Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Question Words and Movie Summaries

German 2 always starts with a full first quarter review before moving on to German 2 material.  I break it into three main grammar review topics: Nouns and Cases; Verbs; and Question Words.  We're currently finishing up our Question Words review, and here's a fun activity that we did combining the question words and popular movies.

First I asked the students to pick a movie they all knew.  We finally settled on "Die Unglaublichen" (it's one of the DVDs I have that students sometimes get to watch).  I then put up question word signs - courtesy of German Language Resources on TPT.  Students had to summarize the movie based on the question word prompts.

The question words we used were:
- WER?  Who are the main characters?
- WANN?  When does the movie take place?
- WO?  Where does it take place?
- WAS?  What happens in the movie?  (Vocab was limited and we haven't done the the past tense - we ended up sticking to the main actions that occurred)
- WIE?  Who did those actions happen?  (For example, they said there was fighting... were they fighting with their hands or with weapons?  They said there was flying... how did this flying occur?)
- WARUM?  Why do the main actions take place?  What are the motivations of the main characters?

Here's what they came up with:

Student analysis of the movie - I basically just wrote what they came up with and helped guide them through the process.  Sorry for any spelling mistakes (there are undoubtedly several!)

I then had students work with their groups on analyzing and summarizing another movie.  I didn't want to deal with students fighting over their favorite movies, so I had cards made up that groups randomly selected.  I had more cards than groups, just in case a group picked a movie they hadn't seen before.

Here were the possible movies:
- Lord of the Rings
- Star Wars (original trilogy, obviously)
- Lion King
- Aladdin
- Frozen
- Harry Potter (just had them pick one)
- Hunger Games
- Iron Man
- The Dark Knight
- The Avengers

Students then answered the six same questions we had gone over as a class.  You can see from the examples below that some groups put more effort into giving details about their movie.

After groups had finished their summaries, they had to present the information to the class.  The class then decided if they had accurately described the movie or if they had left out important details.  Lord of the Rings fans were, for example, not happy with most of the Fellowship being left out of the "Wer?" category.

I got this idea from Frau Gorgan's activity (as found on Pinterest), though obviously I chose a different topic.  Although we focused on movies, this could easily be done with books, short stories or TV shows (though summaries of TV shows might be more difficult).  It was a fun and different way for us to approach reviewing these question words besides doing another worksheet.

- Frau Leonard

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Learning through Play Dough

Our department head this year bought packs and packs of play dough for us to use this year.  As I took my share, I was thinking, "Man, this is great!  But how am I going to incorporate this stuff into instruction?"

I actually started using it this week with my Latin classes, but the activities could easily be done with any other language.  Here are the two activities students did with play dough.  Spoiler: they loved it!

Activity One: What's this mean?
This is a great (and fun) way to quickly check reading comprehension.  With my Latin students, they had put together a bunch of sentences - at the time, the sentences just needed to make sense grammatically.  Once they had put them together, I gave them some play dough and said they needed to pick two of them and visually represent them.  This became a way for me to check if they could decode the meaning of the sentences - did they really understand what the sentences meant, or were they just following patterns of Nominative - Verb - Direct Object.

I think this would work really well with short stories.  To show they understood the story, groups would have to pick the main scenes in the story and then construct them out of play dough.  Usually this is something I'd do with a comic strip, but this is definitely a variable alternative!

Activity Two: Depict Your Favorite Scene
Students creating the Trojan Horse
When you're doing a movie, story, listening, etc. (basically anything that involves a narrative), this is a good closing activity.  Students pick their favorite scene from the story and depict it using play dough.  They then have to explain both the scene and why it's their favorite.

Now at the higher levels, you might want to change the question from, "What's your favorite scene?" to something like, "What scene best showed the contention between the family members?"  At the end, they will still have to explain the scene and why the picked it - but this time you can add in a discussion about scenes the other groups chose.

I did this with my Latin students.  We had just talked about the Trojan War and Aeneas, so I asked them to draw their favorite scenes.  I got a lot of Trojan horses.

Dido committing suicide
I'm sure there are loads of other ways I could incorporate play dough into instruction (if students write their own stories, if students make scenes and then other groups have to describe them, etc.), but so far I only have these two under my belt.

I only have about ten small containers of play dough, but luckily this seems to work really well with groups.  Actually constructing the scenes would take too long for an individual student to do, so they divide up the work among group members.  It's great as a motivation - "If we can get through this reading, we'll be using the play dough."  I've also found that the students really enjoy playing with play dough.  It's great for tactile learners and for everyone else it's just plain old fun :)

- Frau Leonard

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Was ist in der Tasche - Student Vocab Help

I've previously written about the activity Was ist in der Tasche?  It's a good, quick game to introduce or practice a vocab/cultural topic.  But because of the vocabulary involved in being able to ask helpful questions, it's something I haven't done much with German 1.  This year, I wanted to fix that and bring this activity down to the lower levels!

Each student got an index card.  I had them write "Was ist in der Tasche?" at the top.  First I explained the activity to them.  There was a bag ready to go, but before we started the actual 20 Questions we needed to come up with a process for not just asking random questions, but asking good questions.

Since they're limited to 20 questions total, I asked students if they thought it was a good idea to start specific.  Should they be asking things like, "Is it a cat?" and "Is it a pencil?"  The class agreed that wasn't a good strategy.  As a class, I had them brainstorm different categories and qualities they could ask about to narrow down the topic as much as possible before getting specific.  I then helped them with vocabulary and structures (as necessary).

Here are the topics they came up with (questions in English to open this up to other language teachers!):

Sample of student card
  • Size:  Is it big/small/long/short?
  • Texture:   Is it hard/soft/smooth/rough?
  • Shape:  Is it round/a circle/a square/etc.?
  • Color:   Is it blue/green/etc.?
  • Location:  Can you find it in a classroom/at home/in nature/etc.?
  • Living:   Is it an animal/object?
  • Activities:  Can you eat it/throw it/carry it/etc.?

Again, these questions and categories were based on what the students thought would be helpful.  As I wrote their topics and questions on the board, students were writing the sample questions on their index card.  I told them to put the card in their vocab notebook and hold onto it for the next time we did the activity.

To see if their questions were good, we did two rounds of "Was ist in der Tasche?"  For the first round, there was an apple.  We haven't done food yet, but the word Apfel has come up multiple times with our cognate exercises.  The next round had a frog in the bag.  We also haven't learned very many animals, but my animal posters made it something they could figure out (especially once they found out it was a green, living creature you would find in nature).

For both rounds, students were able to figure out what it was within 10 questions.  At the end, I asked if there were any other questions they felt needed to be added based on actually going through the activity.

I think the cards will really help them ask better questions - too often the students get stuck, completely unsure what to ask about (especially the first few times they do the activity).  We'll see how it goes!

- Frau Leonard

Friday, October 3, 2014

Group Seating

I tend to do a lot of partner and group activities in my teaching.  Over the summer, it occurred to me that my seating arrangement - one I've been using for years - want actually conducive for all this group work.  I had rows that were okay for partner work but that group work a nightmare... I was constantly having to come around and let kids know what their groups were.

So I rearranged my layout from several rows to eight tables.  Each group can seat 3-5 students (of class size allows it, I try to do 4 person groups).  At first I thought it would take up too much room, but I think there's actually a better flow now:

Let me just say that group work is SO much easier now!  They know who's in their group, and at most I'll have to move one or two students to even things out.  Dividing the class in half for team games is also super easy... there's an obvious division between left vs right side of the room.  It's even easier to find partners - I just tell them to work the person who's sitting in front of or next to them.  Not to mention making group copies is easier.  I don't need to guess how many groups I'm going to make in a class since I already know how many tables are occupied.

Because we're also doing interactive notebooks this year, I provided each group with a box.  The boxes stay at their tables - this has saved a lot of time and makes clean up easier.  Each box includes markers (one of each color), glue, scissors and a highlighter.  I don't have to waste time explaining to students where the materials are or passing them out/recollecting them - everything they need on a regular basis is right in front of them!

I also numbered each group.  This year I've started doing in class group practice for grammar and some other skills.  Students complete a worksheet as a group... and when they turn it in, all they need to do is put their group number!  Group numbers are on their supply boxes, making it easy for students to remember.  

These signs are also handy for when groups need to write on the board.  I can just put their corresponding number on their space on the board, and students will know exactly where to write.  I can even use these to randomly call on groups to answer questions or assign sections of a reading.  

So far I really like the new layout.  It's made things so much easier for me, and I think it's been helpful for students.  There was a bit of an adjustment for students who had me last year - I keep telling them that I put them in groups for a reason, they can work together!  Definitely would recommend a similar layout if you like group activities and games :)

- Frau Leonard