8 Fun French Teaching Methods to Motivate Your Students
Keeping your students interested and engaged in class is every teacher’s challenge and wish.
So if you’re looking for fun, new ways to teach French, look no further.
Here are eight French teaching methods and strategies to refresh your pool of ideas and naturally motivate your students.
- 1. Use the cooperative learning method
- 2. Use the communicative approach
- 3. Use the Accelerative Integrated Method (AIM)
- 4. Teach with French TV and films
- 5. Use music and podcasts
- 6. Use technology in the classroom
- 7. Flip your classroom
- 8. Try gamification
1. Use 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:
- 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. Use 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:
Try role play
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. 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 and 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 it, 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.
3. Use the Accelerative Integrated Method (AIM)
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 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.
4. Teach 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’s Langue française, which is a fabulous aid for teachers.
The TV channel’s learning website has four main sections: découvrir le français, jouer avec le français, apprendre le français, enseigner le français. Each section has many treasures to be discovered and I’ll highlight a few 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.
Jouer avec le français has a fun interactive dictation feature for several levels, games and quizzes.
Apprendre le français has a couple of subsections:
- Première classe has over a hundred videos clips, with multiple exercises for each—from basic language constructions from 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.
- Astuces pour apprendre features comprehension exercises based on video clips.
Enseigner le français also has several subsections:
- “7 jours sur la planète” is 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.
- Paroles de clip is equally useful and 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.
5. Use music and podcasts
Another good method for the blended learning classroom is utilizing various tools to improve listening skills. Here are some of our favorite ones.
One of these is the use of songs to stimulate enthusiasm. And what better way than to use music videos?
There are many music videos on YouTube. You can even let them hear “La Marseillaise” with English and French subtitles. It’s a fun way to teach them culture and vocabulary, not to mention comprehension. Another advantage is that songs teach them the rhythm and intonation of the language.
Check out Catchy and Easy French Songs on YouTube, which offers songs for beginners. Or if you prefer something more advanced, what about some of the classics like Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose” or Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas”? I like using Céline Dion’s “Pour que tu m’aimes encore” to reinforce the use of the future tense.
Langue française’s Paroles de clips section has a variety of music clips with worksheets and transcriptions for various language levels.
As a slick immersive learning platform that completely eliminates the hours you’d otherwise spend searching for videos on YouTube, FluentU is a must-have in the modern classroom.
FluentU takes authentic videos, like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into personalized language lessons.
Each word comes with an in-context definition, image, audio and multiple example sentences. You can even click on a word to see how it’s used in other videos across the site.
The lessons are fully personalized, so the student’s learning history is taken into account when presenting questions. FluentU’s algorithm sets students up for success by teaching them based on what they know.
Not only can you develop lessons around FluentU and recommend the program for individual at-home practice, but with the handy Assignment feature, you can also assign specific videos to each of your classes. Easily view each student and class’s progress—no grading required!
French podcasts are easily available and offer a variety of topics. They are useful for pronunciation and vocabulary purposes, as well as comprehension exercises.
Je French has short simple podcasts which are ideal for beginners. From basic greetings and grammar to French culture, this website is a good accompaniment to any course.
Podcast Français Facile is another awesome site, which has a series of MP3 files your learners can listen to. You need to click on the “dialogues” button to be taken to a series of conversations. Following the dialogue is the transcript and questions for the learner (in French) about the content.
6. Use technology in the classroom
This is the era when technology is king and more and more apps are being invented to help teachers. So why not make use of these resources?
Most of them offer a free plan which can be upgraded if you need to use more advanced features.
Prezi: Take your slides to the next level
Prezi is a cloud-based presentation app. The designers state that “Unlike slides, Prezi is a zooming canvas with unlimited possibilities.” Prezi is a non-linear tool and allows you to work on a blank page.
Just like PowerPoint, Prezi allows you to insert photos, text, sounds, animations and video. So if you want to give a new kind of presentation to keep your students engaged, this is the one to try. Depending on the task, the students can also make their own and get creative with them.
Blogger: Have students make teaching blogs
Blogs are a great way to get your students to collaborate and create something connected to the topic you are teaching. Let them consult some of the blogs that teach French to get ideas and inspiration.
Then ask your students to create their own version of a teaching blog on Blogger. This way, they must come to grips with the subject matter—whether it’s grammar, literature or culture—in order to teach others.
Another option is to allow them to create a blog based on a particular topic, their personal interests or hobbies. It will definitely make for an exciting project!
Camtasia: Record lessons in advance
Camtasia lets you record your own interactive professional videos and share them.
This is a great tool if you want students to watch something in advance (more on this in the “Flip your classroom” section below!). You can also make quizzes, add special effects and more.
Know that it comes at a price of $199.99 for PC (Studio Education Package) and Mac, although you’re able to do a 30-day free trial first.
YouTube: Watch instructional videos with your students
YouTube is a great standby for many reasons! You can record your own grammar or culture lessons, and then post them on YouTube (privately, if you prefer) for your students to access.
You might also have students watch French-learning channels made by other creators, like Learn French with Alexa, which teaches grammar, culture and pronunciation.
Geraldine in Comme une Française gives you short clips in which she explains one concept (in language or culture), for example, “how to start a conversation.”
PowerPoint: Turn it into a game show
Another reliable standby is PowerPoint, which you might be using already. However, there are several features that you might not be aware of!
You can add a voiceover to your slides and save the presentation as a movie. This is quite easy if you use PowerPoint along with Windows Movie Maker.
You can also use PowerPoint to create your own game shows, or better yet, use the free templates on TES, like Qui veut gagner des millions ?
7. Flip your classroom
A flipped classroom reverses traditional teaching methods: The learners get the topic and recorded material online at home, while class time is devoted to doing exercises and discussing the topic. This will enable you as a teacher to devote more time to problem areas.
A flipped class on French culture would be ideal, and here are some resources to help you do that.
Marie Ponterio’s Civilisation française is an excellent resource.
There are many different topics to choose from, such as La Vie familiale, La Consommation et la cuisine, La Vie culturelle, etc. Your students are presented with photographs underneath, containing sentences with a missing word.
The idea is to listen to the MP3 file and fill in the missing word so it’s good for comprehension, too! They can also jump to the answers, and at the end of each section, there are many exercises to reinforce the knowledge gained.
French Together is a site that you can use for culture or grammar.
For example, your students could learn the verb faire in all its tenses and its uses. Then in class, you can do exercises and activities instead of explaining the conjugation to them.
Ma France is a very useful site from BBC where learners can watch and interact with videos.
It has a video clip with a choice of French or English subtitles, a list of vocabulary and a grammar section. It also has a “Bitesize” section where learners can test their listening, reading, writing and speaking skills.
8. Try gamification
Everyone loves playing games. So what better way to motivate your students than to get them to play games while learning? Here are some of our recommendations.
If you’re looking for easy online games that can reinforce vocabulary, then Digital Dialects has a variety of themes from which to choose. Your learners can hear the pronunciation, learn the word and then play a game.
French Games has basic games with over 100 topics. Learners first choose a topic, then learn the topic using the site’s free tutorials, and finally play a game.
Are you ready to join the modern classroom by using these strategies? If you weren’t before, you are now. Choose one solid strategy to try out and energize your classes today!
Bonne chance et bon travail!