Bringing les Jeux into Your Salle de Classe
Do you see that student in the corner trying to muffle h
er yawn so you cannot see that elle s’ennuie (she’s bored)? Ah yes, that is the sign of a student that is not being engaged enough in your classroom. Instead of lecturing, having students read from leurs cahiers, or rehashing last night’s deviors, consider bringing some fun into the classroom.
If you’re worried that students will become too turbulent, consider making sure that your games are quiet ones that can be completed in a group or at their desks. While a game of Déli-délo (Red Rover) would certainly be fun, it may earn the scorn of your principal. Instead, consider adding some of these games to your weekly schedule (Vendredi, c’est un bon jour pour les jeux !) and waking your class up to opportunities to pratiquez leur français.
1. Le Jeu Le Pendu (Hangman)
You can have students participate in this game as a large group, or you can break students up into small groups. This is a fun game for practicing new vocabulary, but you can also use the game to help students to think en français and to practice grammar and sentence structure. You could even use this game to help students practice les expressions idiomatiques.
To play the game, someone will need to choose un mot ou une phrase to have the rest of the class guess. Beginning students should start with vocabulary words or simple sentences. Draw a dash on the board or a sheet of paper for each letter of the word or sentence, leaving a space between words. Next, draw a gallows as you would in regular Hangman. Each time a guess is incorrect, write the letter on the board and draw another body part, beginning with la tête. Make sure students use only French during the game. This game is best played après avoir étudié le vocabulaire du corps, so you can use French when adding parts of the body.
2. Mille Bornes
Mille Bornes is a French jeu de cartes that has students compete against one another to get the most mileage. For this game, you would want to break up students into groups of six players. Each group would receive a deck of cards, and there would be three pairs of partners who would work together to win.
The trick to playing this group in the French classroom is to insist that the students use French when calculating their points and describing what they are doing. For example, if someone played a 25 mile card, they would say vingt-cinq miles rather than the English equivalent. Here’s some vocabulary that may be helpful when playing this game:
- C’est mon tour. / C’est à moi. – It’s my turn.
- Quel est le score ? / C’est quoi le score ? – What is the score?
- Jouez vos cartes! – Play your cards!
- Vous l’avez écrit sur la feuille ? / Tu l’as écrit sur la feuille ? – Did you write it on the paper?
- Gagné ! / On a gagné ! / Nous avons gagné! – We won!
- Meilleur chance la prochaine fois. – Better luck next time.
You can make your own list of vocabulary for playing the game and go over it as a vocabulary lesson. Hold students to formal language during the game play to teach them about the difference between polite, formal language and informal language. Remember that for students an important part of learning the language involves also learning about the culture.
3. Sabine a dit / Simon dit (Variations of Simon Says)
One of the best ways for students of a foreign language to pick up vocabulary quickly is to put them through an immersion experience. When I was taking Allemand 1, ma professeur gave us commands in German that we were meant to follow. At first it was frustrating, but I still remember the words from that activity — and I took that class 10 years ago! You can play “Simon Says” in any language. The game works best when you want students to work with verbs. Here are some suggestions:
- “Sabine a dit touchez la jambe.” (Students touch their legs)
- “Sabine a dit marchez vers la gauche.” (Students walk to the left)
- “Sabine a dit sautez vers la droite” (Students jump to the right)
- “Touchez le nez.” (A few students touch their nose)
- “Ah, Sabine n’a pas dit touchez le nez. Asseyez-vous si’l vous plaît.” (Those students sit down)
And so on until there is one person left standing. The person standing becomes the new “Sabine” ou “Simon.”
As already mentioned, learning about culture française is an important part of any French course. You can combine the study of French culture and French vocabulary into a Jeopardy game. This is especially useful when students are preparing for leurs examens. Divide vocabulary and cultural facts into categories and create “answers” for les questions. For example, an answer might be:
“Cet animal a des rayures noires et blanches.” (This animal has black and white stripes.)
The question that a student would ask would be:
“Qu’est-ce qu’un zèbre?” (What is a zebra?)
You could have five or six categories and five questions under each category. The questions would progress from easiest to hardest. The hardest questions would be worth the most points. Divide the classroom into three teams. The team at the end of the game with the most points wins. If you like, if you’re preparing students for a midterm or final, you could have Jeopardy, Double Jeopardy and Final Jeopardy.
5. Les Jeux de Mots
Sometimes even a cerebral game like Jeopardy or Sabine a Dit is too much activity for your students — especially when you’re wanting to involve them in a more quiet indoor game. For days like this, word games can be fun. While you could have students complete des mots croisés ou des mots cachés (crosswords and word searches), what about playing a French version of Scatergories? With Scategories, you have a list of different categories – les vêtements, les couleurs, à la maison, par exemple — and you randomly select a letter. Students then have a set time (one minute or so) to fill in as many categories with words beginning with the randomly selected letter as possible. This is a great way to build up word recall abilities in your students.
Finally, be creative with your students. There are many things you can do — Scrabble en français anyone? — if you put your mind to it, you can have a lot of fun. You could even assign students a project where they create board games that will be shared with classmates. Whatever you do, make sure that you encourage students to have fun. Like anything, some people naturally catch on to foreign languages while others struggle. By alternating the methods you use in your classroom, you can help students to succeed.
- Ronda Roberts studied French at the college level and was only 3 units short of completing a minor in French. She has translated portions of obscure philosophers' works from French to English in her research.
- Image Credit: MB-Tableau1 by John Reid under CC by -SA 3.0