Teach French grammar with music!


Do your students struggle to use French structures correctly?  You are not alone! I wanted to share with you some resources that I find extra-helpful.  I have used them in class and with my son at home and they have been a huge hit with all of the kids!  What's even better than kids loving a resource?  When that resource helps kids transfer the information into long-term memory.  So, how do you do it?


If you're familiar with my resources and my teaching, you know that I love to have students speak and listen as much or more than they read and write.  Why?  Because you want to hit all of the four areas of language proficiency : speaking, listening, reading, and writing.  Plus, because all students learn differently, our job is to provide adequate practice for all learning types.

Using music activities is wonderful, because students hear it, see it, and write it.  I took the vocabulary learned through these songs and extended by adding a speaking element.  You can see my speaking activities here:

If you need some fun and meaningful ways to help your French students speak more French, you're in the right place!  Click here to find activities for beginning, intermediate, and advanced classes!

So, what is this resource that I am so excited about?  

I have found a French teacher named Franck Brichet who has written grammar songs that he sings in class with his students.  In the past, I have bought some grammar CDs with music that I hoped would meet my needs.  Sadly, I really didn't like the music, and neither did my students.  The CDs might have had good content, but my students groaned when I played the songs.  So... I would say that it wasn't effective, because we couldn't even hear the music for the complaining.  However, these songs are sung by a native speaker, they have catchy lyrics, and the music is really nice.

I first used one of the songs on a gross and cold February day.  Everyone was in that kind of a mood.  You know it : no one wants to work.  Everyone wants a day off.  It's cold.  Half of the kids have some sort of illness that makes them want to just sit there passively.  I needed help finding a way to motivate kids!  And worst of all, we were pretty deep into French grammar.  What a time to try and find some fun!  Luckily, I found a song about the imparfait, so I printed the activities, and gave it to my students.  You can see a preview of the song here:

Within minutes, I heard their sweet little voices (6th grade, so still pretty little) singing along.  The song ended and they BEGGED me to play it again.  So, I did, and they sang along again.  It totally lifted my spirits.

I taught the same lesson 5 times that day, so you'd think I would have been sick of the song, but I wasn't.  Even better, they totally rocked their conjugation quiz that week.  I could see their heads bobbing while taking the quiz, because they all had the song in their heads.  :)

His Teachers Pay Teachers store has songs you can download one at a time, and each song comes with vocabulary and grammar printables that help students practice the skills in writing.  I bought the entire set, with all of the songs and the activities, and it has come in super-useful!

 He also has made videos if you prefer to offer the visual.  Here's an excerpt from one of my favorites about teaching -er verbs.  It's really catchy!

It doesn't really matter what age or level you teach.  Franck has songs that teach colors, days of the week, -er verbs, the passé composé, the imparfait, and many more topics. My students love them and my little one (in first grade) asks to listen to them all the time on the way to school.  His favorite is the colors song.  Here's a video I found of Franck showing the song and how to use it in class.  


You can check out his Teachers Pay Teachers store here for some great songs and activities.  He also has a website where you can find his videos and learn more about his resources. Click on the image below to visit that site.  I hope you love them as much as I do!


What do you think?  Is music a helpful tool for language learning?  Please comment below!


How to keep students talking in the target language

Tips for how to get French students to speak to speak in class.

Do your French students speak too much English in class?  As a foreign language teacher, I know how much we all want our students to speak in the target language, but that doesn't mean it always happens.  I get that it is hard and you sometimes want to give up.  I even had a boy once who, several months into my class, told me to stop speaking Spanish so much, because he couldn't understand me.  I teach French, so...I won't call that my greatest teaching moment.  If you want to speak and hear more French in your classroom,  here are some tips that can help your students speak more French each and every day.

1.  Put visuals all around them.  

If you want them asking questions in French, give them a visual prompt so when they speak English, you only have to direct them to the visual.  If they need to go to the restroom or sharpen their pencil, they need to ask in French.  These easy-to-teach expressions will get your students speaking early and every day.  They'll feel successful at communicating their needs and you will have set the expectation early.  Need some handy classroom expressions to print?  Here are two versions with the same expressions.  Choose the version that will look the best in your classroom.

                        TheseFrenchclassroomexpressionsignswillhelpyourstudentsspeakmoreFrenchinclass!Clickheretoseemore!           TheseFrenchclassroomexpressionsignswillhelpyourstudentsspeakmoreFrenchinclass!Clickheretoseemore!

2.  You need to speak more French.

I know that this can feel weird when you think they don't understand and it can be exhausting because you spend so much of the day acting out what you are saying so that they do understand.  However, if the expectation is to speak French in your classroom, it starts with you.  So, here's what you do:

a.  Speak slowly, repeat yourself, use visuals in all of your presentations.  

They are only going to hear the language from you, so they need to hear it all the time.  So you need to teach verb conjugation?  They may not understand everything you are explaining in French (I've had a lot of kids who don't understand what a verb is, let alone what I mean by conjugate).  You can make a nice presentation with PowerPoint (or whatever your chosen method is) and this will allow the students to SEE what you are talking about, so even if it is in French, their understanding will be greater than if you are just at the board speaking English, explaining it.  

b.  Use gestures.  


Imagine that you are trying to speak English to someone who can't understand you.  You will act out the words, use body language and gestures until they get it.  It should be that way in your classroom.  So you feel silly.  So it is a bit tiring.  So you go slower than you wanted to.  All of these things will go through your mind, but it is okay.  

If you feel silly...well your job is to teach them, not to be cool, and if you do it consistently, they won't remember that you acted sort of silly.  They'll remember how much they learned from you.  When they take that first trip to another country (if they do), they will write to you about how cool it was that they could speak to everyone.  Trust me, I get these emails EVERY YEAR.    

As for the tiring part, teaching can be tiring anyways, and the acting part does make you more tired, that is true.  However, you can develop it into a sort of play and instead of spending so much time copying things that they will throw away, you can actually be using the language that you love.  

So you think you don't have time?  If you only have 1 hour per day 4-5 times per week, you get approximately 16-20 hours per month.  Over a year, that is about 180 hours.  Imagine that you are in a foreign country, hearing only that language 12 hours per day for 1 month.  That is nearly 400 hours.  Will you be fluent in one month?  No, but you'll be more natural in your speech and start to understand more.  So, given this math, your classroom NEEDS to be a place where they hear French and only French so that they can learn to understand as much as they can as fast as they can.  You don't have enough time to speak English in there.  

c.  Use as many cognates as you can.  

So there might be a word that is used a bit more than the cognate.  You can teach it later.  If you are in a first-year class, your goal is to stay in the native language as much as possible, so use the words that they can understand first.  I recommend having a visual of the word.  "Je chante" may not sound exactly like they would pronounce it, but they should be able to recognize the written word, and they'll associate the sounds with it, making later reading practice much easier.

3.  Give them plenty of ways to use the language with classmates.

There are so many fun ways to practice.  Are you teaching food?  Buy some fake food and have them role-play restaurant or grocery store scenes.  Are you teaching clothing?  Do a fashion show.   Are you teaching adjectives?  Bring in magazines, have them flip through them and describe the people to a friend sitting nearby.  It doesn't always have to be an organized activity that will result in a grade.  For your sake, you want to practice more and grade less!   Think of your class as the place they get to come to play with language and have fun expressing themselves, not the place they come to conjugate verbs.

Related : French speaking for beginners

If you want some structured speaking activities, my store is FULL of them!  I have speaking cards, interviews, skits, and Find Someone Who activities for all levels.

Click here to see all my speaking activities.

4.  Put it in their hands

During group discussions or partner work, we know that kids naturally slip into their native language.   We need to help them stay in the target language by giving them the tools to do so.  I developed these sentence starters for intermediate and advanced classes who still need some help with their conversational language.  I print them on cardstock and put them on rings to pass out to groups of students.  You can even purchase a big box of rings and have students make their own sets.
To make it handier, I also made a printable sheet with the English translations for them to keep in their binders.

Speaking prompts and sentence starters for French students

Grab these French sentence starters for free here.

5.  Don't have a lot of idle time in your classes.

The minute students have free time, they will speak to their friends in English.  This is natural, but needs to be discouraged.  Do you need 3 minutes to take attendance?  Put up a bellwork activity.  Do you need to pass out papers?  Have them turn to a partner and tell what they did over the weekend.  You can then randomly pick on a few people to report back what their partners said.  Once they know that you have this expectation, it makes it easier to maintain it.

6.  Have an incentive program.

In my class, I print off a bunch of Euro coins (about the size of index cards) and I give them to students who are doing a great job staying in the target language.  In return, they have some great incentives.  I have suckers, little prizes (even high schoolers love silly toys) and also fun rewards that they can "buy" with their Euros.  Here are a few fun reward ideas:

a.  Videos

In my class we LOVE music, and we watch a ton of music videos.  I try to build in some free time once a month where they can use their Euros and choose 3-4 videos we have watched in class.  I don't let them recommend others that I haven't seen, because you never know if it is appropriate.  If you want, you can have a due date for video recommendations and then pre-watch videos they want to see.  I have actually found some great French singers this way.  Kids who love your class will go home and search the internet for anything cool that is French.

b.  Change the seating chart.

This is my students' favorite.  Of course, you'll want to pre-approve it, because some kids just can't sit together, but they love to have some control.

c. Game time - class incentive

Once a month (I always do the first Friday of the month) I build in 20 minutes of game time.  Students can play my board games (not always French-related) with their friends, and I have a carpet and floor pillows that make it feel even homier.  I do this when a certain percentage of the class is making a solid effort to stay in the target language.  Classes that don't qualify will probably still get a game that day, but it is my pick, and it is definitely educational.

I'd love to acknowledge Sonya DeHart Designs for the digital papers used in this post.  Please check out her store here:

What are your success stories for keeping it in the target language?  Please comment below!

5 fun fall ideas for French class

5 fun fall ideas for French class

Do you love fall?  Me too!  I love the clean smell of the air and the sound of the leaves crunching under my feet.  I love camping and bonfires, trick-or-treating with my son and taking long hikes. Everything about it seems re-energizing and relaxing and cozy at the same time.

But...as a teacher, fall is not my favorite.  The days get shorter, meaning I'm going to work and coming home in the dark.  I'm starting to learn who those kids are who will make my day harder. The honeymoon period is over, and we are really all just looking at each other every day, knowing that we've got a long road ahead of us, so we need to make this work.  I love teaching and I love fall, but I don't love being a teacher in the fall.  So, what do I do to keep it fresh and fun while maintaining my expectations and rigor?  (Note the key word here: rigor).  My bosses would be proud.

Well, if you're familiar with my teaching ideas, you'll know that I LOVE to have fun in class.  Yes, we have standards and deadlines and all the paperwork, but that doesn't mean that we can't still do some fun things!  So, here's what I do with my classes.

1.  Take a walk.  

I can hear you now.  But I can't just take a walk.  I have to teach.  My principal would never let me.  I have too much to do.  Okay, I get it.  I'm not talking about just going for a nice, leisurely walk.  If you are in an area with sidewalks and the neighborhood is okay for walking, take a class for a 10 minute walk around the block, then have them come back in and write about it for 5-10 minutes.  You can have them share their writings or keep them private, it doesn't really matter. What is important is the movement and the fresh air.  Some possible topics:
* How does sunlight affect your mood?
* Do you think high schoolers should get free time outdoors like younger kids do?
* What did you see, hear, smell on your walk?
* What are the negative effects of sitting still too long?
* What is your favorite outdoor activity?

2.  Celebrate!  

If you are permitted to celebrate holidays in your school, Halloween is such a fun one to do in foreign language.  You can listen to fun songs and teach vocabulary that students might not ordinarily learn in  a textbook.
If you want more fun ideas for fall and links to great songs for fall and Halloween, check out my FALL TEACHING PINTEREST BOARD.

3.  Decorate!  

I love to change up my room.  I have to admit that it is a little less for the kids than it is for me.  I mean, I spend 8-10 hours per day there.  I want it cute!  Need some decorations?

Click here for great blog post about French fall teaching ideas and get a FREE banner for your class!

Don't miss the word wall that goes with it!  It's a great way to painlessly introduce vocabulary that your students won't learn from textbooks!

Want a painless way to enrich your students' vocabulary?  This word wall is a perfect decoration for your October classroom!

4.  Have a party.  :)

One of my favorite parts of being a foreign language teacher is that we can sometimes get away with things that others can't, because we have to teach that cultural aspect, right? Well, the Spanish teachers have it easier, because El Dìa de los Muertos is more festive than la Toussaint, but that doesn't mean we can't celebrate somehow, does it?  November 1st has always been celebrated in my class by making crêpes.  I've been lucky enough to be in schools with a cooking room, so in exchange for some student-delivered crêpes, those sweet teachers swapped rooms with me for the day.  

Don't have a cooking room?  Have students research some French foods they can make at home (if your school allows) and have a potluck.  

5.  Get them speaking!

You all know I think students should be able to speak French, not just write it.  So, here are some fun activities for Halloween, and there's even a Halloween-themed Find Someone Who...!

Want something just for fall?

If assemblies and spirit rallies are getting your schedule all mixed up, this FREE writing activity for beginners is a great way to reinforce some learning in a no-stress way. One class is ahead of the others? No worries! This quick writing activity can be used to reinforce and review while the other classes catch up.

Have a great fall!