrete insights into the most effective techniques and formats to teach French as a second language. After all, what is reading, if not an invitation to dialogue with the writer?
- By inspiring you. Books can serve as a great resource for building your curriculum. They can be great for picking and choosing lesson ideas. Beyond the ideas you can get for new topics, books help you get creative with the format, structure and content you give to a lesson.
- By giving you access to the best grammar explanations. Veteran French teachers will all agree: Teaching French grammar is no walk in the park! Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, why not go back to basics? Sometimes all you need is to reach out for vetted, simple and concise explanations. This will save you time, and more importantly, it works!
- By giving you material to incorporate into your homework or exams. Introducing exercises is not the most fun part of language teaching or learning, but it’s still a great way to help make sure that your lessons “stick” with your students. Exercises are especially important when you’re teaching absolute beginners to intermediate students. The value of using ready-made book exercises? Again, they can really help you save time coming up with assignments or tests.
- By giving you access to explanations from a Francophone point of view. There’s nothing like a French book to understand the language inside and out! Be strategic with what you pick and stick to French references: Aside from being tested and approved, there’s a cultural component you just can’t replace!
French Teaching Books: 12 Staples for Every French Teacher’s Arsenal
1. “Le français langue seconde”
This one is a bit of an institution with French teachers. The book focuses on the methods of teaching French as a foreign language to students at every level, delving into details on the techniques and specific problems that teachers encounter in the classroom.
Now, keep in mind that it’s all in French (it’s for teachers, not students, after all!), but it’s well worth the read. Why? Because it provides concrete answers to the questions that most French teachers have and actionable insights and tips to make teaching more effective.
Some fundamental issues that it addresses will sound very familiar:
- What students should know by every level.
- How to work on every skill.
- How to maximize French language teaching by incorporating your French teaching with other disciplines.
- What’s in the FLE test and how to prepare your students for it.
2. “La Grammaire en FLE”
Here’s a great essay that addresses a critical question in French teaching: how to teach grammar today.
The book revolves around the premise that teaching grammar isn’t as essential today as it was in the 1970s. And yes, we couldn’t agree more.
Acknowledging this fundamental shift, the book attempts to define a new framework to teach French grammar in the modern classroom and discusses the following:
- What are students’ attitudes towards grammar teaching?
- What are the best steps and formats for teaching grammar to French language learners?
- How can you build a progressive method?
- How can you make sure that students internalize the rules?
- To what extent should you explain the rules?
3. “Le petit Larousse”
The “Larousse” is the Bible of all French dictionaries. Okay, well, with the exception of the “Dictionnaire de l’Académie française” !
Why is that? For many reasons, but mainly, it’s the most complete and precise of all French dictionaries.
With concise, to-the-point definitions, etymologies, synonyms and antonyms, idioms, various in-context examples, some illustrations, a section for common nouns (noms communs) as well as 28,000 personalities, literary works, cities, countries and events (noms propres)—plus the essential points (gender, category) that any proper dictionary should have, it’s a great little helper that you’ll want to put in the classroom for your students to check out when they’re struggling with a word.
But it’s even so much more than that! The pink section that separates the noms communs from the noms propres includes great cultural pages on every theme and quirky facts that your students may want to learn about, from Greek columns to French art movements, the metric system and more!
Keep one or more in class and make sure that your students go and check out a word in the dictionary when they’re unsure of its meaning or proper usage.
Oh! Did you know they also have an online dictionary?
4. “Grand dictionnaire des synonymes et contraires”
Keep this one handy, too, and make sure that your students buy their own!
This is arguably the best French thesaurus: 200,000 synonyms, 80,000 antonyms and 3,000 expressions and idioms. As with any thesaurus, don’t expect definitions or pictures, just extensive lists of similar words with variations based on context.
This one has no frills: It’s just the best of its kind. It’s a fantastic helper for your students and you should recommend it to your intermediate to advanced learners as it may be especially helpful for when they write essays, letters or dissertations. Encourage your students to get their own and keep one in your classroom and the school’s library so it’s within reach whenever you’re working on writing activities.
It’s also perfect for when you’re building a course on a given topic and are thinking of inserting a “vocab point.” Use it to create your own vocab lists and points.
5. “Larousse College French-English Dictionary”
If you must recommend your students one bilingual dictionary, this would be it!
This is a fantastic dictionary that provides in-depth coverage of common vocabulary and a broad range of business terminology, making it the perfect companion for your students (and yourself).
It includes an English-to-French and French-to-English section with 350,000 entries, examples and pictures.
6. “Le Bled Tout-en-Un”
This is how French kids have and are still being taught grammar at school. Actually, French professionals, including journalists, writers and marketers are also often known to still own a “Bled” and check it out when they’re confused about a specific French grammar, spelling, conjugation or vocabulary rule.
The “Bled” incorporates tons of explanations and corrected exercises focusing on the tricky points of the French language, from the articles partitifs to the pronoms démonstratifs, the rules of liaisons, conjugaisons and tenses.
This not only makes “Bled” the perfect tool to build a lesson—it’s also a great resource to find assignments and test subjects that you can give your students while you’re working on a specific topic.
7. “Bescherelle: La conjugaison pour tous”
This little red book probably needs no introduction for you.
This is how French kids (and grown-ups) are taught conjugation.
The “Bescherelle conjugaison” incorporates tables and an appendix listing all the verbs. Keep one handy in class, and make sure your students regularly check the (free) online website!
8. “Bescherelle: La grammaire pour tous”
Did you know that there’s a “Bescherelle” for other aspects of French grammar as well? There is!
The “Bescherelle grammaire” consists of very structured and detailed lessons focusing on the (many!) rules of the French language. Unlike the “Bled,” it’s more about the rules than the exercises, and it’s all in French: perfect for when you’re teaching your students complex grammar points!
9. Assimil’s “New French with Ease”
La Méthode Assimil was built on the premise that anybody who studies regularly will reach a conversational-to-fluent level within 6 months.
It’s great for teachers: We particularly love the structured mini-lessons, simplified grammar points, vocab lists, targeted readings and corrected exercises. It’s also an effective resource to get inspiration for your courses: Either use the lessons as is or pick select parts to include in your own lessons.
This resource is pricy but a good investment: Aside from the book, the package includes CDs that you can easily incorporate into your lessons to develop your students’ listening skills.
10. “Il était une fois la création du monde des dieux et des mots”
This book is a find! It’s an upbeat, inspiring and humbling resource for your French students to not only learn about the French language and culture, but be exposed to authentic stories, too!
Introduce your students to the pleasures of reading in French and show them that Francophone books can be approachable and easy to understand. The book includes 16 fairy tales from France and French-speaking countries, their explanations and a brief introduction of each tale’s author.
The tales are suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners and focus on religion, the origins of words, history and more.
One more thing: This resource includes both book and audio content (CD, MP3), which makes it an effective tool to test your students’ reading, understanding and listening skills.
11. “Le Petit Prince”
There’s a reason why so many French learners from all over have been reading this masterpiece.
Aside from being translated into hundreds of languages, it was voted France’s best book of the 20th century. Your students have to read it!
Published in 1943, this timeless novella is still incredibly modern and always resonates well with a young (and not so young!) audience. The story revolves around a stranded aviator who, after crashing in the desert, meets a young prince fallen to Earth from an asteroid.
Beautifully written, clever and incredibly moving, “Le Petit Prince” is a fantastic book to practice reading with your beginner to intermediate students. Why? Because unlike more complex novels, the writing consists of simple, accessible sentences.
While this book is a staple of French teaching that will in itself provide your students with great learning material, you can make sure they get the most out of it by building activities and exercises around it in class.
Some great exercises could focus on reading out loud, pronunciation, liaisons, learning new vocabulary and going over standard structures.
For your intermediate to advanced students, this novel is the perfect introduction to French culture and literature.
For them, why not create a group activity, debates or presentations revolving around “Le Petit Prince” ? You could discuss related topics, characters, writing choices and quotes with your students. You could even turn the book into a play in French.
For example, you could create your own version of “Le Petit Prince” in a different setting, such as your own city, the future or a dystopia. You could discuss the novel’s key themes, including the dangers of narrow-mindedness, the benefits of travel and exploration or how relationships help us grow. Or you could simply organize debates focusing on the book’s most famous quotes.
Some great debate and discussion topics could include:
- Is it true that “anything essential is invisible to the eye”?
- Do you agree with the following statements? “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” Discuss these quotes (in French) using personal and real-life examples.
12. “Les Fables de la Fontaine”
This is another must-read that you’ve got to put in the hands of your students! “Les Fables” is pretty much how French children learn their own language: Everybody has studied them, and everybody that reads them loves them.
Funny, sometimes provocative, and always on point, this is some of the best poetry ever created. Reading it will not only make your students better readers and French speakers, it will make them wiser, too.
Beyond the grammar and vocabulary components that you can use in your lessons, you’ll find that the fables are great life lessons, provide a unique glimpse into 17th century France and include exceptional elements to elevate a discussion of French literature.
They will be especially perfect if you’re introducing your students to the rules of French poetry and are looking for content to illustrate your lesson: Focus on the rhymes, symbolism or how they compare to other poems, for example.
There are endless fables to bring to your classroom, but you can’t go wrong with “Le Corbeau et le Renard” or “La Grenouille qui veut se faire plus grosse qu’un bœuf.” These are also great for introducing your students to the art of récitation.
The above books are your must-have arsenal in your French library.
Of course, there are many other excellent books you can use, but these are the absolute essentials that will make a difference.
Bonne lecture à tous !
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)