When it comes to designing French introductory lesson plans, remember it is going to take you a lot more time to prepare the lesson than it is going to take you to teach it. This is why getting in the habit of keeping all your materials organized is a good idea; you will undoubtedly want to use your lessons again and again and if you make notes on your lesson plans right after you've taught them, you'll know what small changes need to be made next time you teach the same lesson.
Focus on Vocabulary
Beginning French learners need lots of vocabulary. Without knowing the words for things, learning the structure of the language is useless. This is the reason why beginner French classes usually have a heavy vocabulary component. When it comes to teaching vocabulary, some methods prove more effective.
The traditional way of teaching vocabulary was to teach the translations of words and expressions from the native language to the foreign language. This resulted in students' going home to 'learn' (memorize) vocabulary lists that looked something like this:
- Biking: faire du vélo
- Shopping: faire du shopping
- Doing photography: faire de la photographie
- Baking a cake: faire un gateau
- Doing homework: faire des exercices
- Being silly: faire des bétises
- Playing guitar: jouer de la guitare
- Playing tennis: jouer au tennis
- Playing ball: jouer à la balle
If you're anything like most learners, you stopped remembering the translations somewhere around 'baking a cake'. This is why the new way of teaching vocabulary is through pictures.
Learning with Pictures
Language learning research shows that people remember many more vocabulary words when they associate the new French word with a concept (e.g. a picture of the activity). Often, when students try to associate the new French word with a word in their native language, they do not remember the new vocabulary as long.
The advantage of teaching vocabulary through pictures is that the students have a higher likelihood of remembering the new words. The disadvantage is that it takes the teacher a long time to prepare each lesson because not only is one preparing the lesson itself, but also searching through magazines, newspaper flyers and the Internet in order to find an illustration for each new vocabulary item.
French Introductory Lesson Plans
Once you've decided to teach a vocabulary lesson through pictures and found the pictures of what vocabulary you'd like to teach, here's a sample lesson plan for teaching and reinforcing vocabulary:
- Take each picture and glue it to a thicker piece of paper (so that it doesn't fold over when you hold it up by the bottom)
- Present each picture to the class multiple times, speaking in French, describing each activity two to three times in a row using different forms ('elle fait du vélo', 'la femme fait du vélo', 'elle aime faire du vélo' etc.)
- Ask simple questions 'est-ce qu'elle fait du vélo?' (with yes/no answers) about each picture to the whole class, going through the pictures at least twice.
- Ask the class 'qu'est-ce qu'elle fait?'/'qu'est-ce qu'elle aime faire?' type questions
- Ask individual students yes/no questions
- If you have students who are confident, ask individual students 'qu'est-ce qu'elle fait?' type questions
When you've been through this whole routine, the vast majority of your students will have learned the vocabulary terms you've taught. Following this, you can resort to more traditional classroom activities, such as French worksheets that reinforce the vocabulary that the students have learned orally. Ideally, at the end of the class, you can bring the class back together and put students on the spot a bit, asking individual students questions that require a full sentence response (the last step in the list above) since students should all know all of the vocabulary by now.
The next day, begin your class with a kind of lightning round review of yesterday's vocabulary before you go into the new lesson for the day.
The following websites are excellent for resources on learning French. Students can find online (free!) French courses and teachers can find everything from French introductory lesson plans to advanced reading activities that are ready-made for the classroom.
The Internet brings a host of materials, ideas and other resources into your home or school. Whether you're a beginning teacher looking for materials, an experienced teacher looking to bring your teaching into the computer age, or a student interested in learning more, the online resources above are just the tip of the iceberg. Who says you have to go to France to learn French?! Of course, once you've learned French and gotten a taste of French culture, you might want to go explore France for yourself!