Friday, August 9, 2013

Prepping for the School Year

I know what you're thinking - it's still summer, I don't want to start thinking about the new school year!  These are just a few things that I like to make sure I have ready to go for the first day of school.

1.) Syllabus
I have the same generic syllabus for all of my classes.  Obviously some changes are necessary depending on the level (AP German gets a whole spiel about the AP exam, some levels get a section on county exams or Honors vs Regular sections, etc.), but having generally the same syllabus is helpful when you teach multiple levels of the same language.  I spend a lot of time going over the syllabus with German 1 students, but then German 2 and up just need a quick refresher.

Here's a look at my German 2 Syllabus for next year.

Important things to include in your syllabus:
  • Materials needed (which may include dictionaries, workbooks, and how to divide their binder)
  • Information on your grading policy
    I give a general look at my grading policy and then give more specific information about how participation, homework, classwork and assessments will be conducted throughout the year.
  • Attendance and absent work: What do students need to know if they're absent?  How much time do they have to make up work?  Where can they find make-up work?  When can they make-up missed quizzes?
  • Contact information: How can students and parents get in touch with you?  When are you available for extra help?  Do you have a class website?

2.) Policies and Procedures Power Point
In addition to the Syllabus, I like to go over more day-to-day procedures with my new Level 1 students.  This covers more basic information like what to do as you enter the room, how to behave during classwork activities, where to find the drill, how to hand out papers, if you can go to your locker during class, etc.  None of this would be appropriate in the Syllabus, but all of it's still important for laying a solid foundation for the year.

Take a look at my Policies and Procedures Power Point.

3.) Student info sheet
Through our school's digital database, I can find out their parent contact info, but I like to have a reference sheet for all students' school-related activities.  And it's great not just having access to a student's schedule in case you need to find them during the day, but it's really helpful if you need to talk to their counselor or coach to get some more support.

Take a look at my generic Student Information Sheet (available for free at

4.) Immersion Promise
I think by now we're all familiar with the concept of immersion and the benefits thereof.  I try to run an immersion classroom as much as possible, even in Level 1.  Kids in general seem to understand immersion too - they know it'll help them in the long run.  But... kids need to be told that immersion is a two-way street.  It's not just the teacher who needs to be speaking the target language, but they do too.  That's why I use an Immersion Promise.  I tell the kids that I promise to try and use German as much as I can in class, but that they need to promise to try and do the same.  We all sign it day one - everyone knows what they're in for and everyone agrees to try and do their best with it.

Take a look at my Immersion Promise.

5.) Student Flashcards
I have all of my students fill out a 3 x 5 flashcard each year.  They give me background information about them as a person, which is especially great for new students.  They tell me their previous experience and their goals for the year, which gives me an idea of their expectations and can help focus the class to make sure I cover their needs.

But what's also great is now I have a card for each of them - when we do activities where I want to randomly call on students or randomly generate groups, I can use the class' flashcards to do it.

All you need to do is get one or two sets of those flashcard packs that have several colors.  Pick one color per class (for example, every year German 4 gets the blue flashcards and German 1 gets the yellow).  This way you can keep the classes separate.  Just get a little container to hold them all and keep them at the front of the room.

Here's what I get the kids to fill out:

6.) Ice-Breakers
The first day of school tends to be on the dull side for kids.  They get a bunch of sheets on policies and procedures and do's and don't's for the year.  They fill out the same info sheets a half dozen times, get slightly different versions of each teacher's classroom set-up.  I'm not particularly thrilled with doing it five times in a row, and I'm sure they're not particularly thrilled to hear it five (or six or seven...) times in a row.  You HAVE to do something that's fun to both start and end class, to make them happy they stepped into your classroom.

My favorite drill for German 1 is to just put up the question "Why study German?"  Students brainstorm different reasons to study German, we discuss it as a class and add to the list as we go.  I find this a great way to get students motivated and interested early on.

My favorite drill for German 2 and up is ABC's auf Deutsch.  I write the alphabet on the board, divide students into groups and have them try to come up with a German word that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  It's easy to turn this into a competition - groups get points for having a word that starts with a given letter and two points if no one else in the class thought of the word.  It's a great activity to get students back into thinking in German without stressing them out.

 I'll talk more about Ice-Breakers for Day One in my next post.

Hope this was a helpful look at how to prep for next school year!  Feel free to take, use, and modify anything I've put up.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

- Frau Leonard


  1. Thanks for sharing! I will be teaching German 2 for the first time next semester. These ideas are great.

    1. Good luck! I'd love to hear how it goes! What textbook will you be using?

  2. Thanks for the info...I will be teaching German for the first time this year and you blog is really helpful. I have a question though: What do you do as warm-ups at the beginning of each lesson?

    1. Sorry for the (really) delayed response. I always have a warm-up at the beginning of class. It's usually something short, and what it is will vary by level. For lower levels, it'll be something like a sentence completion or matching activity. For upper levels, they could be some brief questions to get them thinking about the lesson or some discussion questions for their group.

      I like having warm-ups because it adds to the structure of the class - students know exactly what they should be doing when the bell rings for class to start. It also gives them something to work on while I check homework, get things set up, etc.