Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Question Words and Movie Summaries

German 2 always starts with a full first quarter review before moving on to German 2 material.  I break it into three main grammar review topics: Nouns and Cases; Verbs; and Question Words.  We're currently finishing up our Question Words review, and here's a fun activity that we did combining the question words and popular movies.

First I asked the students to pick a movie they all knew.  We finally settled on "Die Unglaublichen" (it's one of the DVDs I have that students sometimes get to watch).  I then put up question word signs - courtesy of German Language Resources on TPT.  Students had to summarize the movie based on the question word prompts.

The question words we used were:
- WER?  Who are the main characters?
- WANN?  When does the movie take place?
- WO?  Where does it take place?
- WAS?  What happens in the movie?  (Vocab was limited and we haven't done the the past tense - we ended up sticking to the main actions that occurred)
- WIE?  Who did those actions happen?  (For example, they said there was fighting... were they fighting with their hands or with weapons?  They said there was flying... how did this flying occur?)
- WARUM?  Why do the main actions take place?  What are the motivations of the main characters?

Here's what they came up with:

Student analysis of the movie - I basically just wrote what they came up with and helped guide them through the process.  Sorry for any spelling mistakes (there are undoubtedly several!)

I then had students work with their groups on analyzing and summarizing another movie.  I didn't want to deal with students fighting over their favorite movies, so I had cards made up that groups randomly selected.  I had more cards than groups, just in case a group picked a movie they hadn't seen before.

Here were the possible movies:
- Lord of the Rings
- Star Wars (original trilogy, obviously)
- Lion King
- Aladdin
- Frozen
- Harry Potter (just had them pick one)
- Hunger Games
- Iron Man
- The Dark Knight
- The Avengers

Students then answered the six same questions we had gone over as a class.  You can see from the examples below that some groups put more effort into giving details about their movie.

After groups had finished their summaries, they had to present the information to the class.  The class then decided if they had accurately described the movie or if they had left out important details.  Lord of the Rings fans were, for example, not happy with most of the Fellowship being left out of the "Wer?" category.

I got this idea from Frau Gorgan's activity (as found on Pinterest), though obviously I chose a different topic.  Although we focused on movies, this could easily be done with books, short stories or TV shows (though summaries of TV shows might be more difficult).  It was a fun and different way for us to approach reviewing these question words besides doing another worksheet.

- Frau Leonard

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Learning through Play Dough

Our department head this year bought packs and packs of play dough for us to use this year.  As I took my share, I was thinking, "Man, this is great!  But how am I going to incorporate this stuff into instruction?"

I actually started using it this week with my Latin classes, but the activities could easily be done with any other language.  Here are the two activities students did with play dough.  Spoiler: they loved it!

Activity One: What's this mean?
This is a great (and fun) way to quickly check reading comprehension.  With my Latin students, they had put together a bunch of sentences - at the time, the sentences just needed to make sense grammatically.  Once they had put them together, I gave them some play dough and said they needed to pick two of them and visually represent them.  This became a way for me to check if they could decode the meaning of the sentences - did they really understand what the sentences meant, or were they just following patterns of Nominative - Verb - Direct Object.

I think this would work really well with short stories.  To show they understood the story, groups would have to pick the main scenes in the story and then construct them out of play dough.  Usually this is something I'd do with a comic strip, but this is definitely a variable alternative!

Activity Two: Depict Your Favorite Scene
Students creating the Trojan Horse
When you're doing a movie, story, listening, etc. (basically anything that involves a narrative), this is a good closing activity.  Students pick their favorite scene from the story and depict it using play dough.  They then have to explain both the scene and why it's their favorite.

Now at the higher levels, you might want to change the question from, "What's your favorite scene?" to something like, "What scene best showed the contention between the family members?"  At the end, they will still have to explain the scene and why the picked it - but this time you can add in a discussion about scenes the other groups chose.

I did this with my Latin students.  We had just talked about the Trojan War and Aeneas, so I asked them to draw their favorite scenes.  I got a lot of Trojan horses.

Dido committing suicide
I'm sure there are loads of other ways I could incorporate play dough into instruction (if students write their own stories, if students make scenes and then other groups have to describe them, etc.), but so far I only have these two under my belt.

I only have about ten small containers of play dough, but luckily this seems to work really well with groups.  Actually constructing the scenes would take too long for an individual student to do, so they divide up the work among group members.  It's great as a motivation - "If we can get through this reading, we'll be using the play dough."  I've also found that the students really enjoy playing with play dough.  It's great for tactile learners and for everyone else it's just plain old fun :)

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Was ist in der Tasche - Student Vocab Help

I've previously written about the activity Was ist in der Tasche?  It's a good, quick game to introduce or practice a vocab/cultural topic.  But because of the vocabulary involved in being able to ask helpful questions, it's something I haven't done much with German 1.  This year, I wanted to fix that and bring this activity down to the lower levels!

Each student got an index card.  I had them write "Was ist in der Tasche?" at the top.  First I explained the activity to them.  There was a bag ready to go, but before we started the actual 20 Questions we needed to come up with a process for not just asking random questions, but asking good questions.

Since they're limited to 20 questions total, I asked students if they thought it was a good idea to start specific.  Should they be asking things like, "Is it a cat?" and "Is it a pencil?"  The class agreed that wasn't a good strategy.  As a class, I had them brainstorm different categories and qualities they could ask about to narrow down the topic as much as possible before getting specific.  I then helped them with vocabulary and structures (as necessary).

Here are the topics they came up with (questions in English to open this up to other language teachers!):

Sample of student card
  • Size:  Is it big/small/long/short?
  • Texture:   Is it hard/soft/smooth/rough?
  • Shape:  Is it round/a circle/a square/etc.?
  • Color:   Is it blue/green/etc.?
  • Location:  Can you find it in a classroom/at home/in nature/etc.?
  • Living:   Is it an animal/object?
  • Activities:  Can you eat it/throw it/carry it/etc.?

Again, these questions and categories were based on what the students thought would be helpful.  As I wrote their topics and questions on the board, students were writing the sample questions on their index card.  I told them to put the card in their vocab notebook and hold onto it for the next time we did the activity.

To see if their questions were good, we did two rounds of "Was ist in der Tasche?"  For the first round, there was an apple.  We haven't done food yet, but the word Apfel has come up multiple times with our cognate exercises.  The next round had a frog in the bag.  We also haven't learned very many animals, but my animal posters made it something they could figure out (especially once they found out it was a green, living creature you would find in nature).

For both rounds, students were able to figure out what it was within 10 questions.  At the end, I asked if there were any other questions they felt needed to be added based on actually going through the activity.

I think the cards will really help them ask better questions - too often the students get stuck, completely unsure what to ask about (especially the first few times they do the activity).  We'll see how it goes!

- Frau Leonard

Friday, October 3, 2014

Group Seating

I tend to do a lot of partner and group activities in my teaching.  Over the summer, it occurred to me that my seating arrangement - one I've been using for years - want actually conducive for all this group work.  I had rows that were okay for partner work but that group work a nightmare... I was constantly having to come around and let kids know what their groups were.

So I rearranged my layout from several rows to eight tables.  Each group can seat 3-5 students (of class size allows it, I try to do 4 person groups).  At first I thought it would take up too much room, but I think there's actually a better flow now:

Let me just say that group work is SO much easier now!  They know who's in their group, and at most I'll have to move one or two students to even things out.  Dividing the class in half for team games is also super easy... there's an obvious division between left vs right side of the room.  It's even easier to find partners - I just tell them to work the person who's sitting in front of or next to them.  Not to mention making group copies is easier.  I don't need to guess how many groups I'm going to make in a class since I already know how many tables are occupied.

Because we're also doing interactive notebooks this year, I provided each group with a box.  The boxes stay at their tables - this has saved a lot of time and makes clean up easier.  Each box includes markers (one of each color), glue, scissors and a highlighter.  I don't have to waste time explaining to students where the materials are or passing them out/recollecting them - everything they need on a regular basis is right in front of them!

I also numbered each group.  This year I've started doing in class group practice for grammar and some other skills.  Students complete a worksheet as a group... and when they turn it in, all they need to do is put their group number!  Group numbers are on their supply boxes, making it easy for students to remember.  

These signs are also handy for when groups need to write on the board.  I can just put their corresponding number on their space on the board, and students will know exactly where to write.  I can even use these to randomly call on groups to answer questions or assign sections of a reading.  

So far I really like the new layout.  It's made things so much easier for me, and I think it's been helpful for students.  There was a bit of an adjustment for students who had me last year - I keep telling them that I put them in groups for a reason, they can work together!  Definitely would recommend a similar layout if you like group activities and games :)

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SLOs for the New School Year

I'm not sure how many teachers out there are dealing with SLO's (Student Learning Objectives) at the moment, but since it's something I've been working on lately I thought I'd share.

Our county asks us World Language Teachers to come up with two SLOs - one for Content (Presentational Writing/Speaking, Interpersonal Writing/Speaking, Listening, etc.) and one for Literacy (Explanatory, Argumentative or Summary Writing).  We pick one class to collect data for, gathering a baseline score at the beginning of the year and then at least two more times to measure student growth.  Obviously the goal is for students to improve or to at least maintain the level they scored on the baseline assessment.

Last year I focused on my AP students, but this year I'm working on my German 2 class.  They're a weaker class in part because last year they were on an A Day/B Day schedule (I only saw them once every other day).  I'm also worried because they are on that same rotating schedule this year.  By the end of this year, I will have spent less time with them than with any other German 2 class I've taught.  Part of my goal with these SLOs is to help them improve to where they need to be by doing periodic checks and by showing them this data.

Here's a look at my two SLOs for the year and the baseline assessment for each.

For the baselines, I didn't give students a grade for them.  You'll notice that the rubrics are holistic and not analytic - it's a way for me to give them feedback in specific, targeted areas without them feeling the pressure of a grade.  I might decide to use an analytic version for their later assessments, but that's something to think about later on.

Content: Presentational Speaking
I know these students are weak when it comes to speaking, so I really want to emphasis it this year.  We're slowly transitioning into them speaking more German in class (German 2 currently has an extensive grammar review unit built into the beginning of the school year), and the baseline assessment seemed like a good way to show my expectations for more speaking.

For the baseline assessment, I started by having five objects in a bag (pig, apple, socks, calculator and a ball).  We played Was ist in der Tasche? until students were able to guess all the items.  Once we had them all, I asked students to tell me why they thought I had each item - what could I possibly do with these things I was carrying around in a bag?  (Yes, they said I was going to eat the pig.)

After we'd done this introductory activity, I gave students their prompt:  I was going to give them a bag and they had to identify the items in it and explain why they had them.  I told them to tell me as much as they could about the items in their bag, which contained a cat, a water bottle, a highlighter, an agenda book, and a scarf.

Our department has a set of digital recorders that we share for speaking activities.  I had students go out in the hallway to record their responses one at a time while the rest of the class did some review activities.

If you'd like to see the Level 2 rubric the HCPSS World Language Department has provided us, please click here.  The rubric is great - it's easy for the kids to see what they need to do and the level they're trying to achieve.  And it's based off the ACTFL Can-Do Statements... when these kids get to German 3/4, they'll be familiar with the phrasing which will hopefully help them learn to better rate themselves.

Here are some other activities you can use to evaluate Presentational Speaking:
One thing that they've been emphasizing is not to make your prompt too specific.  Don't limit them by saying, "You must say six sentences.  You must use three different verbs.  You must use twenty different vocabulary words from the vocab list."  Give them some freedom - just tell them to give you as much as they can (maybe within a time limit).  Weaker students will place on the lower end of the spectrum, but this will give stronger students a chance to give you more and truly show you their capabilities.

Literacy: Summary Writing
While we do other types of writing, the idea of doing 3-4 argumentative writing assignments throughout the year seemed a bit much.  I decided to go with Summary Writing because it seemed the easiest to incorporate multiple times throughout the year.

For our baseline assessment, I showed students the video below.  The prompt was: Create a timeline of events that took place in the video (Yes!  I had them draw out a line, label the left side "Anfang" and the right side "Ende").  Be sure to include the beginning and end, as well as details in between.  Tell me as much as you can about what happens.

We first viewed the video once.  The second time through, I told students they could take notes if they needed to (I didn't want any distractions the first viewing, so I made them hold off on notes).  Then students had time to complete the prompt.

I think this was a great video for a German 2 class.  There will be words they don't necessarily know (leise, rufen, etc.) and tenses they haven't formally learned (Present Perfect Tense), but the visuals help and the speaking isn't too fast (and it's fun!).

And this is a great way to practice circumloqution.  I maybe don't know how to say "rufen," but I can describe what they're doing as "singen."  I might not pick up the word "leise" but I might be able to figure out that Bert wasn't "laut" enough.  I don't know how to say shark, but I can say "gross Fisch."
It's perfect for giving students the chance to show what they can do - I got everything from 1-2 word phrases from some students to students who were able to give lots of details in complete sentences with a variety of vocabulary.

Here are some other activities you can use to evaluate Summary Writing:

If you'd like to see the Level 2 rubric the HCPSS World Language Department has provided us, please click here.

I'm looking forward to seeing my students improve over the course of the year!  I'm already thinking about what to do for their next assessment ;)

- Frau Leonard

Credit where credit is due - the amazing rubrics I'm using for my SLOs were provided to us by our World Languages Coordinator in Howard County, Leslie Grahn, and World Languages Resource Teacher, Jen Cornell.  She is an amazing educator and does a lot to support us.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Daily Drills with Kahoot

From the first day in my class on, my students are trained to know that they have a drill at the start of class.  Whatever it is will be up on the board - worksheet, textbook exercise, speaking topic, whatever.  This year, I've started using Kahoot.

Kahoot is basically a site that allowed you to create online quizzes and surveys.  Students then log in to your activity using their phones and go through the activity.  The questions are all multiple choice, so even students who struggle will be able to come up with an answer.

I usually do 10-15 question quizzes related to something we've been practicing recently.  Here's a Regular Tense quiz for German verbs and here's identifying Latin Cases, just so you can get an idea of how you could use this resource.  Make sure you select "randomize answers" before you launch the quiz though!

I'm going to walk you through the process of using Kahoot with your students.  Screen shots come from the Regular Tense quiz linked above.

Step One: Students Sign In
Once you've launched the quiz, have this screen showing up front.  All the directions students need are there - how to sign in and their game pin.

Left side is what you'll see on your computer, to the right is what students see on their phone

What's great about Kahoot is that unlike Poll Everywhere, students don't need to text in their answers (I don't want them to have to worry about fees!).  And unlike ExitTicket, they don't need to sign up for an account (I hate making kids download a bunch of apps, sign up for a bunch of different accounts, and give them just another thing to remember).  Students just need a phone, tablet or computer with an internet connection - when they "log in" to your quiz, they put in a nickname.  No accounts required!

Kahoot displays how many kids have signed in and what their nicknames are
If students don't have their phone with them (or it's not charged or whatever), you can have them pair up with some one sitting next to them.  That way no one feels put on the spot if they don't have a smart phone or if their parents won't let them bring it to school.

Usually I come around to check homework as students work on their drill.  I can still do this with Kahoot - I give students time to sign in (which can take a couple minutes if students have to turn on phones, find a partner, etc).  They know that when I'm done the homework check, it's time to get started.

Step Two: Students Take The Quiz
Questions appear on the screen one at a time.  The question is displayed for a few seconds before the answers are shown.  Students then have 30 seconds to pick what they think the answer is (or more or less time... you can set it when you create your quiz).  Students get points for answering correctly... and for how quickly they answered.

Question appears first

Answer choices appear - students have 30 seconds to answer

Step Three: Let Them Compete!
After each question, Kahoot lets them see where they place in terms of the rest of the class.  They'll see if they're in 1st or 7th or 20th place, and they'll see how many students got the question right (or wrong).  Students won't have to worry about being called out for being wrong... Kahoot will only show the number of students who guessed each answer, but never who answered what.

You should see how competitive they get!  For the more advanced students in the class, it's a competition to get first.  For the students who struggle more, it's a competition to not be last or to get at least two or three right.

After each question, Kahoot also displays the top five students.  This can change dramatically from question to question, depending on their speed and if they get something wrong.  Students love seeing their name up there!  Since I use stickers as an incentive, I give stickers to the top three students at the end of the quiz.

We've done I think three of these in my Latin 1 class and they love it!  They ask all the time if they can do Kahoot.  It's not something I want to do all the time, but it seems like it could be a fun way of rewarding a hard working class.

This is a really easy way to get students energized about class while still practicing content.  They get instantaneous feedback, and let's face it - any chance to use their phone in class is something they're going to jump at.  I *highly* recommend this website.  I think after you've tried it once, you'll love it!

- Frau Leonard

Friday, September 12, 2014

Questions in an Envelope

Here's another activity/technique I got from the World Language Academy I attended this summer!  I already used it with my combined German 3/4 class and it worked out really well!  Check out Slide 152 from the Power Point Presentation.

If you're doing a communicative activity with partners or small groups, Questions in an Envelope is a way for you to help scaffold the activity for students who need a bit of extra help.  Basically, you give students a topic to discuss.  That's it... just a topic.  No questions to go through, just enough of a prompt to give them idea of what to talk about.

Now, obviously this is more of a challenge for some students than others.  That's where the envelopes come in.  As students are talking, if they get stuck (they go about 10 seconds without thinking of something new to say about the topic), they can open the envelope.  Inside are strips of paper.  Each strip of paper has a question related to the topic.  When they pull out a strip, students now have a new way of discussing the main topic.

If students get stuck again, they can pull out another strip and another.  After time is called, students count how many strips they pulled out.  They put everything back in the envelope, switch partners and discuss the same question again.  Their goal is to try to have fewer pauses in their conversation and pull fewer questions out of the envelope each round they go through.  And if students did pull out questions in their earlier envelopes, they'll probably still be in mind as they go through their second or third discussion.

Here's the example topic and envelope questions from the Power Point mentioned above:

The activity I created for my German 3/4 class was a get-to-know you interview.  This was a mixed class that had two groups that had never previously interacted as well as a few transfer students who were new to the school.  Since they'll be working together all year, I wanted them to meet and be forced to interact right from the beginning.  

I had students have a conversation with their partner.  Anything they wanted to talk about, they could.  The only rule was that they had to speak for a full 2 minutes.  I explained the envelopes and gave each group one.  After time was up, students moved on to another partner and repeated the process with someone new.

With each partner, however, I upped the amount of time they had to speak.  The first partner really was just a warm up, and as they got more comfortable (and possibly were exposed to more and more questions from the envelopes) I pushed them to speak more.
First Partner = 2 Minutes
Second Partner = 3 Minutes
Third Partner = 3 1/2 Minutes
Fourth Partner = 4 Minutes

To make sure they were actually paying attention to what their partners said, students had to keep notes.  After each round of interviews, they had to write down the most interesting thing they *learned* about their partner (this way if students ended up with someone they already knew, they'd have to try and find out something new).  

I may not have needed to do this last part, but I had three different envelopes.  Each envelope was a different color and had five different questions.  They circulated around the groups so that a variety of questions were available to the class.  If you're interested in the questions I used for this activity, click here.

I'm really excited to try this activity out with some of my lower levels.  It's scaffolded enough that even weaker students and students with less vocabulary/language background can still have 2 minute conversations with each other.  Working this in early in level one will hopefully build speaking confidence as they progress to upper levels.

- Frau Leonard