Friday, May 9, 2014

Wappen als Symbol

Every year in German 1 we do a unit on countries, nationalities and languages.  It's a unit that I actually have a lot of fun with - there are a lot of games you can do with it - and it seems that in general my students have a weak understanding of European geography.

I happened to find a post in Peggy Boynton's blog about a lesson she does to integrate Austrian culture into her classroom.  I so rarely get to do anything that's not Germany-related (mostly because that's where my experience is) that I loved the idea.  It also seemed a great fit with our geography unit.  I definitely suggest you take a look at her post to find out more about this lesson!

Frau Boynton introduces this lesson much earlier in the year than I did (week 3 vs third quarter!), so it's definitely something that's open to multiple levels.  Because we had a little more language background, I decided to expand a little.

We started by talking about how countries represent their national identity through imagery.  I asked them to think about the U.S. as an example - what images are associated with America?  They had to brainstorm with groups and come up with at least one example from each of the following categories:

- Culture: Apple Pie, Baseball, the American Flag
- Language: Yankee
- History: Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars, Oregon Trail
- Monuments: Mt Rushmore, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House
- Holidays: Independence Day
- Misc: Bald Eagle, Uncle Sam

I then asked students to think about Germany from the same points of view.  What images come to mind when they think of German culture, language, history, monuments, and/or holidays?  For homework I had them create a collage putting these ideas together.

The next day in class I broke students into groups so they could discuss each other's images.  I also made my own version and handed it out to students who didn't do the homework assignment - this way everyone had something to share and discuss.  Here's the collages we had:

My Collage

After this discussion, we moved on to a discussion of the German flag based on the following video (thanks again to Frau Boynton for posting the link!):

It's a great segue into a discussion on Austrian culture, especially since the focus is on the Austrian flag and coat of arms.  The activity is described in the blog entry sited above - it was a great discussion for students and really informative (I even found some things out about Austria as I prepared the activity for students!).

The activity culminates in students designing their own coat of arms based on where they were born.  They had a blank template (courtesy of Frau Boynton) that they decorated with symbols of the state they were born in.  Most of my students were Maryland born (lots of crabs and Old Bay), but there were some other places that came into play.   Here are some student examples:

I love how this activity played in with the unit.  It gave students some background knowledge about both Germany and Austria while making them think about their own country's cultural identity.  The lesson also ties into the AP Themes (Personal and Public Identities: Nationalism and Patriotism).  I'd highly recommend trying out these activities with your students!

- Frau Leonard

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