Saturday, March 29, 2014

German Slang

I was playing around on YouTube when I came across the channel Get Germanized.  There's a variety of videos related to German and more specifically learning German.  What really caught my eye, though, was the slang video.

For this video, Meister Lehnsherr goes through different slang words / expressions that start with the letter M.  For each word/expression, he explains it and then gives an example of how to use it (and yes, he does have videos for other letters of the alphabet!).  Really informative, totally random, and definitely not the type of German we necessarily get to teach.

You might think that because these are slang related words, there will be expressions in here that aren't necessarily appropriate for your students... and unless you teach college, you'd be right.  I think if you wanted to use these videos with your students, you'd have to skip some of the words, but some of the expressions are definitely relevant to some of the units we do and getting some authentic language is definitely a plus :)

- Frau Leonard

Friday, March 28, 2014

Der Wolf und die sieben Geisslein

A few years ago I stumbled upon an activity that connected the story "Der Wolf und die sieben Geisslein" with the perfect tense and past participles, available from  I've used this reading activity with my German 2 students once we've covered weak verbs, strong verbs, and verbs with sein as their helping verb.

There's about 60 verbs.  I divide students into four groups and have each group 12 of the verbs.  They're responsible for writing the past participle for their verbs.  Once students have had enough time to fill in their verbs, we read the story as a class.  Groups take turns reading out the sentences from their section.

I've found in the past that when we do this activity, students sometimes have trouble understanding what's going on.  There's pictures in the file, but they don't always help.  Previously I would act out or draw parts of the story to make it clearer.  For this year I decided to create images using Power Point and clipart - I have six different scenes from the story to help explain as we go along.

I think students this year had a much easier time understanding through both the text and the pictures.  What's great is that the Power Point slides can be printed out, mixed up and given to students.  Using the images, they can put the story in order and re-tell it in their own words (using brand new vocabulary and the perfect tense, of course!).  If you'd like the Power Point I used, just click here!

The story is a lot of fun, but we do a little bit extra once we've gone through the original version.  I find a Sesame Street version in German.  Burt and Ernie (note that they're Ernie und Burt in the German version...) re-tell the story, but this time it's der Wolf und die zwei Geißlein.  It's a cute version that's not as grim as the original.  Check it out:

I also have some activities we do with the video: vocabulary clues, content questions, and a venn diagramm.  If you're interested in the activities, click here.

I really love doing this activity with students.  It's different from just drilling past participles (borrrring) and it's something that's practical - telling a story!  Students enjoy the story and love watching the video.  Try it out and let me know if you like it as much as I do :)

If you'd like to do this activity but with the Imperfect Tense instead, here's another version of the story.  It isn't already edited for students to fill in verb forms and doesn't have the included vocabulary activities, but it could be fixed.

- Frau Leonard

Friday, March 21, 2014

Just Add German

It was near the end of Deutsch I yesterday when a student delivered a package that came in for me that day.  I was a little surprised - all my orders for the year had already arrived, there really was nothing coming in for me (certainly not a package).  

Out of curiosity, me and my students opened it up to investigate.  To my surprise, it was a "Teacher Kit" from Just Add German.  I had never heard of them before, and after a short web search we learned that they're a group that promotes German in schools.  The campaign is run by the Goethe-Institut and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.  

The teacher kit was filled with all sorts of goodies - wrist bands, pins, tote bags, etc.  Actually, to be very specific, it came with: 
- 100 Brochures
- 10 Posters
- 60 Postcards
- 60 Buttons
- 10 Notebooks
- 20 Pens
- 50 Wristbands
- 5 Tote bags
- 40 Stickers
- 1 USB-Stick
- 1 DVD with animated shorts

My mistake was probably opening this box in front of students - they were all super-excited and I ended up giving each of them a wristband and button if they wanted them.  They were also very enthusiastic about the pens (pens?  really guys?  alright, you can have them...).  For all of my other classes, I continued to give out the pens, buttons and wristbands until I ran out.  They were all proudly wearing their new gear as they left class - 

I think the brochures and postcards are great, too.  When we have articulation days or electives fairs, they'd be great to hand out to students to promote the German program here.  I still have buttons, so those are great little prizes for students when we do events at the school.  The website also has some promotional videos that might be useful.

Although I didn't order the one I received (I suspect it was ordered by our county for each school with a German program), it definitely has a lot of promotional materials.  If you're interested in getting one, here's all the information.  Note that it does NOT mention the DVD with animated shorts on this list - I'm not sure if it's something that is normally included or not.  

- Frau Leonard

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Englisch lernen

This video was shared by another German teacher in our system:

I showed it to my students and they loved it.  I think I might show this at the beginning of German 1 next year as a jumping off point for our discussion on why people learn other languages.

- Frau Leonard

Friday, March 14, 2014

Numbered Heads: Moving Forward

Numbered Heads is a game I learned really early on in my teaching career that I've done a lot of over the years.  It's a fun game and I think it definitely has some pros, but lately I've been trying to work around and I think I might have a solution.

How it Works
I did my student teaching with a French teacher who used the game Numbered Heads as a review activity.  Her classes would always play it the day before a quiz and they really seemed to like it.  

Basically, the game is a translation game that's pretty simple to run.  Students are divided into groups of 4-6.  Students divide out the numbers so that each group member has a different one (i.e. one student is number 1, another is 2, etc).  

Each student needs a piece of paper.  The teacher gives the students a sentence to translate.  Obviously there is usually a vocabulary or grammar structure that is being focused on (example: if we're learning about stem-changing verbs, there will be a stem-changing verb in each sentence).  

I usually have students work individually for about 30 seconds as they try to translate this sentence.  Then I let them work with their group to refine their answers.  But no matter what, each student needs to have a copy of the sentence on THEIR OWN piece of paper.

When time is up, I randomly call one of the numbers.  I like to have groups of six so that I can use a di to call the numbers.  The student from each group with that number runs to the board and writes their group's translation.  Each group has a team name that's on the board - this way groups always know where to write and there's no fighting for space.

After all the sentences are up, I go through and award points for accuracy.  I give up to 3 points for a completely (or MOSTLY) accurate sentence.  If there are verb, case, gender, word order, etc. errors, groups won't get as many points.  The more errors, the fewer points they earn.  

I also award a "bonus point" to the first team to get everything correct (so it's possible for 4 points to be awarded).

The Problem
My mentor teacher was very "old school" in her approach to teaching.  She was very effective, but newer trends like immersion weren't really something she employed.  So the idea of doing a strictly translation based game was actually a lot of fun to her.  For me, not so much.

Don't get me wrong - I'm the type of nerd who thinks translating is fun - but it never really felt like a "best practice."  We're not supposed to be teaching language like this anymore, right?  It's supposed to be immersion, we're not supposed to have English, we're not supposed to be trying to get kids to think of the language as "this word = this word" type of thing.  I've weeded out translation from my lessons and teaching in so many areas... but it still survives through this game - a game I like and that the students enjoy - and it drives me crazy.  

Granted, I also teach Latin and I think it's a great game for what students need to be able to do in Latin.  It's highly unlikely that they will be conversing in the language.  In most situations, they will be translating to or from Latin, and as they get further in their studies it will be more and more translation from Latin.  While the ideal is for students to be able to sight-read everything, this I think is an activity that moves them in the right direction.  

For French and German, it really doesn't make sense to me to use this game the way I learned it while student teaching.  I admit it - my students continue to play it, especially in Level 1, but it's something that bothers me.  

The Solution (?)
I think I've finally found a way to fix my issue with this game.  Today my German 2 students were reviewing for a quiz on Monday related to the Deutsche Bahn and rail-travel in general.  I had some Numbered Head sentences ready to go (Examples: "The train departs at 3:45" and "It's a one-way ticket on an express train.").  

We divided up into groups as usual, were about to start when I decided that today was it.  Today was the day I was going to fix what was wrong with the game.

I told my students that instead of giving them a sentence to translate, I would give them a situation.  This prompt would be somewhat general and as long as their sentence worked within this situation, it would count as correct.  I did warn them that the usual issues like grammar and spelling still counted, but that groups would actually end up with different sentences.  

Examples of situations:
- Ask if your train is delayed - be specific about the train
- Ask for a one-way ticket to a German city
- Tell a passenger that the train is arriving on time (be specific!)
- Tell a passenger the price of their ticket and ask how they are paying
- Tell a passenger their train number and track number
- Ask if your train (be specific!) makes any transfers

The first round was a little slow.  The students weren't sure what would and wouldn't work.  They were used to already having all the information, they didn't want to have to be creative and supply any details themselves.  But as they got a little farther, they definitely adapted and got better at giving me more details.  While the first sentence got me answers that were basically "Is my train on time?", by the end of the last prompt we got to I was getting responses like "The train is on time and will arrive in Frankfurt at 10:45."  

The students also got to see different approaches to the same "problem."  Some students used different tenses, some groups wanted more complex word order, some used more usual vocabulary.  There wasn't just one answer, there were a lot of ways to get a right answer which I think is more accurate to how language works.  There's no one way you HAVE to say or ask for things - it's about getting the idea across in a way that works for you.  

This version definitely makes me feel better about using this game.  While the prompts are in English (I don't want to provide vocabulary clues), it's not a direct translation.  I think with some work I could eliminate the need for English totally, but I'd have to do some planning ahead of time to come up with situation descriptions and images to help get the idea across.  

I'm not terribly sure if this would work with early Level 1 topics.  The vocabulary is very limited as it is that I don't know if having prompts would actually get me any variety.  It might be trickier, but it's definitely something I want to work on.  

- Frau Leonard

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Product Review: Buzzers

PRODUCT REVIEW: Set of Four Buzzers (Teacher's Discovery)
Product Description: These buzzers make your lessons exciting games. The set contains four colored buttons, each with their own individual sound. The yellow light buzzes, the red sounds like a siren, the green has a laser sound and the blue sounds the charge! Three inches in diameter. Ages three and up. Requires two AAA batteries per unit (not included).
Cost: $24.99 for a set of four, $69.99 for a set of twelve

I wanted to get a set of buzzers for games like jeopardy, but looking at the cost of some of them (like Eggspert), it wasn't something that was feasible.  I noticed this set as I was browsing Teacher's Discovery.  Although four isn't an ideal number of buzzers, the price was right so I figured I'd go for it and got the set of four

I just got them in the mail yesterday and tried them out today with my students.  I gotta say - I really like them.  They're super-easy for students to use (they literally just have to push down).  They're fun because of the different noises.  I can't wait to use them again.

Practicality: 4/5
Not something you could use every day.  Great for review activities or games where timing is important (it's so frustrating trying to figure out who raised their hand first - the different sounds make it so easy).  BUT they're not very big and come in a box that makes storage super easy.

There's also the issue of having only four.  For smaller classes, this isn't a problem, but for my large class of 33 these buzzers wouldn't really work.  

Two other things to keep in mind: 
- There's no off switch.  Put the batteries in and they're always ready to go.  Makes it easy to set up, but I did hit a couple buzzers just trying to take them out of and put them back in the box.
- You'll need a very small screwdriver to be able to open the back panel.  Batteries aren't included, so you'll need 2 AAA batteries for each buzzer (8 in total for the set of four).  

Accuracy: 4.5/5
The different sounds makes this perfect - I can easily identify which group buzzed in first.  I mentioned above that they can't be turned off... which means some students who have an itchy trigger finger are likely to set off the buzzer in between rounds/questions.  I very quickly had to make a rule where I deducted points from a group if their buzzer went off when no question was being posed.  

Fun: 5/5
The sounds, the colors, the thrill of trying to buzz in first... My students were hooked from the second they saw the buzzers, never mind when they actually got to use them!  

Overall: 13.5/15 (90%)

I'm really happy with this purchase - it's something fun that was relatively inexpensive.  I'd definitely recommend this if you have an appropriately sized class and have games/activities that could make use of them.  

- Frau Leonard