Le passé composé is one of my favourite French lessons to teach. Although there is a lot to cover, pupils are suddenly not limited to the present tense. It greatly expands the topics we can discuss with our students. I notice a certain sense of relief as kids get more comfortable discussing what they did last night, over the weekend, or over the previous school break.
Although it’s not always the simplest idea to convey, it can be a lot of fun with the proper attitude and the correct activities! These pointers will help you teach the passé composé.
Apply your prior language skills
Make sure students understand what the past tense in English means even if you aren’t teaching French immersion. If they can memorise which verbs go with avoir and which with être, that would be fantastic. All the memorization in the world won’t help them understand what they are saying, though, if they don’t actually understand what they are saying. Don’t assume they are familiar with grammar in English!
If they can memorise which verbs go with avoir and which with être, that would be fantastic. All the memorization in the world won’t help them understand what they are saying, though, if they don’t actually understand what they are saying. Don’t assume they are familiar with grammar in English!
If you are teaching immersion, your students have already heard you and other teachers use the passé composé and the imparfait together. As you deliver the verbs, make use of this understanding. Before giving direct instructions, you can provide a paragraph in both tenses and emphasise the passé composé. The fact that it is already well-known will help pupils feel more at ease with its grammatical aspects.
A step by step plan to teach passé composé
First of all, i do teach the past tense only with avoir and regular verbs.
I have two games both in the format BOOM CARDS or GOOGLE SLIDES. They are all provided with explanation and recap before practising.
Next, teach the passé composé of the auxiliary être and avoir
Then I move on to the irregular verbs with the most common and used one, such as lire, voir, ouvrir, faire, etc….
My third step is to make my students aware that the passé composé can also be used with être. I do use this third game. They do not have to make agreement yet, but just be aware of which verbs work with être.
Then the last step and the most complicate in the passé composé, is the agreement with feminine and plural. I then use this game to practise. First they choose the right answer, secondly they will type the right passé composé form.
Then I keep practising with my students using this game too. That allows to revise the auxilaries, which verbs need être or avoir, how to make the right agreement on the past participle.
Printables to consolidate the passé composé
You can also use a paper version to balance your teaching. They are also scaffolded so you can recap my step my step method.
Passé composé or past participle?
Once theyr are fully confident with the passé composé, then you can teach the difference between é or er, which is a common mistake with students. This game has a self-explanation with a self-checking quiz.
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