Monday, February 24, 2014

Rocket Verbs: Tracking Student Progress

I found a product on TPT for verb conjugation that really intrigued me.  Basically, it tracks student ability to conjugate verbs by having them conjugate verbs at differing levels.  Students all start at the same level, which is usually pretty basic.  If they meet a certain level of proficiency, the next time you do the activity they move on to the next level, which will be slightly more difficult.  Students who don't meet this level of proficiency remain at the same level and continue to stay there until they do.

I decided to try it this year with both my German 1 and German 2 students, each for a different topic: Stem-Changing Verbs and the Perfect Tense.

For German 1, we did it with stem-changing verbs.  The first two levels are regular verbs (plus haben/sein) ONLY.  This was especially useful as a review activity before we even got into stem-changing verbs.  The next two levels were ONLY stem-changing verbs, allowing students to focus on this set of verbs.  After that, there was a mix of both regular verbs and stem-changing verbs, making students actually have to think and correctly identify verbs before conjugating them.  

For German 2, we looked at the Perfect Tense.  The first two levels dealt ONLY with weak verbs that use haben as their helping verb.  Students then moved on to strong verbs that use haben.  There was one level that had both weak and strong verbs mixed before levels started to include verbs with sein as the helping verb.  

Some notes for implementation:
  • No notes or reference charts!  Students have to do this to the best of their ability.  We do these activities in quiz-like conditions, but students know they aren't being graded for accuracy at this stage.
  • You might want to time students as they do this activity.  Four minutes seems more than fair - some students will need more, some may need less.  You might need to adjust it as you go.  I ended up not giving students a set time limit, but because we did it at the end of class, I did need to get it back before they left.
  • I mentioned that students needed to meet certain levels of proficiency in order to move on to the next level.  For my students, I required them to get 80% of their verb forms accurate.  This mean that out of 25 verbs, they had to conjugate 20 correctly.  Now... I did sometimes fudge this line a little for students who struggled and after multiple tries at a certain level were very close to this level.  
  • I kept all of the versions students completed.  They didn't get the old copy back, but I had them all as a reference.

What I really like about this is the way it progresses in difficulty and is specific to each student.  Instead of having to move at other students' pace, each student moves at his/her own.  If a student needs to review regular verbs before looking at more complex forms, he/she gets that opportunity, whereas if a student is zooming ahead, he/she gets to do that.
Because it's so individualized, I found myself being able to give individual feedback.  On the new sheets, I would write notes to that student about the forms they need to focus on (ex: your ihr endings are incorrect, review forms of haben, don't forget the "ge" in your past participles, etc.).  If a student needs more specific instruction, I can write a summary of the topic on the back of the sheet.  Not only do I get to see how each student is doing as we progress, but I can sort out any problems much earlier than I would have otherwise even noticed them.

We haven't had quizzes for either of these units yet, so I'm not sure how scores will compare with last year, but I'm optimistic that it's helping.  

If you're interested in either of the sets I'm using, here's the Stem-Changing Verbs Set and the Perfekt Tense Set.  Enjoy!

- Frau Leonard


  1. Thank you! I was just noticing how my 1st year students are progressing at very different rates. I'm trying some differentiation based on formative assessment results. The first try went well! I like this - like "mad minute" math facts in elementary school.

    1. It's especially hard with Level 1 - there tends to be more variety in student understanding and progress than in the upper levels. Hopefully this will help - so far I've really liked doing it and I've seen some real improvement.