(That Will Save Your End-of-Year-Sanity)
At the end of the year in your middle school or high school French class, it seems like everything is working against you: the clock, the calendar, the kids, your sanity…you name it. There’s so little time to review all the vocabulary before your French final speaking exam, let alone the questions. What do you do when you’ve already used all of your favorite speaking activities AND you’re short on review time?
How on earth are you going to get your squirrely teenagers who are already planning their graduation parties to get into pairs again and review for their doozy of a French final that many of us have to give?
Speaking is the hardest part of learning any language, and research shows that L2 learners need plenty of input before they are ready to produce original output. The “Can-Do Statements” for ACTFL emphasize the reliance on memorized phrases for Novice to Intermediate learners.
Your students will produce better output when they are exposed to plenty of comprehensible input!
If you’re short on review time, this is the activity list for you. Before asking your kids to rattle off an answer from memory with NO framework-because I promise it won’t go well, try some activities that allow them to build up some language and frameworks first.
Most importantly, you gotta switch it up! Try some fresh but very simple activities and games to keep the interest level high. Here are five of my favorite French speaking activities that I always keep in my back pocket until the end of the year in my world language classroom:
1. Musical Partners
Play a song that you have studied throughout the year that has a fun video to go with it, or from a favorite playlist. If you need a suggestion, look no further than this gem that embraces the fun of being a kid-it’ll remind your kids of the fun things to come for summer. Plus, they’ll love the hilarious Canadian skater early 2000s vibe.
For this speaking activity, it works like musical chairs. Kids have to move around the room in different directions within arms’ reach of another person at all times. They always have to be moving until the music stops. When the music stops, they high-five the person closest to them, who then becomes their speaking partner! At this point, shout out questions to them and get them to answer to their partner.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the best way to make students better at speaking is to give them plenty of comprehensible input. Also, this makes students feel like they’re just drawing and not doing work, when actually, their sweet little brains are on overdrive processing all that juicy language. If you have a set of pre-made questions, say some possible (very simple) answers and have them draw on whiteboards or paper what you’re saying. They have fun being Bob Ross, you give great input AND give awesome sample answers-everybody wins!
3. Improv Class
This one’s for the drama queens. There are alot of ways to do this one-have kids choose a persona at the beginning of class, either a celebrity, or even a friend from class. Give them a study guide with the speaking questions and have them answer ALL the questions as if they were that person. The answers are hilarious, and don’t require advanced language. For advanced classes, you can make them guess who the person is!
4. Le Grand Prix
This one’s for the athletes and the uber-competitive types. We all get to go to Monaco for this one. To switch up the usual partner activities, I tape a question task card from my Speaking Exam Task Card Review Set (see below) to a desk face-down.
I make sure the desks face each other game-show style. Have the students partner up and then sit across from each other, making sure the card is down. When the timer starts, have them flip over the cards and race to answer the question. The student who answers the most accurately with the most words wins–richer words get more points.
I have a few choice students wander and rate answers, and I settle disputes using the rubric system from the final. This is great for engagement! Use any type of rotation system to have different students working. With smaller classes, students like to choose their opponents and then see who wins at the end using a bracket system. See what works best with the atmosphere.
5. Input-Based Task Cards
These little gems have gotten me through the month of May for three years straight, and now I’d love to share it with you. These are input-based task cards for speaking final exams.
They have final speaking exam questions on one set, and then “thought bubble” sample answers on another matching set. The possible uses of these beauties are limitless. I’ve used them in stations separated by unit, and students have to match up the questions with the answers.
This is the beauty of the input-based system. The students get exposure to possible answers and vocab review before they actually have to speak, which gives them a framework from which to draw.
PSSST…They also come with a completely ready-to-implement Speaking Final Exam and a Study Guide!
Plus, you just can’t beat the thought bubble-the kids love matching them up.
You can do all kinds of different activities with a set of ready-made task cards with final exam questions on them.
If you’re giving a French 1 speaking exam this year and you’re ready to enjoy the sunshine instead of making your own task cards, check out the ones that I’ve used for three years.
If you like the idea and want to DIY them, write your exam questions on index cards and then write sample answers out to match up.
End of the Year Survival Tips for Secondary World Language Teachers
Lastly, some words to live by: teaching in May-June (depending on your school) is like running long distance. You would think that the last mile is the easiest because you can see the finish line, but it’s actually the hardest because you can see the finish line.
I tell this to my students too–all you want to do is just flop your arms and forget all your hard work to get to this point, but this is where you have to dig into your muscle memory, not your motivation, and just keep on truckin’.
Nothin’ but the finish line, y’all. If you’re having a hard year and struggling to the end, consider treating yourself to some lessons to make your life easier.
Consider treating yourself to a weekend of absolutely NO grading and NO education-related internet scrolling.
Consider brunch. Consider it again. Strongly.
You’ll feel magical and ready for the next week. Consider the beauty of quality time with the fam and the beach to get you through to the final stretch–and visualize the finish line.
You got this, dude.
I’ll see you in the trenches,
Devon @ La Libre