Friday, March 13, 2015

Berlin Airlift Activity

This week our school had a World Language Fair in the evening.  Each of the languages at our school - French, German, Latin and Spanish - had students create displays and activities related to the language and culture that they're learning about.

One of the activities we did in the German area related to the Berlin Airlift.  The premise of the game was that students were trying to fly supplies into Berlin during the blockade.  We had a model Berlin set up and students made paper airplanes for the supply run.

I used the Brandenburger Tor model my students created last year, then made a "blockade" using a wall of index cards.

Here's how the activity worked:

  • If a student wanted to play, they first made a paper airplane.  We also had a few pre-made ones for anyone (like me) who doesn't really know how to make a paper airplane.
  • Students then took a short quiz on the Berlin Blockade.  There were seven multiple choice questions, all of them pretty basic.
    Questions included: How many sectors was Germany divided into after WWII?  How many people lived in Berlin during the time of the blockade?  What country controlled Berlin at the time?  How many supply runs were made during the blockade?  How long did the blockade last?
    Again, since this wasn't in class and based on a unit, they were multiple choice questions.  Most students got at least three correct.
  • We had three lines marked at different distances from the Berlin table.  If students got 5+ questions right, they got to stand behind the closest line.  If they got 2-4 right, they were behind the second line.  If they got 1 or fewer right, they were behind the last line.  Students got three chances to try and get their airplane into Berlin.  They had to get it OVER the blockade wall but it had to land ON the table.  
There were prizes for students who managed to land it in the correct area.  Even when students didn't win, they had a lot of fun just trying to fly their planes.  A lot of students came close, but most fell very short or overshot the table completely.  Overall, it was just a quick, fun stop for students who attended our fair.

If you're looking for an informative activity to do at a fair, or if you talk about East Germany with your students, this is a quick, fun activity to do with them.

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Window Art

Here's a quick activity to do with your lower level students.  All you need are some dry erase markers and windows :)

German 1 is currently doing a weather unit.  First I had students work with their groups to list types of weather common for each season.  I then assigned each group a season and a window - their job was to decorate the window with pictures and descriptions of weather for that season.  I had five groups instead of four, so I had the fifth group instead do "unusual" weather.  I also had groups come up with five different weather expressions for their topic.

Here's how some of them turned out:

"Unusual" Weather


The students had a lot of fun just because it was something different.  It's an activity I'd like to do again, probably when German 2 does body parts.  I would recommend using brighter colors (no black or brown), just because they're not as visible from a distance.

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BINGO as a Review Game

As often as possible, I like to incorporate games into our daily activities.  If I can trick the kids into being engaged in what we're doing, I'm all for it.  An all time favorite game of mine is Bingo.  Find Someone Who / Person Bingo is an activity we'll do throughout the year, but it's not really my favorite version of the game.  

Background: Find Someone Who
This is a get to know you ice breaker type activity that's usually done at the beginning of the school year.  Students have a bingo grid with a variety of phrases like, "has long brown hair," "has two cats," "can name three NFL teams."  Students have to go around the room and find other students who fit these descriptions.  At the end, you play bingo with the grid - use cards or a name generator to randomly call student names.  Students try to get 4 or 5 in a row (depending on the grid size) using the names that are called.

I do these throughout the year as we get new vocab.  For example: if we're learning about chores, they boxes will have phrases like: "Cooks for his/her family;" "Makes his/her bed in the morning;" and "Walks the dog."

A Different Variation
During a PD Workshop a few years ago, a colleague introduced a variation to Bingo that I've really liked using.  In this version (very much like Find Someone Who), students play bingo at the end once they've done all the prep work.  The main difference is the prep work requires them to show that they know something about the topic at hand.

The first part is basically a quiz.  You have a variety of questions - multiple choice, short answer, verb conjugation, etc. - related to your topic.  As a class, you go through the questions one by one.  Students answer the questions on their sheet, but don't work together.  I usually let students use their notes, but it depends on the activity.  

Here's what a student worksheet would look like:
Bingo board up top, room for answers below
Questions could be anything from trivia questions to coming up with a word based on a definition/description to conjugating verbs.  Here's an example from a Latin cultural one we did based on slavery in Ancient Rome:

After students write their answers to each question, they trade papers with a partner.  Go over the answers as a class.  I usually only have students identify if the response is correct or incorrect - since we often do multiple choice questions or the prompt is no longer there, it doesn't make a lot of sense to write out the correct answer. 

Now students get to set up their bingo board.  I usually do a 4 x 4 grid.  Students aren't guaranteed to be able to use the whole grid, though.  Students have to earn each square that they use.  That means for their 16 boxes, they needed to get 16 correct answers in the prep activity.  

always include more than 16 questions - usually in the range of 20-25.  This gives students a lot of wiggle room to get as close to 16 as possible.  I also give students a minimum of 5 boxes (for students who got less than six correct).  

You'll have to walk students through setting up their game board:

1. Ask students who got 16+ correct answers to raise their hand.  Congratulate them and tell them they can skip the next step (skip directions for step 2, they start again at step 3).

2. Tell students to take the number 16 and to subtract from it the number they got correct.  I always model with the number 12.  16 - 12 = 4.  That means I have to cross out 4 bingo squares on my board - I won't be able to use those during the bingo game.  I have a sample bingo board on display and go through the process of actually crossing out four boxes. 

Example of a board once I've blocked out four squares:

Notice this is a TERRIBLE board set up - there's only one place I can even win!  I point this out to students so that they'll think strategically - they need 4 in a row to win, so they should make sure to leave themselves as many ways as possible to win.

3. Students now fill out the numbers 1-4 in each COLUMN.  They can put the number in any order they want, but they can't repeat a number within the COLUMN.  I go through this with my sample board, putting the numbers 1-4 in a random order for the first column.  I point out that I've crossed out some boxes, so in those columns I won't be able to put in all four numbers - as I fill in those columns, I'll point out that in one column I left out a 2 or in another I left out a 1 and a 4.

4. Students now get to play bingo.  Call out squares by letter and number (R1).  Students need four in a row to win (I do vertical, horizontal, diagonal, four corners, and postage stamp).  We usually do two rounds or until there's about 3-8 winners (depending on class size).

I've found this way of playing bingo works pretty well.  Students are getting to play a game, but they're also practicing a skill or topic.  They're earning better board set-up through their work, which I think motivates them a little more than when they're doing the interviews for Find Someone Who.  

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Clothes Pins and Sentence Circles

Here's another activity that I saw through Pinterest.  It's an easy way to practice either grammar or vocab topics, especially if you plan on doing review stations for midterms.

The concept is very straight-forward.  You have a circle divided into different sections.  Each section has a sentence with a word missing, a definition, a picture, synonyms, etc.  There are also clothes pins, each with one of the answers on it (either the missing word, the word being defined, etc.).  Students then work with small groups to try and match the clothes pins with the correct part of the circle.  Once they've found the answer they like, they attach it using the clothes pin.

I actually found that I prefer to use post-its.  They can still attach the sticky end to the correct section, and as a plus you don't need all the clothes pins.  This way you can have several sets for multiple groups instead of just having one per station.

If you'd like to see an example of how I've used this activity, there's one available on Teachers Pay Teachers that goes along with Accusative Prepositions (same activity shown above).

- Frau Leonard

Monday, January 19, 2015

#GermanSelfie Display Case Idea

Every January German Club gets the display case in the media center.  We decorate it with German-related displays.  This year we put up some of the artwork students had made earlier this year, as well as our usual display about Germany and German.

The main feature of our display case this year, however, is a mirror set-up.  Students made cut-outs of traditional German Lederhosen and Dirndl.  They included the clothing, arms and legs, but left off the heads.  We then attached a mirror so that when students go up to the display, they'll see themselves "wearing" the outfits.  We put the hashtag #GermanSelfie on the mirror to encourage students to publish pictures of them in their German get-ups.

I got this idea from somewhere on Pinterest (I believe) or on another blog.  Unfortunately I can't find the source of the original post, but it had the same idea but with traditional clothing form Spanish-speaking countries.  If you know where the original poster came from, please let me know so I can credit them here.

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Du bist die Sonne (Accusative Pronoun Intro)

I recently saw this alternative way of doing Cloze Activities for song lyrics while I was on Pinterest. I finally found a way to incorporate this activity while also introducing Accusative Pronouns to my German 2 students.

There's this cute song by die Drogen called "Du bist die Sonne."  The song's a good one for a lower level Cloze Activity - they sing relatively clearly, the words aren't too complicated, and it's really catchy :)  Here's how to do this activity:

  • Students work in groups.  Each group receives a copy of the song lyrics, cut up into strips.  The strips have a few missing words on them.  As students listen to the song, their goal is to put the lyrics in the correct order and fill in the missing blanks.  If you'd like to have a copy of the worksheet, click here.

  • Students listen to the song twice - once to try and put in order, and the other to get the missing lyrics.  I use the music video for the second viewing.  The music video is very cute and really good for a Cloze Activity... it shows all the lyrics!

  • I gave students time to put the lyrics in order after the second viewing.  To time them, I played the music video one more time - I told them to turn it in before the video ended.  This worked out great as a timer and as another opportunity for students who need another listening.  

  • I plan on using this song to introduce Accusative Pronouns.  When students get their papers back, go over it to make sure they have the missing lyrics filled in correctly.  Briefly review what pronouns are, then ask students to highlight all the pronouns they see in the lyrics.  This leads to a discussion on the difference between the forms du and dich and what the pronoun mich is.

You should try either this activity for Accusative Pronouns or a similar type of Cloze Activity - fewer missing words but the added exercise of putting the song in order has the kids listening in a whole different way!

- Frau Leonard

Friday, November 14, 2014

Interactive Notebooks

I've always wanted to do interactive notebooks, so this year I decided to just go with it after some encouragement/help from a TCi workshop I attended in the summer.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I've learned a lot along the way.

Because this is something new, I decided not to approach this with my German 3/4 classes at all - they've had me for at least two years without notebooks, and I thought it would be too much of a transition to start doing it now.  That left my German 1 and 2 and Latin 1 classes.  Here's how I've approached interactive notebooks so far this year.

Introducing Notebooks to the Class
I introduced students to the notebooks the first week of school.  Each student needed to get two spiral notebooks, preferably ones with 8.5 x 11 inch dimensions.

--> Why two notebooks?  I have them keep one for Grammar-related notes, and the other for vocab notes.  Since the long term goal is for them to keep these notebooks for the (hopefully) four years they'll be taking German, I wanted to guarantee that there'd be enough room for everything they'll need to put in.  There should hopefully even be some room in case they make mistakes.

Make sure you let students know this - that it's a pain, but it's a real investment in their German studies.  They'll be taking these notebooks with them year after year.  At the end of each quarter, they won't have to ask what they can throw out and what they need to keep - keep the notebook, chuck the rest.  At the end of the summer, they won't have to worry about losing their notes - keep the notebook and it's all safe and sound.  If they forget a topic later on, they can refer back to it in their notebook.  Really sell the utility of it to make them more on board.

I also allowed students to get two section notebooks to use instead, though my recommendation is still for two (more pages, easier to reference both the current vocab list and grammar topic at the same time).

My Latin classes only do one notebook - theirs is divided into two sections, one for grammar notes and the other for culture notes.  Since vocab units are approached different for Latin, it didn't make sense for it to have its own section.

--> Why 8.5 x 11 inches?  This is the perfect size for gluing in a piece of paper.  Any smaller and the pages stick out or students need to trim them.

Setting Up Notebooks
I gave students about a week to get their notebooks.  I also recommended they get their own glue - I told them flat out that I have glue sticks for them, but between the 100 kids who will be putting stuff in their notebooks it wasn't going to last the whole school year and I wasn't getting more.  If they want to make sure they still have glue later, they should get their own.  This gives them some buffer time before it's actually necessary.  Now that we're in second quarter, the original glue I had supplied to kids is dwindling - it probably won't last through December.

When we first set up the notebooks, we started by labeling the front covers.  They needed to write:
their name; DEUTSCH (very big); the title "Grammatik und Strukturen" one one notebook and "Vokabeln und Kultur" on the other.  I also encouraged students to decorate the covers - again, this is something that's following them around for at least a year, it should reflect a bit of who they are.

We then set up a table of contents in each.  They put the title "Inhatlsverzeichnis (Table of Contents)" at the top of the first page.  They then put in three columns: Thema (Topic), Seiten (pages), and Noten (Quiz Scores).  This helps students keep track of the topics we've covered, where to find them, and how they did on the unit quiz (which will hopefully help them focus their studying for midterms and finals).

Adding to the Notebook
Each time we put in new notes, we first add it to the Table of Contents.  I keep track of the up-to-date Table of Contents for all of my classes using Google Docs.  The links to these TOCs are available to students on the class website - this way students who are absent can find out what they missed and where it goes.  If you'd like to see an example of the German 1 Table of Contents, click here for the Vocab and click here for the Grammar.

After we've put it in the TOC, we put it on the next available page.  The first time you put notes in, make sure students skip at least two pages after the TOC - they might need the room later on as they progress through German 1-4!  There are a variety of ways to put in the notes.  Here are the most common:

Straight Down: There's nothing on the back of the worksheet, so just glue the back directly to the page.

Foldables: Part of the worksheet is glued down, but part needs to be left un-glued so it can be lifted to show the other reference material.

Side Margin: For pages that have a front and back, students fold along either the left or right margin.  They then just glue the folded margin down, making it possible to see the front and lift it up to view the back.

Straight Down with Side Margin: You might have some notes that include one page front/back and the front of another page.  Glue the bottom page straight on, then fold the margin of the front page so that all three sheets are visible.

Two Page Spread: Sometimes it's just better to put the notes in across two pages.  Whether it's two pages front/back next to each other, or two single-sided pages, this is the way to go for some topics.

Written Notes: Crazy as it may sound, sometimes students will be writing the notes in themselves.  I also occasionally combine hand-written notes (usually in the form of brainstorming before we start a new topic) with some printed notes. You might need to guide them through this (at least give them a title for the page).

It's really important that you emphasize the page numbers - there's no point in keeping things and creating a Table of Contents if you can't find anything.  The pages are there to make it easier for them to find what they need later on.

Pro-Tip: Keep your own copy of the notebooks.  This is a good reference for students who are absent (even if the note sheets are blank, they can see where things go) and it helps you visualize where you want the various worksheets to go.  It's also a great visual reference for students if you add the notes to the notebook at the same time as them, or at least have it to show them how it should look.

Color Coding Sheets
I read a suggestion somewhere for interactive notebooks that the pages should be colored.  When I started doing this at the beginning of the year, but it definitely makes sense and I've switched to it now.  It's visually easier for students to find their notes within the spiral notebooks.

I used to give color-coded packets to students that contained all the notes and practice worksheets for a unit.  To an extent I still do, but obviously the notes are now given separately.  I pick a color for the notes and then have all supplementary homework, classwork, practice activities, etc. in the same color.  It helps students identify the correct pages in their notebooks to go along with the activities we're doing.

Simplify Notes
I've actually made note worksheets a lot simpler for students - there aren't as many examples or exercises, and I'm tending to use a bigger font.  I want their notebooks to be something they can take out to quickly refer to whatever it is they need.

Grading Notebooks
Every few weeks I do a notebook check.  I collect all the notebooks (EITHER the grammar OR the vocab one - not both at the same time) and do a quick check to make sure students are keeping up with the material.  I don't do anything super-extensive...  I pre-pick three of the things we've added since the notebook check, then go through to see if students have it.

I check for neatness (pretty self explanatory) and organization.  For the organization, I make sure they have everything filled in that they need to, it's in the right spot, and the page number is clearly labeled.  Here's a look at the rubric I use (click here for a digital version):
Even with larger classes, the rubric makes it easy to go through.  Students either have it or they don't.  It's either complete or it's not.  The first couple checks need to include looking at the Table of Contents, just to make sure they've set it up correctly.

So far I'm really happy with how the notebooks are going.  Although a bit more work for me (grading them and helping students set them up), I find that overall students have fewer organizational issues.  When students need help with something, I can reference different notebooks and sections.  I would definitely recommend it!

- Frau Leonard