Thursday, January 23, 2014

Career Surveys

Came across some interesting activities at, all of which are great for a unit on professions!  These two are my favorites:

  • Kennt Ihr Kind seine Interessen?
    This pdf is basically a list of different activities.  Students determine on a scale how much those activities (like repairing, organizing, cleaning, etc) interest them.  This survey actually has a lot of different discussions that could draw off if it: What profession goes best with each activity?  What is your current career plan?  Do your interests line up with the career you're considering?  If they're different, do you think that might influence your career choice later on?
  • Mein persönliches Profil: Meine Stärken einschätzen (pg 18-19)
    Somewhat similar, this goes through a list of different skills.  Students rate their own ability in these different areas.  They can also rate a partner - leads into a great discussion on how we view our strengths/weaknesses vs what others think of us (Personal and Public Identities, anyone?).  It also seems like a good lead into their mock job interviews that we do in class, especially since one of the interview questions relates to their strengths/weaknesses.

    There are actually a lot of other activities in this pdf, but the survey is the one I currently plan on using with my students.  Some of the pages following the survey look interesting as well.

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

School Superlatives: A Project

I talked a little while ago about class superlatives - an activity I do with students as we learn the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.  I actually tried a new project this year that sort of spring boards off this activity... we did school superlatives!

This is another great idea that I can't take credit for - like the Stammtisch for AP, this was a project inspired by another teacher within my county who did something very similar with her students.  It seemed like a lot of fun, so we gave it a try this year.

Students worked in groups to come up with 20 questions with the idea of school superlatives in mind.  To give you an idea of the questions they came up with, here are a few:
- Wer hat das beste Auto? / Who has the best car?
- Wer ist am schnellsten? / Who's the fastest?
- Wer ist am größten? / Who's the tallest?
- Wer hat die besten Haare? / Who has the best hair?
- Wer hat die besten Augen? / Who has the best eyes?
- Wer ist am klügsten? / Who's the smartest?

The idea was that they would then interview other students to find out the answers to these questions - Who is the fastest in the school?  Who does have the best eyes?

To find out the answers, though, I had students from this German 3 class visit my other German classes.  That's right, German 3 came to visit German 1, 2 and 4.  I love activities where students get to interact with other levels.  It's good for them to see that other people besides their classmates are learning German and they get to see what other classes are up to.  For lower levels, it's fun to get a glimpse into the future at how well they'll be able to speak later.  For upper levels, it's somewhat nostalgic to look back at previous projects.

When they came to talk to German 1 and 2, they were obviously talking to students who hadn't formally learned the comparative or superlative yet and who may not have even learned some of the adjectives or nouns they were learning (for example: athletic and eyes haven't come up for German 1 yet).  I warned German 3 about this ahead of time - they might need props to explain some of these words and to get the answers they wanted.  Because of course no English was allowed during these visits!

After compiling all their data, students had to create a Power Point highlighting six of their twenty winners.  They needed one slide per winner, making sure to include the person's name, a picture of them, and a sentence in German explaining what they won.

I gave them time in class not only to put together their Power Points, but also to visit other classes to find these students and get their pictures.

I also talked to our media specialists about getting these Power Points either in our morning announcements or on our daily scrolling announcements.  They were super supportive and helped out - my students got to see their projects all around the school :)

Pros and Cons:
- Pro: This project involved the whole school - all German classes participated and students had to talk to other classes to get even more data to pull from.
- Pro: The scrolling announcements have German in them now - great way to broadcast the language!
- Con: This can be tricky - students have to get permission to leave other classes in order to visit other German classes AND they needed to visit other classes to get the pictures they needed.
- Con: I fell into the trap of giving the students too much time to do this project.  They wasted a lot of that time because I wasn't sure of the deadlines (since it was my first time doing the project) and we got somewhat behind.  Next year this should be easy to fix though.

I will definitely be doing this project again next year.  It ended up being a lot of fun and is a practical use of the superlative.  I would also do this project with my French and Latin students... I'll just have to wait until the next time it works out that I teach the comparative/superlative in those languages!

All the rubrics and handouts I used for this project are available on TPT - just click here if you're interested!

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jenga as a Review Game

Is it terrible that I saw this online and can't remember where I got it from?  If you know someone who has posted this game, let me know so I can link to them!

This is a new game I tried out this week as my students prefer for Midterms.  Basically, this game is Jenga with content questions that students need to answer each time they place a block.  

Obviously you'll need some Jenga sets.  I purchased six sets with the idea that groups of 3-6 could play (covering up to 36 students).  I shopped around and found out that buying six sets of Jenga was actually somewhat expensive...  But then I found Pavilion Jumbling Towers at Toys R Us.  They're about half the cost of actual Jenga sets, though they don't actually line up correctly.  Even so, they work well enough for what I need (and were even on sale when I happened to get them!).
They don't quite line up....
After you get the Jenga sets, you'll need to mark each piece with a number.  I gave each block a different number (1-48).  I had toyed around with the idea of repeating numbers because I was worried about having to come up with 48 questions.  Once I actually started writing questions, however, it ended up not being a problem (especially for midterm review - there are SO many topics to cover that they each only ended up getting about four questions).  

Number on one side, color coded on the other
I also color coded my sets.  On one side there's the number and on the other it's colored in.  I thought I might need to be able to keep sets separate in case they got mixed up.  This extra step was actually the most time consuming, but I think it'll be helpful in the long run.  

Game Set Up
I'm not going to lie - this takes time to set up.  You'll need 48 different questions... AND the answers.  I typed up all the questions and answers and printed them out (front and back).  This takes 3 sheets of paper per set.

I folded each paper in half and cut along the question side.  This way students could fold up the sheet to see the answers... but only to whichever question they were answering.

I was extremely thankful for having two student aides to help cut these out.  I might even go so far as to use card stock and laminate these before cutting them out next time - I did re-collect them and will store them for next year's midterms just to avoid setting them up again.

I also recommend using different colors if you have multiple class sets - there's a lot of paper (3 pages per set, up to 6 sets per class, and for me 5 different subjects) and it's just an easy way to keep it all organized.

Game Play
Basically students pull a block of their choice and answer the corresponding question.  If, for example, I pull out the block labeled 6, I then must answer question 6.  

Students use their score sheet to keep track of group points.  They get points for removing and placing blocks without knocking over the tower.  They also get points for answering the questions correctly, but lose points if they knock over the tower.  This makes it fun even for students who may not be able to get as many questions right - they can earn points no matter what!

There are actual rules for Jenga (such as only using one hand, not taking blocks from the top three rows, etc) that might need to be explained.  Most groups seemed to have someone who knew how to play and would enforce these rules - for the other groups I would just explain them as needed.

All of my classes, from my 33 students in Latin 1 to my AP German students, played this game this week.  While I like this game as a review activity, there are definitely some things to keep in mind for next time. 

Some students are more interested in playing Jenga and not in reviewing.  Some of them even tried just building random structures.  This was more true for the larger, lower level classes - it only happened in Latin 1 and German 1.  I had given the classes a lot of time to play, but I think to eliminate this problem it should be limited to 15-20 minutes for these classes.  My upper level students, however, played for 50 minutes and were able to balance playing Jenga and answering questions.  

I had a few students - actually, just one - who was unable to play at all.  He for some reason compulsively just knocked over the whole thing when it was his turn.  There were other students who  Somewhat surprising since these are High School students, but oh well.  In the future I think I'll need an alternative activity ready for students who - for whatever reason - can't handle this activity.

Overall it was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to step back and support them as opposed to lead them in an activity.  It still needs some tweaking to get the activity where I want it to be.

If you're interested in any of the materials I used to play these games, they're available for free on my TPT account - just click here.  

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stammtisch: Class Lead Discussions for German AP

During our World Language Inservice Meetings we sometimes have “Swap Shop Workshops.”  I love these workshops – you bring in several copies of one or two activities you do, sometimes related to a theme like speaking activities or writing activities, and trade ideas with others in the shop.  It’s a great way to get activities and new ideas, and usually there are people from multiple languages so it gives you ideas you may have never thought of otherwise. 

Last year at one of these Swap Shops, one of the French teachers at Mt Hebron High School, Christina Crise, introduced a speaking activity she does with her AP students.  I immediately fell in love with the activity and vowed to implement it this year with my AP students.  Over the summer I spent time modifying the material she had given us for German.  The end result was Stammtisch.

So… what is Stammtisch?  Well, a German Stammtisch is a “regular’s table” where friends come together at a restaurant or café and discuss different topics.  With this set up in mind, German 4 students prepare and discuss a topic in a relaxed “café” setting.  By café setting, I mean they’re allowed to bring in food. 

We start with a list of topics.  There are serious topics on there like, “Should doctors be allowed to help their patients commit suicide?” to more trivial ones like, “Who would win in a fight – Darth Vader or Voldemort?”  The point is that the questions don’t have a clear cut answer – everyone has an opinion on it (sometimes very strong opinions), and it’s unlikely everyone will be able to agree. 

Students work with a partner to prep a topic.  They pick from the list of questions (or come up with their own).  Their job is to find new vocabulary words related to that topic that they think will be necessary to discuss the topic.  For example, for the topic of “Should doctors be allowed to help their patients commit suicide?” words might include suicide, patient, doctor, and terminal.  They submit those words to me for approval/correction, then the rest of the class has time to work with and learn them.

On Stammtisch day, students first take a short vocabulary quiz.  Then we re-arrange our desks into a circle and start discussing the topic.  The students leading the discussion can bring in food – not a requirement – and have to actually further conversation.  Each student represents one side of the issue, either pro or contra.  They need to have questions ready that will help re-open discussion if it fizzles out, but the idea is to let the conversation evolve naturally when possible.  Obviously some topics with some groups will get more discussion than others.

Students get graded for both parts – when they lead a topic and when they participate in someone else’s topic. 

I didn’t want to overwhelm them at first.  This was something totally new.  I didn’t introduce the idea until towards the end of 1st Quarter.  I told them what Stammtisch was and what they’d be doing, but I started with an example that I ran.  Our topic was “Should there be school uniforms for students?”  I gave them a list of relevant vocabulary words and lead the discussion, representing both the pro and contra sides.  After the discussion, I gave them a copy of the questions I had used as examples.

So far it’s been a huge success – the kids enjoy it and look forward to it.  Often I’ll ask a question in class and after brief discussion they’ll decide that it’s a “Stammtisch question” that we should discuss in more detail later.  We do one every two weeks, usually on a Friday or a shortened day.

My favorite parts so far have been:
  • It builds off the Socratic Seminars they’ve been doing for the past two years.
  • It’s teaching argument forming, which is a skill they need for the AP exam. 
  • It emphasizes impromptu speaking – there are no scripts, no notes, just the words they learned and what they already know/feel about the topic.
  • It builds vocabulary for topics we don't normally cover and that are interesting to the students.
  • It’s more informal than other means of assessment.  I like performance based assessments, and this feels really natural as a task – what’s more practical than knowing how to argue!
  • You really get to know your students better and they get to know each other better.  It’s really interesting to see what they think about some of these topics, and to see students who normally don’t interact with each other team up on an issue. 
  • Best of all… it tricks them into building vocabulary and speaking skills while having fun!
It’s been so successful with German 4 that I plan on introducing it during 4th Quarter with German 3 as a fun way to end the year and to prep for German 4 next year.

If you’re interested in trying Stammtisch with your German students, my resources are available on my TPT account – just click here.

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Compound Nouns: Rabarbara

My German 2 students started learning about Compound Nouns this week.  After class today, one of my students showed me this video he found on Reddit - it goes great with our topic!  Thought I'd share :)

- Frau Leonard

Monday, January 6, 2014

Word Labels

Usually each year when we get to the classroom objects, I have students make labels and stick them up around the room.  Generally, the rules are:
- there has to be a picture of the object on the label
- it has to have the German word and the article
- it has to be big enough to be seen across the room
- the sign has to be hung up in the room near the object it's identifying (put the der Fernseher sign on the actual TV, etc.)
- the sign has to be checked for spelling before it can be hung up

I like doing it since it's a great reference for students as we go through the unit.  But for the last two years, German 1 has met every other day.  With the snow days we've been having thrown in, I don't get to see them as much as I'd like.  I wanted the same supports to be available for students even when they weren't in class... So this year, in addition to making class labels, they had to do individual ones to hang up at home.

As a homework assignment, I told them to pick any ten words from the current vocab unit and make labels for them similar to the ones in class.  It had to have the German word (with the article!) on it and it had to be taped to the actual object.  They needed to do this around their house OR in another classroom - assuming they got that teacher's permission first!  Then to prove they did the assignment, they had to bring in a picture of the labels they made.

Since I thought the photography aspect might take some time, I gave them time over winter break to do it.  I just got their results today - not bad!  Here are some of the digital versions I received:

Personally, I love activities like this where students get a chance to show what they're learning to their family.  It's no longer just something they do at school and that shows up on their report card, but a living language that's starting to appear in their living room or office :)

- Frau Leonard