Can your students really learn French with videos?
For starters, they generally always engage more when modern technology is involved.
Students tend to be more receptive when they actually take pleasure in their studies, and research shows that play supports students’ academic achievement.
Videos combine the best of both worlds—modern tech and fun. They help enliven your French classes while bringing culture and storytelling into the classroom.
But are you using them correctly?
Here’s a comprehensive guide to mastering the art of teaching French with videos.
Why Watching French Videos Works
- They’re fun and entertaining. Students learn without making an effort. While highly effective, watching video is a natural activity that isn’t as dull and repetitive as old-school teaching exercises, such as on-the-fly translations or fill-in-the-blank grammar exercises. Plus, you can easily add a video element to any of these types of classic teaching tactics, and it will instantly make the activity more enjoyable and approachable for all. In short, students look forward to watching videos in class, making them the medium of choice to engage them and introduce new skills and functions.
- They stimulate multiple facets of French. Videos focus on speaking and listening skills. They do a terrific job of stimulating one’s ear with the subtleties of the language through repetitive exposure, and things like vocabulary usage, syntax and grammar patterns can be picked up almost subliminally.
- They teach culture, diversity and dialects. If you’re looking to maximize your students’ familiarity with various accents, vocabularies and cultures from across the Francophonie, why not use videos from various French-speaking countries? It’s the tool of choice to help them gain sensitivity to differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and expressions used in spoken French all over the world.
- They promote positive attitudes towards French studies. French videos do wonders to support the diffusion of the French language and culture. That’s because students quickly connect to the stories and personalities in the videos, whether it’s a well-rounded drama with a great intrigue or a modern YouTube clip hosted by a young French native with tons of personality.
How to Choose Videos for French Class
- Opt for authentic content, made by natives for natives. Students learn better when watching authentic French content. Aside from validating their studies and proving to them that they’re fully capable of understanding native French-speaking people, it will support the development of good habits. That’s because they feature flawless accent, proper syntax and plenty of cultural anecdotes, elements that are otherwise difficult to find in content created by non-native speakers.
- Consider your students’ interests. Don’t waste your students’ time with videos they don’t want to watch considering how much good content there is out there! As much as possible, try to cater to their needs by curating videos on topics that interest them.
To learn about their preferences, simply poll the class. Create a questionnaire asking them about their favorite hobbies, likes and dislikes, goals and more. Print the questionnaire and hand it out to students in class or upload it to Google Forms and send them the link. Consider the plurality of answers you receive. This will help you keep your selection of videos varied.
- Pick based on level and vocabulary. Be sure that the videos you select match your class’s level of fluency in French. To that effect, watch videos beforehand or read the scripts. This will help you prepare your lessons more effectively. As a gauge, if you’re teaching beginners or low intermediate students, select scenes they’ll understand rather than watch the entire video. Alternatively, focus on videos that are easier to understand, including weather reports, comedy clips, children’s shows or ads.
- Find topical theme. It’s always easier to engage students with videos that discuss events that are “in the air.” Aside from pulling them in with interesting discussions, it will also help them make sense of (and gain difference perspectives on) current events. Such topics make it more likely that they’ll continue discussions outside the French classroom, which will help them formulate their thoughts better once they’re back in class.
How to Use Videos for French Class
Get inspired by the flipped classroom method
The “flipped” classroom is a revolutionary teaching method where students teach themselves the language on their own time, with given materials, and then they come to class to ask questions and reinforce what they’ve learned—and it uses videos to support French studies.
In lieu of homework, students watch videos selected by the instructor to prepare for the next class. You can assign them videos that explain hairy grammar topics, or you can assign them fun videos from which they must extract certain lessons. Either way, time isn’t being spent watching videos together in class when this could be done just as well independently.
Videos are integral to learning and they support discussion in the classroom, making all time spent together in class more effective.
Students are encouraged to research difficult words and grammar functions on their own, but they can always ask questions about elements they don’t understand in class. They become active participants in their learning as they’re now in charge of identifying and correcting missing blocks. The method promotes natural curiosity and also helps slower-paced learners regain confidence in the French classroom since they now have the time to get up to speed with their peers.
Ideally, instructors create their own mini-videos, but you also have the option to use ready-made content as well. Be sure to accompany any video you share with your students with clear instructions on how to use the video, including new word lookup, grammar function research and discussion questions they need to prepare.
Use English subtitles with caution
As much as possible, videos should help support the setup of a French-only classroom. It’s therefore best not to display English subtitles at all.
Ideally, you’ll want to play any one scene multiple times. Opt for no subtitles at first, letting students focus on what they hear and use non-verbal elements to make sense of the scene. Students should really make an effort to grasp the meaning on their own in these first attempts. Then, end the scene and ask students what they understood.
Promote discussion. It’s all right for students to disagree, and can actually turn into a passionate debate (Who’s right?). Play the scene again, this time displaying French subtitles, and ask the questions again.
Try role plays
Role plays are always a winner, but you may not have thought to combine them with videos yet.
Even for shy students, acting out scenes can be liberating. Most importantly, role plays are perfect for speaking practice and will help your students identify problems in their pronunciation and understanding.
To get started, find and print the script of the movie or scene you’ll be recreating. This article features a list of sites where you may be able to download French scripts for free. Print as many slides as there are characters in the scene in question. Students who aren’t acting should be spectators. Despite the presence of scripts, this is a speaking and listening, not a reading, exercise.
Then, ask students to volunteer and act the part. Hand them the slides and let them recreate what they saw. After one take, try to “karaoke” it: Play the video in the background and tone the volume down a bit. Your student-actors have to read fast to match the stories!
Use the video as a support system to go beyond the basics. Ask students to express their opinions on the video in a creative format. This can be anything from billboards to songs, a website or even a book. Students can collect images, quotes or facts about or from the film.
The presentation should provide a unique glimpse into the video. What did they think about it? What have they learned from it? Discussions can revolve around one or more themes in the movies, its story or its place in history.
Conclude this activity by asking students to showcase and discuss their presentations in a roundup, and select the most meaningful display.
4 Fantastic Resources to Find Videos for French Class
FluentU is an innovative language learning platform based on immersion. Using real-world French videos and audios, FluentU turns multimedia content into mini-lessons that are fun and effective.
To get started, sign up for an account, select your favorite videos, create courses, playlists and flashcards, and share them with your students. All videos incorporate interactive subtitles, where students can simply click on any words or phrases they didn’t understand to see on-screen definitions, usage examples, pronunciation and more. You and your students can also download transcripts of the videos, making it easy for students to take notes. Students can then verify their comprehension through active learning games on the site.
FluentU features a wealth of high-quality content, so you’ll find lots of interesting videos for your students. We particularly love the Cyprien series, including “Tennis,” a funny clip rich in technical tennis and sports vocabulary, and “Internet Ads,” where Cyprien rails against nonsensical, syntactically-flawed web advertisements.
Unless you’ve been hiding from civilization this past decade, YouTube needs no introduction. This free online streaming platform will equip you with an endless supply of free, native-originated French videos.
YouTube lets you search videos and create playlists. To do so, simply create an account and start gathering your favorite content. Occasionally, it will display ads, so mute the sounds and exit the video screen so students aren’t distracted.
We particularly recommend you check out this playlist. It’s a selection of 200 videos of popular French TV series H, which follows the adventures of a group of friends and coworkers at a hospital. The show features multiple French celebrities, including Jamel Debbouze and Eric et Ramzi.
This selection of YouTube channels has compiled the best video resources that have been designed with French students in mind. Meanwhile, a recommended collection of more authentic YouTube channels can be found here.
France Television is France’s national TV broadcasting company. It encompasses six different channels, each of which has a distinct editorial strategy and reporting style. Needless say, tuning into French TV is a highly effective way to bring your students closer to the French culture.
No need to sign up for an account to get started. You’ll be happy to know that these videos are all open to the public and free to browse and stream.
Do check out the website regularly for new content, as it’s updated quite frequently. Most channels don’t keep archives longer than seven days, so it’s a good idea to periodically watch videos of TV shows or news clips to make sure that content is suitable for your learners.
We do, however, recommend that you try the “Titeuf” videos on France 3. Inspired by the popular French comic books, these cartoons are hilarious and will get your students up to speed in spoken French. The videos discuss love, school life and parenting problems—situations that your students may be all too familiar with. Alternatively, try “C dans l’air” for videos discussing current events using a debate, round-table format.
Viki lets you watch videos for free with commercials or for a monthly fee with no interruptions. Creating an account isn’t necessary but it will help you navigate the platform more easily. Luckily, even a free account gives you the option to save videos and helps you find new content through their “suggestions” features.
Our favorite videos on Viki include the “Princesse Sissi” series, a cartoon which romanticizes the life of Princess Elisabeth of Austria, and “Les Visiteurs,” a comedy that follows the adventures of a wacky medieval knight and his loyal servant as they time-travel to 20th century France.
So, how easy is it to use videos to teach French?
You’ve got everything you need to get started.
Now that French videos have no mystery for you, it’s about time you put these good ideas to practice!
Once you do, feel free to let us know how it goes.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach French with real-world videos.