Friday, December 27, 2013

Frohe Weihnachten!

Every year on the last day of school before Winter Break, I take a break from the curriculum to do some Christmas-related activities with my German students.

This year we had the Adventkalender up throughout December, so I tied that in to some of our activities.  In German 1, I divide students into groups and sent them into the hallway to take notes on the information there.  We then came back and played a trivia game and watched Mickeys Weihnachtsgeschichte to finish up class.

With German 2-4, we actually go caroling through the school.  Each year we sing O Tannenbaum.  I ask the other teachers if they wouldn't mind our classes coming by to sing a quick Christmas carol during the day.  Each class had a list of ten or more other teachers to visit all around the school.

When we visit a class, a student introduces his/her class and the song they're about to sing.  This year, again because the Adventkalender has been up, I added something new - trivia questions!  After singing, we asked for two volunteers from the class.  Each volunteer got a different multiple choice question about German Christmas traditions.  If they got the question right, they got a candy cane :)

We spend December practicing the lyrics (usually once or twice a class if we have time).  To make things a little faster (since we have so many classes to visit), we usually only sing the first verse.  German 2 students have a bit of trouble the first time through, but by German 4 they all have it memorized and can't wait to sing!

I hope everyone is having a good winter break!

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Deutschklub: Pfefferkuchenhaus

This year we started a German Club.  It's been fun (and definitely interesting) going through the process of forming a club and holding events.

To celebrate the holidays, we put together and decorated ginger bread houses.  I got pre-made sets from Target and Harris Teeter.  They were really nice in that they had all the supplies - walls, frosting, candy decorations, all of it - but we did have a few problems with the ginger bread breaking.  One of the houses had a broken piece when they opened it and some of the other students accidentally broke some of their pieces during construction :(

The kids did have fun though (even with the broken pieces).  We put together the houses today and we're storing them in our office freezer over night - tomorrow I'll have other teachers judge them for stability, appearance and creativity.  If you're interested in the rating sheet we'll be using, just click here.

Loved this event - can't wait to see what else the German Club does this year and can't wait to do this event again next year :)

Check out how it went:

 - Frau leonard

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Giving Thanks

This post actually comes a little late as it relates to Thanksgiving, but it took a snow day to get me some time to actually write about it!

One of our clubs this year decided to do a Thanksgiving Tree in the front office.  They put up a tree and for the leaves, they had their student members fill out "thank you" notes to various staff members.  They then left out blank leaves in the staff workroom for us to write our own "thank you" notes to other staff members.  They were up during conferences and really brightened up the office!

It was a great idea that I want to do next year in my classroom!  I think I'll have students fill out leaves, either specifically thanking other students or ones that are more generic  "I'm thankful for..."

If you're interested in the leaves template, just click here!

Hope everyone is having a good holiday season so far - and if you're got snow like us, hopefully you're staying warm!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Exit Tickets: Die Ampel

Our last in-service focused on assessment - what's the point of assessment, how do/should we assess students, etc.  What my real take away from it was ongoing assessment.
Students put up their responses as they leave class

I'm still old school enough that I do end of unit quizzes.  I want that final assessment to both give me data on how the kids can handle the topic, as well as to give a little bit of an incentive for them to learn it now as opposed to whenever.

I try to do various types of formative assessments.  I'm fond of exit tickets, and during our PD this is something I looked at.  I had read an post from the Creative Language Class about exit tickets that got me thinking.

What I came up with is actually very similar.  As an exit ticket, I ask students to perform a task, then show them where they currently stand based on how they did on the task.  They write their answers on a post-it, then put their post-its on a traffic light poster I made.  Each color represents a different level of achievement (red = still needs work, yellow = doing alright, but could still improve, green = I've got this!).

Here's a sample for lower levels:

This is one for lower levels of German.  The question is in German (orange), but underneath I give an explanation of what I'm looking for (white).  This sets a goal for the students to achieve that's a little bit more precise.  After students have written down their answers on their post-it note, I show the specific benchmarks for each color.  As they leave class, they put up their post-it notes on the traffic light poster to see how the class is doing overall (see above!).

I plan on having my lower levels keep track of their progress.  I made a version of the traffic light for them.  When they get their exit tickets back, they go on the sheet (left, on top of the post-it picture).  Students then write the topic and date in the circle for reference.  After a while, I hope students will see trends (if they're improving, areas they typically struggle in, etc.).  We'll see how it goes!

Here's a sample for upper levels:

This one is for more advanced students.  The question is in German with no English clarification.  Instead of looking for a specific number of words or examples, I'm asking in general if they understand a concept.  If they don't (red), they need to ask questions about the part they don't understand.  If they sort of get it but still need clarification (yellow), they write their answer AND their questions.  If they think they've got it (green), they just provide an answer.

If you're interested in these exit tickets, they're available on my TPT account!

A look at entrance tickets...

I also looked at entrance tickets.  For some reason it had never occurred to me before, but once I thought about it I kind of liked it.  It seems like a great way to pre-assess what they might already know, especially for review or cultural topics.  Before we even start the lesson, students are thinking about the topic and it's a great jumping point for discussion.

The way I've done it so far is I stand in the doorway before class.  As students arrive, I hand them a ticket and tell them they have to fill it in BEFORE they can come into the classroom.  I've only done it twice so far, but I do like it.  It's definitely different... 20 to 30 students standing outside your room, writing against the lockers as other students go to their classes is something that stands out.  But that's really the point - it gets student attention before they've even walked into your room!

I'm playing around with the idea of having an entrance ticket as a homework assignment.  Maybe give them a topic, ask them to come up with questions about it... I don't know, I'm still trying to figure it out!

If you're interested in the entrance ticket I use, it's available for free on my TPT account - just click here!

- Frau Leonard

Monday, December 2, 2013

Adventkalender: Bulletin Board Display

Christmas is almost here!  To help get my students in the spirit, I decided to create an advent calendar display for my classroom.  I dug around to come up with 25 facts about Christmas traditions in Germany, then numbered them and put them on construction paper.  Each day we turn over another day to learn another fact.

I actually ended up not putting this up in my classroom...  We were lucky enough to get the display case in the World Language hallway (which actually gets a lot of traffic).  It'll be up there all month (end of November to beginning of January) - a great way to advertise German in the school!

Overall I really like how it turned out...

Here's the full display... or as much of it as I could get to fit in the picture

Here's the Adventkalendar before we started flipping over the days

Here's the other half of the board, decorated with generic Christmas-y stuff :)
This was something I had hoped German National Honor Society and German Club could help put up... but the kids weren't available when I needed them (sigh) and didn't get a lot of it done on their own.  I ended up having my student aides put up a lot of the decorations (no big deal, that's what they're there for) and I needed to make a lot of them myself.  I made the "Weihnachten in Deutschland" letters, the Christmas tree and gifts.  At least if I save them and get them laminated, I can use them again next year.

On the half day before Thanksgiving break started, I had most of my German classes help out by making snowflakes.  They were surprisingly into it.  Turns out, the kids were initially pretty bad at making snowflakes (lots of squares, got some jack-o-lantern-like ones, very distorted/lopsided ones...).  I ended up using Paper Snowflakes to show them how to make them look... well, a little bit more like snowflakes.  It worked pretty well and as you can see, we made a lot of them.

If you're interested in this bulletin board set, it's available on TPT - just click here!

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

LINGO: End of Class Game

In one of my recent posts I talked about Black Stories, which I've found to be a great way to end class if we have some extra time (and the kids love it so far - they ask for a new card every day).  But what do you do with lower level classes that finish early?

One quick game that my students like is LINGO.  It's based off the game show by the same name, but instead of using English words, obviously we use German words (or French or Latin).  

How do you play?  You have a five letter German word that the class is trying to guess. Students need to figure out what my word is by using other five letter words.

Students guess a word and you use circles and squares to let them know if the letters are in the word they chose.  Circles mean that letter is in the word they're trying to guess... it's just not in the right spot.  Squares mean that letter is in the word they're trying to guess AND it's in the right spot.  No symbol means that letter isn't in the word at all.

Here's how a game might look...

Students have a total of five chances to figure out the word.  All words are five letters long, and for the sake of clarity I don't use any words that include umlauts.  

This is a great end of class game or quick warm-up to get them thinking.  To make things go faster, I keep a binder ring with a bunch of five letter German words.  This way I don't have to think of words on the spot and I have a visual to double check letters (which I definitely need...).  

It's also great to have because once students are familiar with the game, you can give them the words and let them lead the game.  The only rule - if you don't know what the word means, you can't use it (keeps German 1 students from grabbing German 4 words and stumping the class)!

If you're interested in a set of cards for German, I have some available on TPT - just click here!

- Frau Leonard  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Class Superlatives

One of our first units of the year in German 3 is the Comparative and Superlative.  It's a relatively easy grammar unit that reviews adjective related vocabulary and is a good transition into the harder concepts we do later in the year.

Whenever we do this unit, the activity students look forward to the most are the Class Superlatives.  I'm sure you're familiar with High School Superlatives - the seniors all vote on who they think will be "Most Likely to Succeed" or who "Has the Best Hair."  This is the same sort of thing, but limited just to our German 3 class.

I assign students two-three different adjectives (depends on how many students are in the class).  I have strips of paper that I hand out, so the adjectives are distributed randomly.  Students then have to identify who in the class is the most whatever (tallest, nicest, friendliest, etc.).  They write a complete sentence in German identifying the student and saying that they're the most _______.  And since I picked the adjectives, I already know they're going to be positive!

After students have written their stars for classmates (and no, they're not allowed to pick themselves!), we then have a little award ceremony.  They read out their statements and hand them to their classmates.  It's great because they're using the target language and creating a great, positive environment!

I've been fortunate so far that every year I've done this, every student has gotten at least one star.  I'd recommend having a star ready for each student ahead of time (especially in smaller classes) to make sure no one gets left out.

Once all the stars have been given out, they then get to hang up their stars on the ceiling.  Every star that's been hung up for the last four years is still there!  The kids love it because it stays up there for everyone to see.  I love it because students in other classes always ask about it and then look forward to doing it in German 3.

I already mentioned that I do this activity with my German 3 students (this is just where the Comparative happens to fall in our current curriculum), but I think this activity could easily be used in any lower levels or even higher ones.  In lower levels, the statements might have to be more basic ("Johann ist am schnellsten in Deutsch 1.").  In upper levels, students can incorporate adjective endings ("Johann ist der fleißigste Junge in Deutsch 3.") or can elaborate on their awards ("Johann ist der interessante Junge in Deutsch IV, weil er drei Sprachen sprechen kann.").

If you're interested in the star and adjective set, they're available on my TPT account - just click here!  I also have a French version available as well!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Black Stories: rabenschwarze Rätsel

I found a new activity today to do with my German 4 students (and maybe later with my German 3 kids)!  I'll start off by saying I don't actually know the English equivalent of this game (if there's even a name for it).  I know it exists (I've played it with friends), but other than that... 

Basically in this game, there's a story in which someone died (usually... sometimes they're a little less morbid).  One person knows the entire story.  Everyone else is trying to figure it out.  The person who knows the story introduces it briefly, usually with a statement or two about the person or situation.  From there, the rest of the players need to figure out how that person died by asking yes or no questions.  It ends up being an exercise in creativity more often than not - there are no clues except the introduction and whatever you get from your questions!

The last time I was in Germany (which was unfortunately a few years ago...), I saw several sets of these at a store.  I figured, what the hell, and bought one.  

Each set comes with 50 cards.  On one side of the card is a picture with a short description of a scenario.  This whole side can be shown to anyone guessing.  

"Veronique lay dead in the middle of a rye field.  Behind her lay a package.  Far and wide were no footprints."
The back is only for the person who will be answering questions.  It explains the details surrounding the character's death and includes another picture.  

"Veronique, an avid sky diver, had bad luck.  This time her shoot just wouldn't open."
When I got them, I was super-excited to try it that school year - it's weird and morbid and seemed like it would get teenagers interested in the activity.  I tried it with my combined German 3 / 4 class.  The results were less than great...  The students were somewhat interested in playing, but really felt - very strongly - that they lacked the vocabulary to be able to ask any of the questions they wanted to.  I pushed them to try for a few minutes, but was greeted with silence more than anything else.  Frustrated, I ended up letting it go and we just moved on to our other activities for the day.

On a whim, I decided to try it again today with my current German 4 AP class.  They were way more interested (before we even started), and were much more involved in the activity.  They had lots of questions (though they did struggle with vocabulary for some of it) and eventually were able to figure out all the circumstances... and then immediately wanted to do another one.  

I have to say, I'm feeling a lot better about incorporating this activity than I was the first time.  If we finish early, it's a great way to keep them in German before the bell rings.  It gives them an opportunity to think outside the box - both outside of the themes we cover and outside of the vocabulary they're comfortable with.  We'll probably try it again - especially since tomorrow is Friday and we're finishing up a unit.  

For now, I'll continue to be the one answering questions.  Later on, once they've done a few, I'll pass on that role to student volunteers.  I might also have them come up with their own situations and cards to add to my collection.  

If you're a German teacher working with upper level students, I'd recommend giving these cards a try.  If you don't want to buy them, look through the sample cards on - if it works out well with your students, then buy a set of your own.  

There are some drawbacks - some of the situations are NOT appropriate for high school students.  Just make sure you read them ahead of time and take out the ones that aren't appropriate for your age group.  

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Parent Contact

One of the things I'm trying to work on this year is being better about parent contact.  If parents contact me first, I'm pretty good about getting back to them immediately with feedback or answers.  I haven't been great with initiating contact.  This year I decided that I would contact the parents of struggling students early in the school year to try and help those students

Our first quarter just ended last week.  As I was putting in grades, I made note of students who were having severe problems (D or E) and areas they were struggling in (homework, quizzes, etc.).  I got the e-mail addresses of those students' parents and contacted them, and CC'd the guidance counselors.

Here's a general outline of the email I sent out (though obviously it would need to be changed for the individual student!):

Dear [ parents ]
I wanted to contact you about your [ son/daughter ], who is taking [ German I ] with me this year.  I'm concerned about [ his/her ] performance so far.  He/she is struggling with [ list specific areas such as homework, participation, study habits, etc - put a specific example or reasons! (ex: student absences might be an issue) ].  While it's still early in the year, students who struggle in the first quarter often have more difficulties later on in the school year.   
I was hoping to get in contact with you while there's still lots of time to help [student's name] build a strong foundation to help [ him/her ] succeed this year in [ German ].  We'll be having conferences [ later this month ], and I'd love to see you then to discuss study and work strategies and come up with an action plan for the upcoming quarter.

Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon,  
[ teacher ] 
I had thought about contacting mid-way through first quarter, but when that point came, I found I didn't necessarily have enough information about student habits to know what areas they were struggling in.  Farther in, I feel like I know more about the students and their specific strengths/weaknesses, and I want to be able to be specific with parents.  There's also Fall Conferences during the week of Thanksgiving.  Parents were able to start signing up for conferences yesterday and they were contacted by me last week.  The timing lined up a bit better this way.

How do you initiate contact with parents?

- Frau Leonard

Friday, October 25, 2013

Teen Read Week

Last week (October 13th-19th) was Teen Read Week.  Each year to celebrate, our school's media center has all kinds of promotions and activities to get kids reading.  One of my favorites is the "Read!" posters they make.

Students get to come in with a book they like, get their picture taken, and the media center will turn it into a read poster.  They not only get a copy of their poster, but they're displayed around the media center and on the school announcements.

The past few years, I've participated as well.  I bring in a different German book, but instead of having "Read" at the top, mine say "Lesen."
Last year's picture... Not a huge fan of it since my students always say it looks like I have cat ears
This year I opened it up to my students to have a German version.  I brought in some of the German books I have that they might be familiar with (aside from Piggeldy and Frederick, there's Heidi, Twilight, Harry Potter and The Hunger Games).  I told students they could use my books for their pictures and that they should ask the media specialist to change the text to "Lesen."  With my AP students, since it's a small enough group, we ended up going down together and taking a group picture.

Super-blurry picture of the books I brought in for students
I think students liked having a chance not only go get their picture taken and support German, but also to see some actual, physical German books!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Numbers Game

Here's a quick game you can do with your level one students when they're learning numbers.  You'll need to break students into groups of 3-4.  Each group will need a cup, three dice, and a piece of paper to keep score.

Students take turns rolling by putting the dice in the cup.  Technically, they don't need a cup, but I tell students use them so that the dice don't go everywhere and nothing gets lost/no one gets hit.

After students roll, they lift up the cup to see what numbers they have.  They have to say the numbers they got, then add them up.  This is how many points they earned for this roll.
Points for this roll: 4 + 6 + 3 = 13
Now that I've rolled, I have to make a choice - do I stop, or keep going?  If I stop, I write down how many points I got that round and pass off to the next player.  Those points, however many it is, can't be lost later.

If I keep going, I get to roll again and keep adding those points to my total for this round.  I can roll as many times as I want to keep getting more points.  BUT... If even one of the di has the number 1, I lose all the points I would've gained that round.

There's a 1 - no points for me this round :(
The goal of the game is to be the first person to get to 200 points.  Basically, you can go slow and steady and just do one roll at a time or you can be a real risk taker and go for a lot of points in one turn!

My students love this game.  Even with full immersion, the rules are simple enough that the kids will know get it (just make sure to demonstrate each part!).  And not only are they practicing their numbers, but they get to learn other phrases like: to roll, cup, dice, stop, again.

I'd love to take credit for the idea, but I found it in some random German textbook one of my co-workers used in college.  Or maybe from a random Deutsch als eine Fremdsprache book I bought.  No idea, but it's a fun game and I thought I'd share!

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Piggeldys Geburtstag

In Deutsch II, our first new vocabulary unit relates to gifts and holidays.  Students discuss common gifts to give different people, as well as holiday traditions in Germany (with a focus on Christmas and birthdays).  In order to get a better look at birthdays, the class throws a birthday party for Piggeldy.  This is one of my favorite activities for the year because the kids really get into it.  It's a chance for them to have fun but still do something related to German and our current unit.

Maybe I should back track a little.  Who's Piggeldy?  Well, he's a character in a children's book and cartoon show called Piggeldy and Frederick that I frequently use with my students (great for listening practice and circumlocution, but more on that some other time).  Because of how often we use this cartoon show, even in Deutsch I, I do happen to have a stuffed pig in my classroom that we call Piggeldy.  So when we do activities related to the show, or when we have this party, we can bring Piggeldy front and center :)

Every year students start by watching the Piggeldy und Frederick episode titled "Geburtstag."  In this particular episode, Piggeldy wants to know what a birthday is and then wants to find out when his is.  We find out that  he's 5 years old and that today is actually his birthday.

After this introduction, I tell students we need to have a birthday party to celebrate Piggeldy turning 6.  We go through all the steps of planning a party.  After we've discussed the date and location, students write invitations.

This year is actually the first year I've handed out these invitations - I sent the invitations along with this explanation to our school administrators, inviting them to see what we're doing in the classroom.

To further prepare for the party, students had to write a birthday card for Piggeldy and find him a gift.  Students obviously didn't have to buy a gift - I told them to find something they thought Piggeldy would like, print out a picture of it (or draw it themselves), and explain why they thought it was a good gift for him.  They're usually pretty creative (though there's usually at least one student who gives him bacon each year...).  Here are some of the birthday cards and gifts:

Yesterday was our actual celebration.  In class we played three birthday games.  We played Gummitwist, Schlangenschwanz, and then Steck dem Schwein den Schwanz an (see below!).  Since I'm not German and don't have a German family background, I didn't know too many authentic games.  When we first started doing a party for Piggeldy, I had to look into the types of games German kids play at birthday parties.  These were the ones I found (though I did change it from pin the tail on the donkey to pin the tail on the pig, just to go with our birthday theme).  If you know of any other games, let me know and I'd be glad to try and incorporate them!

After playing games, students gave Piggeldy their cards and gifts, we sung Happy Birthday in German, then got to eat :)

The kids had signed up to bring the food ahead of time - I promised to bring the cake, but they had to do the rest!  We usually get a pretty decent spread, though (what can I say, teenagers love to eat).

I'm really glad that this year I invited our administrators.  Three of the four of them came, and they got to see the kids in action!  They experienced a whole class in German, with both me explaining the games completely in German and the students speaking to me and each other in German (without needing to be prompted, which is always a plus!).  They were really impressed with how much they were using the language in a level 2 class and loved the activity.  I loved that the kids got a chance to show off what they can do while having fun!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Emergency Sub Plans

Every year our school system asks us to provide two days worth of sub plans for all of our classes in the event of an emergency just in case.  Admittedly, this has always been a pain in the butt for me.  Every year of teaching I have had at least five classes (German 1-4 and some combination of French and/or Latin).  This means not only finding activities for five classes, but also copying and storing said activities.  For someone who takes about two days off a year and (knock on wood) hasn't needed emergency days, it's been really aggravating.

I have tried to save them from year to year, but sometimes you have classes that are longer one year than the next or the curriculum changes and the activities are no longer suited to that level or you decided to actually incorporate that activity as part of your planned instruction.  Blah.

What I decided to do this year to alleviate the problem for good is to create a choice board.  I've actually wanted to do this for the past few years and have even suggested it to my department (my hope was that we could come up with a department one that fit every language - if we worked together we could get one done in no time!).  Things never really manifested until I finally just sat down and did it this August!

Here's a look at the finished product:
If you're interested in a copy, it's available for free on my TPT account.  Just click here!  It's completely editable in case you don't teach German or want to edit the activities.

Students have to complete two activities from the choice board, which offers 12 different vocabulary and/or grammar related activities that can be applied to any unit and - better yet! - to any level.  With a few changes, I can even use it for other languages OR require students in longer class periods to do more activities.

While most of the activities can be done by students without any other materials, there are some that DO require additional resources.
- Grammar Exercises: I refer to a specific textbook in this exercise.  If you don't have this book or teach another language, you may need to change this!
- Scrabble: This is a game board that I sometimes use with my students if we have some extra time at the end of class.  If you're interested in a free copy, it's available on my TPT account.  Just click here!
- Game Board:  This can be used with any blank game board.  There’s one available for free on my TPT account. Just click here!
- Game Board: Honey Comb: This is a vocabulary review game.  I have the template available on my TPT account.  It is NOT a free resource that I offer.  If you're interested in the product, click here.

This is great because all I have to do is make a bunch of copies of the choice board, which will be good for ALL classes this year or next year, and copies of some of the related worksheets.  Admittedly, it's a work in progress.  I may use it at some point this year if I need to take off just to see how it goes.  I might need to change, remove or add activities.

Does your school require emergency sub plans?  What types of activities do you typically have students do while you're out?

- Frau Leonard

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Twitter in the Classroom

Since this year we're actually allowing students to use their electronic devices in class, I've been trying to come up with ways I could actually incorporate them to keep the students interested but still be content related.  One thing I've been playing around with this year is using Twitter.  I've looked at it in a variety of different ways, and here are some of the things I found out.

Twister: Fake Tweets, along with a variety of games FakeBook, offers Fake Tweets.  Students can write fake tweets using the template they provide, which can then be printed and posted around your classroom.  I haven't actually used this with my students, but I like that it offers an easy to use template and students don't have to sign up for an account.  There are sample fake tweets there that show how it's incorporated into History classes.  While these particular examples would be grade for a cultural connection or a literature unit, I actually prefer to have the students post as themselves.

Twitter - For the students
Our school system actually unblocked a lot of websites for this year, including Twitter.  I could actually use Twitter with my students in the classroom.  It is free and doesn't actually require that much personal information to sign up.  I think the students would love the idea of using Twitter in class, but it seems like it would be complicated and a little too personal if students are using their real accounts.  Personally, I don't think I'm at a point where I want to have students tweeting with their own accounts.

I could see this as a useful means for me to communicate with students outside of class though - if I used a Twitter account to post about upcoming assignments or German club events, then it seems like it would be a great tool.  This is the only way I'd consider using the real Twitter in the classroom.

Twitter - For you
I attended a professional development workshop earlier this week that talked about using Twitter as a tool for you as an educator.  The presenter said that it could be a great way to connect with a.) other educators in our field, whether we meet them in person, see them in conferences, or find them online and b.) target language sources such as the embassy, native speakers, and newspapers.

I did in fact sign up for a Twitter account at this session and looked through to find some relevant online sources.  These are the main ones that are German-related: DW Deutsche Welle, Noah Geisel (2013 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year), ACTFL, Goethe-Institut, and the German Embassy.  You're welcome to check out my twitter page, but I warn you that most of who I'm following isn't even work-related, nor do I ever plan on actually "tweeting" anything.

Twitter Templates
Since I didn't want to go through the mess of actually figuring out getting students signed up with Twitter, I decided the easiest thing for me to do would be to get them to write out their Tweets.  I would pose the class a question, they would answer using 140 characters (or less) and at least one hashtag.

This is open-ended enough that I can use it in all levels of German, though obviously the type of question would change.  For German 1, for example, I might ask something as simple as "Was spielst du gern?" (What do you like to play?), whereas for German 4 I could ask something like "Ist man einfach schön geboren, oder kann man sich schön machen?" (Are you born beautiful or can you make yourself beautiful?).

I tried this earlier with my German 4 class.  After we had read and discussed the article Schönheit macht erfolgreich, I had them Tweet their answers to the question "Ist Schönheit wichtig für die Karriere" (we're currently knee-deep in the Schönheit und Ästhetik AP unit).  They wrote their responses on an index card, but they still needed to limit themselves to 140 characters and include a hashtag.  I collected and read them, then put them together on a large sheet of paper and hung it up for other classes to see.  I loved that other levels of German were coming over to read what was said and that German 4 students were reading each other's answers.

After that, I decided I'd try to keep doing this activity with students... but while it only takes 7 index cards to do this with my current German 4 class, it would take a lot more with some of my other classes.  And it seems like a real pain in the butt for students to have to write their response, then count out the characters and make sure it fits.  I decided it'd be easier for me to create a template for them.  Below is the final product:
Now I'm really excited to do this activity again with students!  It doesn't take very long, so it would be a great exit ticket at the end of class.

If you're interested in using the template, it's available for free on my TpT site - just click here!

- Frau Leonard

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Building Dictionary Skills

This might be something you don't necessarily think of working on with your students, but I find a lot of kids need help with understanding how to look up words.  There's not only the issue of being able to look up the word correctly and finding out the appropriate meaning, but sometimes students aren't even sure what resources are available to them to find out word meanings.

So this year, I decided to work with my German 2 students on this skill.  Why German 2 and not German 1?  I thought my German 2 students had a large enough foundation in both vocabulary and grammar to do some of the activities I had planned (being able to recognize nouns vs verbs, understanding verb prefixes, etc).  German 2 is also when I start assigning longer writing assignments (including argument writing!) - they really need to be able to look up new words and know how to use them.  German 1 would be able to do these activities towards the end of the year, and it just wouldn't be that practical for them at this stage.

I picked a day to work on this skill.  The day before, as homework, I told students to bring in their smart phone, tablet, or laptop.  Our school is piloting allowing students to bring these devices to school and use them in class (as instructed by the teacher), so I thought this was a great way to incorporate it.  Everyone - kids included - prefers to use their own device.  And if this is something they're going to be doing at home, why not use the actual device they would be using at home.

The tricky part is, I know some of my students don't have this type of technology available to them (never mind the kids who forget to bring them in!).  I told the class ahead of time that if they didn't, it would be fine - they'd still be able to do the activities.  I have about 15 dictionaries available for student use, which would cover almost all of this class.  If worst came to worst, they could work in pairs or small groups.

If your school doesn't allow students to bring and use their own devices to school, or if up simply want an alternative, I would recommend having a class set of dictionaries or reserving a computer lab for the day.

In class, we went through a few activities where students had to first look up English words and find the German equivalent, then we went the other way around.  We talked about the problems they ran in to and ways to help them around it.  Students either used one of the various German-English dictionaries that I have in my room, or Beolingus.  Some students ended up switching from their electronic device to the book, which is good!  It lets students know what they're more comfortable with!
I had students use a flow chart to help them when looking up German words.  The flow chart is based on the preview file available for the TpT product German-English Dictionary Pack by Lessons to Learn. If you're interested in my version of the flow chart, click here.

I also had another worksheet for students to do as homework that was really just a continuation of what we talked about in class.  They had to look up German words in their dictionaries (or online).  I offered to allow students to check out a dictionary that night if they needed one to do the assignment.

The next day as our drill, we played Boggle.  I have a giant Boggle board I made - just needed a large enough sheet of paper, a sharpie, and a square to trace.  I had it laminated and now can write the letters on using dry erase markers.  Students looked for both German and English words in the puzzle - the catch was that they needed to translate the words they found into the other language.


For Boggle sets, check out Boggle Your Mind! on TpT (free resource!).  While I didn't use the student sheet in this resource since I needed one with room for both German and English, I did like the sample boards it includes (when I first tried to make one, I ended up with not enough vowels...).  If you're looking for a student worksheet with room for translation, check out Boggle El Juego for Foreign Language Classrooms.

Overall, I think the activities went well.  They seemed to improve and understand the different considerations they need to make when looking up words.  I also used this as an opportunity to get them away from using translation websites - if you're having this much trouble, why do you think a program can do any better?  We'll see how it goes once they start their longer writing assignments later this quarter!

If you're interested in purchasing this activity, click here to find it on TpT!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Embedded Reading: Der Briefträger kommt

Recently I've been looking into embedded reading as a way to increase student literacy in German.  After reading up on it a bit, I decided to modify a short reading I use at the beginning of German 2 as we transition into the school year.

The original story is called "Der Briefträger kommt."  I have no idea where it's from - another German teacher gave me a copy of it years ago.  Based on the copy I have, it's from "Deutsch macht Spass," but other than that I'm not sure of its origin.  It's a short reading that contained mostly dialogue.  It had a lot of vocabulary that was familiar to students, was in the present tense, and had verb exercises that went along with it, which was primarily why I used it at the beginning of German 2 as a review.

I took the original story and modified it.  I actually ended up creating the reading Top Down - I wrote the third, more detailed version first (based heavily on the original I had), then worked backwards to get the other two versions.  I also added pictures and changed the exercises that go along with the story.

Here's a look at how the stories differ in detail and length:
First reading: 112 words, 1 page
Second Reading: 220 words, 1 1/2 pages
Third Reading: 304 words, 2 pages
I came up with four activities to go along with the reading.  The first looks at comprehension, the second and third get the students to expand on the details of the story, and the fourth gets them to create their own version in comic form.

I had never thought this reading was very difficult for students, but the past few years they had found it very difficult to both understand and do the exercises.  I don't know if it's because we do it right after summer break or what, but I found that this year the students understood the story much better and were much more involved in the extension activities.  With the changes I've made, I feel I could use this later this year with my German 1 students with no problems.

If you're interested in this activity, it's available for free on my TPT account!  Let me know how it goes!

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Finished Classroom

This might be a little delayed, but I finally have my classroom completely set up for this year!  Last June I had to pack up a lot of things because a Middle School program was using the room in the summer, so it took me a while to get things back the way I like them.

Here's the view from the doorway.  I prefer to arrange desks in rows vs in groups - it makes it easier to separate desks for quizzes, move around to form groups of various sizes, and doesn't leave some kids with awkward angles where they don't face the front of the room.

View of the board.  I love having a dry erase board vs a chalk board.  I don't even have to use the screen most of the time (unless there's a really bad glare).  I have the date and homework posted to the right side (side most easily viewed by most of the room), and on the top left you can see I support by boys in purple and red (go Ravens and Caps!).

Left side of the room.  I do unfortunately still have a chalkboard here instead of a dry erase board :(  But I mostly use it as a place to hang up student work or posters, so it's not that much of a loss.  I also have the agenda on this board (easy place for me to see it but still visible to the students).  Student supplies are under the TV.

Right side of the room. Bulletin board with lots of posters.  One bookshelf with my books, reference materials, and activities saved from previous years.  The other bookshelf has dictionaries, workbooks and textbooks for student reference.

My desk, to the right of the dry erase board.  Storage room and reference books behind me, my computer desk, and a smaller desk next to it because, let's face it, I need a lot of space.  I picked this spot for my desk because it gives me a view of all the students and lets them see me.  It's also close to the LCD projector, so I just have to pop over to grab my laptop if we're doing a Power Point or video.

Last but not least, the back of the room (as seen from my desk).  I'm lucky enough to have a lot of shelves in the back of the room for storage (even if they are unfortunately already taken up...).

My only concern is that the room has too much going on.  I worry that it might be too much for some students to take in since there's always something new to be a distraction or that the aids I've put up don't necessarily get used because they're hard to pick out.

- Frau Leonard

Monday, September 9, 2013

Greetings and Introductions

I'm not sure if anyone else has this problem, but I've noticed that year after year my German 1 students don't do a great job with our first unit - Greetings and Introductions.  They do alright, but they struggle with the spelling, the endings, what the words mean, basically the whole thing.

Part of it is probably that students are dealing with their first real exposure to German.  They're getting used to the sounds and words, and some of them may even be knew to language learning in general.  I see this as an adjustment unit where students need time to get used to me and the class.  There's usually a huge jump not only in students scores, but also in comfort level after the first unit.

Even so, every year I try to add more and different kinds of practice to help students get through this little adjustment period.  Last year I made dialogue cards to help students get some more structured practice.  I can't always be there to give feedback when we're doing in class practice, so I thought these would be helpful.  They work with a partner, and the partner has the correct phrases in front of them to help make changes if they say something wrong.
Sample dialogue card
This year I came up with another activity to help students build up from the point where they sort of know the phrases to being able to use the dialogue cards above.  I had them make a foldable in class.  They have all of the main questions on the outside, then lift up and check how to answer the questions on the inside.  Hopefully this is something they can refer to and that they can use to practice at home.

I had them practice with their group members, just introducing themselves.  I then came up with these identity cards so they could get more practice.

After doing this activity today, the kids did seem more comfortable with the phrases.  Unfortunately I won't see them again until Wednesday, but I'm hopeful they'll be a little stronger with them.  And when Quiz time comes next Monday, I hope they'll do well :)

If you're interested in this activity and cards, they're available together on my TpT account - click here for just the activity above, and click here if you're interested in my entire Greetings and Introductions Bundle (includes this activity and the dialogue cards mentioned above).

If you have any activities you like to use during this unit that you think are really helpful, let me know!  I'm always looking for more ways to help students practice :)

- Frau Leonard