French 1 Week 1 – an outline of lesson plans

I cried the night before my first day of La Rentrée (middle school teaching) when I was 22 years old. I called my dad and asked him if I had to go to work the next day. He said, “Not only are you going to school tomorrow morning but you will also come home at the end of the day.” Matter-of-fact. Tough love. He doesn’t remember that conversation but his words got me through the day.

Is it your first day of French class EVER? (Back-to-school / La Rentrée moments are real for students and teachers alike.) Or are you a veteran teacher who has new back-to-school moments every quarter or every semester? Here is a brief lesson plan outline that can help you through one week of French 1 (45-50 minute classes). 

Before the new quarter / semester / year begins:

  • Prepare seating charts and name cards to put on their desks. 
  • Write in detail your lessons – write a script out, if necessary.
    • I scripted my lessons while student teaching. Within 1-2 weeks, I had parts of my routines memorized and didn’t need to script them anymore. 
    • As a veteran teacher, I still write out the sequence of activities for new topics or activities that I teach.

Goals at the end of 8-12 class days: 

  • Build student relationships by modeling and learning all student names
  • Build classroom community by students learning each others’ names
  • Create expectation that I’ll speak in French, provide structure, use gestures, and answer all questions
  • Create expectation that they will find success each day
  • Show them their successes
  • Students understand basic Total Physical Response commands (TPR)
  • Students present dialogue for a grade 
  • Students copy some notes, not all, into their notebooks
  • Be intentional with my use of French
  • Be intentional with my use of English
  • At the end of 8-12 class days, move into the official Unit 1
French 1 Week 1 – an outline of lesson plans for Back-to-School / La Rentrée

French 1 | Week 1 | Day 1 – La Rentrée

Write the agenda on the board:

  1. Bonjour / Au Revoir
  2. Les Places 
  3. Les Routines 
  4. Les Cartes d’identité
  5. Les Questions? / Écrire (drawing of pencil)
  6. YouTube
  7. Au Revoir

Bonjour / Au Revoir (5 minutes): 

All in French. Tell them, in English, to sit anywhere as they enter class. When the bell rings, close the door, and say, “Bonjour, tout le monde!”. Ask them to immediately say back, “Bonjour, Madame.” Work on this for 1-2 minutes until they say it loudly. Go in and out of the classroom and they say, “Bonjour, Madame” or “Au Revoir, Madame” as a whole group. After 1-2 minutes of going in and out of class, choose an individual student and say, “Bonjour, (student name).” Use gestures to point back-and-forth to show who says what. Whisper what to say, if needed: “Bonjour, Madame.” Choose 4-6 individual students or more to check. Repeat again as a whole group a few times. Done. Check it off the agenda on the board or erase it completely.

Les Places (5 minutes):

All in French. Point to #2 on the board, point to the clipboard, and say, “On a des places spécifiques en classe.” Point to a spot, use gestures to make the whole row or table move. Call some names. Yes, other students will start talking but STOP. “Silence, s’il vous plaît.” Start the expectation right away. Hop around to different tables and different rows to keep them on their feet and paying attention to listen for their names. During the assigning of seats, I greet most of them again, “Bonjour, (student name)” and expect them to say, “Bonjour, Madame”. I verify the pronunciation of each student’s name and write it on my seating chart. Finish the seating chart. Done. Check it off the agenda on the board or erase it completely.

Les Routines (7-10 minutes):

All in French. My routine consists of 7-10 minutes of Total Physical Response (TPR). Check out my other blog posts about using TPR in the classroom.

Finish the TPR. Done. Check it off the agenda on the board or erase it completely.

C’est la Rentrée Scolaire – French Lesson Plans for Back-to-School

Les Cartes d’Identité (5-7 minutes):

All in French. Goal: memorize 5-7 names in 5-7 minutes without looking at the seating chart. Hand out the pre-made name cards to as many students as you can without looking at the seating chart. I cheat and put students with names starting with “A” or “B” all in one row or in opposite corners or all at one table… but they don’t know that. Or, I start with younger brothers and sisters of students I already know. Whatever works for you. 

Write your target on the board: 5 personnes. Start by modeling how to memorize. Look at the student. Say the name. Look at the seating chart. Say the name. Look at their name card. Say the name. Look at the student. Say the name. Look at the seating chart. Say the name. Gesture for the student to turn the name card upside down. Keep moving quickly. Go to the next student. Same routine. Return to student 1. Move quickly. Next student. Return to students 1 and 2, etc…

You will debrief this in a few minutes in English. Did you learn 5-7 names? Done. Check it off the agenda on the board or erase it completely.

Les Questions / Écrire (10 -12 minutes):

Switch to English. Talk about what just happened. I tell them that it is my goal to learn all 38 first names by the end of the second week of school. Those 38 names are my vocabulary words. My seating chart is my “flashcards”. I need to match a “vocabulary word” to a student who is walking around the room during an activity without looking at my flashcards. My brain needs to make those connections automatically. I need to develop automaticity so that names vomit out of my mouth when I need them. Learning a language is the same.

What did they notice? What did they learn? Who has ever studied a language? Who is learning language for the first time ever? Do they have any questions? Answer their questions. Break down how you modeled learning names and ask how those steps can help when learning a language.

Pass out paper. Ask them to write down – in English – what part of today’s lesson clicked in their brains? What part was difficult? What did Madame do to start learning names? That is the first assignment in the grade book – 10 points, or whatever. Have them hand it in – start your routine of how to hand in papers. Easy 10 points. Excuse students who are absent or will join the class later in the week.

Give your speech about listening with eyes and ears, etc…. Done. Check it off the agenda on the board or erase it completely.

YouTube (10 minutes):

Choose a YouTube video in French or English about learning language, the culture, or introduce a music video. Discuss in English the important parts. It’s your call. Done. Check it off the agenda on the board or erase it completely.

Au Revoir (5-7 minutes):


  • Bonjour / Au Revoir
  • You say the 5-7 student names again
  • TPR quickly
  • “Au revoir, tout le monde.” “Au revoir, Madame.”

French 1 | Week 1 | Days 1-5 link

These ideas are just to get jump started during La Rentrée – the first 8-12 back-to-school days. Practicing and reinforcing routines while learning is important for all grade levels during the first few weeks of the class. Carve out times when you are teaching and speaking in French. Show them their successes and progress each day. Carve out times for English and be intentional about what happens during those English moments.

Find support and collegiality in your building, pace yourself, and find a sustainable balance. Start your students with relationships and small moments of success. That advice counts for us, too – relationships and small moments of success. Make your back-to-school a smooth and steady start. It’s not a race.

My name is Lisa and I’m happy to be your new French colleague. How can I help you tomorrow?

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Welcome, Friends!

Hi, my name is Lisa and I am here to help French teachers feel re-inspired, renewed, and re-connected to the passion of teaching. We can do this together because we want to streamline, be efficient, and make it home for dinner.

Teaching is not a race. Let’s pace ourselves and take the next step together.

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