These cultural activities in French will light up your students' minds.
Culturally immersive experiences can be an effective tool for engaging your students with the French language. The downside is they aren't always easy to plan, and it can be time-consuming to gather, vet, and distribute relevant songs, videos, or readings. Luckily, there is a variety of cultural assets that teachers can use to enhance their own lessons or students' independent learning.
To help you create more immersive experiences in your French classroom, here are three pre-vetted cultural assets, from one world language teacher to another.
1. French Music x Scramble Activity
JE VEUX, BY ZAZ
Isabelle Geffroy, better known as Zaz, was born in Paris, France to Algerian parents. She’s one of the biggest artists in the French-speaking world, with over four million albums sold in her career. In her songs, she often references her experiences, including her time as an exchange student in the United States. Her latest album, just called Isa, is a mix of more intimate songs, and she released it in 2021 alongside vlogs on YouTube where she documents her recording process
In 2014, Zaz's song "Je Veux" topped the French charts, and the music video was viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube. The song’s lyrics are a statement against materialism: “Des bijoux de chez Chanel, je n’en veux pas. Donnez-moi une limousine, j’en ferais quoi?” How can you get your students engaged with this song? Turn on your printer and grab your scissors for this music scramble activity.
In a music scramble, you cut a song’s verses into strips of paper and have students sort them as they listen to the song. With lower stakes than a cloze activity, this activity helps build your students’ interpretive listening skills. For more advanced students, you can adjust the activity sheet by cutting each verse in half or even cutting out each line separately.
2. Create a Library for Free Voluntary Reading
The ability to understand, comprehend, and retain information from written texts is an essential component of learning a new language. If students are not able to read and understand the texts they're reading, then their ability to learn can be severely hindered. In fact, reading comprehension is a skill that will help your students not only to learn French but to succeed in English, math, and other subjects!
Free voluntary reading (FVR) is a practice that can help your French students grow more confident and excited about learning the language. The goal is to create reading habits that enhance language learning. The free reading in the name refers to choice of materials; students can read whatever they desire. Plus, it's voluntary reading, so students can decide if they want to report their reading.
Freely, voluntarily reading contemporary, authentic materials in French allows students to practice reading skills while also getting exposure to new vocabulary and concepts that are relevant to their lives. This helps them connect what they're learning in class with what they see in real life, which makes it easier for them to retain knowledge long after they've left school.
How can you implement FVR in your class? First, you need a selection of readings. They don’t have to be full novels or books. They can be as simple as one-page stories, news articles, or texts adapted to your students’ level. Second, you don’t need more than five minutes of your class to hold FVR. When I taught, I used to do FVR twice a week, in the first five to eight minutes of class, and my students loved it! Finally, you need an established routine with your students. This may feel intimidating, but hear me out: Once you practice one or two times, students will know how to do this activity on their own.
Classify your readings by interest (news, romance, adventure, you name it). Show three rules on the board:
Choose something to read from the classroom library. You will have three minutes to choose something that gets your attention.
Read silently for four minutes. This means no talking, no cell phones, and no doing homework for other classes. During this time, you will only read in silence.
Once the time is done, return your reading to the library (if you have a physical library) or close the reading (if digital).
I would also display a timer with background music. That way, you save yourself from the questions about how much time is left.
As a French teacher, you might think building a classroom library sounds daunting. I will warn you, it requires some planning, but the payoff can be enormous. When I had my first classroom library, I didn’t have a budget to purchase lots of books, so my first FVR library was made entirely by printing one- or two-page stories, articles, and biographies.
However, there’s an even easier way to build an efficient, learner-centered, French, FVR library. A helpful option is to access iCulture and eReaders, since they are ready-made libraries that update themselves frequently!
For example, if you want to have a news section in your FVR library, open iCulture, click on iNews, and you'll find news articles in French for both novice and advanced learners. Every version of each article is downloadable, so you can select the news items you think will impact your students, print them out, laminate them, and update the library monthly with new articles—or, if you have a 1:1 classroom, your students can access the iCulture library directly and choose what to read.
Students enjoy having agency in what they read and feel valued when you give them four to five minutes to just breathe, lie down, and read for a bit.
3. French Language Games as Brain Breaks
What do you do when your students finish their work early and you don't have the time (or copier availability) to give out extra work? You have an easy, digital, no-prep game up your sleeve, like Le Mot–the French version of Wordle.
For those of you who are new to Wordle, here is how it works:
Every day, players attempt to guess a five-letter word within six tries. Each letter is marked green, yellow, or gray after every guess: green indicates the letter is correct and in the right position, yellow indicates it is in the answer but not in the right position, and gray indicates the letter is not in the answer.
Letters appearing more than once in the secret word, such as "o" in "robot," will not get a special color, so they’ll follow the same color code described above. Players can play the game in "hard mode," which requires them to include letters marked green and yellow in their subsequent guesses. Everyone who comes to the website from around the world has the same daily word.
You can turn Le Mot into a weekly competition: The student who guesses the most number of mots in a week wins a small prize (a sticker, a 5-minute break, extra credit: that is entirely up to the teacher). Beware, though: competition can get fierce!
As your students play this Francophone game, they can get into the mindset of a French speaker and get their brain teased as they grapple with French linguistic patterns and vocabulary—precisely how a Parisian waiting at the Métro or a Quebecois word lover is also solving the day’s puzzle.
French Immersion Classrooms Make a Real-World Difference
As you cultivate cultural immersion in your French class, your students will be more engaged, which will help them learn more and better transfer their knowledge to real-life situations. You’re also creating a learning environment that is relatable for your students, which can inspire higher motivation. The best part? It doesn't require much effort to create an immersive classroom environment!
Would you like more activities? Watch our on-demand webinar, "Lighting the Spark for World Language Students." Betsy Vergara Strawn and Jane Maloney, world language content specialists, share strategies for utilizing digital environments to ignite students' love of languages and deep exploration of culture.
Former Spanish teacher based in Columbia, MD. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from la Universidad del Zulia and a Master's degree in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her interests include SEL education in the world language classroom, theater, and how to make the world a less scary place.Explore more related to this author
As you cultivate cultural immersion in your French class, your students will be more engaged, which will help them learn more and better transfer their knowledge to real-life situations.
Natalia Álvarez-Morillo, Spanish Teacher