How to Set the Tone during the First Week of French Class
It’s always a challenge to figure out what to do for the first week of French class. You never know exactly what your classes and student make-up will be. Here are some of the strategies that I use to survive and thrive during the first week of French class.
1. Be really intense the first week.
Start the first week of French class with a serious, let’s get down to business, what we have to learn is extremely important attitude. With some classes, I pass out a list of everything that we’ll be learning in class for the year and have the students read each line aloud. Then I write the number of minutes of French class that we have for the year on the board and say, “We have to learn all that information in ______ minutes. So let’s go!” (in French, of course). This stresses the importance of every single minute in class and shows them just how serious you are.
2. Give homework the first night.
Since many other teachers don’t do this, if you do, students will know right away that this teacher means business. And don’t give a fluffy, easy assignment. Give something challenging. After all, they won’t have that much other homework that night and they’re fresh off of summer and ready to go.
3. Be flexible and adaptable.
My first year at a new school, I was given a class of 9th graders who had failed Spanish 1 twice previously. This would be their 3rd attempt. Yup, a whole class of students like that, every teachers’ dream.
I came up with a plan and was ready to go, but when I got to class, there were 31 of them and I only had 26 desks. Needless to say, I had to scrap my original plans and go with the flow. As teachers, we have to be very flexible and adaptable. If Plan A doesn’t work, go to Plan B. If Plan B doesn’t work, it’s on to Plan C, hoping and praying that you aren’t at Plan Z by the end of the day. 🙂
4. Instead of letting the students focus on you, put the focus on them.
I often make my 2nd -5th year students do presentations the second or third day of class (even if it’s something simple such as a paragraph describing themselves).
For the best success, give them a structured paragraph with fill in the blanks (see below). Include a sample paragraph. At this point, if you give them free rein of what they’re writing and saying, they’ll make too many errors. The goal is to model the language correctly and have them produce it correctly.
If you assign this type of presentation, they’ll know you’re no joke. They’ll be so worried about doing the presentation that they’ll stop focusing on analyzing you and figuring out your weaknesses. That’s right – only show them your strengths in the first week of French class. You are a demanding teacher who is passionate about teaching languages and expects their best behavior and work.
To help you out and save you some time, I posted a free copy of my “All About Me Project” in the World Language Cafe Free Resource Library. Grab yours now!
5. Show them why it’s so important to learn French.
Have them partner up and brainstorm as many reasons as possible to learn French. As your students share, write their reasons on the board. Afterward be sure to add these heavy hitters to the class list:
- There are over 220 million French speakers in the world. French is the 6th most spoken language across the globe: large parts of Europe (France, Switzerland, Belgium), parts of Canada, the Caribbean, and huge swaths of Africa. By 2050, it is estimated that 700 million people will speak French. (1)
- Research from Wharton and LEEG Europe shows that studying a second language correlates with an additional 2% more in annual income. Not only that, but sometimes knowing that second language is what gets you the job in the first place. I know people who have applied for jobs with 50 or more applicants, and the hiring manager has said the reason they hired that person was because she spoke another language. (2)
- Every adult I know wishes they knew another language. Tell your students to ask around and see what adults say. When I mention that I’m a language teacher, so many people say, “Aw, I wish I knew how to speak (insert language here).” Tell your students that this is their chance to be smarter than the adults. Which kid doesn’t want to be smarter than their parents?
- This means you can talk to your friends in French and your parents won’t understand. It can be your secret code. Write your text messages in French and your parents won’t be able to read them. Great motivation for teenagers!
All you teachers out there, you got this! You’ll be amazed at the difference throughout the year if you set a strong tone during the first week of French class. So much easier to start off strict than to try to recover part-way through the year.
Looking for ready-made lesson plans for the first week of French class? Get them here.
After reading this, are you still feeling nervous to go back to school? If so, check out my post about teaching tips to get excited for the first week of Spanish class. Don’t be thrown off by “Spanish” in the title – many of the tips in that post apply to both French and Spanish.
Remember to grab your free “All about Me” lesson plan for your student presentations.