The Evolution of Teaching French – 3 ways it’s gotten better (and 1 way it’s worse)

the Evolution of Teaching French

The evolution of teaching a foreign language has changed dramatically over the past 28 years that I’ve been teaching French. From the use of technology to the way teachers approach instruction, there have been numerous advancements in how we teach French to students. Some of these changes have been for the better, some…not so much. Let’s take a look at how teaching French has evolved in recent years.

The Evolution of teaching with Technology Integration

Technology has had an enormous impact on how we teach foreign languages. The days of relying solely on textbooks and worksheets are long gone – now, teachers have access to countless websites, apps and cloud-based platforms that make teaching more engaging and interactive. When I started teaching, it was all about the overhead projector and printed worksheets and textbooks. At this point, I rarely use printed items and I don’t even know that there is an overhead projector to be found on my campus! This is one part of the evolution of teaching that I definitely welcome!

Thanks to the internet, teachers can create virtual classrooms for their students where they can share documents, assign tasks, give feedback and track progress. This makes it much easier for teachers to keep track of what their students are doing and provides them with valuable data that can be used to tailor their lessons accordingly. Being able to use Microsoft OneNote – and now, Canvas – allows me to assign work without worrying about students “losing” it or “forgetting” to turn it in. It’s so nice when students come looking for missing work – I just tell them that it’s all in Canvas!

Additionally, websites like Quizlet, Blooket and Gimkit offer online flashcards and other games that can be used to reinforce vocabulary while also making learning more fun for students. We play a game once a week and my students enjoy the chance to practice new words while also playing a fun game.

Finally, just having the ability to use current materials from the target language is an amazing thing. When I started, you couldn’t really find the newest songs or share media from the Francophone world without a LOT of effort. Now I have hundreds of content resources in French that I can share immediately – YouTube, Instagram, and many more options are available for teachers to use. I love being able to use posts from Hugo Decrypte or le Parisien Infographies with my students – they are interesting, authentic and easy to understand.

The Evolution of Teaching with Interactive Learning

Another big evolution of teaching foreign languages is the shift away from traditional methods towards more interactive learning methods such as games or role-play activities. These activities allow students to engage with the language in a more natural way while helping them build confidence speaking in front of others. By immersing themselves in the language through these activities, students become more comfortable using it in real life situations as well.

In addition to incorporating technology and interactive learning methods into their teaching practices, many French teachers have started to focus on giving their students a deeper understanding of French culture as well. Rather than simply focusing on grammar rules or memorizing vocabulary words, teachers are now encouraging their students to explore different aspects of French culture such as art, history and food. This helps make language learning more meaningful by connecting it with real-world experiences that students can relate to. I’ve seen an evolution of teaching go from the grammar-translation method to a more communicative approach and it’s definitely better for our student population.

The Evolution of Teaching with assessment

When I first started teaching, my district didn’t have an official final exam. It was up to me how to test my students. But we did have a very planned-out curriculum. It was the standard grammar/vocabulary/culture type of curriculum – teach these words and these verbs in first semester, these in second semester, third year students will learn the subjunctive. There wasn’t much focus on actually USING the language in any functional way.

Eventually we got district-wide final exams. They were focused on multiple choice grammar and vocabulary questions, plus a couple of writing and speaking sections. There wasn’t a lot of room for creativity, and students needed to be able to say very specific things in order to pass. I pushed for more CI and a focus not on complete accuracy, but on proficiency.

Along with an evolution of teaching methods, I’ve seen a major evolution in the exams. We’ve updated our finals many times and each year we try to make them better. We don’t give our teachers a strict curriculum – instead, we give them IPAs for several themes and tell them they can teach whatever they think is necessary to prepare students for a test based on those topics.

But is it all good?

Over the past two – nearly three! – decades, the evolution of teaching a foreign language has come a long way – from relying solely on textbooks and worksheets to incorporating technology into our lessons and exploring different aspects of culture alongside language learning. By embracing these new approaches, French teachers have made it easier than ever for their students to learn this wonderful language and to see it as a useful skill.

But there is a downside. I’ve noticed that with the evolution of teaching with technology and devices, students have lost something. They aren’t as motivated to learn, because it’s hard for teachers to compete with TikTok or video games. They don’t have the attention span that they used to – they all want to multitask because they can’t focus on something as much as previous students could. Unfortunately, the rise of the influencer/YouTube star has made many students think that it isn’t necessary to work hard to succeed. It also gives them an unrealistic view of what life is like. Students see the filtered, curated lives of influencers and feel that they can’t possibly live up.

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