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 amazon.de - 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