90% in the target language… starting now!

This year again, I started my first day of instruction for my Novice learners all in French . This is my second year kicking-off instruction directly in French with children who have no foreign language background but this time I added a little Pirate Teaching.

No matter how many props, visuals, modeling, comprehensible input, and body language I use, I worry after my first class: will the students come back or will they quit because I made them feel uncomfortable? Will we get to know each other as much as if I spoke English to them?

On the first question, I try not to let myself worry just because I am an “elective”. Yes, students can switch out of my class: but hopefully while they might have felt uncomfortable in class where the teacher doe snot speak much English, they realized that I care as much about them as other teachers do, how much they will learn this year, and just how different this class will be from their daily routine! Talk about a purple cow (#tlap).

On the second question, I recognize that I will not get to know them as fast as other teachers.  But we will get there nonetheless! When we talk about our families, our likes & dislikes, our hobbies, etc. Getting to know each other is actually woven in the World Language curriculum! We are so lucky to teach a subject where we actually spend our day discovering who our students are and what they think! I often joke with my upper levels that I am the only class where talking about your week-end on Monday is actually part of class instruction.

Already, we got to know each other a bit, despite the “language barrier”: my students used Play Doh to create something that represent them (That’s the Pirate Teaching I was referring to at the beginning of my post, if you have not read “Teach Like A Pirate” yet, I strongly recommend it). All the directions for this activity were provided in French, they even answered a few questions about their creations. Everyone did a fantastic job and I learned that we have quite some talents in the room, ranging from singing, team sports, reading, figure ice-skating, horse back riding, and even chicken imitation!

I look forward to our second week together!


Note 1 : if you read my post about The Harry Potter lesson plan, I do not consider that lesson my first day of instruction. Our Middle School has a great Positive Behavior Support (PBS) initiative on the first day of school, where teachers do not teach content but various PBS lessons. Actually wearing a costume for that lesson turned out to serve an even better purpose. My Middle School Novice Learners did not get to meet  their French teacher on that day! So I was able to show up the next day as myself and start all in French 🙂

Note 2: a small classroom management tip — If you are also planning a Play Doh or pipe cleaner activity on Day One, you want to make sure students put it away after they are done showing off their creation. I had a few students who were distracted playing around while others were answering questions :).


  1. Would you be able to explain how you stayed completely in French? Did you write the French on the board with English underneath? Did you have a presentation prepared? Did you rely heavily on gestures? I am slowly transitioning to TPRS and comprehensible input, but staying in the target language 90% of the time can really seem magical looking in from the outside. I’m excited that I found your blog through The French Blog I have bookmarked. Thank you!!

    • Dana, this was not TPRS as there was no storytelling. The key to staying 90% of the time in the language is to make it comprehensible so I use a combination of writing phrases on the board, gestures, and visuals. For this particular lesson, as you can see in the video, I use gestures + visuals, lots of repetition, and questioning. When I do storytelling, I do write a few phrases on the board with English and also rely on students acting out the story. I am no expert in TPRS though but I do enjoy Comprehensible Input a lot as a philosophy of teaching. I am glad you found what you were looking for!

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