Could you drink the exact same juice day after day?
Chances are, you prefer variety!
And so do your students.
So if you’re looking for fun, new ways to teach French, look no further.
Here are four bright teaching methods to refresh your pool of ideas and naturally motivate your French students.
4 Juicy Teaching Methods to Rejuvenate Your French Classroom
1. The Cooperative Learning Method
Cooperative learning is a fun method to get your students motivated and excited. Students will work in small groups and have a project or task to complete. You, as the teacher, will act as facilitator and observe how well they work in a pair or group to complete the task you have set them.
I like to give my students a fairytale in French, divide them into groups of five and assign characters to each one. For example, take the story of Cendrillon and ask each member of the group to pick a character: Cinderella, the wicked stepmother, the ugly sisters, the prince.
The idea is to solve a crime—who stole the glass shoe? Each character will have a set of questions (in French) to ask the others, in order to discover who the guilty person is. For example, Où étais-tu entre minuit et une heure du matin ? Each student gets a chance to ask questions and after a certain amount of time, each group should be ready to present its findings.
Cooperative learning tasks
Here are some more ideas from around the web of possible tasks/techniques that work well with this method:
- Magic phrases. Pete Jones has a number of interesting cooperative learning projects on his website, even though the formatting is outdated and a bit hard to read. The game phrases magiques will improve your students’ writing and vocabulary skills, as students will build sentences to win points, using words and phrases from a grid.
- Five friends. Another cooperative activity on that same site is les cinq amis, which develops comprehension skills and can be expanded to include speaking/listening exercises. This is one of those neat logic puzzles where you use a series of facts to fill in a chart, to figure out which person corresponds to each trait/situation.
- Think-pair-share. This is a common technique, where the students reflect on a question about something they have just learned. Then, they pair up with another student to discuss their thoughts, and finally each shares their response with the whole class.
- Round robin. Another common technique, this one simply involves asking a question that will produce varied answers, and having students go around and share their answers in small groups. For example, you might ask, “Quel souvenir de ton enfance préfères-tu ?” or “Comment as-tu rencontré ton/ta meilleur(e) ami(e) ?” This setup will get your students talking and interacting while improving their vocabulary and speaking skills.
2. Teaching with French TV and Films
If you favor a blended learning approach, introducing French films or television is an excellent method to help students improve their four language skills.
Cinema français FLE
A wonderful site for creating lessons based on movies is Apprendre le français avec le cinéma. It analyzes 18 films, providing specific questions and topics to explore before and after watching (with answers), plus themes, ideas for exposés and more. But that’s just the “films” section! The other four main parts of the site are the history of French cinema, film genres, quizzes and dialogues from the featured movies.
It’s an incredible resource for French teachers, but also to share with your upper-intermediate and advanced learners, so they can gain even more from watching these films on their own.
Use movie posters
A fun activity when teaching with movies is to have your students analyze the film’s poster. This will lead to vocabulary expansion and an improvement in analytical skills. Take, for example, the poster or photos for “La Vie en Rose” (its French title is “La Môme”), which may be found on the official website of the film.
Ask your students (in groups of 2 or 4) to describe what they see on the poster (or photo). Is it outside or inside? Is it night or day? Describe the person you see. What does the poster tell you about the genre of the movie? These can all be used to hone description skills.
Lastly, there is the excellent TV5MONDE, which is a fabulous aid for teachers. The TV channel’s website has four main sections under its Langue française menu: découvrir le français, apprendre le français, enseigner le français and parlons français, c’est facile. Each section has many treasures to be discovered, which I’ll highlight here.
Découvrir le français has a bibliothèque numérique, which lists many French literary authors, a dictionary and a section on mots et expressions. The latter has short video clips clips explaining adjectives, verbs, nouns etc. with worksheets for teachers.
Apprendre le français has three main subsections:
- Première classe has 134 videos clips, with multiple exercises for each—from basic language constructions for beginners (A1) to the B2 level. Students are meant to watch the video and do the corresponding exercises, while higher levels could also discuss the topic.
- TCF (Test de connaissance du français) is where students can practice their four language skills in preparation for the DELF exam (Diplôme d’Études de Langue Française).
- Astuces pour apprendre features comprehension exercises based on video clips.
It’s worth mentioning that when you double click on any word on the TV5MONDE site, a handy little box will pop up with the French definition of that word.
Enseigner le français also has three subsections:
- “7 jours sur la planète” is extremely effective for teaching listening and comprehension skills, as well as improving vocabulary. It’s a short 30-minute show with news stories from around the globe, with subtitles in French. Three of the reportages are chosen by the experts, and exercises are developed about each of the three. There are accompanying worksheets (A2, B1, B2 levels) for the teacher and the student, plus a transcription and a brief summary.
- Musique: Paroles de clip Equally useful, this section introduces video clips of contemporary French artists. It also has worksheets for you and the student, as well as the lyrics. It includes all 4 DELF levels: A1, A2, B1 and B2, so you can use them with beginners or advanced students.
- Éducation aux médias introduces a journalistic theme and vocabulary, which can be sorted by theme and level (A1-C2).
Parlons français, c’est facile ! is the final section, which has short video clips with exercises, a transcription and games.
3. The Communicative Approach
In the communicative approach, the focus is on communication rather than grammar structures. This approach gives the teacher a facilitator role and takes the focus off the language by stressing the content. The idea is to communicate fluently, but not necessarily accurately.
If you were to show your students how to repair a bicycle, for example, they would learn bike vocab while you taught the process of fixing the bike. Your students would then be able to communicate in French by using the relevant vocabulary and conveying their feelings, ideas and thoughts.
Here are a few ideas for teaching French through the communicative approach:
Allowing your students to role play any real-life (or fictional!) situation is a fantastic way to get them to use French in this way. Make sure students have the necessary vocabulary and cultural information beforehand, and then let them act it out!
For example, one possible scenario would be for your students to go shopping for food—but not just one stop at the grocery store. This helps them review the vocabulary for different kinds of shops (l’épicerie, la boulangerie, la boucherie, le supermarché, etc.), kinds of foods (le pain, la viande, le lait, le vin, etc.), how to ask what something costs and quantities (un kilo de pommes, un litre de lait, une tablette de chocolat, etc.).
Learn about classmates
Another useful way to practice this method is to have your students find out more about each other by asking one another questions.
For example, students could ask questions such as “Aimes-tu aller au cinéma ?,” “Quel sport préfères-tu ?” and “Préfères-tu le thé ou le café ?” This results in meaningful communication; interaction between students is paramount.
Fill out a questionnaire
You could also ask your students questions which would allow them to express their feelings, emotions, likes, dislikes and above all, their imagination. For instance, Marcel Proust’s questionnaire is extremely useful on many levels—students’ interactions with each other, the vocabulary, the way questions are asked and comprehension. By using Proust’s questionnaire, you can either get students to reflect on their own likes and dislikes, or you can adapt it and have students ask the questions to a peer.
Proust’s questions include “Le principal trait de mon caractère,” “La qualité que je préfère chez un homme/chez une femme” and “Ce que j’apprécie le plus chez mes amis.”
The University of Texas has some helpful templates and ideas which you can use to create additional communicative tasks.
4. AIM Language Learning
The Accelerative Integrated Method (AIM) of language learning was designed in the late-’90s by Wendy Maxwell, a French teacher in Canada, to accelerate the development of fluency in the beginning levels of language learning. This approach teaches vocabulary visually and in an auditory manner, so the use of theater, stories and music are important.
Students are introduced to the vocabulary through gestures, and then shown a contextualized play using the same words. This cements the vocabulary while demonstrating how to use it, which often leads to the students’ use of their own imagination and creativity in order to expand on the activity.
AIM Language Learning
AIM Language Learning has gathered a series of short videos on YouTube, such as student-made “Les Trois Petits Cochons,” which are useful in the classroom. That particular story and activity, for example, will introduce the vocabulary of animals such as cochon and loup, and the phrase avoir peur. Once the vocabulary has been learned, you can then give your students a comprehension test, which can be either written or oral (or both). They might even be inspired to make their own videos!
AIM Language Learning explains that their method will help students become proficient in the target language faster. Useful key words are taught first and then task-based activities are set in order to create a kind of language immersion. Gestures, as mentioned previously, are very important. I like to use this method in the early stages when I am teaching my students how to introduce themselves. I point to myself and say “Je m’appelle…” and add my name. I then point to a student and say “Et toi ?” This should elicit a reply.
Here are a few more task-based activities:
- Charades. Have students pick a piece of paper with an action written on it from a box (e.g. lire un journal, manger au restaurant, faire du vélo). The student then acts out that action, and their classmates must guess the French verb/phrase.
- Famous people. Ask your students (in groups) to come up with a list of four or five famous people from the 20th century. They must then give reasons why each person is on their list.
- French recipe. Let students to present a French recipe to the class! In groups they’ll need to both show the ingredients needed, and then pretend to prepare the dish. This will help not only with oral fluency, but also with vocabulary and grammar (such as the imperative) review.
Clearly, there are many fun methods available to help you teach in the French classroom. Feel free to mix up these four and use them flexibly to ignite your students’ creativity and boost their French!