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

Friday, November 14, 2014

Interactive Notebooks

I've always wanted to do interactive notebooks, so this year I decided to just go with it after some encouragement/help from a TCi workshop I attended in the summer.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I've learned a lot along the way.

Because this is something new, I decided not to approach this with my German 3/4 classes at all - they've had me for at least two years without notebooks, and I thought it would be too much of a transition to start doing it now.  That left my German 1 and 2 and Latin 1 classes.  Here's how I've approached interactive notebooks so far this year.

Introducing Notebooks to the Class
I introduced students to the notebooks the first week of school.  Each student needed to get two spiral notebooks, preferably ones with 8.5 x 11 inch dimensions.

--> Why two notebooks?  I have them keep one for Grammar-related notes, and the other for vocab notes.  Since the long term goal is for them to keep these notebooks for the (hopefully) four years they'll be taking German, I wanted to guarantee that there'd be enough room for everything they'll need to put in.  There should hopefully even be some room in case they make mistakes.

Make sure you let students know this - that it's a pain, but it's a real investment in their German studies.  They'll be taking these notebooks with them year after year.  At the end of each quarter, they won't have to ask what they can throw out and what they need to keep - keep the notebook, chuck the rest.  At the end of the summer, they won't have to worry about losing their notes - keep the notebook and it's all safe and sound.  If they forget a topic later on, they can refer back to it in their notebook.  Really sell the utility of it to make them more on board.

I also allowed students to get two section notebooks to use instead, though my recommendation is still for two (more pages, easier to reference both the current vocab list and grammar topic at the same time).

My Latin classes only do one notebook - theirs is divided into two sections, one for grammar notes and the other for culture notes.  Since vocab units are approached different for Latin, it didn't make sense for it to have its own section.

--> Why 8.5 x 11 inches?  This is the perfect size for gluing in a piece of paper.  Any smaller and the pages stick out or students need to trim them.

Setting Up Notebooks
I gave students about a week to get their notebooks.  I also recommended they get their own glue - I told them flat out that I have glue sticks for them, but between the 100 kids who will be putting stuff in their notebooks it wasn't going to last the whole school year and I wasn't getting more.  If they want to make sure they still have glue later, they should get their own.  This gives them some buffer time before it's actually necessary.  Now that we're in second quarter, the original glue I had supplied to kids is dwindling - it probably won't last through December.

When we first set up the notebooks, we started by labeling the front covers.  They needed to write:
their name; DEUTSCH (very big); the title "Grammatik und Strukturen" one one notebook and "Vokabeln und Kultur" on the other.  I also encouraged students to decorate the covers - again, this is something that's following them around for at least a year, it should reflect a bit of who they are.

We then set up a table of contents in each.  They put the title "Inhatlsverzeichnis (Table of Contents)" at the top of the first page.  They then put in three columns: Thema (Topic), Seiten (pages), and Noten (Quiz Scores).  This helps students keep track of the topics we've covered, where to find them, and how they did on the unit quiz (which will hopefully help them focus their studying for midterms and finals).

Adding to the Notebook
Each time we put in new notes, we first add it to the Table of Contents.  I keep track of the up-to-date Table of Contents for all of my classes using Google Docs.  The links to these TOCs are available to students on the class website - this way students who are absent can find out what they missed and where it goes.  If you'd like to see an example of the German 1 Table of Contents, click here for the Vocab and click here for the Grammar.

After we've put it in the TOC, we put it on the next available page.  The first time you put notes in, make sure students skip at least two pages after the TOC - they might need the room later on as they progress through German 1-4!  There are a variety of ways to put in the notes.  Here are the most common:

Straight Down: There's nothing on the back of the worksheet, so just glue the back directly to the page.

Foldables: Part of the worksheet is glued down, but part needs to be left un-glued so it can be lifted to show the other reference material.

Side Margin: For pages that have a front and back, students fold along either the left or right margin.  They then just glue the folded margin down, making it possible to see the front and lift it up to view the back.

Straight Down with Side Margin: You might have some notes that include one page front/back and the front of another page.  Glue the bottom page straight on, then fold the margin of the front page so that all three sheets are visible.

Two Page Spread: Sometimes it's just better to put the notes in across two pages.  Whether it's two pages front/back next to each other, or two single-sided pages, this is the way to go for some topics.

Written Notes: Crazy as it may sound, sometimes students will be writing the notes in themselves.  I also occasionally combine hand-written notes (usually in the form of brainstorming before we start a new topic) with some printed notes. You might need to guide them through this (at least give them a title for the page).

It's really important that you emphasize the page numbers - there's no point in keeping things and creating a Table of Contents if you can't find anything.  The pages are there to make it easier for them to find what they need later on.

Pro-Tip: Keep your own copy of the notebooks.  This is a good reference for students who are absent (even if the note sheets are blank, they can see where things go) and it helps you visualize where you want the various worksheets to go.  It's also a great visual reference for students if you add the notes to the notebook at the same time as them, or at least have it to show them how it should look.

Color Coding Sheets
I read a suggestion somewhere for interactive notebooks that the pages should be colored.  When I started doing this at the beginning of the year, but it definitely makes sense and I've switched to it now.  It's visually easier for students to find their notes within the spiral notebooks.

I used to give color-coded packets to students that contained all the notes and practice worksheets for a unit.  To an extent I still do, but obviously the notes are now given separately.  I pick a color for the notes and then have all supplementary homework, classwork, practice activities, etc. in the same color.  It helps students identify the correct pages in their notebooks to go along with the activities we're doing.

Simplify Notes
I've actually made note worksheets a lot simpler for students - there aren't as many examples or exercises, and I'm tending to use a bigger font.  I want their notebooks to be something they can take out to quickly refer to whatever it is they need.

Grading Notebooks
Every few weeks I do a notebook check.  I collect all the notebooks (EITHER the grammar OR the vocab one - not both at the same time) and do a quick check to make sure students are keeping up with the material.  I don't do anything super-extensive...  I pre-pick three of the things we've added since the notebook check, then go through to see if students have it.

I check for neatness (pretty self explanatory) and organization.  For the organization, I make sure they have everything filled in that they need to, it's in the right spot, and the page number is clearly labeled.  Here's a look at the rubric I use (click here for a digital version):
Even with larger classes, the rubric makes it easy to go through.  Students either have it or they don't.  It's either complete or it's not.  The first couple checks need to include looking at the Table of Contents, just to make sure they've set it up correctly.

So far I'm really happy with how the notebooks are going.  Although a bit more work for me (grading them and helping students set them up), I find that overall students have fewer organizational issues.  When students need help with something, I can reference different notebooks and sections.  I would definitely recommend it!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kunstwerke und Schönheit

In my combined German 3/4 AP class we're in the midst of our Beauty and Aesthetics unit.  It's a longer unit that I generally break up into shorter chunks.  Right now, since we're just starting out, we're discussing what is beauty and trying to better understand our own personal concepts of beauty.

To tie in some culture, we usually look at some famous works of art from the German-speaking world.  We look at some pieces to figure out which we like and don't like, coming up with different things we like (some kids like the classic stuff, others like the modern or abstract stuff - it's a great way to know your kids better to find this out!).  Then each student picks a piece of artwork and researches it a bit, finding out about the artist and the work itself.  They then present their findings to their class, additionally explaining why they think that particular painting is beautiful.

I've always enjoyed this part of the unit (Who doesn't want to take a break to look at some art?  There's some great history behind some of these works!), but I felt like this wasn't as memorable for the students as it could be.  So what we did is this year, I teamed up with one of our fabulous art teachers.  In addition to researching their particular work of art, I had students then re-create it using watercolor, oil pastel or colored pencil.  Check out the results!

If you'd like to do an activity like this - and I totally recommend it since it was a lot of fun - here's how to set it up:

  • If you'd like the Power Point with the rubric and works of art my students chose from, it's available on TPT - just click here.
  • I gave students a copy of the Power Point.  We went through each piece of art briefly and they took notes on which they liked or didn't like.  I then had them pick their top three to research.  Warn them that they will also be painting their own version!
  • To make sure I didn't have 26 kids all reproducing der Wanderer or Hase, I limited it to two students per work of art.  I randomized student names.
  • I was nice and gave students time in class to research (about 30 minutes, the rest had to be done at home).  I also gave them some information about the work of art as a starting point (author or name of painting, this information is in "notes" section of the Power Point slides).
  • Students had three days to actually reproduce their work of art.  The first day was all about the line art - getting that ready so they could jump right into painting the next day.  They then had two days to finish their work with whatever medium they wanted.  The art teacher was there to help guide them through both parts of this process (which was amazing and super helpful since painting is never something I've been particularly good at).  If students needed more time, they could come in after school or take it home.
  • If students wanted to do an adaptation of the work, they could... but they would need to address what changes they made and why during their presentation.  For example, some students had paintings that were black and white, so they added color to them.
  • I did give students a grade for the actual art work... but it was for completion.  If I had seen them trying in class and they had something to show at the end, they got their 15/15 points.  
  • Students presented their information and their own adaptation.  We then discussed which ones we thought were the best reproductions of the original.
  • Obviously I hung these up - some of them were amazing!  
  • To get the lower levels involved (i.e. to pump them up for when they'll get to do this activity), I had them do a gallery walk and vote on their favorite.  Kids loved seeing what their friends from Deutschklub or what their older siblings were doing!
This was a fun activity, and honestly it was a great "mental break" from the work we've been doing.  It was at the end of first quarter, so it also felt like a reward for students - it's been a hard transition for most of them since we're a combined German 3/4 AP class, which is new for both groups.

- Frau Leonard

Here's a freebie activity on Was Kinder über Schönheit denken - works well as a reading and leads into some great discussion points!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

German-American Day

Recently 30 of my German students attended German-American Day at McDaniel College in Maryland.  It was our first ever German field trip, and I just wanted to share my experiences just in case you're in the Maryland area and have considered this event OR if you're outside the area and would like to do an event like this. After attending the event, I surveyed my students who attended to see what they thought about the various workshops they attended.  

Opening Address

The day began with registration and an opening welcome by Dr. Mohammed Esa.  When we signed in, we received our German-American Day T-Shirts with the theme "Deutsch ist grossartig."

Loved the shirts, but this is where the lack of organization started to show.  Because we arrived apparently too early, my students had to sit and wait over for the opening address.  I do wish they'd had something going on while schools came to check in - if no activities, at the very least music playing.

The guest speaker was completely inaudible - there were microphone or sound system problems that made it impossible for anyone to hear what was going on (even though we were near the front, we still could not hear).  This was students' least favorite part of the day, and considering 

There were various workshops students could attend, all relating to German culture.  You sign up for them ahead of time and generally got the workshops you picked.  Here's a little about some of the workshops my students attended.

German Folk Dance
I accompanied some of my students to this workshop.  There was an older couple who was teaching some traditional German Folk Dances to students.  Loved the idea and workshop, the execution could use some improvement.  The only dances shown were partner dances, so it counted on there being an even number of students.  It also made it awkward for a lot of students who didn't want to dance with strangers from other schools (or classmates from their own).  There were also audio issues with the cassettes and the speakers were just plain not loud enough to be heard in the auditorium where they danced.  Again, those are some issues that I think could very easily be addressed to make this an outstanding workshop.

Make Your Own Marzipan
The students who did this workshop loved it.  They learned about how to make Marzipan, then got to decorate and eat some.  I will point out that they did not actually get to cook any Marzipan - it was all pre-made for them.

German Cinema: From the Weimar Republic into Modern Day
Students got to watch some movie clips such as Hitler delivering a speech to (I believe) watching the entire movie Lola Rennt.  Had I known this were the extent of the workshop, I don't think I would've had any students attend, since Lola Rennt is a movie I usually use with my German 3 students...  I got mixed reviews from students who attended this workshop, ranging from "It was okay" to "It was boring."

Germans For and Against Hitler 1933-1945
I have several boys who are World War II buffs/enthusiasts and they could not stop raving about this workshop.  They thought it was interesting and informative, and especially liked that it was conducted by a man who was living in Germany during that time.  This is a workshop that probably could have been 90 minutes instead of 60 with no complaints on the part of the participants.

German Rock, Pop and Hip Hop Music
This was another popular workshop that my students enjoyed.  They basically watched German music videos that were totally ridiculous and fun.  Here are two of the ones my students told me about:

Christmas in Germany
Students learned about German Christmas traditions and watched videos relating to it.  The students who attended thought it was very interesting (and terrifying!) to learn about Knecht Rupbrecht and Sankt Nikolaus.

The workshops are really the best part of the day... though I will say that I find it problematic that students can only attend one.  There is a single round of workshops, each lasting either 60 or 90 minutes.  I think most of these workshops could have been shortened (based on student feedback).  I also feel it would serve students better if there were two rounds of shorter workshops.  Most students had expressed an interested in multiple topics, but were limited to one.

Students also brought up and lamented the fact that there wasn't much German during German-American Day.  All of the workshops were conducted in English and students were surprised to learn that some of the other kids participating in the event didn't even know any German.  I totally understand not wanting to do all German immersion workshops, but I think they're missing out on a way to encourage language growth and interest.

Lunch was provided in the McDaniel College dining hall.  They served delicious German food including Sauerkraut, Schwarzwalder Kuchen, Wurst and Braten.  No complaints about lunch from any of the students (except my one vegan student, who did acknowledge that German food is pretty meat heavy and wasn't too surprised).  Some even said it was one of the best parts of the day.

The day ended with a concert by the band artig.  While fun and authentic, I was surprised by the mixed reactions my students had to it.  Some liked it while others were totally not interested.  We ended up not staying for the whole concert, which originally I thought would be a disappointment to students (we needed to leave early to get them back to school in time for dismissal).  Turns out none of my students complained and in fact some looked relieved.

Overall I think this was a great event that brought German students from around the state together.  There were over 1400 participants this year, which just shows how big this event is.  I think there are some definite issues/improvements that could be made, but if you're in the area it's worth checking out next year.

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Question Words and Movie Summaries

German 2 always starts with a full first quarter review before moving on to German 2 material.  I break it into three main grammar review topics: Nouns and Cases; Verbs; and Question Words.  We're currently finishing up our Question Words review, and here's a fun activity that we did combining the question words and popular movies.

First I asked the students to pick a movie they all knew.  We finally settled on "Die Unglaublichen" (it's one of the DVDs I have that students sometimes get to watch).  I then put up question word signs - courtesy of German Language Resources on TPT.  Students had to summarize the movie based on the question word prompts.

The question words we used were:
- WER?  Who are the main characters?
- WANN?  When does the movie take place?
- WO?  Where does it take place?
- WAS?  What happens in the movie?  (Vocab was limited and we haven't done the the past tense - we ended up sticking to the main actions that occurred)
- WIE?  Who did those actions happen?  (For example, they said there was fighting... were they fighting with their hands or with weapons?  They said there was flying... how did this flying occur?)
- WARUM?  Why do the main actions take place?  What are the motivations of the main characters?

Here's what they came up with:

Student analysis of the movie - I basically just wrote what they came up with and helped guide them through the process.  Sorry for any spelling mistakes (there are undoubtedly several!)

I then had students work with their groups on analyzing and summarizing another movie.  I didn't want to deal with students fighting over their favorite movies, so I had cards made up that groups randomly selected.  I had more cards than groups, just in case a group picked a movie they hadn't seen before.

Here were the possible movies:
- Lord of the Rings
- Star Wars (original trilogy, obviously)
- Lion King
- Aladdin
- Frozen
- Harry Potter (just had them pick one)
- Hunger Games
- Iron Man
- The Dark Knight
- The Avengers

Students then answered the six same questions we had gone over as a class.  You can see from the examples below that some groups put more effort into giving details about their movie.

After groups had finished their summaries, they had to present the information to the class.  The class then decided if they had accurately described the movie or if they had left out important details.  Lord of the Rings fans were, for example, not happy with most of the Fellowship being left out of the "Wer?" category.

I got this idea from Frau Gorgan's activity (as found on Pinterest), though obviously I chose a different topic.  Although we focused on movies, this could easily be done with books, short stories or TV shows (though summaries of TV shows might be more difficult).  It was a fun and different way for us to approach reviewing these question words besides doing another worksheet.

- Frau Leonard

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Learning through Play Dough

Our department head this year bought packs and packs of play dough for us to use this year.  As I took my share, I was thinking, "Man, this is great!  But how am I going to incorporate this stuff into instruction?"

I actually started using it this week with my Latin classes, but the activities could easily be done with any other language.  Here are the two activities students did with play dough.  Spoiler: they loved it!

Activity One: What's this mean?
This is a great (and fun) way to quickly check reading comprehension.  With my Latin students, they had put together a bunch of sentences - at the time, the sentences just needed to make sense grammatically.  Once they had put them together, I gave them some play dough and said they needed to pick two of them and visually represent them.  This became a way for me to check if they could decode the meaning of the sentences - did they really understand what the sentences meant, or were they just following patterns of Nominative - Verb - Direct Object.

I think this would work really well with short stories.  To show they understood the story, groups would have to pick the main scenes in the story and then construct them out of play dough.  Usually this is something I'd do with a comic strip, but this is definitely a variable alternative!

Activity Two: Depict Your Favorite Scene
Students creating the Trojan Horse
When you're doing a movie, story, listening, etc. (basically anything that involves a narrative), this is a good closing activity.  Students pick their favorite scene from the story and depict it using play dough.  They then have to explain both the scene and why it's their favorite.

Now at the higher levels, you might want to change the question from, "What's your favorite scene?" to something like, "What scene best showed the contention between the family members?"  At the end, they will still have to explain the scene and why the picked it - but this time you can add in a discussion about scenes the other groups chose.

I did this with my Latin students.  We had just talked about the Trojan War and Aeneas, so I asked them to draw their favorite scenes.  I got a lot of Trojan horses.

Dido committing suicide
I'm sure there are loads of other ways I could incorporate play dough into instruction (if students write their own stories, if students make scenes and then other groups have to describe them, etc.), but so far I only have these two under my belt.

I only have about ten small containers of play dough, but luckily this seems to work really well with groups.  Actually constructing the scenes would take too long for an individual student to do, so they divide up the work among group members.  It's great as a motivation - "If we can get through this reading, we'll be using the play dough."  I've also found that the students really enjoy playing with play dough.  It's great for tactile learners and for everyone else it's just plain old fun :)

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Was ist in der Tasche - Student Vocab Help

I've previously written about the activity Was ist in der Tasche?  It's a good, quick game to introduce or practice a vocab/cultural topic.  But because of the vocabulary involved in being able to ask helpful questions, it's something I haven't done much with German 1.  This year, I wanted to fix that and bring this activity down to the lower levels!

Each student got an index card.  I had them write "Was ist in der Tasche?" at the top.  First I explained the activity to them.  There was a bag ready to go, but before we started the actual 20 Questions we needed to come up with a process for not just asking random questions, but asking good questions.

Since they're limited to 20 questions total, I asked students if they thought it was a good idea to start specific.  Should they be asking things like, "Is it a cat?" and "Is it a pencil?"  The class agreed that wasn't a good strategy.  As a class, I had them brainstorm different categories and qualities they could ask about to narrow down the topic as much as possible before getting specific.  I then helped them with vocabulary and structures (as necessary).

Here are the topics they came up with (questions in English to open this up to other language teachers!):

Sample of student card
  • Size:  Is it big/small/long/short?
  • Texture:   Is it hard/soft/smooth/rough?
  • Shape:  Is it round/a circle/a square/etc.?
  • Color:   Is it blue/green/etc.?
  • Location:  Can you find it in a classroom/at home/in nature/etc.?
  • Living:   Is it an animal/object?
  • Activities:  Can you eat it/throw it/carry it/etc.?

Again, these questions and categories were based on what the students thought would be helpful.  As I wrote their topics and questions on the board, students were writing the sample questions on their index card.  I told them to put the card in their vocab notebook and hold onto it for the next time we did the activity.

To see if their questions were good, we did two rounds of "Was ist in der Tasche?"  For the first round, there was an apple.  We haven't done food yet, but the word Apfel has come up multiple times with our cognate exercises.  The next round had a frog in the bag.  We also haven't learned very many animals, but my animal posters made it something they could figure out (especially once they found out it was a green, living creature you would find in nature).

For both rounds, students were able to figure out what it was within 10 questions.  At the end, I asked if there were any other questions they felt needed to be added based on actually going through the activity.

I think the cards will really help them ask better questions - too often the students get stuck, completely unsure what to ask about (especially the first few times they do the activity).  We'll see how it goes!

- Frau Leonard

Friday, October 3, 2014

Group Seating

I tend to do a lot of partner and group activities in my teaching.  Over the summer, it occurred to me that my seating arrangement - one I've been using for years - want actually conducive for all this group work.  I had rows that were okay for partner work but that group work a nightmare... I was constantly having to come around and let kids know what their groups were.

So I rearranged my layout from several rows to eight tables.  Each group can seat 3-5 students (of class size allows it, I try to do 4 person groups).  At first I thought it would take up too much room, but I think there's actually a better flow now:

Let me just say that group work is SO much easier now!  They know who's in their group, and at most I'll have to move one or two students to even things out.  Dividing the class in half for team games is also super easy... there's an obvious division between left vs right side of the room.  It's even easier to find partners - I just tell them to work the person who's sitting in front of or next to them.  Not to mention making group copies is easier.  I don't need to guess how many groups I'm going to make in a class since I already know how many tables are occupied.

Because we're also doing interactive notebooks this year, I provided each group with a box.  The boxes stay at their tables - this has saved a lot of time and makes clean up easier.  Each box includes markers (one of each color), glue, scissors and a highlighter.  I don't have to waste time explaining to students where the materials are or passing them out/recollecting them - everything they need on a regular basis is right in front of them!

I also numbered each group.  This year I've started doing in class group practice for grammar and some other skills.  Students complete a worksheet as a group... and when they turn it in, all they need to do is put their group number!  Group numbers are on their supply boxes, making it easy for students to remember.  

These signs are also handy for when groups need to write on the board.  I can just put their corresponding number on their space on the board, and students will know exactly where to write.  I can even use these to randomly call on groups to answer questions or assign sections of a reading.  

So far I really like the new layout.  It's made things so much easier for me, and I think it's been helpful for students.  There was a bit of an adjustment for students who had me last year - I keep telling them that I put them in groups for a reason, they can work together!  Definitely would recommend a similar layout if you like group activities and games :)

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SLOs for the New School Year

I'm not sure how many teachers out there are dealing with SLO's (Student Learning Objectives) at the moment, but since it's something I've been working on lately I thought I'd share.

Our county asks us World Language Teachers to come up with two SLOs - one for Content (Presentational Writing/Speaking, Interpersonal Writing/Speaking, Listening, etc.) and one for Literacy (Explanatory, Argumentative or Summary Writing).  We pick one class to collect data for, gathering a baseline score at the beginning of the year and then at least two more times to measure student growth.  Obviously the goal is for students to improve or to at least maintain the level they scored on the baseline assessment.

Last year I focused on my AP students, but this year I'm working on my German 2 class.  They're a weaker class in part because last year they were on an A Day/B Day schedule (I only saw them once every other day).  I'm also worried because they are on that same rotating schedule this year.  By the end of this year, I will have spent less time with them than with any other German 2 class I've taught.  Part of my goal with these SLOs is to help them improve to where they need to be by doing periodic checks and by showing them this data.

Here's a look at my two SLOs for the year and the baseline assessment for each.

For the baselines, I didn't give students a grade for them.  You'll notice that the rubrics are holistic and not analytic - it's a way for me to give them feedback in specific, targeted areas without them feeling the pressure of a grade.  I might decide to use an analytic version for their later assessments, but that's something to think about later on.

Content: Presentational Speaking
I know these students are weak when it comes to speaking, so I really want to emphasis it this year.  We're slowly transitioning into them speaking more German in class (German 2 currently has an extensive grammar review unit built into the beginning of the school year), and the baseline assessment seemed like a good way to show my expectations for more speaking.

For the baseline assessment, I started by having five objects in a bag (pig, apple, socks, calculator and a ball).  We played Was ist in der Tasche? until students were able to guess all the items.  Once we had them all, I asked students to tell me why they thought I had each item - what could I possibly do with these things I was carrying around in a bag?  (Yes, they said I was going to eat the pig.)

After we'd done this introductory activity, I gave students their prompt:  I was going to give them a bag and they had to identify the items in it and explain why they had them.  I told them to tell me as much as they could about the items in their bag, which contained a cat, a water bottle, a highlighter, an agenda book, and a scarf.

Our department has a set of digital recorders that we share for speaking activities.  I had students go out in the hallway to record their responses one at a time while the rest of the class did some review activities.

If you'd like to see the Level 2 rubric the HCPSS World Language Department has provided us, please click here.  The rubric is great - it's easy for the kids to see what they need to do and the level they're trying to achieve.  And it's based off the ACTFL Can-Do Statements... when these kids get to German 3/4, they'll be familiar with the phrasing which will hopefully help them learn to better rate themselves.

Here are some other activities you can use to evaluate Presentational Speaking:
One thing that they've been emphasizing is not to make your prompt too specific.  Don't limit them by saying, "You must say six sentences.  You must use three different verbs.  You must use twenty different vocabulary words from the vocab list."  Give them some freedom - just tell them to give you as much as they can (maybe within a time limit).  Weaker students will place on the lower end of the spectrum, but this will give stronger students a chance to give you more and truly show you their capabilities.

Literacy: Summary Writing
While we do other types of writing, the idea of doing 3-4 argumentative writing assignments throughout the year seemed a bit much.  I decided to go with Summary Writing because it seemed the easiest to incorporate multiple times throughout the year.

For our baseline assessment, I showed students the video below.  The prompt was: Create a timeline of events that took place in the video (Yes!  I had them draw out a line, label the left side "Anfang" and the right side "Ende").  Be sure to include the beginning and end, as well as details in between.  Tell me as much as you can about what happens.

We first viewed the video once.  The second time through, I told students they could take notes if they needed to (I didn't want any distractions the first viewing, so I made them hold off on notes).  Then students had time to complete the prompt.

I think this was a great video for a German 2 class.  There will be words they don't necessarily know (leise, rufen, etc.) and tenses they haven't formally learned (Present Perfect Tense), but the visuals help and the speaking isn't too fast (and it's fun!).

And this is a great way to practice circumloqution.  I maybe don't know how to say "rufen," but I can describe what they're doing as "singen."  I might not pick up the word "leise" but I might be able to figure out that Bert wasn't "laut" enough.  I don't know how to say shark, but I can say "gross Fisch."
It's perfect for giving students the chance to show what they can do - I got everything from 1-2 word phrases from some students to students who were able to give lots of details in complete sentences with a variety of vocabulary.

Here are some other activities you can use to evaluate Summary Writing:

If you'd like to see the Level 2 rubric the HCPSS World Language Department has provided us, please click here.

I'm looking forward to seeing my students improve over the course of the year!  I'm already thinking about what to do for their next assessment ;)

- Frau Leonard

Credit where credit is due - the amazing rubrics I'm using for my SLOs were provided to us by our World Languages Coordinator in Howard County, Leslie Grahn, and World Languages Resource Teacher, Jen Cornell.  She is an amazing educator and does a lot to support us.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Daily Drills with Kahoot

From the first day in my class on, my students are trained to know that they have a drill at the start of class.  Whatever it is will be up on the board - worksheet, textbook exercise, speaking topic, whatever.  This year, I've started using Kahoot.

Kahoot is basically a site that allowed you to create online quizzes and surveys.  Students then log in to your activity using their phones and go through the activity.  The questions are all multiple choice, so even students who struggle will be able to come up with an answer.

I usually do 10-15 question quizzes related to something we've been practicing recently.  Here's a Regular Tense quiz for German verbs and here's identifying Latin Cases, just so you can get an idea of how you could use this resource.  Make sure you select "randomize answers" before you launch the quiz though!

I'm going to walk you through the process of using Kahoot with your students.  Screen shots come from the Regular Tense quiz linked above.

Step One: Students Sign In
Once you've launched the quiz, have this screen showing up front.  All the directions students need are there - how to sign in and their game pin.

Left side is what you'll see on your computer, to the right is what students see on their phone

What's great about Kahoot is that unlike Poll Everywhere, students don't need to text in their answers (I don't want them to have to worry about fees!).  And unlike ExitTicket, they don't need to sign up for an account (I hate making kids download a bunch of apps, sign up for a bunch of different accounts, and give them just another thing to remember).  Students just need a phone, tablet or computer with an internet connection - when they "log in" to your quiz, they put in a nickname.  No accounts required!

Kahoot displays how many kids have signed in and what their nicknames are
If students don't have their phone with them (or it's not charged or whatever), you can have them pair up with some one sitting next to them.  That way no one feels put on the spot if they don't have a smart phone or if their parents won't let them bring it to school.

Usually I come around to check homework as students work on their drill.  I can still do this with Kahoot - I give students time to sign in (which can take a couple minutes if students have to turn on phones, find a partner, etc).  They know that when I'm done the homework check, it's time to get started.

Step Two: Students Take The Quiz
Questions appear on the screen one at a time.  The question is displayed for a few seconds before the answers are shown.  Students then have 30 seconds to pick what they think the answer is (or more or less time... you can set it when you create your quiz).  Students get points for answering correctly... and for how quickly they answered.

Question appears first

Answer choices appear - students have 30 seconds to answer

Step Three: Let Them Compete!
After each question, Kahoot lets them see where they place in terms of the rest of the class.  They'll see if they're in 1st or 7th or 20th place, and they'll see how many students got the question right (or wrong).  Students won't have to worry about being called out for being wrong... Kahoot will only show the number of students who guessed each answer, but never who answered what.

You should see how competitive they get!  For the more advanced students in the class, it's a competition to get first.  For the students who struggle more, it's a competition to not be last or to get at least two or three right.

After each question, Kahoot also displays the top five students.  This can change dramatically from question to question, depending on their speed and if they get something wrong.  Students love seeing their name up there!  Since I use stickers as an incentive, I give stickers to the top three students at the end of the quiz.

We've done I think three of these in my Latin 1 class and they love it!  They ask all the time if they can do Kahoot.  It's not something I want to do all the time, but it seems like it could be a fun way of rewarding a hard working class.

This is a really easy way to get students energized about class while still practicing content.  They get instantaneous feedback, and let's face it - any chance to use their phone in class is something they're going to jump at.  I *highly* recommend this website.  I think after you've tried it once, you'll love it!

- Frau Leonard

Friday, September 12, 2014

Questions in an Envelope

Here's another activity/technique I got from the World Language Academy I attended this summer!  I already used it with my combined German 3/4 class and it worked out really well!  Check out Slide 152 from the Power Point Presentation.

If you're doing a communicative activity with partners or small groups, Questions in an Envelope is a way for you to help scaffold the activity for students who need a bit of extra help.  Basically, you give students a topic to discuss.  That's it... just a topic.  No questions to go through, just enough of a prompt to give them idea of what to talk about.

Now, obviously this is more of a challenge for some students than others.  That's where the envelopes come in.  As students are talking, if they get stuck (they go about 10 seconds without thinking of something new to say about the topic), they can open the envelope.  Inside are strips of paper.  Each strip of paper has a question related to the topic.  When they pull out a strip, students now have a new way of discussing the main topic.

If students get stuck again, they can pull out another strip and another.  After time is called, students count how many strips they pulled out.  They put everything back in the envelope, switch partners and discuss the same question again.  Their goal is to try to have fewer pauses in their conversation and pull fewer questions out of the envelope each round they go through.  And if students did pull out questions in their earlier envelopes, they'll probably still be in mind as they go through their second or third discussion.

Here's the example topic and envelope questions from the Power Point mentioned above:

The activity I created for my German 3/4 class was a get-to-know you interview.  This was a mixed class that had two groups that had never previously interacted as well as a few transfer students who were new to the school.  Since they'll be working together all year, I wanted them to meet and be forced to interact right from the beginning.  

I had students have a conversation with their partner.  Anything they wanted to talk about, they could.  The only rule was that they had to speak for a full 2 minutes.  I explained the envelopes and gave each group one.  After time was up, students moved on to another partner and repeated the process with someone new.

With each partner, however, I upped the amount of time they had to speak.  The first partner really was just a warm up, and as they got more comfortable (and possibly were exposed to more and more questions from the envelopes) I pushed them to speak more.
First Partner = 2 Minutes
Second Partner = 3 Minutes
Third Partner = 3 1/2 Minutes
Fourth Partner = 4 Minutes

To make sure they were actually paying attention to what their partners said, students had to keep notes.  After each round of interviews, they had to write down the most interesting thing they *learned* about their partner (this way if students ended up with someone they already knew, they'd have to try and find out something new).  

I may not have needed to do this last part, but I had three different envelopes.  Each envelope was a different color and had five different questions.  They circulated around the groups so that a variety of questions were available to the class.  If you're interested in the questions I used for this activity, click here.

I'm really excited to try this activity out with some of my lower levels.  It's scaffolded enough that even weaker students and students with less vocabulary/language background can still have 2 minute conversations with each other.  Working this in early in level one will hopefully build speaking confidence as they progress to upper levels.

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Product Review: Schultüte

PRODUCT REVIEW: Schultüten Kit (Teacher's Discovery)
Product Description: A fun, cultural project for your students the first day of German class! Students love the treats and have fun learning, too. You provide the goodies and treats.Cost: $26.95 for set of 12

To celebrate the start of a new school year, our first German Club meeting was putting together Schultüten.  I bought some goodies from Teacher's Discovery (bookmarks, stickers, pencils, etc.) as well as two of their Schultüten kits.  Each kit contained 12 Schultüten, as well as tissue paper, glue and tape.  The Schultüten had two sides - one that was already colored in (see above) and another that students could color in and decorate.  

It was an easy activity to prep for the first meeting when we don't have new officers yet.  

Practicality: 3.5/5
It's easier than making Schultüten from construction paper.  I wish they came pre-cut or at least had perforated edges.  We needed scissors and a decent amount of time to cut them out.  The little tabs that you used to keep the Schultüte together were hard to cut out and needed to be heavily taped to hold it together.  

Decoration was easy - most of the students decided to use the pre-colored, but a few took the time to personalize and color in the other side. 

Accuracy: 5/5
The phrases on the Schultüten were cute.  Loved that they included the tissue paper to give them a more authentic look :)  I do wish they were bigger though...

Fun: 4.5/5
Students had fun putting together and decorating their Schultüten.  It did take some time to cut out and put together.  There wasn't as much personalization as I would have wanted: students could pick colors and could decorate one side, but most of the students ended up decorating theirs with the stickers I gave out (something not included in the kit).

Overall: 13 / 15 (87%)
I would definitely recommend this product if you have a small number of students - it can get costly to buy them for larger groups.  I told my students that I would provide the school-related goodies but they would have to bring in candy to share.  I think this is the best way to displace some of the pressure on you to fill an entire Schultüte for each student.

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Can-Do-Statements Self-Rating for Students

Posted by @ginlindzey on Twitter
Over the summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could incorporate the ACTFL Can-Do Statements in my teaching.  Our county has been really good about creating and providing us with rubrics to use this year, but I was really wanting a way to get students involved with the process before throwing the rubrics at them.

For my German 3/4 combo class this year, I decided we'd start looking at them during the first week.  Yesterday as a homework assignment, I gave students access to this Power Point.  In it are the various "I can..." statements found directly in the ACTFL guide.  If you'd like a copy of the Power Point I used, it's available here.

For each mode of communication, I explained what it meant (for example, I described interpersonal communication as conversations with other people, whether it be face-to-face or via text messages).  Students were then asked to pick the statement that best fit their ability level.  I qualified it as what they could do spontaneously, without notes or preparation, and without knowing what the topic was ahead of time. Using the blank form, they copied and pasted the phrase that best described them:

This is the blank form students needed to fill out

This is an example of what students read through for each level
I made of point of not including the proficiency levels (novice, intermediate, etc.).  I didn't want students to get bogged down by that and have pre-conceived notions like "Oh, I think I'm advanced so I'll automatically just pick from the orange blocks."

I asked students to only print out and bring in the slide where they copied and pasted in their levels.  I also made some paper copies of the Power Point for students who didn't have access to a computer, the internet or a printer.  The other students were able to get it directly from the class website.

When students brought them in today, we then talked about what the different colors and proficiency levels meant.  Note: Since some students don't have color printers, you should first give them a chance to identify the colors for each of the phrases they chose!  I described each level for them based on the slide below (which was not in the Power Point given to students).

These descriptions are in part based on the tweet above as well as the World Language Academy I attended this summer
Students had to identify which of these levels best describes them based on their choices.  Maybe they had some blues but most of what they had was green, putting them at the Intermediate Level.  They then identified the level on their "Ich kann..." sheet (in the blank box).  Be sure to tell students that since this is a self-rating, they may have rated themselves a little bit higher or lower than they actually are!

We also talked about where we should be by the end of each level of German (based on our county's goals):
The final part of this was goal-setting.  I gave each student two post-its and asked them to write a goals for the year.  I specified that one of the goals had to be related to the proficiency levels ("I want to move all areas into Intermediate" or "I want to move my writing abilities into Advanced").  The other one could be anything ("I want to get at least a B on all my quizzes," "I want to score at least a 4 on the AP test," or "I want to be able to speak better").  I hope this last activity will get the kids motivated for the year :)

- Frau Leonard