Teaching Core French à la carte

One of the things Core French teachers in Ontario often have to think about is whether their position will require them to teach French on a cart or if they will have their own classroom.

Due to COVID this year, most Core French teachers are having to teach à la carte for multiple reasons.

Lucky for me, this won’t be my first year teaching à la carte.

The first time I taught à la carte was back in 2019 when I was very pregnant. Although we had a staff of 6 French teachers in the school, somehow I was the only one left without a classroom. So, I had to learn everything I could about navigating a mobile classroom. And truthfully, I didn’t have very much help.

Today I’d like to share some tips and tricks to help you if you find yourself in the same boat. I don’t want you to feel like you’re starting from scratch, with 0 help.

Now if you teach five classes in a day, and your office is in another corner of the building, or your classes are on a different floor, this can get challenging in so many ways.

So how can you prepare yourself to face those challenges?

Read below for seven tips and at the end I’ll share a handy little freebie with you!

Here are my 7 tips:

Familiarize yourself with the classrooms you will be teaching in.

1. Familiarize yourself with the classrooms you will be teaching in.

Once you know which classrooms you will be teaching in, it is important to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the space.

Take a look at the way the teacher has set up the room. Decide if you will want a seating plan or if you will want students to stay in their previously assigned/selected seats.

Look for the tech in the room. Where are the spare chrome books located? Where is the remote for the projector? Where is the document camera? Which computer is connected to the projector and document camera? How do you switch from one source on the computer screen, to another? And so on.

There are so many things to consider when entering a new space. So test things out, look around, figure out how you will make this space work for your French class.

Here is a list of some things to look for:

  • Tech available in the classroom
  • Student seating
  • Shelving available to you
  • Wall space devoted for French class
  • A chair for you

More on this list to come below.

Get yourself some space in the classroom.

2. Get yourself some space in the classroom.

I typically ask my students to leave their French cahiers or duotangs in my classroom so that they don’t come to class the following day, having forgotten their books. It also helps with classroom management when students are able to distribute cahiers even before I arrive. If you like doing the same, then you want to be able to leave student cahiers or student work in the classroom. You also don’t want to lug everything around for each class.

So, make sure you ask for a shelf or some space where students can store their French things. You may also want to bring in some dictionaries or other resources that are to be left in the room, and you need a bin on the shelf, or a whole shelf, devoted just for you.

You may also need to count the number of chairs in the room. Although homeroom teachers often leave the room while it’s time for French class, not all teachers do, and not all the time. I can’t tell you how many times it happened to me, when I was nine months pregnant and I went into a class to teach and the teacher decided to remain at her desk working through the period, and there was not a single extra chair in the room for me to sit at.

Make sure you ask for the space and the seating. Believe it or not, the home room teacher will most likely not have thought about leaving some space for you, on their own.

Then, you want to make sure that the teacher leaves some of his/her decor space or part of a bulletin board for you too. It is so important for our students to see French on the walls in their classroom. You can use this space as a word wall, or you can use this space to hang up student work. You can do so much with it. But try and get some space for you to display your French content in the room.

Here is a list of some things I like to leave behind in the classroom:

  • Student cahiers or duotangs
  • Ongoing student work
  • 4-5 copies of French-English dictionaries
  • 4-5 copies of other reference material
Pick your cart

3. Pick your “cart”.

When you are teaching French on a cart for the first time, there is so much you need to decide. You need to figure out what kind of cart or bag you will be using to go around the school. You will need to figure out what resources you will need to carry along, and so on and so forth.

This all requires a lot of thought, planning and preparation. Make sure you choose your materials wisely. And if you’re unsure, then just start somewhere. Worst case scenario, you will have to readjust some things and make some changes later.

When I started teaching à la carte, I knew I was going to be going up and down the building. I was not just on one floor. I also knew that I was very pregnant and pushing a big cart around the really large school that I teach in, was not ideal for me. It would have been quite challenging to push a large cart through the hallways with 600-800 students also shuffling rooms between classes. So I decided to go with a foldable, portable, 2-wheel rolling crate.

You could go with something similar for your classroom. Or, you could choose to use a larger utility cart, with multiple levels and put some bins onto it, for some organized storage space. Alternatively, you could carry a bag with all your contents neatly organized inside. You have so many options, the choice is yours.

One thing to keep in mind is tech. If you will be carrying around your own projector and Chromebook, you definitely need a multi layered utility cart so you can carry around these devices. I used to share my tech devices with the homeroom teachers so I didn’t even have to consider a large cart.

Here are some common options for choosing a cart:

  • Multi-tiered cart
  • Multi-tiered cart with a built-in whiteboard
  • Portable, rolling crate
  • Bag


4. Take along the essentials.

Apart from your cart, you will also need to plan to carry around pens, pencils (and carry some spares for your students who may need one), erasers, paper clips, whiteboard markers, chalk, lined paper, blank paper, and maybe some construction paper too.

Finally, don’t forget that caring for yourself is super important. Take along some personal care items such as a water bottle, some moisturizing lotion, some lip balm, etc. And due to COVID, you will also want to pack along some extra masks and some sanitizer as well.

Here are some items I always take with me:

  • My cart
  • My planner
  • A binder for each class that I will be teaching during the block (morning/afternoon).
  • A pencil case with pens, pencils, whiteboard marks, chalk, highlighters, etc.
  • Extra paper supplies: lined paper and some blank paper.
  • Pencil crayons, markers, etc., when needed.
  • Personal care items including a water bottle, a small snack, some lip gloss, some lotion, and some bandages. This year I will be adding hand sanitizer, spare masks, and my goggles and face shield to this list.
  • Duty vest, if it will be needed during that block.

Be prepared and organized

5. Be prepared and organized.

One of the most important tips I could give you is to be prepared and to be organized.

In the first few weeks of teaching à la carte you will definitely come across that moment when you’re busy teaching in one of your classrooms and you realize you left something you needed in your office.

How best to avoid this happening? Being prepared in advance and being organized.

I used to like to have all my photocopying done one week ahead of schedule. I used to create a list of items I would need for every lesson. And on a sticky note on my wall by my desk, I had a list of things that always had to be in my cart. So if I ever was in a rush, just check the list and run.

Being organized, in a system that works for you, is super important. When you get to class, you don’t have time to scramble to find items. Having them neatly arranged in your cart will help you save time and stress later.

Also, let’s stop to think about our digital resources. Make sure your folders are organized in a manner that enables you to quickly locate your digital files when you get to class. You don’t want to waste any time searching for your files.

Here are some ways I stay organized while teaching à la carte:

  • Have a binder or file folder for each class you teach
  • Inside each binder, ensure you have updated class lists
  • Having your schedule for the day is also handy
  • Make sure to have photocopies of activities ready-to-go, for at least the next two classes. You never know when that day will come when you’re running a bit late and don’t have time to add today’s lessons to the binder.
  • Keep some copies of activities that can be used for early finishers
  • At the back of each binder, have a section that includes, ready-to-go emergency supply plans for that class
  • Make sure your red emergency folder is easily accessible.
  • Store your stationary and your personal items in cases or containers, so they are not rolling around in your cart.

Be able to wing it

6. Be able to wing it.

Remember those moments I just mentioned where you will mistakenly leave something you need behind in your office? You won’t always be able to get it, or ask someone to get it for you.

So you need to be prepared to be able to wing it, or to come up with something on the spot. I would recommend that you come up with a few ideas for backup lessons now, for when you don’t have the required materials for the lesson of the day.

Digital resources are often the easiest way to go, if you have some devices in the room. Here are a few resources I always keep prepped and ready to go, for when I need to wing it:

French Numbers - Crack the Code Activity
Les prépositions Pixel Art

And when nothing is ready or available, consider playing some fun French games or watching some French videos and having a conversation about what you’ve learned. Being able to wing it, is super important.

Move your French cart

7. Move your cart before the bell.

You should aim to have your French class completely wound up by at least 5 minutes before the bell. You don’t want to be scrambling to get going once the bell rings.

Another handy trick I learned with experience, was getting my students to help me pull my cart to the next classroom, before the bell.

Because I teach in a very large middle school, once the bell goes, there are too many bodies in the hallway, and pushing or pulling a cart around makes it a challenge to get to the next class on time.

Then again, being in a middle school means I am lucky because I can get my students to help me move my cart from one classroom to another.

So when students are packed up, five minutes before the bell, I have one student move my cart for me into the next classroom while the rest of the class and I engage in some fun review games, or spend some time chatting.

And that’s it! Those are my seven tips for you.

Thank you for reading along this far.

I hope this post has been helpful for you.

I’m sure there’s more that I could say about teaching à la carte and you may still have questions. I’m going to end it here though, letting you know that you are welcome to post a question in the comments section and I’d be glad to answer, though I may not be an expert.

Lastly, I’d say, try and keep a positive mind about teaching in an unideal situation. Teaching à la carte is often something we dread as French teachers, but from experience, I can tell you, it is not all that bad. It just takes some getting used to, and once we have some practices and procedures in place, things settle into a good routine.

**Click the image below to download your freebie.**

Teaching French on a Cart Freebie