Enrollment time will be coming up soon! For French teachers, it’s often really hard to increase enrollment in French. When I taught high school French, enrollment was always a really stressful time for me, because low enrollment could have meant teaching a class outside of my area, getting less funds, or getting a not-so-good schedule. Read on to find out how I increased enrollment in my French classes.
Why does it matter how many students take your class?
Not having enough students enrolled in my class sometimes meant teaching a class I really didn’t want to teach so I’d have a full schedule. Sometimes it meant that my class became a dumping ground for the students who enrolled late and didn’t get into the other elective classes. Sometimes students who really wanted my class couldn’t take it because it conflicted with other classes they really needed.
Here’s what you can do to increase enrollment in French or Spanish:
1. Offer information to students and families on the importance of the language you teach.
Where I live, there are quite a lot of Spanish speakers, so naturally parents encourage their children to take Spanish. I get it. Hey, I took Spanish, too! A lot of parents and students don’t understand how important French is. After all, it’s an official language in Canada, and as Canada and the U.S. are important trading partners, that makes it a very important language in the U.S. as well. If you are in Canada, maybe your students have to take French. Even then, they may not always appreciate how useful it is.
Because families might not always see how French can be helpful, I would prepare information to send home to families of incoming high schoolers. Then, thanks to my principal who encouraged me to grow my program, I visited the middle school, talked to the incoming students, and sent that information home to their parents.
From my first year to my second at that school, my enrollment doubled! I started that job with only 3 sections of French. By the time I left, I had a full schedule and they hired a second French teacher!
2. Make friends with the counselors.
Every year, it was a struggle to get kids into my class. It wasn’t because they didn’t want to be there. Unfortunately, in a smaller school, French 2, 3, or 4 might only be offered once a day. If the people helping to make the schedules put my one section of French the same hour as another class that was only offered once a day, the students had to choose.
For me, that happened with band. It was only offered first hour. The marching band and the dance team all had to be in that class or they could not participate in their extra-curricular activity. If they put my French 2 up against band, I was probably going to lose those kids.
Another year, it was scheduled the same hour as honors English. Of course those kids were going to want to stay in the honors classes, so again, I was going to lose those students.
I made friends with the counselors and gave them a list of kids who I thought would really want to go on with me the next year, and we made sure that class wasn’t offered at the same time as the other classes. It didn’t work for every student, but it greatly reduced the number of kids who had to drop French.
3. Entice them with fun projects.
Mardi Gras mask we made in class a few years ago
One of my favorite parts of teaching French has always been the projects. While they have clear learning goals and can be very effective teaching tools, they are fun to do! Students want to have fun, and since kids are walking past your room everyday, why not give them a view of what they could do if they were in your class? You can display formal assessment projects or make artwork such as Mardi Gras masks or Eiffel Tower models.
Find 5 beginner French vocabulary and grammar projects here.
4. Play a lot of music.
There are always going to be students who don’t like your class. Try not to take it personally. I hate math, but I’ve really liked some of my math teachers. Why? They made it fun, even when it was a subject I really didn’t want to take.
For my students who don’t love French, one of the things they always do love is music. So maybe they won’t go on to use French later in life. Maybe they are counting the days until they are done with their language credits. That’s not all on me.
What I can do is offer them something they’ll appreciate and remember, and for most kids, that has been culture and music. Adding weekly music helped me increase enrollment, because the word got out quickly that we watched music videos every week.
Find some of my favorite French songs here.
5. Work with your language teacher colleagues.
I frequently hear from teacher friends that the students choose Spanish because it’s easier, more fun, or the Spanish teacher doesn’t give homework. Luckily, I always had amazing Spanish-teacher colleagues and we worked in collaboration rather than competing with one another.
If you can work together to try to align your course expectations and homework expectations, that’s great! Sometimes that isn’t a realistic expectation, so all you can do is make your class the best that you can. Remember, even if more students enroll in Spanish, it does not mean that you aren’t an amazing teacher!
Keep doing a great job and over time, I think you’ll increase enrollment in your French classes, because the kids will hear how great you are!
6. Take your time to teach the basics.
I don’t know if French is harder than Spanish, because I learned Spanish as a French speaker, so it was already really easy for me! However, I do hear this from people everywhere. It is true that French spelling takes a while to master, and all those silent letters don’t make it easy on our students.
Don’t feel rushed to get through a curriculum, teach all your units, or follow an unrealistic pacing guide in your textbook. Take time to teach classroom phrases, practice a lot of basic speaking, and help your students acquire listening proficiency before jumping into verb conjugations.
If they can’t speak or understand basic phrases, they just are not ready to start filling out a ton of verb charts. Not only will they not excel, they will be bored. For a lot of us, enrollment isn’t just getting the students that first year. To increase enrollment in French, we need them to come back for French 2, 3, 4 and beyond. They won’t do it if all they do is conjugate verbs.
7. Have fun in class, and speak a lot of French!
It is okay to relax and have fun. French is great, because part of your job is to teach them to talk, so spend a lot of time talking. I remember once when a French 2 student came to me at the end of the hour to tell me how much fun class was that day since we didn’t do anything. Typical student comment, right? I just smiled, because actually, we had done a lot, she just didn’t see it.
I had told them a story about something that had happened to me over the weekend. By that point, I didn’t speak any English in class, so that five minute story turned into a ten minute story with their questions. After that, I sat on my stool and just asked them random questions about their weekends. That probably took another ten minutes. When they were done, they did the around the world activity from my passé composé speaking cards. By the time we finished all of this, they only had ten minutes left of class, so we did a quick-write where I had them write as much about their weekends as they could in five minutes. We shared a few and it was time to go.
Learn more about my speaking activities here.
French adjective speaking cards
See, students love to learn, they just don’t always want to it to feel like learning. The more we can do to make the learning feel natural, the better. Learning a language happens first orally. Perfecting the language can involve worksheets, verb charts, and textbooks. If we strive to make the learning more natural, it will be more fun. If it’s more fun, more students will want to take our classes. An added bonus? Teaching is just a much better job when you’re having fun with what you’re doing, right?
What have you done to increase enrollment in your French or Spanish class?
Thank You for sharing such a nice and informative blog and your knowledge with us. I will definitely share it with a large audience and it will be helpful to all.