Communicative Approach – On y parle!

In my recent blog, I commented on the latest approach ripping through the world of Core French like an F5 tornado. In all honesty, it might not be all that avant-garde since many of you are probably already covering some of the basics. What makes the communicative approach interesting to both students and teachers alike is that it is quite practical and offers kids an opportunity to actually speak French. I say “actually” because having students speak in French can sometimes seems achingly futile when, once dialogue scripts are removed, they seem not to be able to say much of anything. However, based on some suggestions from the workshop I attended and feedback from my students, we came up with a summative task that was quite successful for all.

For the past month, we had been working on a music-related theme and focusing largely on the grammatical concepts of adverbs, making comparisons and opinion-based statements. For our speaking assessment then, I proposed 3 options for having them create a natural, authentic dialogue between two/more people discussing their musical tastes:

  • (A) meeting in a music store
  • (B) calling in to a radio station and debating between two newly released songs
  • (C) scenario of their choice.

After handing them all a sample dialogue, I had them find and highlight the grammatical concepts (e.g., find and underline all the adverbs) to draw their attention to familiar elements. I find that always handing out an exemplar is fundamental in establishing your expectations and getting them to use vocabulary and language structures taught in class instead of ending up with a bad Google translation. What I did a little differently after that was ask the class what could be incorporated to make the dialogue sound more realistic and authentic. At that point, we brainstormed a bunch of expressions and inserted them appropriately and by the end, had come up with a great conversation.

Lastly, here are two suggestions that I have also found to greatly improve the quality of work (to be used also with written assignments). Make sure to continuously reference anchor charts posted around the room which for me, included how to structure a comparison, adverbs that add meaning, phrases related to expressing an opinion and brainstormed vocabulary. Finally, as a daily shared speaking activity, have four to five students answer various questions orally that could relate to the dialogue to get them accustomed to spontaneously speaking in French. Take a sample level 3 answer, write it on the board, and then modeling the use of anchor charts, insert expressions to demonstrate how to construct a level 4 reply. By the time of the dialogue, students will feel more at ease with the vocabulary/pronunciation and they will independently be able to add more complexity to their speaking. Bonne chance!


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