French Only

How to keep your students speaking only French in class

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Lawless, Laura K. "French Only." ThoughtCo, Feb. 19, 2016, thoughtco.com/speaking-french-only-in-class-1369651. Lawless, Laura K. (2016, February 19). French Only. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/speaking-french-only-in-class-1369651 Lawless, Laura K. "French Only." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/speaking-french-only-in-class-1369651 (accessed September 22, 2017).

In French classes, teachers usually want to encourage students to speak only in French. Practice makes perfect and the more French students speak in class the more they will learn and remember. However, it can be difficult to enforce French only, especially when you have a large class and students are doing group work - some groups finish the French exercise faster than others, and then English conversation usually follows.
When a call for help was posted on the Profs de français forum, teachers responded with a variety of creative and effective techniques.


General tips

Make sure the students have all the necessary vocabulary (sentences) to handle all types of classroom situations for requests and questions. Reinforce the use of studied phrases to generate French dialogue.

shared by mnodonne

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Make it clear that it's not chatter in class that's frowned upon, but the English chatter in class. Tell them that as long as they are using French, they can chatter as much as they like (within reason). Often they think they're getting in trouble for chatting. Frankly, if my students are speaking in French, I don't see the harm in it. It's communication in the target language, right?

arp225

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Very often the reason we go into English is that a student has initiated it by asking a perfectly valid grammar question in English but after that it can be difficult to get back into the swing of French.
They can be quite opinionated about what they want to do!

A colleague told me that he gives everyone a "Don't correct me!" card that they can choose to hold up or not when they are telling us something in French. I think I'll put the idea to them, so that those who tend to lose the thread when corrected can exercise some control.


AnneBreck

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I give out a series of different colored slips of whole language in an envelope (hole punched so they can keep it in their binders) that we practice diligently for several weeks and that are reviewed on Mondays, such as
  • I don't understand.
  • How do you spell that?
  • What did you say?
Now I'm going to add "Give me time," meaning "let me get it all out my own way."

I always say to the students that we don't give corrections, we give time.

ldeisman


Group work

Make sure each group is a mix of strong and weak students. Allow friends to work together on the condition that they follow the French only rule; if they keep reverting to English, change the groups around.

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I limited the group work today and directly afterwards asked them to continue the same exercise, but individually in front of the rest of the class. I felt that it was more effective and I had a little more control over their output.

erinnire32

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For French only group work in year 1, the goal must be very simple and mapped out. Usually we are practicing mini-dialogues with changing variables cued by pictures. It is frustrating not being able to express all one's grammatical thoughts in the second language.

Limit time on group work. Not all students need to finish every last sentence. This will encourage slower students to move a little more quickly. This instills a challenge, thus an incentive, to finish, if not to finish well. You therefore have less chance for English to break out.

Use peer editing for written work before you collect it. Editing skills are needed. Pairing strong students with weaker students will encourage this skill.

Remember that there is no cooperative learning at the beginning levels of a foreign language. There is only cooperative practice.

mnodonne

General tips | Reward + Punishment | Unorthodox but effective
In French classes, teachers usually want to encourage students to speak only in French. Practice makes perfect and the more French students speak in class the more they will learn and remember. However, it can be difficult to enforce French only, especially when you have a large class and students are doing group work - some groups finish the French exercise faster than others, and then English conversation usually follows. When a call for help was posted on the Profs de français forum, teachers responded with a variety of creative and effective techniques.


Reward/Punishment

I think a lot depends on the age of your learners. I teach French immersion to Grade 6 (11 and 12 year olds). I have a list of their names on the wall with 10 blank spaces in chart form - one for each class day for 2 weeks. Every time I hear a student speaking English, they must sign their space on the list for that day. If there is no signature in the space, I put a happy face sticker in their space at the end of the day.

At the end of 2 weeks (10 class days) any student with 8 or more stickers gets a reward - sometimes a trinket from the dollar store, other times, when most of the class earns the reward (as is usually the case) I will invite them all for a special dessert at lunch hour, or give them a free period or game time. Those who spoke too much English are given work to do instead of participating in the reward.

Also, the number of happy face stickers on each student's chart is tallied each term and counts as part of their French mark!

Je trouve que cette solution fonctionne très bien pour l'âge que j'enseigne. Tu pourrais la modifier pour des apprenants plus jeunes ou plus âgés.

MVKS

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Ce que je fais dans mes cours est de passer aux élèves au commencement d'un chapitre une feuille de billets. Chacun vaut un point de participation possible. Au cours de toute activité orale (je leur en fais signe en avance), je circule parmi eux et à tout moment où je soupçonne (puisque je suis le prof et ce n'est pas une démocratie, il ne me faut pas de preuve) qu'on ne soit pas en train de parler en français, j'enlève un billet à l'élève en question et il/elle perd l'occasion de prendre un de ses points. Si une séance se passe sans que personne perde aucun billet, je donne au groupe une petite récompense.

Quand il s'avère difficile de se déplacer, il se peut qu'on puisse regrouper les étudiants en quatre ou faire quelque chose pour éliminer les rangées traditionnelles.

Encore une activité que je fais est de passer un de ces mêmes billets à tout élève qui me pose une question en français au delà de la normale (dite je peux aller aux toilettes, etc.) De cette manière, on a la conséquence ainsi que la récompense et pour ceux qui en perdent beaucoup en parlant anglais, on a l'occasion de reprendre les points perdus.

sidlefou

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I teach adults who also tend to go into their own language if I'm not careful. Some of them asked me to be stricter about it so I brought in a money box and they have to pay a (very small) fine each time they use their own language for anything unrelated to the lesson. They think this is very funny but best of all it works! I have told them we will use it as party money for a class celebration at the end of term.

AnneBreck

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I find that adults do sometimes come forward with a proposal for a money box. But I like each class to bring the idea to me if they want. Sometimes I have to mention that individuals have used up their one "freebie" a day; usually just a couple do.

ldeisman

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Place a jar with 20 beans on your desk, and explain to the students that each time anyone uses English unnecessarily, one bean will be taken out. If the students make it a whole class without using English, three beans will be added. At the end of the term, if the jar holds 100 beans, you'll throw a class party. (My third grade teacher did this to keep us from using the word "ain't" but the same concept applies for a French class.)

You can also try the gum incentive. At the beginning of class, place a piece of wrapped gum (or other treat, especially one that smells good) on the corner of each student's desk. Students that make it through the class without speaking English can eat the gum; the other students' pieces get taken away. (My fifth grade teacher used to do this in the class period just before lunch and it was very effective - in fact, this is how I learned the word "incentive." :-)

LKL

General tips | Reward + Punishment | Unorthodox but effective
In French classes, teachers usually want to encourage students to speak only in French. Practice makes perfect and the more French students speak in class the more they will learn and remember. However, it can be difficult to enforce French only, especially when you have a large class and students are doing group work - some groups finish the French exercise faster than others, and then English conversation usually follows. When a call for help was posted on the Profs de français forum, teachers responded with a variety of creative and effective techniques.


Unorthodox but effective

Something that works great with my students is to tell them that they are allowed to speak English if and only if they use a ridiculous, stereotypical French accent (think Maurice Chevalier in Gigi). Students would rather make a few mistakes in French than look truly foolish in English in front of their peers. If a few decide to give it a shot (generally the class clown), it also forces them to think about the sound and rhythm of spoken French, so it's not all bad. Chances are no one will take you up on the offer. Your students will just think you're fun and goofy. If they revert back to English without an accent, commend them on their beautiful American accent. Ask them if they've been working with a coach. Tell them you might even mistake them for a "real" American!

Another trick is to listen to their chatter in English (regardless of how large or small your classroom is, you can always pick up a sentence or two) and repeat it back to them in French in the form of question. "I went to the movies with my roommate last night" becomes somehow funny when you approach the chatterboxes and say Ah, bon ! Tu es allé au cinema avec ton colocataire ? C'est cool ! Qu'est-ce que vous avez vu ?

The whole point is to make them feel self-conscious about their English in class. Sometimes just catching their eye in the right way and giving them a look of "if you don't speak French, I swear I'll do something drastic" is all you need.

arp225

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Hold debates on very controversial topics (abortion, death penalty, politics, etc.) and score each side not only on the quality of their arguments, but also on how well they manage to stay in French even when debating a hot topic. In other words, one side might have a more convincing argument, but if they can't express it in French they lose the debate. (I remember debating in a high school French class, and I had such a strong opinion that I found it difficult to express it in French. The teacher kept forcing me back into French - and also provided the vocabulary that I was having trouble with - and I was eventually able to get my point across in French. That new vocabulary was also permanently seared into my brain :-)

LKL



These French only tips were shared on the Profs de français forum, where French teachers from all over the world discuss everything from making lessons interesting to dealing with problem students. Visit the forum to trade ideas and tips with your virtual colleagues.

General tips | Reward + Punishment | Unorthodox but effective
Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lawless, Laura K. "French Only." ThoughtCo, Feb. 19, 2016, thoughtco.com/speaking-french-only-in-class-1369651. Lawless, Laura K. (2016, February 19). French Only. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/speaking-french-only-in-class-1369651 Lawless, Laura K. "French Only." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/speaking-french-only-in-class-1369651 (accessed September 22, 2017).