21st Century Teaching: 4 Strategies to Reach Modern French Students
Do you want to be an innovative, forward-looking French teacher in the modern classroom?
Of course you do!
But if you’ve taught for many years with just a blackboard and the occasional PowerPoint presentation, walking into a modern classroom can feel like you’ve stepped on another planet.
And even if you’re not new to 21st-century technology, the sheer volume of new resources available can be overwhelming.
How will you ever narrow it down, let alone come up with a strategy to use these tools?
Look no further. We have four solid strategies for teaching French in the modern classroom, complete with the best ways to implement them.
So dive in and check out all the exciting options out there. Find the one best suited to you, and the rest will be history.
4 Solid Strategies for Teaching French in the Modern Classroom
1. Use Technology
This is the era when technology is king and more and more apps are 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, this is the one to try.
Blubbr: Create video trivia games
Blubbr is a fun way to create quizzes and trivia questions. It allows you to select a YouTube video and add questions to it. It has several categories from which to choose, or you can upload your own video. It’s fun and interactive for the learners. A small tip though—don’t choose a video that is longer than 15 minutes.
Zaption: Venture on a video tour
Zaption is another interesting tool which can be used to create video lessons for your students. You may choose to use the videos in their gallery, or you may upload your own video. With Zaption tours, you can generate interest in a topic before introducing it, or the questions can give rise to a class discussion.
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. 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.
2. Blend Students’ Learning
Blended learning is one of the new teaching strategies of the modern classroom. It is a hybrid method that has students learning both online and in a brick-and-mortar venue. Usually teachers deliver face-to-face lessons and then use a platform such as Moodle as a support. But there are also other cool resources that you can use, like the following:
A good method to use in the blended learning classroom 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 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.
French Crazy has an extensive collection of songs with English translations, while TV5 has a variety of music clips with worksheets and transcriptions for three language levels: A2 (elementary), B1 (intermediate) and B2 (advanced).
French TV is another fabulous way to grab your students’ attention and increase motivation. The best channel I’ve found (that’s accessible in the USA) is TV5, which has its own section on the French language divided into Apprendre le français and Enseigner le français. It also has a section entitled Découvrir le français which includes a dictionary, plus a section called Parlons français which has short video clips or webdocs about France and its culture.
The teacher’s section has an excellent resource called Sept jours sur la planète. It consists of a news report with French subtitles that spans seven days. Levels include A2, B1 and B2, and each clip is accompanied by a French transcript (which can be used as a translation exercise), a fiche enseignant (PDF or DOC) and a fiche apprenant.
So from video clips and French songs to pronunciation and vocabulary lessons, TV5 has it all!
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.
With six levels from beginner to native, and categories spanning arts and entertainment to society and politics, there is something that’ll interest every student.
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. FluentU’s unique “learn mode” then takes these authentic videos and turns them into French learning lessons. 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 it 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!
Podcasts are easily available and offer a variety of topics. They are useful for pronunciation and vocabulary purposes, as well as being a comprehension exercise.
Try using Learning with French-Podcasts.com, which has various categories. You can listen to the podcast (sometimes with simultaneous English translation) and then download the PDF transcript. This will help your learners improve their listening comprehension, pronunciation and vocabulary.
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.
These Conversations en français 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 then two more podcasts which question the learner (in French) about the content.
As you can probably tell, a blended learning program is more flexible and easier to customize, giving you a rich environment from which to work.
3. 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.
For example, 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.
Camtasia lets you record your own interactive professional videos and share them. But know that it comes at a price of $117.96 for PC (Studio Education Package) and Mac.
Ma France is a very useful site from BBC where learners can watch and interact with video. 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.
You can record your own grammar or culture lessons, and then post them on YouTube for your students to access. You might also have students watch instructional videos made by others users, 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.”
With PowerPoint, you can add a voiceover to your slides and save the presentation as a movie. This is quite easy if you use PowerPoint 2010 and 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 ?
And that’s a perfect lead into our final strategy: gamification.
4. Try Gamification
Everyone loves playing games. So what better way to motivate your students than to get them to play games while learning.
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.
Another way to play is to send the learners on a webquest so they can explore French culture and customs. A good site for finding a webquest on France is TES. You have to subscribe to get access, but it’s free.
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.
Ciel Bretagne offers a variety of games on grammar points and vocabulary. Clicking on each game name will open up a PDF containing all of the rules, instructions and any necessary handouts—which you can either save or print.
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!
Hilda Thomas has a PhD in French and is a teacher and blogger who is passionate about travel and French.