After vocabulary drills, how about cooking a quiche?
Instead of tearing through the classics, how about reading a personalized book list?
Adding variety to your French tutoring lessons is important to instilling key language skills in your students, from reading and writing to listening and speaking.
But it’s also important to diversify intelligently.
As a tutor, you want your lessons to have a concrete structure, outline clear goals and spark your student’s individual interests, whether you’re using traditional activities or not.
So how can we make our lessons more exciting while following these rules?
Below, we’ll cover four ideas for creating rockstar French tutoring lessons to help your students make radical progress while having fun.
4 Rockstar French Tutoring Ideas to Help Your Students Learn Every Facet of the Language
1. Structure Your Lessons to Target Key Language Skills
It’s critical that your students feel equally confident reading or listening to French as they do speaking and writing it. Often, students complain that they’re able to understand texts and conversations, but are frustrated that they can’t participate and express themselves to the fullest.
As a tutor, it’s your job to address this issue as soon as possible. The key is to design your lesson plans in such a way that your activities adequately trigger specific skills. Try to spend more time on the activities that target the skills your students find most challenging, so they can get lots of practice and build confidence during tutoring sessions.
As a general rule, you want to make sure that your lesson plans follow no more than one theme and no more than one new grammar concept. The theme is where your students will learn new vocabulary, such as French cooking, fashion in Paris or talking about their family, while the grammar is where your students acquire the tools to accurately express themselves, whether through conjugation or new sentence structures.
Don’t overwhelm them with more content. Too much new information may prove difficult for your students to effectively absorb.
Lastly, remember that as the tutor, it’s your job to keep lessons moving. Make sure that all sessions follow a predefined lesson plan with at least one clear goal for each skill.
A great goal can be as simple as “use the present simple tense in a sentence” and as specific as “express your emotions using the vocabulary of feelings you’ve learned in this lesson.” It’s also useful to add a rough indicator of how much time needs to be allocated for each activity.
The outline below illustrates how you might portion out time per activity. Feel free to modify and spend more or less time on each activity depending on your students’ comfort level with each skill.
What a good French tutoring lesson should cover:
A warm-up activity (10 minutes). Kickstart the lesson and set the tone for the rest of the class. Make sure that your student has absorbed the vocabulary and structures from the previous lesson.
Format ideas: casual dialog with the student; review drill; brief written quiz; oral presentation on a given subject (exposé); homework discussion and correction.
Listening activity (15 minutes). This activity is designed to verify how your students understand French conversations. Pre-teach new words or concepts orally before playing the video or audio. Write them on a piece of paper or whiteboard and explain their meaning using definitions, synonyms, images, puppets and/or gestures. Ask students to re-explain the vocabulary using their own words, and don’t hesitate to translate into English.
Format ideas: watch a French ad; watch a French YouTube video; listen to a French song.
Reading and writing activity (10 minutes). Expand on the words and concepts introduced in the listening activity by letting the student read out loud and write. Let the student read first, and take notes of words and expressions that were mispronounced, difficult liaisons, etc. Then, say these words out loud again, allowing the student to repeat them correctly.
Format ideas: read a French article; read a French print ad; spell a word; write words that were incorrectly pronounced on the board and circle the particular syllable or sound the student needs to watch out for; dictation (dictée); write a paragraph using the expressions learned during the lesson.
Grammar and vocabulary (5 minutes). Discover and introduce new grammar concepts using the new words learned across all of this session’s activities.
Format ideas: create flashcards and lists; find synonyms for new words.
Speaking activity (15 minutes). Activate all new knowledge orally.
Format ideas: Q&A drills with the student; mini debate; rephrase a sentence using a specific structure, word or information; rephrase a sentence without using a given structure or word.
Wrap-up (5 minutes). Address all unanswered questions and end the session by going over what was learned.
Format ideas: Q&A drills to verify assimilation.
2. Strengthen Their Listening Skills with Multimedia Activities
Multimedia activities are an excellent option to enliven your tutoring lessons while challenging your students with targeted listening practice. They’re incredibly effective and support a long-term commitment to the French language. Here’s why:
- They feature plenty of real-life French conversation. Technology-enabled activities are terrific to recreate French immersion and surround your students with actual French conversations. It’s a fantastic portal to discover French culture and society and learn how language is spoken in a variety of natural settings. It’s also a great tool to expose them to French accents, intonation and colloquialisms.
- They’re very original. Students appreciate when you bring authenticity to your tutoring lessons. What better way to do that than to use the real French content that’s available online?
Multimedia activities allow you to expose students to French materials that natives consume in France. This makes lessons a lot more exciting and less theoretical than if you used a language textbook written for language learners.
- They’re perfect for tutoring. Multimedia activities are incredibly easy to implement in a tutoring setting, whether you’re teaching from your home or not. If you’re mobile, all that you need is a laptop or a tablet and a WiFi connection and voilà!
You can ask your students or their parents for the family’s WiFi code ahead of time, log in to a public WiFi or use your internet provider’s WiFi hotspot to stream the multimedia content you wish to discuss during your lesson.
How to use multimedia to promote healthy listening:
Try French podcasts. Podcasts require that students focus on the audio, and only audio, which makes them powerful listening resources. They help students develop the concentration skills they need to decipher the sounds of the language.
podCloud features an impressive collection of French podcasts that you can incorporate freely into your lessons. Some great podcasts for advanced students include the art and philosophy courses by the Collège de France, but you should also check out The French Podcast if you’re looking for more accessible, natural conversations for your beginner to intermediate students.
Watch French videos. They’re complete learning tools that effectively support your students’ French listening skills by combining a visual element. This allows your students to rely on all their senses to understand the meaning of a discussion and make quicker progress. Opt for short videos to keep listening activities within your lesson’s time frame.
FluentU offers an extensive selection of authentic French videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—for students across all levels of fluency. To make lessons even more productive, the app incorporates bilingual interactive subtitles, which allows students to learn French by simultaneously associating the sounds, spelling and meaning of different words and expressions. Tutors and students can also download each video’s transcripts, vocabulary lists and more!
Play French songs. Songs can be uplifting and they provide a fantastic bonding experience between you and your student. By combining melody with lyrics, songs make it easy for students to memorize even difficult French vocabulary, grammar and expressions without much effort.
Ortholud makes listening to French songs fun and productive. It provides iconic and recent French songs and turns each video into a mini dictation. What better way to verify that your students have indeed properly understood what they were listening to? Keep in mind, however, that this exciting listening multimedia activity is only available for laptop, not mobile.
3. Create a Custom Reading List
Reading is a terrific activity to support your students’ learning. It allows students to immerse themselves in the language without much distraction.
Advantages of personalizing a reading list:
- It supports your students’ language goals. Reading frequently is a smart way to expand vocabulary and improve spelling, grammar and conjugation quickly. Indirectly, reading benefits writing and the student’s overall learning objectives, including pronunciation as long as the student reads out loud.
- It brings them closer to French literature. The key to it all is to create a custom reading list that is unique to your student and focuses on what they love. This list would take into account their unique interests, learning goals, time commitment and fluency level.
- It helps develop a healthy relationship with reading. A common mistake that most French tutors make is to assume that all students want to read or learn the French classics. First, not all students enjoy la lecture (reading) at all. As a tutor, you may be charged with the mission to raise your students’ interest in books.
In this case, your best bet is to ask yourself how to promote a healthy relationship with reading for your students. Second, considering how diverse and dynamic French literature is, sticking only to the classics would be incredibly limiting. Personalized reading lists, however, can change your students’ view of reading by showing them that there will be books that will speak to them.
Better yet, strategically curating a list that matches your students’ proficiency levels can dramatically boost their confidence and show them that reading in French isn’t an insurmountable goal.
Tips to create a custom reading list:
Ask students what they want to read. This seems like an obvious first step, and it’s the key to success. To do this, create a short personality questionnaire to get as much information as possible about your readers’ preferences.
This helpful article by Education World features some high-quality questionnaire templates appropriate for students in any grade. Ask them about their current favorite books and movies, least favorite ones, what genres they like and what their ideal story is.
Includes titles they’ll enjoy. Try to use your knowledge of both French literature and your students’ personalities to create this list. If you struggle, use the Booknode book suggestion tool. This very helpful robot finds literary recommendations based on themes, genres and keywords. Each list includes plenty of information about the titles in question, perfect to help you screen for the best possible titles for your students.
Set reading goals. Ask your students to give you an indication of how much time they can commit to reading books from the list, including how many books they plan on finishing by a certain timeframe, how often they plan on reading per week and regular hours to practice reading out loud.
There is no wrong answer, but ask them to respect or exceed their own reading target and even sign a reading pledge to solidify their commitment.
Revise your list every three months. Include between 6 and 15 titles to choose from, preferably from books of different formats, genres and lengths. Students may not read all of them during that timeframe, but the idea is to give them options and expose them to a variety of titles you feel will benefit their reading and learning goals.
Encourage them to take notes. Reading itself is fantastic, but the best way to retain the vocabulary and expressions they’ve learned in the books is to write them down and memorize them. Kindles make it easy to mark down and view notes, but if your students prefer the old paperbacks, the trick is to avoid disrupting their reading and compartmentalize reading and note-taking.
Rather than looking up every unfamiliar word while reading, suggest that your students underline them, then write them down in their notebook and look them up in their dictionary at the end of their chapter or after reading a few of pages. However, some words will appear a lot more frequently than others, in a given chapter or even on a single page; in this case, encourage students not to wait and research these important words so they can follow the story more easily.
Talk about their books during tutoring hours. Use tutoring sessions to circle back, guide them and elevate their reading. Here are some activities:
- Café littéraire (Literary café): This is a relaxed time to have lively, opinionated discussions about a given book. Ask your student for their overall impressions about the book, its themes, character choices and writing style. Then, go beyond the world of opinions and focus on the artistic, historical or cultural elements they’ve picked up from the book and to what extent these validate or differ from their previous opinions about French society.
- Exposé (Presentation): This traditional French exercise requires that students prepare a structured oral and written presentation about a book they have read. Leave it up to them to structure it as they see fit, as long as the presentation is packed with information. It involves a lot more research and questioning and is a fantastic strategy to check for understanding while also building solid conversational skills.
- What’s next? Ask them to write a short essay inspired by the book they read. This “sequel” should respect the author’s style and address questions that were unanswered in the book’s ending. Leave it up to them to find a better, more creative ending!
4. Solidify Writing and Speaking with Fun and Meaningful Homework
It matters that your students want to do their homework. Homework should be the opportunity to go beyond what was studied in tutoring sessions, through research and independent study time. It should also be the time to gather very specific questions about the topics discussed in the previous session for the next one; this demonstrates that your students have wrestled with difficult concepts and may need your collaboration to solve remaining questions.
Great homework ideas:
Create a passion board in French. Your student’s passion board is a collection of all the things that represent them, in French. Encourage students to gather representative images, news articles, vocabulary words and quotes that illustrate their personality and place them onto the board. They can browse the internet, French magazines and French dictionaries to curate these elements.
Ask them to add at least five different themes or passions. Complement their production with a spontaneous oral discussion where they will introduce themselves and discuss the elements on the board (their passions) more extensively.
Profile a leading French person or landmark. Take an investigative approach to this exercise and ask students to pick a French figure of their choice and to research them as if they were a journalist. This fun activity requires solid research, writing and even speaking skills. Students can use as many or as few resources as they choose, including French sites, French social networks, and of course, French TV and newspapers.
Ultimately, the goal is to come up with a dynamic profile, whether by writing a short biography-style article or an interview, or acting out a mock TV documentary about the topic.
Surf a French site. Find a site related to a theme your students like and that you’ve studied together. If you’re studying fashion, head over to the sites of French couture powerhouses Le Bon Marché or Chanel. Pre-teach the site’s key vocabulary, typically found in the categories or page headlines, but ask students to research the vocabulary they want to learn.
For a week, ask them to navigate the site and monitor its social media accounts to absorb vocabulary more easily and find more information about the assigned company or person. During your next session, ask students specific questions based on the elements they’ve learned on the site, and play the site search game: ask them to take you to specific pages on the site, such as “Dresses,” “Bags” or “Beauty.” They should be able to navigate the site very quickly.
Dream diary. Ask students to write down each night’s dreams in French when they wake up in the morning. They can adopt any style or format they chose, but they should use as many descriptive verbs and adjectives as possible. Devote your following tutoring session to recapping the exercise where, in addition to handing out their dream diary for correction, they’ll share with you their favorite dream of the week in detail orally.
French home kitchen. Ask your students to cook or bake at least one recipe a week using French cooking sites such as Marmiton. Then, ask them to re-write the recipe in their own words, explaining why they chose the dish, how it was received by the people who tasted it and a detailed review of the sensory elements of the dish, including taste, smell and presentation. They should be as descriptive as possible. Ask them to share it on Google Docs or their blog, if they have one!
Being a rockstar French tutor is a lot easier than it seems, isn’t it? What are you waiting for to implement these cool ideas? Bonne chance! (Good luck!)
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