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First Day Teaching Ideas - New Students

What should you do on the first day of French class?


What should you do on the first day of French class? Students may be new to language learning or coming back from vacation, so is it better to have some fun or dive right into grammar and vocabulary? If you haven't already, take a look at my index of warm-up exercises. Also, you should stress the importance of practice - a few hours of weekly classroom instruction is not enough. Hand out a list of French resources like books, audio, local French clubs, and websites. This site, for example, has more than 6,000 pages that can help your students excel at French, including: For more first day ideas, read through these excellent suggestions shared by teachers on the Profs de français forum.

New French Students
If you are teaching brand-new French students, you obviously want to start with the basics. Here are some suggestions on where and how to start.

I plan to start my first day of French I all in French, getting students to understand basic greetings and introductions by modeling Bonjour, je m'appelle and then having them answer me, and then letting them greet one another. This allows all students to eventually introduce themselves. Then I'll have everyone stand up in a circle and we will throw a small ball around. When you throw the ball you must ask the question, Comment t'appelles-tu? When you catch it you say Je m'appelle...
    The very first thing I do is have my students pick a French name. I come prepared with a few suggestions or hand out a list.
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The week is just Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday so trying to get started on anything real is a pain. I only see kids three days per week. I have learned that these first days are a great time to get the kids accustomed to the room. I have bulletin boards with French-speaking countries pointed out.

For 6th grade I have them complete a scavenger hunt where the answers are either posted around the room or in books that I have in organized baskets, etc. This gets them out of their seats, lets them see what really is useful to them in the room and gets them involved right away. My classroom rules are also posted.
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    For the first few days, don't even bother with the text book. There are lots of things that can be done with visuals and modeling hands-on things like teaching numbers.
The books come out during the first full week when things have settled down and they are ready. Giving out books and class guidelines the first day just doesn't work for me. They have a million different instructions, books, and demands those first days, so I keep it light until the next week.
    I like to start with cognates, there are hundreds! Then I give the students the start of a sentence with être: Je suis... Tu es... Il est... Elle est... The students then create a family tree and describe their family using two of the new vocabulary words. They enjoy this very much.
Start with the futur proche Je vais... then give them several verbs in the infinitive. They walk out with a head full of ways to say "I'm going to..." and they don't need to be confused with verb conjugation at first, just the simple meaning of each verb. To help them remember the verbs I use TPR and verb bingo; after the first two rounds of bingo, most of the verbs are in their heads.
    Some TPR is good. They'll feel excited about what they can understand in French after one lesson.
Since I see the alphabet on the first day (I teach to adult students), I help them find a word for each letter from A to V (since the other letters are harder, I give them vocabulary). Afterward, they get to tag everything in the room with the names of the objects. The interaction starts then and there between them.

But what about students that have already taken some French - what can you do with them? Go on to page two for helping ideas on the first day of French class with returning students.

Keep reading: New French Students | Returning French Students
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