A Look Inside my French Classroom
We French teachers are a curious bunch. We love to peek inside another French classroom even though we live in one every day! Today I’m rolling down memory lane and sharing pictures from my first only French class. I usually taught both high school French and Spanish while I was still teaching full time (I now create resources and support French teachers full time).
Like many of you, this class I’m sharing with you was cut short in 2020 when we went to teaching from home.
However hard it was to do asynchronous quarantine teaching, it made me love and appreciate the simple joy of creating a learning environment.
One of my class routines was a weekly Chanson de la Semaine – see my 10 favorite songs for French class here
Grab the Coeur de Pirate CLOZE song listening activity here if you’re ready to get right into it!
I love the process of creating a classroom – waaaay more than home decor, ironically enough lolz. My apartment looks like a college flower freak decorated it. Classroom organization and setup is one of the joys of teaching I really miss.
Since I’m not joining in the joy of decorating a classroom this year, I want to share my favorite classroom setups for French class with you today. These are real classroom photos from a high school French class, so faces are blurred to protect their anonymity.
Feel free to email me at email@example.com or comment below for any questions about where I got or how I did any of the setup you see in the pictures.
Setup for Proficiency
One thing you’ll notice is that I was a very imperfect proficiency-oriented teacher. Everything about my setup was to enable good target language routines, maximize comprehensible input, and center my students as the focus of class rather than units or language features. I didn’t always succeed, but good communication in French was always the goal. Below you’ll see that my word wall, whiteboard space for announcements like weekly class passwords, and special person interview bulletin boards were all for helping facilitate more French in the classroom.
One caveat: there’s one routine I regret I never tried. I highly recommend deskless classroom for a proficiency centered classroom, but had to leave the classroom for health + burnout reasons. I therefore didn’t make that a priority my last year teaching. But for real, if I was in the classroom now, that would be my first move. So many colleagues have told me amazing stories about how it’s changed the way their high schoolers interact, so I say try it!!
Need Help with Proficiency?
While we’re on the topic, (proficiency joke), have you ever wondered how to make the leap yourself?
I made you a guide that shows you the crucial steps (in time-saving and sanity-preserving order) to help you navigate the roadmap to proficiency. Get your free roadmap to help you transition to proficiency-oriented instruction and tips for all things world language and CI here!
OK now that you’ve got the free ebook to help you transition to proficiency (plus a buncha bonuses), you’re all set! Let’s keep setting up this French class for a great year.
My French Classroom in Action
Here are some photos of my French classroom in action – there’s always posters falling off the walls, lamination peeling at the corners, and messy desks. This was real life, not a highlight reel, so enjoy!
I hope it gives you some ideas. Small caveat – I had small class sizes this year with my largest at 14, so the desks are very spread out. Scroll to the bottom for what my 30+ class looked like in previous years.
French Classroom Decor Ideas
From word walls to French bulletin boards, I was all about simple decor that promoted language use. But I’m not above raiding the free poster stash that previous teachers always leave behind. Here are some pictures of my favorite French classroom decor moments.
French Word Walls
Next, let’s look at the classroom decor for French. By far my favorite and hardest working part of my classroom (besides the flags) were always the high frequency French word walls. I always had 2 on deck, one for the simple set of sweet 16 verbs, and the full 120 plus high frequency terms that were essential to my students’ reading and writing success.Below is an example from my large Spanish and French split class:
No, I never covered this up. These terms were always available during freewrites and reads. I did often cover and uncover the sweet 16 terms as I did test them on those often, but this large set below was their go-to for the essential connector words.
Having a word wall made everything about teaching with more target language easier. I had a word bank always on deck, and students knew which words were the most important and that they would see and hear the most.
Here is the word wall in my smaller class at a different school. Yep, same word wall.
Since I laminated them and used cardstock, I could (rather painstakingly) peel off the sticky tack and slap them on a new classroom wall in not too much time.
Speaking of moving between classrooms, you might need some recs for the good stuff when you stock up on word walls and posters for your French classroom. Here are my best recommended tools that I loooved while in the classroom.
Essential French Classroom Decor Tools
With word walls and posters galore, I was a die-hard cardstock and lamination fan. I taught in coastal South Carolina where I live, which is an uber-hot and humid climate. EVERYTHING falls off the walls and curls, so lamination was clutch.
However, I would like to present you with an alternative if it’s available to you. There are many teachers in the social ecosystem that have more eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives to lamination.
Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Lamination
I didn’t learn until I was out of the classroom that lamination isn’t recyclable — eeek. Check out these more sustainable alternatives from the sustainable teacher.
Cardstock is completely recyclable, and will work hard for you on your wall. This is my favorite cardstock brand, but you can literally use anything. It’s also in my experience cheaper, less time consuming, and easier than the lamination process. So what’s the non-curling/falling key?
My dear teacher friend, the key is sticky tack*. This brand is my favorite*. I’ve tried the blue kind and it’s impossible to get off the walls, but that could also be very specific to the paint and cinderblock situation I was usually in, or my humid climate. That being said, the gray brand above is tried and true.
I put up this entire word wall with the gray sticky tack mentioned above. If you love this high frequency word wall with third person terms, you can get your own here!
I also used hot glue* if you have a hot glue gun. That stuff lasts forever and comes off easily, but it will peel cheap school paint. (Sorry, school!)
More Classroom Setup Tools
I also used punch-out classroom decor letters for simple signage. I borrowed leftovers from teachers so make sure you ask around. This is one of those things that teachers always have a stash of. Keep in mind that we as language teachers use different letters than those that make signs in English.
Classroom Setup Tips to Save Money
Pro tip: just tear up the extra letters like the xs to make your French accents instead of buying a more expensive pack. I honestly don’t remember the brand I used, but these ones look very similar if you need a place to start. Check out the punch-out letters here*.
The last tool you’ll need is bulletin board border-cover-stuff-thingys. This brand has a solid assortment of colors, but be sure to raid the staff room and send out an email before you buy. Librarians and administrators always have this stuff stashed away.
*These are affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you choose to purchase from this link at no cost to you. This helps me to provide you with more awesome free content like this blog! I only recommend what I love and used in my classroom. You can also find most of these brands at your local retailer.
Those other posters I bought one year on Teacher’s Discovery, or someone gave them to me.. I honestly don’t remember. I don’t really love them and never used or referred to them, but they did help cover some ugly wall space. Teacher’s Discovery has a ton of decor, but I’m sure you know that from the catalogs they send you 😉
Bulletin Board Ideas for French Class
This is my favorite bulletin board for how good it looked in my Spanish and French classroom. My other degree is in Caribbean politics and history, so I used to focus my culture lessons on the area I knew best. It’s also where I’ve traveled the most. But I honestly only used the display twice at the beginning of the year.
Even though the bulletin board above looks cool, it didn’t really help me teach. So I moved to a more word-centered model my next classroom with the La Personne Spéciale French classroom posters below.
Francophone Culture Bulletin Boards
I didn’t use my Francophone country labels for a bulletin board, but many French teachers do.
These pictures are not from my classroom since I prefer to use these tools as desk labels, but here are some pictures to generate some inspiration.
Special Person Interview Setup for French Class
When I got serious about making special person interviews a weekly routine in class, I decided to use my odd bulletin board space to help facilitate it with room for posters and the title. This is also where I wrote the daily agenda, objective, and class password.
Speaking of Special Person Interviews, are you curious on how to start them? I interviewed the creator of this gamechanger activity Bryce Hedstrom and he walks you through how to get started in this post.
Culturally Responsive Classroom Setup
Before we wrap up , I want to leave you with a thought to ponder about what message our classrooms send to our students. A lightbulb went off for me when I read this quote from Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain*:
Something I started to ask myself after I read this quote was — what worldview am I presenting? How much of the dominant culture am I over-representing, and how can I reverse that?
It’s worth asking the same things about the messages in your classroom decor. For example, it was definitely a mistake to have the messages of being on time and diligently doing homework at home, as these are messages of the dominant culture.
Almost all my students worked outside of school, and their homework scores didn’t reflect or parallel their efforts in class. But when I switched it to the first 10 minutes of each Wednesday flex time, my school’s required homework percentage shot up because they were so diligent and focused while in class.
I’m no expert in this field, but it matters a lot to me. I hope it helps to generate some more thoughtful selection of your classroom materials and posters.
More French in the Classroom with Smart Decor!
I started out like almost every French teacher on the block – looking for gorgeous things to put in my room and splash my colorful personality all over the place. But you know what?
It got expensive, and it got exhausting. Not to mention I spent hella time making and then taking down bulletin boards I never used. I was a high school teacher y’all — bulletin boards are only for displaying work that will stay there all.year.long or for things that my students can actually use.
The best classroom posters or literally anything I put on my walls were things that helped my students speak and understand more French, or more about Francophone culture.
French Classroom Setup Tips
My final takeaways after I got smart(er) about good French classroom design?
- Every poster and bulletin board should maximize French use in the classroom and/or expand global citizenship
- Personality is awesome too, but isn’t worth lots of money
- Raid the free piles and don’t be shy about asking around the school for basics like letters and bulletin board-cover-thingys
- It’s not that hard or time-consuming to make your own posters. I made my own color words posters, Francophone countries and musicians posters, and word walls. I honestly regret spending money on most of the things I bought from larger retailers, except this one really sweet world map.
- If you’re like me and most other teachers and you have to use your own money to supplement your paltry school stipend (or they give you nothing), choose high quality resources over decor. You can always get creative with decor.
- Your classroom doesn’t need to be perfectly set up on Day 1. Mine NEVER was. It just needs to look complete (no completely blank walls or half-done boards and you’re good)
- You don’t need to laminate as much as you think. I learned this the hard way.
My Best French Classroom Decor Tip
I saved the best for last – are you ready?
Whenever you feel bad about your classroom, take a lil’ field trip to the nearest slack history teacher’s room (every high school has one). You know the one — the teacher that every kid loves because they’re that students’ coach, and they’re an amazing teacher, but they literally have one cat poster from 1987 and the school’s required tech policy (complete with graffiti from last year) on the wall…and that’s it.
Enjoy a laugh with them about how their classroom looks like a jail cell, and skip back to your bright, beautiful, and perfectly imperfect French class 🥰
Skip the English hallway altogether, we’ll never compete with those classroom decor heroes.
What does your classroom look like this year? What’s your favorite part of your classroom? Again, you can always contact me in the comments below, reach out on social on Instagram or Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about anything you see in the pictures. I’d love to hear from you!
Sincerely jealous of your classroom this year, and rooting for you as always,