At the beginning of the year, I remember writing about my new strategy of getting students to speak more French during class. Brimming with hope and optimism, I had implemented “chat sessions” where kids would casually discuss with a partner/group various topics related to what we had been studying. There were times when I provided structure (specific question to discuss/specific structure to use) and others where it was more casual and focused on just speaking in French for the duration. I was pleasantly surprised by the relative “enthusiasm” and commitment with which these activities were met. By mid to late October though, both were in short supply. Instead I was forced to reckon with the all too familiar resistance and lethargy known to many Core French teachers. When I could no longer deny this fact, I mustered up the willpower and energy to once again confront the issue. Upon further reflection, I am ready to acknowledge the following:
#1: Be Consistent With Routines
This seems self evident but for me, I tend to easily get sidetracked and let it slide (a bad trait but at least I can admit it). I think a five minute window is adequate and it’s a good way to start the class – every class!
#2: Provide Variety to Activities
I still think my discussion topics are a good idea and posting some support vocabulary is helpful and sometimes crucial to the success of the conversation. Perhaps a more innovative approach is to have a pairs of students generate the topic/question/sentence starters. Getting them directly involved this way is a means of having them more implicated in your lesson. Something else I tried is the French version of 4 corners (Quatre coins) where I would read a statement and once in their corner, students would have to discuss the topic (and in my case, practise forming an opinion statement). Games are always a favourite and, when structured properly, can really provide an opportunity to work in a lot of conversational French.
#3: Recognize those students who really make an effort
Find a way to somehow give credit where credit is due. I myself use a star card where I sign a certain number of times and once they reach a corner, they can redeem a prize (usually a small chocolate bar). I also have something called “Les points de participation” which the accumulated total counts towards their speaking mark at the end of the term.
Whatever the challenges, it is nonetheless rewarding to see (hear) what your students are capable of without inhibition and doubt. Take the opportunity to share what is working for you. It’s great to have new ideas to try.