Carnivals just scream fun, don’t they?
What if they were also the secret to getting your French students comfortable with verbs?
Well, you can bring the carnival spirit to your French classroom with engaging verb games!
Like grammar games, verb games are a powerful tool for introducing your students to some of their not-so-favorite parts of the French language.
These games are fun, highly engaging and a fantastic way for your students to learn French without feeling like they’re studying.
So without further ado, here are six incredibly fun French games to get your students developing a passionate love affair with verbs and conjugation.
Why Teach French Verbs with Games
They’re Fun and Engaging
Learning French verbs shouldn’t be painful, and students tend to learn French verbs better when they’re not struggling anyway. Games are a fantastic way to expose your students to a variety of verbs without the pressure and formality of the old-school classroom, especially for beginners.
Games are also helpful to change any preconceived ideas that your students may have about the fact that learning French verbs is all about learning conjugation. Games prove that it’s not: Learning French verbs is about communication! Most importantly, games will teach your students to activate recently learned French verbs. Playing games requires spontaneity, so they’ll keep your learners on their toes with fun challenges along the way!
They Increase Motivation
Students are more encouraged to participate in learning activities when they feel that there is a purpose to what they’re doing. While many of them may feel that doing translation exercises is pointless, helping your team win a challenge has an immediate effect and a real appeal.
Games can help your students become more and more interested in learning French verbs, as long as they feel there is a concrete and attainable goal. Taking baby steps is particularly important to keep them on track and motivated.
Learning French verbs can seem overwhelming, but if your students have the opportunity to reap small rewards along the way, they’ll feel incredibly validated and will want to keep learning.
They Promote Team Spirit and Collaboration
The whole point of learning French verbs is for your students to be able to use them properly in real life. That also means understanding them when they encounter them in real French situations or media, such as the authentic French media in language learning programs like FluentU.
Games help develop their emotional intelligence because the games put students in a situation where they have to rely on and help their teams.
Your most competitive students tend to love games that require a group effort because it gives them an opportunity to step in and lead the team to victory.
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6 Delightful French Verb Games
1. Conjugation Scramble
This is a fun, fast-paced and thrilling dice game to encourage your students to show off their conjugation skills. The game promotes and rewards team spirit, so you’re guaranteed that peer pressure will get your least performing players to study up to prepare for the next session!
The game is simple. Ahead of time, make identical sets of ten French verbs (infinitives) on pieces of paper, writing one verb per slip. Create as many sets as groups of students and place each set of ten verbs in a plastic baggie (or small container), such that you have one bag per team. You will also need one pen and die per group.
When you’re ready to start, split the class into groups of four students. Arrange desks into clusters. Teams should sit together at their desks, and desks should be completely clear of all materials. Give each group one pen, a piece of paper, one die and one bag of ten verbs.
Now, let the fun begin: One student per group will roll the die. As soon as one team gets a six, the student who rolled the die will quickly pick up the one and only pen around. Meanwhile, the team member seated next to him clockwise will reach for the bag and give him the verb he needs to conjugate. No time to waste! Across the room, all the other teams are busy rolling dice, too!
When the student is finished with the verb, he hands over the die to the student who reached for the bag. The team member seated next to that student clockwise now gets to roll the die, and so on until one team finishes all the verbs.
The first team to have finished all the verbs, wins!
2. Verb Conjugation Relay Race
In the exciting world of French verb games, this relay race is a student’s favorite. As physical as it is intellectual, the game is designed to let your students quickly gather their thoughts and search through their memory to correctly conjugate French verbs.
To begin, split your students into teams of five. Four students will participate in the relay and one team member will be standing by the board. That student will be responsible for verifying that answers written on the board are accurate. Divide the board into small sections. Each team will be assigned a section where racers will write answers.
Give each team a baggie of infinitives written on small slips of paper (one infinitive per slip, like in the first game). There is no limit to the total number of verbs, but make sure that each team receives the same sets of infinitives.
Then, ask the teams to designate one member to go and take a slip of paper from the box. As soon as the first student reads the infinitive, they should run to the board and conjugate it as quickly as possible (into the tense of your choosing, decided before the game starts).
The student “checker” at the board gives the writer a thumbs up or down based on their answers. If the first writer is correct, the student earns two points for their team.
If the first student has a mistake somewhere, they get another chance to find and fix the mistake(s) to potentially win one point. If the student is still wrong, zero points are won.
When each turn is done, the writer should run back to their team and high-five the second team member. Now it’s their turn to pick a piece of paper and conjugate the verb. Meanwhile the “checker” at the board erases the previous player’s answers so that the next student has enough space to write theirs.
The first team to finish conjugating all the infinitives with the most points, wins.
3. Spin the Bottle
No happy ending is needed to get your students enthused about this game—a friendly, inoffensive version of the famous game you had in mind.
Prepare for the game by bringing in a plastic bottle. You’ll also need to create multiple question cards in French. The idea is to quiz your students about verbs and conjugation, so questions can be all over the board. Questions should be straightforward and open, such that students must give you specific answers using the proper conjugation (as opposed to “yes” or “no”).
For example, you can include such questions as:
- Quelle est la première chose que tu fais quand tu te lèves ?
(What is the first thing you do when you wake up?)
- Que fais-tu quand tu t’ennuies ?
(What do you do when you’re bored?)
- Que font tes ami(e)s le week-end ?
(What do your friends do on the weekend?)
Again, the idea is to let the student answer using appropriate verbs and conjugations.
If you’re teaching beginners, simplify questions. Create question cards requiring students to guess a verb (i.e. How do you say ~? What is ~?) or even to conjugate a verb in its entirety.
To play, ask students to sit in a circle and place the bottle in the middle. If you have large classes, feel free to create multiple circles, but be sure to bring as many bottles as you have circles.
Then spin the bottle. The student facing the bottom of the bottle draws a card and reads the question. The student facing the top of the bottle answers.
If the student answers correctly, they get to spin the bottle. If the student doesn’t answer correctly, the student at the bottom of the bottle (who asked the question) spins it.
Continue the game until the students complete the pile of cards or until time is up.
4. Simon Says
Jacques a dit (Simon Says) is so famous that it’s not an exaggeration to say that every French person has played it at least once in their life.
The game is a playful way to learn the imperative tense. It’s also a great test of your students’ listening and comprehension skills; the game can help you verify that your students understand basic commands.
In Jacques a dit, each student plays to win. There are no teams, so students need to pay extra attention to the commands if they want to win. The rules are simple: A command starting with “Jacques a dit” means that students have to obey and execute the action. However, a command without “Jacques a dit” at the start means do not do this action. Students breaking any of these rules are eliminated.
To make the game more challenging, you have the option to create chains of command. The faster you speak, the more difficult it gets. The last student standing wins!
5. Conjugation Bomb Game
This is another thrilling game where students race against the clock (literally) to win.
To get started, use a manual alarm clock, a stopwatch or even your smartphone’s clock app and set it back to a random time. Then, write a list of 10 verbs on the board.
Choose the first student who must conjugate at random by handing them the clock-turned-time-bomb (or another small item). Whoever gets handed the timer needs to conjugate one verb of their choice before the clock goes off.
Cross off the verb as soon as the student gets it right, or point out where they were incorrect so they can correct it quickly. Once they’re correct, they earn a point and can hand off the clock to the student of their choice. This next student has to do it all over again, choosing from the remaining verbs, in even less time!
Ultimately, the “bomb” will set off in the hands of one unfortunate student. Erase the old list of verbs and write down new ones (it can include verbs from the past list). The unlucky student scores a negative point, but gets to reset the timer and be the first to conjugate from the new list.
Whoever scores the most points wins!
6. Family Feud: French Verb Edition
This is your own French version of the well-known TV gameshow “Family Feud.” Students really love the idea of being able to play one of their favorite games, so use it as an opportunity to teach them French verbs and their conjugations. You’ll quickly see it delivers the results you were aiming for!
Prepare the game ahead of time by producing open-ended questions. Questions should be about popular French activities and hobbies or about the French lifestyle. This will give you an opportunity to use a variety of action verbs in the answers while including a cultural element. Each question should contain six answers, from very common to less common elements.
Be mindful to phrase questions in such a way that students will have to use infinitive or conjugated verbs. For example, “Que font les Français le week-end ?” (What do French people do on weekends?) can result in multiple answers that will all include action verbs.
Check out this site for an idea of formatting and mock questions. Also, use the Insee site if you wish to acquire authentic French survey data to make your own questions. Then, format them into your own “Family Feud” environment. This website features numerous free PowerPoint templates to help you recreate the TV game magic.
To get started playing, divide the class into two families or teams. If you have an odd number of students, ask one student to be the host. Otherwise, you can host the show! Display a desk, table, cart or stool in the front with a buzzer, if you have one. This is where the host will be standing and where the students will be facing each other in duals. Have one student from each family come to the desk.
Now, ask a question. The first player to buzz in or slap their hand down on the desk can answer the question. If their answer is one of the six, their team gets the point and they get to continue giving you a list of answers.
If their answer is not in the list of six, the other team may talk together for 15 seconds and then give you their proposed answer. If they’re right, they get the point and can continue guessing the other five answers. If not, the question goes back to the first team for a second attempt.
The family that finds the most answers wins!
With so many fun games to teach your students French verbs, we’re convinced that your class will have a good time. Happy conjugating!
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