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La première classe
Whether you’re a brand-new teacher or an experienced prof, it can be daunting to meet new students and introduce them to the wonderful world of French. Here are some ideas shared by French teachers for getting started on the first day of French class.
Get to know your students and help them get to know each other with some ice breakers.
The very first thing I do is have my students pick a French name. I come prepared with a few suggestions or hand out a list.
I start my first day of French I all in French, getting students to understand basic greetings and introductions by modeling Bonjour, je m’appelle… and then having them answer me, and then letting them greet one another. This allows all students to eventually introduce themselves. Then I have everyone stand up in a circle and we throw a small ball around. The thrower asks, Comment t’appelles-tu ? The catcher says Je m’appelle…
To keep students using French from day one, hand out this list of French class phrases.
For 6th grade I have them complete a scavenger hunt where the answers are either posted around the room or in books that I have in organized baskets and on shelves. This gets them out of their seats, lets them see what really is useful to them in the room and gets them involved right away. My classroom rules are also posted.
Relating to French
I like to start with true cognates, there are hundreds! Students are amazed by how many French words they already know before they’ve even begun studying the language.
It’s fun to show why speaking French is so useful by introducing them to some French-speaking countries. You could create bulletin boards or have them do start researching a country and in order to create a travel brochure or presentation about it.
Introducing the Basics
I teach adults and go over the alphabet on the first day, helping students find a word for each letter from A to V (since the other letters are harder, I give them vocabulary). Afterward, they get to tag everything in the room with the names of the objects. The interaction starts then and there between them.
For the first few days, I don’t even bother with the text book or class guidelines. Students have a million different instructions, books, and demands those first days, so I keep it light. There are lots of things that can be done with visuals and modeling hands-on, like numbers. The books come out during the first full week when things have settled down and they are ready.
I give the students the start of a sentence with an être conjugation. Each student creates a family tree and describe their family. They really enjoy this. Other simple, useful vocab: nationalities and, for adult students, professions.
I start with the futur proche Je vais… then give them several verbs in the infinitive. They walk out with a head full of ways to say “I’m going to…” and they don’t need to be confused with verb conjugations at first, just the simple meaning of each verb. To help them remember the verbs I use TPR and verb bingo; after the first two rounds of bingo, most of the verbs are in their heads.
From day one, stress the importance of practice. Having learned at least one foreign language yourself, you know that a few hours of weekly classroom instruction is not enough. Make it as easy as possible for your students to find ways to practice by giving them a list of French resources like books, audio, local French clubs, and websites.
Lawless French, for example, has thousands of pages that can help your students excel at French, including:
- lessons (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation)
- personalized study plans and study groups
- listening practice
- quizzes and tests
- verb conjugation tables
- culture and travel articles
- daily French features
If you’re a new French teacher, you can find more ideas and resources here: First French Lesson Survival Guide
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