Friday, August 16, 2013

New Student Orientation

Each year during our pre-school staff work week, there's one day that's reserved for 9th Grade Orientation.  All of our incoming 9th graders (and new students to the school from upper grades) are invited to come in and meet their new teachers.  Students do a variety of activities with their upperclassman mentor students, go on a tour of a school, and do a quick run-through of their schedule.  They spend about 7 minutes in each class meeting with their new teachers and finding out a little bit about their classes before school starts up the next week.

My first year, I thought that would be barely enough time to introduce myself and give a brief overview of the course...  Turns out I was somewhat mistaken in my estimate and we had an awkward four minutes of me trying to come up with some relevant information.

Since then I've refined what I present to the incoming students and the activities we do together, all based around a specific goal.  The overall goal shouldn't be to teach them anything - you'll have a whole school year for that.  Instead, you should be trying to get a feel for the background knowledge of the class AND trying to make them feel comfortable with the idea of learning a new language.

Keep your introduction short and to the point, ask relevant questions that tell you about them and that get them thinking, and then play a game.  The game I've found that works best with new students is a cognate game.  Have a bunch of cognates on the board - students need to guess what the words mean.  If they get it right, have some sort of reward ready (candy works great - no one says no to candy ;) ).  I love this activity because it makes students feel a little less anxious about learning German (hey, some of these words aren't too hard!), gives them a confidence boost, and they walk away from your room after a fun activity.

Here's an outline of how my 9th Grade Orientation for German 1 goes.

I also have a Latin version of the same activities available if you're interested or know any Latin teachers who might be interested.  Here's my 9th Grade Orientation for Latin 1.
Keep in mind - if you have incoming students who have already had German as a course in their feeder elementary or middle school, this activity won't work.  An alternate game is the M&M Game that I used with my incoming French II students.

As students come in, give them a few M&M's - and don't forget to tell them not to eat them yet!  In place of doing the cognate game at the end, instead have them say something about themselves in German (again - this activity was made when I had French students).  The topic is based on what color M&M they have.  Kids take turns saying something, and when they're done they get to eat their M&M.  This could also be used as a Day One level two activity.

If your school has a similar orientation, what activities do you do with students?

- Frau Leonard

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