French lesson plans – a daily and weekly framework

French lesson plans - my daily and weekly framework

I was recently asked to share my daily lesson plan framework, and how I go about making my French lesson plans. This is a great idea, but I will warn you – it’s also a tricky question due to the major upheaval in the daily schedule over the past several years! I haven’t had the same basic daily schedule since 2019, and that has had huge effects on how I run my classes. In 2019-2020, we had a standard schedule of 6 classes of 55 minutes each daily. With COVID came distance learning and in the 2020-21 school year, I had 3 classes for 93 minutes daily for 9 weeks. That meant students did one year worth of work in 18 weeks. In 2021-22, we went to a modified block schedule – Monday was 6 classes for 45 minutes each, and then 3 classes of 93 minutes each on T/Th and W/F. We had about one third of our Mondays set as iDays – asynchronous days where students did an assignment from home while teachers used the day to plan and do individual assistance to students who needed it. Next year, we will be changing the schedule a bit – each class will meet 3 days a week for 45 minutes, and have one day a week for a block schedule. So as you can see, I’ve had to make a LOT of changes to the planning I do for my classes! Even so, there tends to be a routine and framework for my classes and while the students may not have noticed it, I used it whenever I made my plans.

French lesson plans - a daily and weekly framework

My Weekly routine

I definitely have a weekly routine! This is referring to the most recent year, when I would see all students on Monday, and then 3 classes on Tuesday/Thursday and the other 3 classes on Wednesday/Friday. Since Monday was a shorter day, I usually used it to introduce any new vocabulary that we would need for that week. Tuesday/Wednesday was the day for “meaty” new topics – if we had some new grammar points, a project, or something that would take a little more effort, that would be done on Tuesday/Wednesday. Thursday/Friday was the day where we would put things together, review a little bit, and have some fun. We would go over the song of the week and watch the video, and we would review by playing Blooket or Gimkit as a class. My students love these games, and looked forward to game day. I also have a special routine on Fridays only – we play the Friday song by Rebecca Black. Students moan and groan about it, but if I ever “forget” to play the song, they will ask why I’m not playing it.

My daily routine – opening

My daily routine is pretty simple but also flexible, and my French lesson plans reflect this. No matter which level I am teaching, the classes follow a very similar structure. Each day as students come in, they know to log in to Desmos. I’ll have set up whatever we are using that day – generally my Desmos activities will start with a bell work activity, followed by activities to match up with whatever new material we are learning that day. I use the pacing function to control which slides students can see, so they only do the first couple of slides as I am taking attendance. I like to use a reading activity for the opener, but sometimes I’ll so something else depending on what we’ve been doing in class. My favorite resource is Hugo Decrypte‘s Instagram channel – there are a TON of things with lots of cognates and current events, so often students will have the context to help them understand what is happening in the post. It’s also useful because students are using French to learn something new and useful about the world! After I’m done taking attendance, I will put the reading up on the board and we will read it together – so any students who haven’t been able to complete the bell work can do so now. I use Desmos because it is a “back-up” for me with attendance – I am face-blind, which means that I have a VERY hard time recognizing faces. I start the year explaining this to students and telling them that I will almost certainly mark them absent if they are not in their seat when I take attendance because I won’t recognize them. By logging in to Desmos, I can see that they are indeed here and correct the absences.

My daily routine – middle

This is the part where we go over any new material and do activities to support that new material. If it’s new vocabulary, we may play a game of “grab it” – provided the vocabulary has enough cognates and low-hanging fruit for them to get without frustration. If it’s a new grammar point or structure, I’ll give them lots of input. One thing I like to do is find a topic where we can talk about a subject using this vocabulary – basically, circling. I know that many people who use CI like to make up stories about things in order to use structures and vocabulary – but I like to add non-fiction topics to the mix. If you pick something interesting, there is ALWAYS a way to bring in the things you need to teach for any district required curriculum or testing! We might talk about bees or the Louvre or fashion or some famous person. This is where planning comes in handy – if I know that we will be learning how to talk about things in the past, I will make sure that the reading from Hugo Decrpyte has a lot of past tense in it. If we are learning about clothing vocabulary, the reading may be a page from a catalog or store circular ad. Or we may look at a website from a clothing store. The key is to go slowly and get lots of repetitions. As we are doing the middle section, I will usually have some slides on Desmos to go along with it. It may be comprehension questions about what we talked about, it may be PQA asking student opinions, it may be a more open-ended question asking for them to write something or draw a picture. If you’re not quite sure how to use non-fiction through CI, I have a few lesson plans to help get you started.

French lesson plans – the end!

For the last chunk of class time, I will go over whatever the day’s assignment will be. I don’t really WANT my students to have homework – I always give them enough time in class that MOST of them will be able to finish before they leave. I try to do a variety of short activities in different modalities – I will ask either reading or listening, writing or speaking, and maybe a culture activity. All together, the assignment should not take more than 15-20 minutes. I give them about 25 minutes in class so theoretically, they could all finish. Of course, that’s just theory – I have many who don’t finish in class, so they would then have homework. More accurately I should say that I have some students who don’t even start the assignment in class – these tend to be the students who don’t want to be there, don’t care, and wouldn’t do the assignment no matter how simple it is or how much time I give them. It used to bother me a lot more than it does now, but after 27 years of working with students I’ve come to accept that some kids just don’t care and there is nothing I can do to make them care. I don’t know why they are in my class, or why they’ve decided that they aren’t going to do any work – but if they don’t want to pass the class, I can’t force them to do so. The first principal I ever had told staff that “students have the right to fail with dignity and respect” – so if I note that they are not doing their work, I’ll say something to them once or twice, but after they’ve made it clear to me that they do not mind failing and have chosen to do so, I will focus my efforts on the students who DO want to learn and pass the class.

What will I change next year?

Next year, we are changing our schedule yet again. I will have each of my classes for three 45-minute periods, and one 93 minute period. I This means rethinking my French lesson plans for the week and probably some minor adjustments for the daily lesson routines. I have already made plans for dealing with cell phones – I purchased a pocket chart and I plan to have students place their phones in the chart at the beginning of each class period. As each student will have an assigned space on the chart, I’ll be able to quickly take attendance. I will likely use Desmos, but I may make it more of an exit ticket type of thing – once students have completed their Desmos assignment, they can come get their phone at the end of the hour. I am going to move away from starting class with Desmos and not have students on their computers until the last part of the class. While I like being able to check on things throughout the lesson, I’ve noticed that some students simply can’t stay focused if they have a screen open in front of them – they will have games, YouTube, etc. open in other tabs. So I will start class with the bell work on the board – students will read the current event item as I take attendance, but they will answer the questions in our group discussion instead of via Desmos.

French lesson plans - a daily and weekly framework
This is the pocket cell phone holder I bought. It is available in several different sizes and colors.

How will my weekly routine change?

I am certain that I will continue using Mondays as an intro day for vocabulary. I will likely use Tuesday as a day to reinforce the vocabulary and introduce whatever new structures and grammar we need for the week. The block day will be used to practice and refine the material. We will play Blooket/Gimkit to review our new vocabulary and structures, and we will probably read a novel and do some speaking activities. Friday I will see all of my students, I plan to move the music video to Friday. I think that I will also give a quiz of some sort every Friday – they will be tiny quizzes, no more than 10 points, but focused on smaller things, maybe one skill each week. Last year I had two big unit tests (with IR/IL/PW), and a couple of speaking tests (PS or IC). Since tests are a HUGE part of their grade, I had students who just never made up missing tests and it cost them credit in the class. If I do a quiz every Friday, that would be 18 grades, so the chances of one test destroying their grade would be lower. I also want them to see quizzes as less of a big threatening thing and more as a chance to show me what they’ve learned over the course of the week. I think Friday may also be a good day to write a class story, or do some sort of non-fiction CI activity.

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