Wednesday, September 4, 2019

First Day Activities: UNO spielen

I don't remember where I got this idea or where I heard the suggestion from, but I remember the idea very distinctly: Don't let the kids walk out of Day One without a chance to use the language.

Not a terribly difficult task for your upper level, returning students. For day one of level one? It's a little trickier to give them something that's practical and engaging.

The suggestion/idea I came across years ago was UNO. Most students are familiar with the game, the rules are pretty straight forward, and the language required is pretty basic. Numbers 0-9, four colors, and a few other phrases, and then students are playing and actively using the language.

This year for my Deutsch I students, I made vocabulary sheets to help them with these words (including pronunciation notes) and divided them into groups to play. They were super excited... and were absolutely aghast when I mentioned the punishment for any student I caught using English. I gave all of the student groups one of the black boxes of cards, but kept a red one for myself - they have different backings but the same shape; the punishment for speaking English was I would give them an additional card.

The different colors helped me keep track of the sets, so I could easily put my red set back together at the end of class. It also made a manageable punishment that would only really matter if it added up.

I also like this activity because I always find the pacing of the first week can be hard - you can't account for all the interruptions with assemblies, you don't know the pace of this specific class during this time slot, etc - and after they learn the routine of playing the game in German, it's an easy way to fill the last few minutes of class.

What first day activities do you do that help get your students speaking the language ASAP?

EDIT: For anyone interested, you can get my copy of the vocab list here!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Wizer Me vs Google Classroom

Towards the end of the year, I started using Wizer Me to make digital worksheets for students. I work in a district that is 1:1 and had been previously been using Google Classroom and Google Docs to assign similar types of assignments. I think next year I will use a mix of both, as they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Here's what I've found out so far :)

Wizer Me vs Google Docs

Wizer Me: Pros
  • Gives instant feedback to students for most question types
  • Has a variety of question types (matching, sorting, tables, multiple choice, etc)
  • Allows me to add videos into the worksheet
  • Easy to see how well students did - I can see a list of names and their scores on the worksheet, then go into individual worksheets and see a specific student's work if necessary.
  • There are questions that allow for more variation than just right/wrong - they have short answer questions and drawing questions! The drawing questions especially can be fun :) (Keep in mind, for these questions, students do not receive points until you manually go in and score it.)
  • You can leave feedback on each individual activity.
  • Looks great! They are visually very appealing.
  • There's a Wizer Me community, so you can easily share your worksheets with other teachers AND find ones that others are using!
Google Classroom: Pros
  • I can easily see who did/did not turn in the assignment
  • I get notifications via email when students turn in assignments late
  • Students can view their work, missing work, and deadlines easily and in one place
  • You can view student work even if they don't turn it in
  • I'm already using Google Classroom and the students are as well for all of their other classes - it's familiar, it's expected. Adding outside things (like Wizer Me) makes it harder for both me and students to keep track of.

Wizer Me: Cons
  • Although it looks pretty, it's not always easy to find the worksheets I want. Lots of scrolling, lots of clicking. From my limited experience, the student side is even worse, with just a list of all their assigned worksheets with no real way to organize them.
  • Connecting to your Google Classroom requires a paid account (along with other features).
  • Some of the question items are difficult to figure out how to incorporate. Tables, for example - I tried to find examples of this in their online tutorials but never could figure out how it was supposed to be used. Since then, I've tried it out and played around with it and found a way to make it work for me. To see an example, click here - the first exercise uses a table.
  • I have to manually go in and check for student responses... no big deal if students complete their work on time, but checking for late submissions can be tedious.
  • If you don't have a paid account, your worksheets are automatically made public to everyone once you assign them to teachers. Keep track of your copyrights!
Google Classroom: Cons
  • I have to load each student's assignment individually to see how they did. It's either that or assume they did the work because they turned it in.
  • No automatic feedback - to give students answer keys, I leave notes in the comments... But I find students don't go back to actually look at the comments.
  • Very limiting in the types of questions/activities. It has to be something students can type answers to, and often requires me formatting it in a way that makes it a.) easy for students to type their answers (i.e. lots of tables where on a traditional worksheet I could put a __________) and b.) obvious when students have put in an answer (so again, using tables or already setting the font to be bold, italics, a different color, etc.)
  • If I notice a typo/mistake in a file but have already posted the file to the class, too late - even if I fix the file, students will automatically have the old version unless I take the file down and attach it again. 
  • If you assign a PDF, prepare for the struggle of "It won't let me edit it" and "How do I attach a Kami file" etc.

Please do not look at this table and assume because the Wizer Me side is longer that I automatically like/dislike it more! As I said, both have their uses - it's just that since Wizer Me is newer to me and might be less familiar to readers, I have longer explanations. 

If you're on Wizer Me or are thinking about it, feel free to take a look through my worksheets. Not everything I've made is there (they will be... but it's hard to post things to your profile if haven't assigned it to students yet), but it can give you an idea of how I'm using it and what worksheets look like when they're completed.

If you use Wizer Me, how have you incorporated it into your classroom? What do your students think of it. If you haven't, do you think it's something you would consider doing?

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Amazing Race!

Today my German 1 students played The Amazing Race. It's a fun review activity to wrap up the year, review for finals, and take advantage of warm weather. It's an activity I purchased a few years ago on Teachers Pay Teachers (Spanish version), so while I can't share the version I use, I'm going to talk about it and encourage you to check it out!

Basically it follows the premise of the reality show - students are competing in teams to accomplish various challenges. Accomplishing a task earns them the next task and so on until they're the first group through the "race." Each challenge reviews a specific vocabulary, culture, or grammar topic we've done this year.

Materials I need:
- Challenges printed out and ready to go (this year I color coded them for my own sanity)
- Sidewalk chalk & sidewalk space to write
- Outdoor space large enough for the whole class to spread out but small enough you can easily keep track of everyone
- Envelopes to organize each group's materials (not necessary and something I tried out this year - I included a pen and a pencil plus their first challenge, this way students didn't need to bring anything outside with them; I also asked students to put their completed challenges in the envelope so there wasn't any loose paper flying around
- Clipboard and pen

Students reviewed: verbs, the alphabet, geography, school/classroom vocab, numbers, and plural forms. Some of their challenges involved running, drawing, jumping jacks, and push ups.

All in all, I think it was a fun day :) Students got to run around outside while getting in some review, and it allowed me to see areas where the class struggled (the alphabet, geography, and plural forms were HUGE problem areas for the class as a whole, whereas they breezed through the verbs and school vocab). I found a few areas where I could make some tweaks to hopefully get a few more successful teams next year!

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ostern in Deutschland

This year as I continue to adjust to my new role as a middle school language teacher, I've been taking a cue from my department members and use holidays and crafts to engage student interest. The latest installment: Ostern!

I started with a bulletin board at the beginning of the month. I included some Easter egg decorations ad well as some facts about German traditions. And of course, all the decorations are "hanging" in an Osterbaum :)

As we got closer to the holiday, I had activities for both my 8th and 7th grade classes. I only did one day worth of activities for the 7th graders on our last day before break. For 8th graders, we did two days.

Eight graders learned about Easter traditions in more detail (using the bulletin board, a Kahoot, and a Deutsche Welle article), and then decorated some Ostereier.

Students then hung up their eggs around the classroom. I did initially give them relatively free reign, but that just lead to lone eggs, which doesn't really convey the whole Osterbaum idea. I ended up moving them to two main locations and in the future I would give students one specific area. My original plan was to have a tree made out of construction paper hanging on the wall outside my room, but I'd recently hung up some student work and didn't have the room. Next year!

All classes did an Easter egg hunt on the last day before our break. I broke students into groups, each with a color assigned. I bought about $4 worth of plastic eggs from Target to use - I think I ended up with six different colors, eight eggs each. Groups took turns looking for their color eggs around the room, collecting them at their desks.

Each egg had a slip (or a couple slips) of paper inside. For 7th grade, they had spring related vocabulary words - they had to match the vocabulary with pictures; for 8th grade, they had sentence fragments that they had to put together. When a group had found all their eggs and used all their words correctly, they brought up their finished work to trade in for candy.

I color coded student papers so each group a.) knew who was in the group and b.) knew what their color was. I didn't want any issues with students not

When students were done, they helped fill the eggs for the next class. They also got to hide them for the next class, a task which they very much enjoyed! Their only guidelines: the eggs had to be in plain sight, somewhere people could see them without having to touch anything, just by walking around the room (i.e. not under things or inside cabinets). I had my last class of the day hide them for the first class a day ahead of time so no group was left out.

I also like to have a Selfie Station for holidays. I have a holiday-related decoration up on my door window. Students stand inside the room and look outside, then someone outside the room takes their picture - this time students would look like the Osterhase in their pictures.

Note: I will have my materials available via Teachers Pay Teachers within a few days! I know that will be too late for this year, so I wanted to post early enough that anyone with classes later this week could try to incorporate some of these activities. I should also have more pictures up soon! (I also tend to post more pictures on our class Instagram account!)

What holiday celebrations do you bring into the classroom? Do you do anything for Ostern?

- Frau Leonard

Friday, April 12, 2019

Ampel Check-In

This is actually an extension of an earlier post I did on the same topic - using this Ampel / Stop Light system to have students check in mid-unit to self-assess their understanding.

I started using a more general check-in, no specific tasks listed. Just a quick self-reflection on how they're doing with the material and a short sentence completion to identify specific things they have issues with or think are easy. It's general enough that I can reuse the same slide for multiple topics.

I used large flashcards and gave one to each student with their name already on it. On their card, they identified where they were with the topic (Modal Verbs in this case) and wrote their sentence. I had three colored envelops on the board, and they put their flashcard in whichever color applied to them.

I then went through the cards and answered the questions students had in the Red section, helped clear up things/give tips for students in the Yellow section, and did a quick read through of the Green section to make sure they seemed to be on the right track. I then gave the cards back to students the next day (shuffling them first so no one would be able to tell what color they'd initially used).

I also used a highlighter to mark where they'd put their card, just for future reference. The plan is to use this system for the rest of the year as a check-in, using the same cards until they get filled up. It opens up communication with students and lets me keep track of students mid-way through a unit. It's also a good point of conversation for students who initially said they did understand but don't perform well on assessments - did they really not understand? what are their study methods? do they have anxiety during quizzes?

So far so good, though admittedly I've only used it once so far :)

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Things Every Teacher Needs in Their Desk

This isn't about teaching strategies or anything like that - this is way more practical. It's the type of thing you usually learn after years of experience, but it's something everyone needs to consider whenever they get a new classroom: what do you need to keep in your desk?

Obviously there are school supplies like pens, pencils, post-its, and all that. That's a completely different thing from what I'm talking about right now. I mean things that you personally might need during the school year for surprise or emergency situations.

So in no particular order, here are things I try to keep in my desk:

  • Deodorant
  • Brush/Comb
  • Mirror
  • Change of Clothes (I have spilled coffee on myself twice this year...)
  • Cell Phone Charger
  • Box of Bandaids (I have also cut my hand open twice from paper clips this year...)
  • Non-perishable snack items (instant soup, chips, cliff bars, candy, etc)
  • Water Bottles
  • Gum/Breath mints
  • Blanket/Sweater
  • Advil (or equivalent)
  • Cough Drops
  • Chapstick
  • Hair Ties
  • Pads/Tampons
  • Thumb Drive (kind of work related, but sometimes you need a way to transfer files/print things/whatever)

Are there any items you keep on hand just in case?

- Frau Leonard

Monday, March 25, 2019

Maerchen und die Gebrueder Grimm

This year I'm working with seventh graders in a German Exploration class. The purpose of the class is to introduce students to German language and culture over 12 weeks, but in a way that's fun as much as it is informative. Throughout the year, I've tried to bring in culture through holidays and holiday-related crafts, but with my last group of seventh graders, I decided to bring in some history and literature as well!

We did a whole two week unit on fairy tales, looking at the Brothers Grimm and some of their more well known stories. Students learned about the brothers, the main fairy tale tropes, and then read some stories as a class to analyze. After they got a handle on what "traditional" fairy tales looked like without the Disney sugarcoating they're used to, students broke into groups to pick a German fairy tale to read, analyze, and then share with the class.

Students had fun and were generally scandalized/enraptured by the original versions of the stories. Some kids were already familiar with them, but for the most part there was something new for them in whatever story they happened to pick. I really had to emphasize with them to read the story I gave them though and not rely on their Disney knowledge (unfortunately some groups did not heed this advice...).

They also produced some great art! Check out these character charts they made for the good guys/bad guys in their stories:

I made a huge castle in the hallway outside our room - great way to show off student work and draw some attention ;)

In addition to the fairy tale charts, students made comics that summarized their fairy tales so they could share them with other groups.

If you'd like to purchase the full unit to use with your students, please check it out on TpT!

- Frau Leonard