One of the MOST common questions I get from other teachers is, "How do I get my students to speak French in the classroom?". There's nothing more humbling than the sound of SILENCE when you ask your students a question after believing that you *nailed* your lesson or the classic "my microphone isn't working" for all of the online teachers out there.
What is most interesting about oral communication in the French classroom is that ofter your students have so much they want to share - but their hesitancy comes from not having the vocabulary to articulate their thoughts. So, in an effort to avoid being embarrassed, you may find that they often choose not to speak at all.
While there isn’t a one size fits all approach to getting students to use oral communication in the classroom, there are strategies and approaches that you can do to increase engagement and spontaneous conversation in your French classroom. Keep reading to learn all about some of the things I've done to encourage my students to use their voices and take risks when communicating!
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Yes, you read that right! Sometimes as teachers, we try too hard to pull every single trick out of our hats in an act of desperation to up engagement and communication with & between our students - I am 100% guilty of this. I have learned from 3+ years of teaching online & in-person that keeping it simple with a few go-to activities that you use CONSISTENTLY helps students open up and become more confident French speakers. For those who are super reluctant to practice speaking, adding an element of predictability to each day not only helps to establish and great routine but also helps ease the anxiety of your students.
I love using morning meeting prompts because it’s a great way to create a consistent routine while also encouraging my students to speak in French. The slides include pictures and if you wanted to take it a step further you could also add some supporting words on the board so that your students have ideas to work off of. They are an excellent way to increase engagement and get students excited, and they will look forward to the prompt each day!
ENCOURAGE YOUR STUDENTS
Do you also love that warm, fuzzy feeling you get inside when someone tells you that you're doing a good job? So do your students! Celebrate oral communication successes ANYWHERE and ANYTIME that you see them, big or small. Maybe a student has struggled with the pronunciation of a specific word, but they say it correctly, celebrate that win!
The more your students feel comfortable speaking in front of their teacher and peers, the more they will speak in French. Students need positive reinforcement and a reminder that their classroom is a safe space. One of the most impactful things you can do is pair students in groups where they feel comfortable, and it truly makes a big difference. If you don’t feel comfortable, you will not step out of that comfort zone. We can set students up for success by letting them know that mistakes are okay and that we are all in this together!
MAKE IT A COMPETITION
For those who have confident French speakers and are just looking for something to spruce up your classroom's oral communication game, you can introduce the concept of competitions or speaking games where students individually (or in small groups) work to earn points for speaking in French.
Some simple ideas include:
Giving table or group points when students are heard speaking in FrenchO
Use a classroom bingo board and give the class pieces when you hear them collectively speaking in French! I've done this SO many times and it is a crowd favourite. When students know that you are really listening in to see if they are speaking in French, they will definitely begin to practice more. Snag this super cute FREE oral communication bingo board here so that you can get started with it in the classroom!
It's important that when you are introducing games or competitions to consider approaching this with a positive reinforcement mindset. When our students tare feeling vulnerable, removing points or taking things away can create negative associations with their second language. Too much negative reinforcement can result in feelings of withdrawal, or not making any effort to speak at all in fear of saying or doing something incorrectly. We want to be mindful about creating a positive mindset with oral communication whenever possible!
I know it can feel challenging to get your students to speak the language at times, but I promise with some engaging activities and a consistent routine, you will definitely see progress in your students. And, be sure to remind your students that we can’t get better at the language if we don’t practice!