Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reverse Crossword Puzzles

This is an activity I got from one of our resource teachers in Howard County.  It's a vocabulary related activity that can be used with basically any unit (and for any language).  Basically, students will work with groups to generate clues for a crossword puzzle.  Groups will then trade crossword puzzles and try to fill in the crossword puzzle created by the other group.

This is a fun twist on a pretty standard activity.  It's also helpful in getting students some practice in circumlocution - how can I describe a word without using the word itself?

If you're interested in an example set for your class, click here for an animal vocab set.

Here's how to set it up:

  1. Take about 8-12 different vocabulary words from your current vocabulary unit.  Use any online crossword puzzle generator site to create a crossword.  For the clues, just put the words themselves.  Create about 3-4 sets of crosswords like this, each with different vocabulary words (there can be some overlap, but most words should be different).
  2. Divide students into groups of 2-5.  Each group gets one of the crossword puzzles.  Their job is to create clues for all of the words.  Their clues can be complete sentences, examples, descriptions - it doesn't matter how they do it, so long as they don't include the word in the clue itself.

    Be careful - some students will get confused their first time doing this activity.  Tell them that they should NOT write anything in the actual puzzle - they are ONLY writing in the clue section below the puzzle.
  3. Once students have generated their clues, have them erase the actual words (white out or write over them in a really dark marker).
  4. Students trade their completed puzzles with another group.  Groups now try to solve the new puzzle.

In order to get a bit more use out of the puzzles (so that multiple groups could solve the same puzzles once they'd been created), I made these boards for the activity:

I got large pieces of construction paper.  On one half I attached some graph paper and on the other have is just a sheet that says "Waagerecht/Across" and "Senkrecht/Down" (arrows include on the sheet to help students who are unfamiliar with the words).  I then had them laminated.

Groups still receive a paper copy of the puzzle as described in the steps above.  Once they're done, however, they write their clues on the right side (emphasize that they should NOT write the word itself). They then draw the blank puzzle on the left side (when I have student aides, I have them draw in the puzzles ahead of time).  They do this with wet-erase markers.

When groups trade puzzles with each other and try to solve, they fill in the puzzles with dry-erase markers.  Once finished, they can erase their answers using a tissue but the puzzle and clues will remain.

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Berliner Sehenswürdigkeiten: Building Project

Each year in German 2 there's a unit on different parts of the city and giving directions.  Usually during this unit, I take a short break from the words like "Schloss" and "Bibliothek" to give them a tour of an actual city - Berlin.  We learn about different monuments within Berlin, a little bit about both the history and geography of Germany's capital.  It's a short cultural unit that ties in well with what we're doing grammar and vocab-wise.

German 2 was set to finish up the curriculum a bit early this year, so I came up with a project to take this unit a little farther and incorporate our friends in the Tech and Math Department.  I paired up with one of the other teachers and we designed a building project.  Students would work in groups of 3 to build scale models of different Berlin monuments.  I would cover all the history and geographical elements, and he would cover the math and building parts of the project.

After we had covered our usual Berlin unit, I had students form groups of 3.  This happened to work out perfectly because of our numbers, but now that I've done the project I think groups of 3 are ideal.  Groups of 2 would be too small (not enough people to help with the overall project), but groups of 4 would be too large (much more likely to have a group member who's doing nothing at any given time).

Once groups were formed, they got to pick their monument.  Here are the choices students got to pick from:

  • Funkturm
  • Schloss Charlottenburg
  • Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche
  • Kongresshalle
  • Philharmonie
  • Reichstaggebäude
  • Brandenburger Tor
  • Berliner Dom
  • Fernsehturm
  • Rotes Rathaus

Groups then had time to research their building.  Each group had to find out the following information:

  1. Photos: Front view, side view, rear view, and top view of their building.  A quick search will help with some of this, but a lot of groups ended up using Google Maps for some of the other views.
  2. Dimensions: Height, width and length of the building.  This will include multiple dimensions for more complex buildings.  More accurate dimensions are better as they move onto coming up with a scaled down version.  If you're not comfortable with the math, this is a great opportunity to work with the math department.  
  3. List of Materials: Taking into consideration the texture and color of their building, students came up with a wish list of materials.  This would include things like balsa wood, Styrofoam cones, or spray paint.  This list doesn't guarantee that students will get these materials - it just helps give students a starting point before working.  They might need to change this list depending on the availability of materials in the shop, or if they find out a material's not working out the way they thought it would.
  4. History: As an extension, students should look into the history of the building and find two interesting facts.

At this point, this is where my colleague took over.  We spent a few days a week in the shop, alternating between this project and the last vocab and grammar unit we were covering.  I would have to look into how many days students actually spent on construction, but it was probably around 10.  I think it could be done in less - I wasn't sure how much time to give students and I think they were a little slow getting started.  Next time we do this project, I would have specific deadlines every other day to keep students on track.

After the projects were done - this included construction, painting and for one group adding landscape - the buildings were brought to my room for display.  They look great (just check out the slideshow below).  German 2 students loved showing off their work and the other classes were very impressed.

The question of how to grade this was something I struggled a bit with.  Since students spent a lot of time on it, I wanted to make it worth a regular project grade.  But since construction isn't actually part of our German curriculum, I didn't want to punish students for not having skills that we don't really focus on.  I decided not to give any group below a C (again, their building capabilities aren't something I'm testing for).  If groups finished their entire building (all major parts - no missing domes or columns), they got a mid- to high-B.  For groups that didn't finish, I looked at how much effort they spent during our days in the shop.  If a group was more prone to slacking off or didn't seek as much assistance from the shop teachers, they didn't score as highly.  For groups that not only finished the building but were able to paint and add other details, they earned an A.  I'll probably work with the math and shop teachers to come up with a more detailed rubric for the next time we work on this project, but since this was so new I wasn't sure how to proceed this year.

Like the Rad von Glück game, this project is based on a presentation I attended at the Fall 2013 MFLA conference.  Somewhere I have my notes on the names of the presenters - I'll be sure to update this entry with that information once the school year has ended and I get time to sort through all my stuff!

I found my notes from this conference, but unfortunately the hand out does not have a name for me to credit.  I do know that it was from a presentation called "World Language Culture and STEM: Grow great culture lessons with STEM!"

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, June 12, 2014

German Club: Club Activities

German Club didn't get to meet as often as we'd initially hoped to (thanks to snow days, midterms, HSA's, AP exams, and other scheduling problems).  We did, however, manage to throw some pretty awesome events that we'll hopefully get to do again next year.  
After our election and at another meeting later in the year we played some German games.  I have a couple board games from Germany (Monopoly and Scrabble), plus we sometimes play Settlers of Catan.  And there's always Skat and Mau Mau if you're looking for a card game.

During our December meeting, students build Ginger Bread Houses.  I'm no ginger bread marvel, so we didn't bake anything ourselves - we purchased kits and students could use the kit to build a house.  There was an activity fee associated with it just to cover the cost of purchasing the kits.  Students had to pay ahead of time so that I knew how many kits to pick up.

We then had some teachers rate the houses based on stability, appearance and overall creativity, then awarded a winner for each category plus overall best.  The students had a lot of fun, but we did have some issues (one of the ginger bread kits had cracked pieces, the that group had to use what was left to make what they could).

Next year I think we might try a different tactic - instead of using the kits, we'll build them out of Graham crackers, honey, frosting, and candy.  Although not as culturally authentic, I think it'll take care of some of the problems we had this year.  It'll also be a bit more of a challenge and give the kids an opportunity to show off their creative side.

Fliegenklappe Tournament
Students love playing Fliegenklappe and the officers decided it'd be a fun club activity.  I created three Fliegenklappe boards, each with a large number of cognates.  We decided to go with cognates because we wanted the tournament to be open to students who maybe had never taken German before and we didn't want to discriminate against students in lower levels of German.  

We created a bracket based on how many students showed up.  Each round was best out of three - one word was called per board.  I tried to randomize the words as much as possible (both location on the boards and the words themselves) to keep it fair. 

I decided to buy a prize for the first and second place winners - an "engraved" fly swatter (I painted "Deutschklub 2013-2014" on it) and a toy pig (I'm big on pigs) for first place, and a toy pig for second place.  Our German Club president also donated a bag of gummy bears as part of our first place prize.

Students had a lot of fun with this one.  It's definitely a keeper for next year - not only is it easy to set up and fun for the kids, but it's also a free activity (this was right after the Pfefferkuchenhaus club meeting, which had a fee).

Musical Chairs
The students wanted to do something music related, but I told them just sitting around listening to music didn't count as a club meeting.  The officers decided that they would play musical chairs using German music. 

We had to move back all the desks to make room, and eventually I had to institute a "hands over your head" rule to avoid pushing.  You'd be surprised how rowdy high schoolers can get (I had no idea they'd be so in to musical chairs).  We did a few rounds and the winners got candy (as donated, once again, by our German club President).  


Because activities that involve food is what drives German club, the officers planned a pretzel baking day.  We reserved our school's Food and Culinary Sciences room and got some Auntie Em's pretzel baking kits.  

There was an activity fee of I believe $3 for a fair share of the pretzels.  We got two boxes of pretzel mix and made all of it - we divided the dough between the students who showed up.  Each student then made a pretzel with whoever much dough they had - some did small ones, others did one massive one.  

I would've loved to actually bake them, but because of time constraints we opted for the kits.  Timing wise it actually worked out quite well.

Spaghetti Eis
Another food activity with an activity fee.  We got big containers of vanilla ice cream, some strawberry sauce, and of course some sprinkles and tried to make Spaghetti Eis.  This was my first time trying to do this, so we weren't quite sure how to get the shape.  We used a potato masher I borrowed from a colleague.  I'm not sure if it's because the potato masher was on the older side, the ice cream was too cold or if it's just not the right tool for the job, but it was a bit difficult to get the ice cream into a spaghetti form.  Delicious, but we'll have to work on the execution (and maybe pair it with another activity).

Tie Dye
This one didn't have much of a connection to German culture, but the kids wanted to do it and put the event together.  We used the revenue from pretzels (there was a small profit margin, really just enough to fund this activity) to get a tie-dying kit.  Students had to bring in their own shirts, but we also had some extras students could be if they forgot theirs.  

A fun, messy activity but I don't know if I would do it again.  A shirt-decorating activity might work, but I think we'd have to use fabric paint and we'd put on German-related designs.  The tie-dye didn't really scream "Deutsch!"

As our final activity of the year, the German Club challenged the French and Spanish Clubs to a friendly soccer match.  With the World Cup starting, this seemed like a fun cultural connection for all three clubs.  Unfortunately, French Club declined the invitation, but Spanish Club was up for the challenge.

We reserved one of the gyms after school and one of the German club members brought in a couple soccer balls.  Because of the size of the gym and the number of students on each team, we played 5x5 plus a goalie.  The kids did a great job of reffing themselves - I was really just there to keep track of the time and score (and to make sure the kids were subbing out and staying hydrated - it was quite hot and humid in the gym).  

This was a lot of fun (and not just because German Club won) - the kids are already talking about next year's match up and getting French Club involved.  One of the Spanish teachers said we should have some sort of Field Day for the languages.  There'd be multiple activities and/or races and students could compete for their "country."  Basically, a mini-Olympics.

Other Activities
Here are some other activities that we didn't do this year but that we might try to do in the future.  

  • Movie Night: We were hoping to do a movie event that's like an outdoor movie theater.  We were going to project the movie onto the side of the school and have a picnic as we watched.  The only real problem we had in setting this up was coming up with an appropriate German movie that could a.) could be viewed by all age groups and b.) would be of interest to the school population in general (instead of just German students).
  • Schuhplattler: At some point I hope to have the students learn a basic slap dance that we could then perform at a school event.
  • Oktoberfest: We always want to do an Oktoberfest related event, but we still haven't pinned down exactly what we want to do.  We might move the Brezel cooking to Oktoberfest or try the Schuhplattler then.
  • Wurst and Kaese Tasting: French Club does cheese tasting, so this seems like a great opportunity for our students to come together for a joint activity.  This is something I think students will like - food and culture are usually a great mix.
  • Schultüten: Because we started the club so late in the school year, we missed the chance to do this.  I found some Schultüten available on Teacher's Discovery.  I got a set of 24, perfect as a first meeting activity at the beginning of next school year.

Deutschklub: End of the Year Gift
As a special thanks to the members of German Club, I made copies of the club picture and gave one to each of them.  It was just a little something to show I appreciated their participation and energy in making this year's German Club a success.  Students seemed to like them - it was a nice treat to end the year right :)

I'm always interested in suggestions for other activities - if there are any events that you do with your German Club, please share!

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Deutschklub: Running a German Club

This year we started a German Club at our school.  My students had been asking about starting one, so I decided this year was as good as any to start.  Here's an overview of how the year went, from the planning to the actual meetings.  Hopefully this will help any of you who are interested in starting a German Club at your school. 

Later I'll post about the actual activities we did this year - today's post is really just to help in the logistics and planning aspects of running a club.

Beginning of the Year: Getting Started

At the beginning of the year, I gave my students a short form to fill out to gauge interest. Our first meeting was actually quite short.  It was to see who was actually interested in coming after school and what they wanted to do as a group.  I asked students some questions to help them structure the club.  

Here are the questions we discussed and the answers students came up with:
  • What day do we meet?  --> Wednesday
  • How often do we meet?  Once a week, twice a month, monthly? --> Students wanted to meet twice a month, but in practice it actually ended up being less due to HSA's, AP testing, midterms, Spring Break, etc.
  • Is the club open to all students or just to students taking German?  --> The club itself is open to all students, but they thought the officer positions should only be available to students who take German.
  • Is there a certain number of meetings you need to attend to be a "full" member? --> Students weren't really decisive on this - they wanted there to be a requirement, but since we weren't sure about the number of meetings when we had the discussion, it was hard to say how many you could miss.  But it was decided that you needed to attend a majority of the meetings in order to be able to do activities where food/materials were provided by the club (i.e. if the club spent money on an activity, it should be for club members only).
  • Should there be a membership fee (to raise money for club activities)? --> No, but if we want to do activities that require materials we can have a fee for that individual activity or bring in everything on our own.
  • Should it be required for members to bring in supplies for activities (this would include bringing in food for general snacking)?  --> Students decided yes, they wanted people to bring in supplies for at least two meetings each year.  In practice, they don't keep track of this and don't seem to mind.
  • What types of activities would you like to do? --> There were a bunch discussed, but I'm sure no one is surprised to know that "food" was the most commonly brought up idea.

German Club Officers

At our second meeting, we had elections for board members.  We have a German Club President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary.  Beforehand, I gave interested students copies of the officer duties (see below).  I told students that officers would need to meet at least once before each German Club meeting to plan the activities and get materials.  I also warned them that these meetings would need to be after school.

Before the meeting, I put the four different roles on the board.  When students arrived for the meeting, students had to write their names on the board under the position they planned on running for (if interested).  Students were only allowed to run for one position.  It worked out that we had two students running for each.

Every student who attended the meeting got a ballot.  The rule was that each student could vote for one person per category (or abstain), but students could not vote for themselves.  

We went by officer position, having the candidates come up and introduce themselves.  Each candidate needed to say:
- Their name
- Their grade (9th, 10th, etc.)
- Their current level of German
- Why they're interested in the position
- What experience they have/why they would be good for the position

I collected the ballots and let them know the winners (I did not reveal the margin of victory).  

Officer Handbook

Officers had a lot of responsibilities.  As the Club Sponsor, I saw my role as a facilitator.  The actual planning and acquiring of materials was supposed to be entirely up to them.  That meant figuring out activities, the materials they would need, reserving rooms/spaces, finding out the cost, etc. was all up to the officers.  They also had the responsibility of planning at least two meetings ahead of time.  

To help them, I created a Deutschklub binder.  It had a variety of materials that helped them in the planning of activities.  The binder was broken down into the following categories:
  1. Officer Responsibilities: President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary each have different responsibilities.  These files are actually based on versions the French Club at our school uses.
  2. Officers: Current officers - names and role (the list of this year's officers will remain next year, in case next year's officers would like to consult them for help/guidance)
  3. Attendance Sheets: Students sign in at each meeting, the attendance sheets are kept here for reference
  4. Meetings: List of meeting dates, summaries of each meeting, copies of any papers that were used for that meeting.  There was also a list of activity ideas students could work with.
  5. Planning Sheets: Sheets to help students plan the meetings.  Students fill in the sheet both before the meeting as they figure out what they need to do to plan the activity, and after the meeting they add notes as to what went well and what could have been done better.  These will be references for officers next year who want to plan similar activities.
  6. Officer Meetings: Minutes sheet for secretary to fill out at each meeting.  I ran the first meeting and included my agenda in this section.  This was also based on the French Club.
  7. Finances: Simple chart for students to write in notes about any money collected/raised for activities, as well as what was spent.  There was also room for students to include receipts.  It's important to note that although students were in charge of keeping track of the finances, they were not allowed to collect or handle money (school policy).  
  8. Fundraising: This section is currently empty (we didn't do any fundraising this year).  Anything that we do in the future will be included here.

Point System

I've seen that some clubs use a "points system" to determine if students are full time members.  Basically, students would get points for different contributions to the club.  For example, attending a meeting might be 5 points.  Bringing supplies for a meeting might be 10 points.  By the end of the year, students would need to acquire a certain number to be considered a "member in good standing."  We didn't use this system this year, but it's something we might try next year.  

- Frau Leonard

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sagen Synonyms

I know this is a problem a lot of English teachers face... having students write fluently, which means not everything is "he said" or "she said."  We go out of our way to show our students how to write in English with a variety of vocabulary, but it's something we often neglect in the Target Language.

I found this image a while back, no idea where:

It's a cute reference chart that I liked.  I finally got around to making a German one based on it:
Hopefully this will work as a good reference chart for students - they'll have visuals and the English definition.  I plan on using this with German 2 students.  I have other versions of the same chart that I think would work well with upper level students:
Version 2: Students have German verb and visual clue, must come up with definition
Version 3: Students have only the German verb, must come up with definition AND visual representation
Admittedly, I have not done a lot of creative writing in German so these may not be the best ways to express some of the situations I was looking for - if you'd recommend any changes, let me know!

If you're interested in downloading all three charts, they're available for free on TPT - just click here.

- Frau Leonard

Monday, June 9, 2014

Das ist so ein Monster!

A theme that seems to come up a lot when learning about body parts is monsters and aliens.  I have several activities where students have to either describe or create monsters - students love getting to see weird monsters and being creative when they come up with their own.

Last week with German 2 we were finishing up class a little early.  We were in the middle of our body parts unit, so I came up with a closing activity based on the monster descriptions students had just been doing.  I asked students to get out a piece of paper and trace their hand.  With just this outline, students then had to create a monster by adding different body parts to it.

Here are some of their monsters:

Afterward, you can have students describe different monsters to each other.  You'll have a variety of monsters to choose from, but the beauty is that they all start with a hand - every student will have a base to build off of.

It was a fun, quick activity that I would recommend trying as a closing (or opening) for class.

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

20 Questions: Was ist in der Tasche?

 Here's a quick activity I use to introduce a new vocabulary unit and to encourage creative thinking!

I'm sure you've played the game 20 questions.  The premise is simple - you have a person, movie, object, or whatever in mind.  The other person has to figure out who/what you're thinking about.  They're allowed to ask you up to 20 questions, but the catch is that you can only answer with a yes or no.

In this case, you have a bag.  The lovely orange bag to the left is one that a mentor teacher gave to me my first year teaching (yes, it has lasted this long!) when she introduced me to this activity.

Find an object related to whatever topic you're going to be discussing.  I usually use something that's related to a topic we're about to start, but it's an object that students already can identify.  Here are some examples for unit starters:

  • CD for Music
  • Mr Potato Head for Body Parts
  • Party Hat for Gifts/Birthdays or to introduce Piggeldy's Birthday Party
  • Toy Bus for Transportation
  • Stuffed Cat for Animals
  • Toy Apple for Food
  • Cards for Weekend Activities

It's also a good way to review vocabulary before midterms and finals, and can even be used to introduce a subset of a unit.  For example, I use a stuffed Wildschwein to introduce a reading and video we do on Wildschweine during our Animals unit.

If you start this with German 1 students, it's typically easy to explain the directions and goal of the activity (even completely in German).  The real trick is helping them figure out what to ask and how to ask it.  Help students as they start by giving examples of questions.  Good starting questions and hints:

  • Adjectives: Ist es (rund/gross/klein/rot/braun/schwer)?
  • Categories: Ist es (ein Tier/eine Schulsache/Kleidung/ein Spiel)?
  • Actions: Kann man es (essen/tragen/fahren)?
  • Location: Findet man es (zur Schule/zu Hause/im Kaufhaus)?
  • Ist es normalerweise im Klassenzimmer? (I've put enough objects and toys from my classroom in the bag over time that students immediately get suspicious and start looking around for missing items.  Because of my pig collection, the first question is almost always, "Ist es ein Schwein?")

Once students do the activity a few times, they're better at narrowing down the category - though sometimes a class will hit a brick wall and you may have to subtly give clues to get them back in the right direction.

As students ask their questions, I keep track of the questions by putting a tally on the board.  Sometimes I'll tease students that they don't get to see the object if they get through all twenty without figuring it out - they always want to know what it is! - but revealing the object and discussing it is important to segue into the next part of your lesson.  If you're introducing a new unit, for example food, you can then move on to building a word web as a class, listing words they already know related to the topic.  If you're introducing a new facet of a current unit, then discuss what they already know about the object in question.

One last note: This activity is in some ways similar to Black Stories, though with some obvious differences (question limit, different topic, range of vocabulary needed).  Students in general, I find, have difficulty with creative thinking.   Coming up with questions is initially difficult for them when they're first introduced to either activity, and starting lower levels with the occasional "Was ist in der Tasche?" helps them stretch their creative muscles and build them up to Black Stories in German 3 and 4.

- Frau Leonard