This year, I implemented two warm-up activities that encourages students to read closely. I imagine that other teachers do something similar, but I have never seen it discussed by other comprehensible input (CI) teachers. Both activities are extremely low prep and have been very successful in my classes so far this year. I call one activity Une Personne Célèbre (A famous person) and the other Un Peu de Géo (A little geography).
Each week, I describe either a famous Francophone person or a location in the Francophone world in simple French. It usually takes only 5-10 minutes to prepare my slide.
Here is a famous person example:
This is a simple description of the French scientist, Louis Pasteur.
Here is a geography example:
This is a simple description of Togo, a francophone country in West Africa.
Once a week at the beginning of class, I project one of these on my Smartboard. I read it aloud and then students research the answer on the Internet. Students write their name and their answer on a small piece of paper and hand it in (My students also do independent reading in French class, so my fast finishers know that they should get their book and read once they have finished. That keeps them busy while I answer questions or offer assistance to my weaker students). The next day in class, we read and discuss the clues and then I reveal the answer. Then I take all the correct answers, put them in a hat, and choose 3-5. Those students receive a small prize, which is usually a Jolly Rancher or two (Note: I know which students struggle with this and frequently get the wrong answer, so I have been known to pick their paper on purpose once in a while when they finally get a correct answer).
In one class, I had a large number of students who were not motivated by candy. They thought they didn’t have to participate and were putting no effort into this activity. As a result, I turned this into obligatory beginning work for them that required them to list five facts about the person/place in English as well as giving an answer. I’m disappointed that I had to do this, but some students need the threat of a bad grade in order to take things seriously.
This has been a great activity to use to introduce students to a wide range of famous Francophones. Since I provide birth dates (and, when necessary, death dates), students have gotten very skilled at working with those large and complicated French numbers. In addition, I have done my best to highlight French speakers who are members of marginalized groups in an effort to dispel the narrative that only white men have made important contributions to society.
This has also been a great way to discuss Francophone countries, which I believe get slighted in most French lessons. I love hearing, “Wow, I didn’t know people speak French in South America” and similar comments as students learn that the French-speaking world is much bigger than they thought.
The best thing about this activity is that students have to read carefully in order to produce enough search parameters to find the answer. I have tricked them into reading carefully, all for a little candy!
If you teach French and would like to try this, here is my famous person folder and here is my geography folder. Enjoy!