Differentiating Passé Composé and Imparfait: A Multimedia Adventure

The imperfect tense is often a difficult concept for grade ten core French (FSF2D) students to understand. In particular, many students have trouble determining when to use the compound past tense (le passé composé) and when to use the imperfect tense (l’imparfait). This video explores the main distinctions between these two verb tenses (occasional vs. habitual actions, complete vs. incomplete actions, and background vs. interruption actions) with a variety of audio/text descriptions and visual aids. Sample sentences are acted out in humorous skit form while a narrator explains which verb tense is used in each context. The video features a brief quiz that teachers can use to assess the students’ comprehension of the material. (Teachers may wish to pause the video after each question to discuss the answers with the class.) Finally, the video concludes with a song written to the tune of Tubthumping (by the one-hit wonder Chumbawamba) that serves to help students remember the method for conjugating verbs in the imperfect tense.


Teacher Candidates: Krystal Bertrand, Nick Cruise, Sabrina Napoli, Courtney Scratch

Course: FSF2D

Content Area: French Studies

Date: November 18th, 2014

Duration: 75 minutes

Lesson Topic: Differentiating between passé composé and imparfait


-Recognize and use appropriate language structures by use of the imparfait and the passé composé to describe events in the past (e.g., Il faisait beau hier quand mon amie est venue me rendre visite.)

-Use graphic organizers to show meaning and understanding in the area learned.

-Extract the main ideas and supporting details from a variety of media works and discuss their interpretations.



  • The students will be prepared to learn the new material and will be ready to participate in the instructional activities and games with enthusiasm.


  • By the end of the lesson, students will understand the main uses of the imperfect tense in French.
  • The students will know the method for conjugating regular and irregular verbs in the imperfect tense. They will be able to list the endings for the verbs (ais, ais, ait, ions, iez, aient).


  • The students will be able to conjugate verbs in the imperfect tense with confidence.
  • Students will be able to recognize the differences between the compound past tense (le passé composé) and the imperfect tense (l’imparfait)


  • handouts featuring written conjugation exercises
  • overhead notes regarding the two verb tenses
  • multimodal learning tool (instructional video)
  • graphic organizer handouts
  • flashcard game


Development strategies

(5 minutes) Introductory Activity:

Hook: The students will be asked to describe in French what they did over the weekend. During the questionnaire/class discussion, the students will be engaging past tense (passé composé). The hook discussions will segue into the mini lesson on l’imparfait.

(15 minutes) Mini lesson reviewing the conjugations of passé composé and introducing l’imparfait:

With the help of an overhead note, a mini lesson reviewing the passé composé will be conducted. The students must recall that passé composé is created using ‘le sujet,’ ‘l’auxiliaire’ and ‘le participe passé.’ L’imparfait will be introduced as an alternative form of the past tense. A fill-in-the-blank worksheet will be incorporated during the mini lesson.

(15 minutes) Multimodal tool:

A video will be played in class differentiating le passé composé and l’imparfait. The video will contain a visual lesson, an interactive quiz, and a final parody song in order to further the students’ comprehension of l’imparfait. The quiz can be paused after each question to allow the teacher to discuss the answers with the class.

(10 minutes) Overhead on concepts:

The students will copy an overhead note highlighting the different uses of l’imparfait.

(5 minutes) Concept circles:

The students will complete two graphic organizers highlighting the difference between le passé composé and l’imparfait. The first graphic organizer will incorporate the circumstances in which l’imparfait is used rather than passé composé or vice versa. The students will shade in the section that doesn’t belong in the circle.

(10 minutes) Word sort web:

The students will be provided a web (a print handout containing a graphic organizer) with a list of key words pertaining to either le passé composé or l’imparfait. Using the word bank, the students must write the words that correspond with each verb tense web.

(15 minutes) Flashcard game:

In order to review the conjugations of l’imparfait, the students will play a flashcard game. Each of the flashcards will have a letter of the alphabet on one side and a list of verbs starting with that particular letter on the other side (eg. Tenir, Tomber, Téléphoner). The students will choose a flashcard with a particular letter of the alphabet. Once the student has chosen a letter, he/she will pick among the verbs on the back to conjugate using l’imparfait. The teacher will pick ‘le sujet’ with which the student will have to conjugate the verb.


  • I. imparfait conjugation worksheet (fill-in-the-blank exercise)
  • II. overhead note containing a review of le passé compose and a summary of l’imparfait
  • III. graphic organizer activities with answer keys (word sort web and concept circle handouts)

Praxis Paper – Connecting Theory to Practice

This teaching tool consists of an instructional video that can be used to introduce the concept of the French imperfect tense (l’imparfait) to grade 10 academic core French students. This video features a brief lesson outlining the main differences between the imperfect tense and the compound past tense (le passé composé), complete with sample sentences acted out in short skits. The instructional portion of the video is followed by an interactive quiz segment. The video ends with a music video accompanying a song with lyrics designed to help students recall the method for conjugating verbs in the imperfect tense. The main purpose of this tool is to combine several different teaching strategies to help students to create schemata (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz, 2014, p. 22) that they can use to analyze and apply the imperfect tense in writing and speech.

This video is designed to accommodate multiple learning preferences. Firstly, the short performances help to provide visual demonstrations of the sample sentences. Secondly, the use of vocal narration completes the explanations of the concepts, and the use of a song can assist students with memorization. (The repetitive lyrics can help reinforce the material.) Finally, the addition of the embedded text in the video can facilitate comprehension for those who learn by reading. Additionally, it can help students follow along with the virtual lesson; seeing the written text and hearing the audio component simultaneously can make the material easier to understand. By applying differentiated instruction techniques (p. 11), an educator can create an inclusive learning space for his or her students by making the academic subject matter more accessible to all learners.

The style of the video itself is also useful for keeping students engaged in the material. The example sentences contribute to miniature storylines, which can give students a logical progression to follow. Associating the concepts with real-world examples helps to make the content more relatable, and the use of analogies allows students to connect the material to their prior knowledge (p. 202). Additionally, the aspect of humor can help to attract and hold the students’ attention, and the interactive quiz serves to keep students actively involved in the lesson. The students can use the quiz segment to test their own comprehension of the subject matter, and the teacher can use it as a diagnostic tool to assess the effectiveness and reception of the lesson. The video is designed for inclusion, collaborative learning, and maximum engagement.

This tool is most effective when used in conjunction with learning activities such as the worksheets that have been provided in the appendices; the graphic organizer activities are designed to reinforce and extend the knowledge of the vocabulary and concepts associated with the use of the imperfect tense (p. 259).  The various learning strategies used in this video serve to connect the material to concepts that the students recognize and understand.  


Vacca, L., Vacca, T., & Mraz, M. (2014). Content area reading : literacy and learning across the curriculum (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Praxis – Connecting Theory to Practice

Lesson Plan – L’imparfait vs. passé composé

Appendix I – Conjugation Worksheet

Appendix II – Overhead Notes

Appendix III – Graphic Organizers (answer key)

Appendix III – Graphic Organizers