Monday, March 30, 2015

Crime Scene Investigation - Wo ist Ingrid?

I'm sure you've seen classroom activities that use crime scene investigations (if not, check out this pin - though unfortunately the link is no longer working - and this blog entry).  I decided to give it a try with my German 3/4 combo class this year.

The premise of the crime is that Ingrid - one of the pigs in my classroom, has gone missing.  There is a crime scene that students will have to investigate to gather clues, there are witnesses they can interview, and at the end they will have to come up with a hypothesis for what happened to Ingrid.

Here are the steps we went through during the course of this activity.

Step One: Introduce Ingrid

I have a lot of pig-related stuff in my classroom.  I have about twenty stuffed pigs plus a variety of other pig posters, toys, etc.  I picked one of them to be Ingrid.  The idea of doing a pig-centered activity is not new to my students, so it's a good fit.  If pigs aren't your thing, just find any old stuffed animal.  The wig, however, is important ;)

A few days before the actual crime scene, I introduce Ingrid by saying she's a new student who's joining our class.  I didn't do too much to introduce her - I did have her sit in any empty seat when students were absent and made sure she was visible.

Step Two: Ingrid's Disappearance

On a Monday morning before my students came in, I set up a crime scene.  I knocked over a table in the back of the room, threw down some "clues" (more on that in a moment), and then put up some police tape (available on Amazon).

For probably the first time ever, I wasn't in my room when the bell rang - I had my door closed and locked and students had to wait outside for me to appear.  I knew this would get their attention because it's unusual.

I told them as earnestly as I could that something terrible had happened over the weekend...  Ingrid, their new classmate, had gone missing and the police needed their help to investigate this disappearance.  As I let students into the room, they were obviously intrigued both by what I said and by the crime scene set up in the back of the room.

To investigate, I had students volunteer to come up one at a time.  Each student could name one specific thing that they saw.  The rest of the class, who couldn't necessarily see the crime scene that well, could ask questions.  Common questions were about the color of the object and the positioning.  Since we are currently practicing Two-Way Prepositions, students had to be very specific about the location - in front of, behind, next to, etc.

I had these student volunteers first visually identify as much as they could, then they could pick up the item in question to answer more questions.  I had plastic bags ready for them to put the evidence in once they were done.

As students went through the clues one by one, they had two responsibilities.  The first was to fill out their own copy of the Police Report.  They would also had to sketch out the scene, making note of what was where.  They'll have to refer back to both of these when they later explain what they think happened.

Here were the clues:

  • Overturned table and chair
  • Ingrid's hair/wig
  • "Blood" splatters on table (I used fabric paint because it peels off easily once dry); note there is no "blood" anywhere else in the crime scene
  • A screw driver
  • 1325 (I have a set I got from Teacher's Discovery - the amount didn't really matter, but I wanted it to be relatively high)
  • A notebook
  • Ingrid's ID (easily visible)
  • A second ID card (not visible - should be under another piece of evidence, only found when that item is bagged)

The first two pages of the notebook revealed more evidence.  Here's page one:

Here's page two:

We looked at the two ID cards side-by-side.  Students determined that they must be fore the same person since the handwriting for the signature was the same.  If you'd like a copy of the ID cards I created, click here.

I told the students that the "blood" would be sent to the lab for analysis but the results wouldn't be in until tomorrow.  In the mean time they would have to generate a list of "persons of interest" to interview.  Because of time limitations, they could only pick suspects to interview.  My students picked Piggeldy and Olivia (their names were crossed off the party list), Rocky (who supposedly met Ingrid for coffee), and Frederick (my students know Piggeldy and Frederick are brothers, so they assumed he'd have more info about Piggeldy).

Their homework was to prep a list of questions for each suspect.

Note: Next time I do this activity, I would add another piece of evidence.  I would create a map of the areas in question - the crime scene, Ingrid's house, the park, etc. with references to how far apart these locations are.  I didn't think of it until after the fact.

Step Three: Interviews

The next day in class we started the interview process.  I let students pick the order of who they wanted to interview first.  For each interview, they were limited to four minutes.  They could ask any questions they wanted, and would have to take notes on their Police Report (back page).

Again, going with the pig theme, there was a stuffed pig for each character.  I assigned four of my stronger students to be the suspects.  I had come up with basic outlines for each interviewee - general information to help them answer the questions I thought most likely to come up.  They had time to prepare for their interview in the hallway.  I told them that their role was to answer questions asked of them - they didn't have to volunteer more information than necessary.  I also warned them that other questions I hadn't accounted for might come up.  They were allowed to make up that information, ask me at that time, or just say they didn't know.  If any info from their character wasn't mentioned in the interview, they had to keep it to themselves.

After all the interviews were completed, I revealed that the "blood" work was in.. and that it allow it's pig "blood," it isn't Ingrid's "blood."  I then had students speculate with their group members what they think happened.

Step Four: Who done it?

The last section of the Police Report asks students to describe what they think happened.  I told students that whatever they put was fine as long as they: a. said what happened to Ingrid; b. said who else was involved (if anyone); c. specifically referenced clues from the crime scene; d. specifically referenced information from the interviews; and e. had a motive.

If you read through the interviewee notes and look at all the clues, there really is evidence to go against most of the suspects.  Olivia and Piggeldy were both arguing with Ingrid prior to the party. Rocky would have access to screw drivers and the money might have caused an issue.  Frederick might be covering for his brother Piggeldy.  Ingrid may have faked the incident and fled for unknown reasons.  I really let the kids individually come up with their own conclusions because that's honestly much more fun than having one definitive answer.  As long as they backed up their answer, they received credit.

This activity was a lot of fun.  I'd love to do it again and am thinking of adapting it for my German 2 students who are currently working on the Perfekt Tense.

What's great is that it ties into the Black Stories that students have already done throughout the year - they're used to the line of questioning they would need to "investigate" a death.  If you can fit this into your vocab/grammar topics, I highly recommend trying!  Or if you're looking for a fun way to come back from Spring Break, this is definitely something to try!

- Frau Leonard

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