..or mini chalkboards or even a whiteboard ipad app! I love using mini whiteboards in my classroom because I see my students automatically become more invested in an activity when they have the opportunity to write on a whiteboard. It's also a great way to formatively assess students all at once. That said, a little goes a long way and sometimes students can get bored if you don't change up what you're doing every time you bring out the whiteboards.
Any of these activities in my list below could be done as a whole-class activity, with the teacher or a student volunteer doing the speaking, or a pair or small group activity, with students taking turns being the teacher (in some cases you may need to make up envelopes with cards to read). These activities are best for practicing listening or writing skills, but a lot of them could be done as oral exercises as well by eliminating the white boards.
- Say a French phone number, time, or date, and students write it down.
- Read a French word letter by letter and students write it down.
- Play pictionary - one person draws a picture to represent a subject pronoun (I coach them on how to draw these first), and one to represent a verb, and the students write what the sentence is (this can be done orally as well). You can also use hearts or hearts with Xes on them to represent likes and dislikes.
- Charades is often done orally, but if you want to practice writing skills, have the students write their answer on their whiteboards. One person (teacher or student) can act out a pronoun and a verb or a like or dislike and a verb or you could make it more complicated.
- Draw a weather scene or show a picture of a weather scene and students write three statements about the weather/season.
- Write three statements about the weather/season, and students draw a picture of it (30 second drawing limit!)
- Describe a monster by naming off the body parts one by one and having students draw them (they can be funny too like "dessinez une oreille sur le bras!") - I'm pretty sure a colleague tipped me off to that one.
- One of my favorites: Draw a basic family tree on the board with a mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle, and two kids. Leave blanks for all of their names. Write the name on the board of the main person (one of the kids) and have the students copy the tree. Then name off the other members based on their relationship to the main person and have the students fill in the tree. To make it more challenging, name their relationships to each other for some of them. This was an adaptation from a colleague's idea as well.
- Write an answer to a question on the board and have the students write down what they think the question was (sometimes there is more than one possibility).
- Here is one for reviewing the verb "être," that could easily be done on a piece of paper, but since students would just be recycling it right after, the whiteboard saves the paper. Have students make a chart with a list of 5 teacher-provided cities and room to write students' initials. Each student chooses an city to imagine they are traveling to. Students move about the room asking each other if they are in a particular city until they guess it right (e.g. "Tu es à Paris ?" "Non, je ne suis pas à Paris." "Tu es à Dakar ?" "Oui, je suis à Dakar!"), and write the student's initials in the correct column when they guess. Then, when they get back to their seats, have a class discussion having students look at their whiteboards and make observations about who is in what city (e.g. "Marie et moi, nous sommes à Paris" or "Paul et Jean sont à Dakar"). This takes a good amount of class time to explain in French because it is somewhat complicated, but I have found it to be worth it.
While I often employ the above activities for basic recall, I also like activities like the ones below that allow students to get a little creative, which offers potential for differentiated instruction, having students make the task as challenging as they want it to be.
- Show a picture or a group of pictures (e.g., a sun, an ice cream cone, and a girl) and see who can come up with the longest story or description including all the elements of the picture(s) in 1 minute (only has to fill up the whiteboard, so it doesn't need to be long). Students can do this in groups, passing the whiteboard every few words.
- Show a picture on the board and have students write one thing the person or people in the picture are doing and one thing they are not doing (encourage them to make up details to be creative, e.g. "Elle mange une soupe à l'oignon"). They can also share this with a neighbor. This could also be easily done just orally, but it's a good way to practice written conjugation forms without just resorting to sentences with subject and verb.
- Give the students a subject and an infinitive and have them write a sentence that has more to it than just the subject and the verb (e.g. il+parler could be "Il parle avec un ami en classe"). Challenge students to create a long sentence.
- Give the students a start to a sentence and have them finish it (e.g. "Quand il pleut, je..." or "Mes amis et moi, nous ne...") - Another one that could be done orally depending on what your focus is.
- Write an open-ended question on the board and have students write an answer and share it with a partner or a small group (encourage students to write as much as they can). This is good for the day of or after you have introduced a topic before students are ready to speak spontaneously about it. Writing in on the whiteboard gives them a buffer to organize their thoughts.