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ISMLA Bulletin — April 2021

Tips for teaching

As language teachers, we understand that the language we are teaching is alive and that it is intertwined with culture and the people who speak it. But oftentimes, the curriculum or the resources provided by textbooks offer little understanding of the countries and cultures in which the language is spoken. I’ve found that often the textbooks romanticise or give a basic understanding of le monde francophone without recognising important historic elements, particularly those linked to empire and colonisation. I think it is important that we’re cognisant of the world we are building for our students, and to make sure that that world is real, inclusive and diverse. The following are my tips to include more of the francophone world and culture in your classroom, including resources that are honest about France’s colonial empire and its impact.


1) The first tip that I have is to adjust reading texts to be more inclusive. If the readings you are using in your textbook or in your curriculum all refer specifically to France, you can alter them to take place in other French speaking countries or territories. This also works as a nice geography lesson and an opener for discussion about how many countries speak French. Some of the following tips will explain how I adapt these texts, but this is the basis of how I approach a number of ways to incorporate the Francophone world and culture into my lessons.

2) The second tip is to pay close attention to names in readings. I remember as a student, my French teacher had us all choose a typically French name that we would be called in class. As someone who has a relatively uncommon first name (Nyssa), my name in that class became Nicole. For a number of students, this could contribute to a loss in cultural and personal identity, and it also does not accurately reflect the French speaking world. In my classroom, I do not do this exercise, but when writing reading texts or dialogues, I do not use only euro-centric French names such as Pierre and Léa, but include common names such as Yanis, Mohamed, Nour or Inaya. To ensure that I’m using names that are popular in the francophone world, I look at the most common names in France or Francophone countries, such as Martinique or Algeria. This attention to names is so that I am not creating a classroom that only recognises one aspect of French identity or who can be French.

3) While we’ve just talked about using more inclusive names for dialogues and readings, there’s another approach that you can take to topics and readings. My third tip is to recognise the fact that you’re not just a language teacher – you’re a history teacher now. Students do not just want to learn about what Matthieu and Michel did last weekend and what Sophie is going to do next weekend. If you’re talking about free time and sport, you could include real French athletes, such as Kylian Mbappé, Estelle Mossely, Philippe Croizon, or Amélie Mauresmo.

If you’re discussing technology, why not include Louis Pasteur or Rachid Yazami? By incorporating real francophone figures (historic and current) into your curriculum, and alongside relevant topics, students can make different connections to the language and can even see themselves and their own interests in the content.

4) Similar to the above point of incorporating real francophone figures and history into your curriculum, do not shy away from ugly history. It’s important that students realise that French is useful because it’s spoken in so many countries, but we also need to address why it’s spoken in those countries. With my Year 8 students last year, we were on the topic of “Mon pays” (Allez 1 Unit 9). The textbook talks about country and region, bringing a lot of focus to the African continent and noting that Africa is a “terre de contrastes.” However, it does not address the history of French colonisation in Africa. In order to address this, I did a short history lesson – in English – about Francophone Africa, France’s Colonial Empire, and the Scramble for Africa.

The students responded very positively to this, and with many of them commenting about how they did not know that France was involved in the slave trade. This opened my eyes to the possibilities of my job as a French teacher – and that it was part of my job to share this aspect of languages with my students. Additionally, there are other ways to approach such topics.

Charlotte H, a Head of Department and teacher of Russian and French (@charlottehmfl on Twitter), says that she used to have a board dedicated to showing the some of the atrocities under Léopold I of Belgium, a brutal king whose statue commemorating his memory was only taken down from the main square in Antwerp last year. As lessons, or as classroom displays, it’s important that we reveal both the incredibly beautiful and the awful elements that have impacted the languages and the cultures we teach.

5) On a more amusing note, another tip I have is to teach (and learn!) about festivals outside of France.  Miss Garcia, a secondary Spanish teacher (@MissGarciamfl1 on Twitter) shared a brilliant Genially resource called La Misión Secreta for Spanish last year.

I adapted this resource to Google Slides for French using festivals from multiple francophone countries, though two of the chosen festivals are from France.

Another way to include more francophone festivals is with the Polly Glot Languages resources, particularly the cultural calendar that Suzi Bewell releases every month. Suzi Bewell, a languages teacher, trainer and CEO of Polly Glot Languages (@SuziBeWell on Twitter) always produces a fantastic cultural calendar with different festivals for Spanish, French and now German as well!

6) Another place to include francophonie is when teaching topics. This is particularly easy to do with the topic of region. When introducing the topic of home, town, and region, give your students the chance to travel and choose an interesting francophone place! Last year, when introducing this topic with year 7, I chose La Polynèsie Française as I could include all of the necessary vocabulary and supplement it with vocabulary about islands. I first introduced a quick history about the French occupation and colonisation of French Polynesia, and after we had practiced the main vocabulary from the first module of the unit and students were confident using it, I introduced a reading that we would exploit through different tasks (Listening, gap-fills, and questions.)

The reading included vocabulary about French Polynesia, including traditional style of houses and geography vocabulary specific to the area – such as the beach, lagoons, volcanos, and ports. For my students, this gave them a chance to see another part of the world while still learning relevant vocabulary and structures. This approach could also easily be done for GCSE – Students could even choose a francophone country where they would need to learn about the geography and then describe it in French. Polly Glot Languages also has resources books that go over different aspects of a few Francophone countries, with one about Guadeloupe on its way!

7) Something else you can do is introduce a francophone project. LNortcliffe on Tes does a project for a full half-term with Y7. In the description for this resource, they state: “We spend a whole half term in Year 7 on this project to introduce pupils to la francophonie and simple French – basic introductions, colours of flags, important dates in the countries, population numbers.” That seems to cover quite a bit of introductory French (introductions, colours, months, numbers), but with a different approach that helps to build the French-speaking world for the students.

8) Another tip that I would say most teachers already do is to use authentic media and music and stay on top of the news. Some sites that I use are the following:

Brut media : This news videos website is one of my favourite websites for resources (and is also available in Spanish). Different Brut videos can be used from KS3, as they are often subtitled in French. I’ve used a video about Zinédine Zidane’s family for KS3 and KS4 and had the students identify the family vocabulary and describe his family in sentences. (Ex: Zinédine a quatre fils. Ils s’appellent… Enzo a les cheveux bruns et les yeux bruns. Sa famille est sportive.)

At A-Level, I use Brut videos to discuss topics and to practice summary skills. Each group/pair has a video that they must watch and summarise in French, writing down important vocabulary, first impressions and then preparing a summary to present to the class in French. After the presentations, the students will have a short quiz on the information from all of the videos, demonstrating that they listened and understood what their fellow classmates presented. On the topic of racism, I split my group of 9 students into 4 groups. Each watched, summarised and presented about the following videos: Une loi contre le racisme votée en Tunisie, des étudiants africains victimes de racisme à l’université de Metz, Noémie Madar les juifs face à l’antisémitisme, 3 Lycéens attaquent l’État après un contrôle au faciès.

YouTube or Spotify: While I love Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel as much as the next French teacher, I try to use more contemporary music in the classroom. I have a YouTube playlist for my GCSE students that I sample at KS3. I try to update it every once in a while, especially as I enjoy the songs that I’ve put on the list and it’s received good reviews! To incorporate them into lessons, I will sometimes do gap-fills with lyrics, or simply use them as a timer for when the starter or a task needs to be completed. Another website that uses music to specifically teach different elements of grammar or topics is La Chanson en cours de FLE, though many of these songs are older.

1Jour1Actu News & Magazine – At GCSE and A-Level, I use and adapt 1jour1actu resources. They also have weekly journals with great articles and posters that are currently free to download!
Kate Languages, @katelanguages on Twitter, a former secondary school teacher turned private tutor and resources writer, also has fantastic resources on her website for using 1J1A for A-Level  and a blog post about other authentic resources. Kate includes a number of authentic websites for French, Spanish and German – all aimed at native speakers but with resources that are adaptable for the language-learning classroom, as she has done with the worksheet below (linked above). By incorporating authentic resources from such websites, students are able to interact with the language through current media relevant to the world around them.

9) Finally, do not be afraid to introduce current language or slang, and inform students of where it comes from! For the register, when I was new to my previous school, some of my students would joke around and say “Wagwan.” They knew how to say “Bonjour” and “Salut,” so I figured that rather than requiring this more formal response to the register, I introduced the word “Wesh,” French slang for “What’s up?” I used this as an opportunity to also give students a lesson in how languages change and adapt – just as Wagwan is Jamaican English, Wesh comes from Algerian “Wech rak?” (How are you?). Another common one that I’m seeing more and more in French lessons is the use of “Je kiffe” – from Arabic “kif,” meaning “joie,” according to Le Figaro. The verb “kiffer” is conjugated as a regular -er verb and is a synonym for aimer. Teaching students language that they are likely to hear in spoken French is important for the communicative aspect of language, as well as adding a bit of fun. So long as students are aware of when to use the vocabulary, there is not a danger of them using it in more formal (or exam) settings.

Please do look at Nyssa’s blog for access to some of the resources that she mentions in her article: https://www. msmuheimmfl.com/blog/9-tips- to-include-francophonie-amp- culture-in-the-classroom

9 Tips to Include Francophonie & Culture in the Classroom — Ms Muheim MFL
As language teachers, we understand that the language we are teaching is alive and that it is intertwined with culture and the people who speak it. But oftentimes, the curriculum or the resources provided by textbooks offer little understanding of the countries and cultures in which the language is