Need some easy ways to engage your French students? One of the best ways I have found to increase student engagement is to add movement. There are so many ways to do this from playing games or doing cooperative learning activities to just moving to specific areas in the classroom and speaking French.
Sitting at a desk all day is hard for anyone, but unfortunately a lot of secondary students move from class to class only to sit in a desk again for another hour. It’s only natural that kids will have less energy and less engagement if they don’t get a chance to move around at all.
Here are some of my favorite ways to increase student engagement.
1. Put questions around the room on large pieces of poster paper.
Sometimes, I like to have students answer right on the paper. A fun thing to do if you want this to be a collaborative activity is to have students move silently from question to question, answering on the paper. They’ll move from paper to paper, revisiting the same paper at least twice. They can build upon what other students have said and add more to their answers on their second or third visit.
It’s like a silent discussion, but what I love most about it as an introvert myself is that because it is silent, everyone gets time to share their thoughts without feeling quite as vulnerable. This type of silent activity can be a really great way to provide stimulation with movement while allowing for the quiet that some students will crave.
Other times, I just put up review questions and let them answer in their notebooks. The point is to let them move around the room. You can do this as an individual activity or in groups of two or three.
2. Use four corners.
I love this for all proficiency levels in my French classes. It’s a really fun way to encourage student engagement, because all students will be talking during this activity. Here are two ways I’ve used this:
With beginners :
Label all four corners of your room with signs saying : I love, I like, I don’t like, I really don’t like. Then call out different vocabulary that you are working on, such as food words or sports, and have students move to the correct corner.
With advanced students:
Label all four corners of your room with signs saying : totally agree, I agree, disagree, totally disagree. (I did this in French, of course, but I’m sharing here in English for the teachers reading this who aren’t French teachers.) Then, call out a series of statements pertaining to something you are discussing in class. For example, during a unit on children’s rights in the world, I had statements such as:
Children have equal rights in every country.
Everyone should go to school.
Kids should never work.
3. Learning Stations
I know a lot of secondary teachers feel like these are just for elementary, but they don’t have to be! When I taught high school French, we would rotate through stations from time to time. Because some activities required a partner, and because my classes were usually very big, I’d usually have students go in pairs so I didn’t have to have SO many stations. I might even let two groups work per station if I didn’t have the space I needed.
If you’re looking for a way to improve student engagement in your high school French students, give learning stations a try! It’s a great way to review concepts you’ve been working on. In my French class, here were some common stations:
Verb conjugation – At this station, students would conjugate verbs we’d been working on. I might have a game or some practice sheets, but it could also be a mix of subjects and verbs that I had cut apart and had them match up. You can vary it all the time to keep it fresh!
Vocabulary practice – Hands on activities like puzzles are a fun way for students to practice.
Speaking practice – I’d put about 10 speaking cards at a station and have students practice asking and answering questions.
Culture – Students love looking at different places! I’d put one station at my interactive whiteboard and have them explore different francophone places using Google Earth, answering questions about what they discovered. Student engagement is almost a guarantee, because all kids love this!
Music – I love using music in my class as much as I can, so I had a station with headphones where students would watch a video and then do a follow-up activity.
4. Gallery walks
These can be used in any subject, but it’s a really easy way to increase student engagement for those classes that just don’t seem interested in paper/pencil tasks. There are all types of possibilities for the gallery, but one of my favorite is simply to find images for students to discuss. You can have basic images with the vocabulary students are learning in your beginner classes, but in your intermediate and advanced classes, challenge students to talk about the image for a certain amount of time before moving to the next image.
You can also put up short poems for students to analyze, or even find fun comic strips for them to look at and discuss.
5. Ball toss
This is a really easy way to improve student engagement, and it works great for spelling or verb conjugation. Get some cheap blow up balls or even small stress balls or balloons. Divide your class so that you have groups of about 6-8 students per group. Give each group a ball, have them form a circle, and do your practice drills out loud.
If you are teaching verb conjugations, you can call out or project on your screen the subject and verb and have the student with the ball conjugate the verb. The student then throws the ball to another player in the group and play continues. Learning vocabulary? Call out vocabulary words and have students give the French equivalent. You can even ask the students who answer to give the next question. It is so much fun, and because throwing things in class is usually a big no-no, students LOVE it!
I hope one of these activities helps you improve student engagement!