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How to Use Stories to Teach French Phonics With Less Stress

Teaching phonics is one of the tricker topics in language development, but it doesn’t have to mean rote memorization. In fact, French Phonics are best taught in more authentic ways, such as through reading. Studies have shown that rote memorization doesn’t teach a student to read and use the word in everyday contexts. Students often forget it after they don’t need it anymore (like after a spelling test).

That being said, you can’t expect students to just magically learn French sounds. Phonics instruction needs to be systemic and explicit, meaning your students know exactly what you’re working on and you have a plan.

I recently did a whole series on learning to read in French. In that series, I covered teaching French syllables. In this blog, I want to talk especially about French phonics and how you can use stories to teach phonics.

Why should you use stories to teach phonics in French?

Learning to read in French isn’t the same as it is in English. We don’t focus on “word families” and spelling trends. Instead, French reading is taught through sound acquisition. That’s why when I’m teaching reading, I always start with the vowel sounds – even before I do consonants. That way, students can start reading simple CV sounds right away. This is key practice in French reading.

Using French phonics-based stories is a great way to allow students to see the target sound in action. Memorizing word lists doesn’t allow students to apply their knowledge. Stories require that students interact with their learning in a meaningful way.

Through stories, you can also practice the phonetic sound in a way that isn’t repetitive. For example, one day you can engage in shared reading and then the next day you can put the story in sequential order (also, I have a blog post on shared reading, if you want more information on this strategy).

Phonics stories to help teachers teach their students how to read in French

How can I use stories to teach French phonics?

I use stories that are meant for teaching phonics, so they are designed to allow you to practice decoding skills and breaking down words into syllables.

I use this set of pocket chart phonics stories during whole-group instruction. This allows everyone in the class to see the story and participate. During the whole group, I model the skill I want students to practice. I also utilize shared reading during this time. There are 57 sound stories that cover a total of 62 sounds. Most stories cover one sound, but a few of them cover 2 sounds due to lack of appropriate words with the target sounds. 

Each day, I switch up the type of instruction. I explicitly model decoding strategies, such as orthographic mapping and syllable segmentation. We practice it as a whole-class, in small-groups and then when they’re ready, students are able to put this into practice independently.

French decodable readers to help french immersion students learn how to read

We also do many activities that “play” with the story. For instance, one day we might read aloud and the next day we will arrange the story in the correct order. Another time, we might talk about the sentence structure. This allows students to practice reading the same sounds and words several times, while also practicing other skills that transfer into writing.

During small group instruction or for independent practice, I use French phonics mini readers. These mini-booklets are the perfect size for each student, and each booklet targets different sounds. You can also send these home for homework.  I love having students read the story and highlight the target sound as they find it.

There are 57 mini-books in total, covering 62 different sounds. It includes a full page version, which can be used as the teacher book, and the mini-readers, which are printed on half a page (to save you paper).

Free french reading lessons that are based on phonics and the science of reading

If you want to try out some French phonics lessons, I have a free resource that includes five lesson plans, 4 resources and much more (It’s over 70 pages!) You can download that freebie here.

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