The photo rally: a French learning challenge!

French Teacher tips | learning French

Planning a photo rally or photo challenge as part of a language stay is a great way to challenge French as a foreign language students! Tested and approved!

Whether it’s in a Paris arrondissement, Nice city centre or Strasbourg, this activity has lots going for it in terms of encouraging oral communication and learning French. 

It’s a fun way to teach French as a foreign language outside the classroom that has won over our team and young travellers for so many reasons: let’s find out more. 

What does a photo rally involve? 

Planning a photo rally or challenge during a language stay doesn’t involve much time or planning. It’s an activity that suits any destination, weather and player numbers. 

The rules

Here’s the idea behind a photo rally: players have a series of questions and puzzles to solve using photos they shoot at locations throughout the city. Once all the photo answers are in, the time taken and number of right answers are taken into account to name the winner. There’s a time limit (1 or 2 hours depending on age and locations) to make sure the rally doesn’t go on forever and students give it their all. 

The challenge is in pairs or teams to make it more fun and encourage oral work. 

Planning the rally

You need to plan a route with puzzles that encourage the players to interact with shop owners, locals and passersby and really engage with their surroundings. 

Here are some sample questions in two different destinations:

  • Paris: This bakery in the Marais won the best baguette in France award. Take a photo of a customer in front of the shop window (it’s a good excuse to sample one of the bakery’s croissants too!).
  • Nice: The Nice Flower Market is famous all over the world. It’s peony season… prove it with the help of a florist!

A photo rally is meant to be fun; you’re not looking for the best shot. Players can use their smartphones as they need a quick and simple way to send photos to whoever’s planned the game. That makes it a challenge just for young learners with some degree of independence and confidence speaking who can get around a city or district, find their way with a map or GPS and have their own phone (at least 1 per team).

The advantages of a photo rally for learning French 

Encourage active language learning

A photo rally can really motivate players as they get stuck into the game and tackle the puzzles and challenges with ease. It’s a fun and exciting way to encourage learners to meet people to ask questions, get information, a story or just a photo. Not only does it boost intercultural interaction and communication, it’s also a great way to improve language skills in terms of expression and oral comprehension. The challenges get students thinking about specific subjects, using themed language and communicating effectively to get the answers they need. Players have to combine words and sometimes idioms with actual images, which helps them associate visuals and memorise language.

Boost team spirit and interpersonal skills

A photo rally plays out in teams of 2 or more to encourage communication, thinking out loud and teamwork! Working out puzzles, getting your bearings, negotiating and making decisions as a team are just some of the situations that improve the students’ interpersonal skills whilst speaking French.

Explore French culture

Players grab their cameras (or smartphones) and scour a district or city for architectural or landscape features and historical or cultural information. If you’re planning a rally, you can base the questionnaire on a specific local theme such as food & drink, modern architecture, landmarks etc. Here are a few examples: Provençal cuisine in Nice, craftsmanship in Lyon or medieval history in Strasbourg. 

Here are a few helpful hints to pull off a photo rally in French

  1. Choose teaching and learning objectives beforehand: a particular vocabulary theme, specific grammar structures or a historical or cultural aspect of the city.
  2. Choose a relevant and interesting subject for the students. Food & drink, nature, architecture, history, arts etc. You could put together a list of vocabulary and idioms for them too.
  3. Draw up a questionnaire (20 questions maximum), test the route and how long it takes beforehand. Make sure there are no niggles, everywhere they need to visit is open etc. Check the route is doable. 
  4. Split the players into teams of at least 2.
  5. Give the route to every team but stagger their start times so you avoid all the students being in the same place and cheating!
  6. Have spare phones or cameras ready in case there aren’t enough or any issues crop up. 
  7. Set a time for them to complete the photo rally to keep up their enthusiasm and energy.
  8. Have a prize for the winners!
  9. Last but not least: host a French lesson devoted to solving puzzles that will help your students memorise vocabulary and boost their cultural knowledge.

Students and teachers alike love a photo rally. It helps them get to know a city or district and interact with locals. It’s not easy to meet locals, especially when you’re learning French. This game encourages students to tackle the challenge and learn through play. This activity doesn’t require much equipment and you can reuse the route you design too! Getting creative, interacting, socialising and learning: a French as a foreign language photo rally ticks every box!

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