Friday, November 14, 2014

Interactive Notebooks

I've always wanted to do interactive notebooks, so this year I decided to just go with it after some encouragement/help from a TCi workshop I attended in the summer.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but I've learned a lot along the way.

Because this is something new, I decided not to approach this with my German 3/4 classes at all - they've had me for at least two years without notebooks, and I thought it would be too much of a transition to start doing it now.  That left my German 1 and 2 and Latin 1 classes.  Here's how I've approached interactive notebooks so far this year.

Introducing Notebooks to the Class
I introduced students to the notebooks the first week of school.  Each student needed to get two spiral notebooks, preferably ones with 8.5 x 11 inch dimensions.

--> Why two notebooks?  I have them keep one for Grammar-related notes, and the other for vocab notes.  Since the long term goal is for them to keep these notebooks for the (hopefully) four years they'll be taking German, I wanted to guarantee that there'd be enough room for everything they'll need to put in.  There should hopefully even be some room in case they make mistakes.

Make sure you let students know this - that it's a pain, but it's a real investment in their German studies.  They'll be taking these notebooks with them year after year.  At the end of each quarter, they won't have to ask what they can throw out and what they need to keep - keep the notebook, chuck the rest.  At the end of the summer, they won't have to worry about losing their notes - keep the notebook and it's all safe and sound.  If they forget a topic later on, they can refer back to it in their notebook.  Really sell the utility of it to make them more on board.

I also allowed students to get two section notebooks to use instead, though my recommendation is still for two (more pages, easier to reference both the current vocab list and grammar topic at the same time).

My Latin classes only do one notebook - theirs is divided into two sections, one for grammar notes and the other for culture notes.  Since vocab units are approached different for Latin, it didn't make sense for it to have its own section.

--> Why 8.5 x 11 inches?  This is the perfect size for gluing in a piece of paper.  Any smaller and the pages stick out or students need to trim them.

Setting Up Notebooks
I gave students about a week to get their notebooks.  I also recommended they get their own glue - I told them flat out that I have glue sticks for them, but between the 100 kids who will be putting stuff in their notebooks it wasn't going to last the whole school year and I wasn't getting more.  If they want to make sure they still have glue later, they should get their own.  This gives them some buffer time before it's actually necessary.  Now that we're in second quarter, the original glue I had supplied to kids is dwindling - it probably won't last through December.

When we first set up the notebooks, we started by labeling the front covers.  They needed to write:
their name; DEUTSCH (very big); the title "Grammatik und Strukturen" one one notebook and "Vokabeln und Kultur" on the other.  I also encouraged students to decorate the covers - again, this is something that's following them around for at least a year, it should reflect a bit of who they are.

We then set up a table of contents in each.  They put the title "Inhatlsverzeichnis (Table of Contents)" at the top of the first page.  They then put in three columns: Thema (Topic), Seiten (pages), and Noten (Quiz Scores).  This helps students keep track of the topics we've covered, where to find them, and how they did on the unit quiz (which will hopefully help them focus their studying for midterms and finals).

Adding to the Notebook
Each time we put in new notes, we first add it to the Table of Contents.  I keep track of the up-to-date Table of Contents for all of my classes using Google Docs.  The links to these TOCs are available to students on the class website - this way students who are absent can find out what they missed and where it goes.  If you'd like to see an example of the German 1 Table of Contents, click here for the Vocab and click here for the Grammar.

After we've put it in the TOC, we put it on the next available page.  The first time you put notes in, make sure students skip at least two pages after the TOC - they might need the room later on as they progress through German 1-4!  There are a variety of ways to put in the notes.  Here are the most common:

Straight Down: There's nothing on the back of the worksheet, so just glue the back directly to the page.

Foldables: Part of the worksheet is glued down, but part needs to be left un-glued so it can be lifted to show the other reference material.

Side Margin: For pages that have a front and back, students fold along either the left or right margin.  They then just glue the folded margin down, making it possible to see the front and lift it up to view the back.

Straight Down with Side Margin: You might have some notes that include one page front/back and the front of another page.  Glue the bottom page straight on, then fold the margin of the front page so that all three sheets are visible.

Two Page Spread: Sometimes it's just better to put the notes in across two pages.  Whether it's two pages front/back next to each other, or two single-sided pages, this is the way to go for some topics.

Written Notes: Crazy as it may sound, sometimes students will be writing the notes in themselves.  I also occasionally combine hand-written notes (usually in the form of brainstorming before we start a new topic) with some printed notes. You might need to guide them through this (at least give them a title for the page).

It's really important that you emphasize the page numbers - there's no point in keeping things and creating a Table of Contents if you can't find anything.  The pages are there to make it easier for them to find what they need later on.

Pro-Tip: Keep your own copy of the notebooks.  This is a good reference for students who are absent (even if the note sheets are blank, they can see where things go) and it helps you visualize where you want the various worksheets to go.  It's also a great visual reference for students if you add the notes to the notebook at the same time as them, or at least have it to show them how it should look.

Color Coding Sheets
I read a suggestion somewhere for interactive notebooks that the pages should be colored.  When I started doing this at the beginning of the year, but it definitely makes sense and I've switched to it now.  It's visually easier for students to find their notes within the spiral notebooks.

I used to give color-coded packets to students that contained all the notes and practice worksheets for a unit.  To an extent I still do, but obviously the notes are now given separately.  I pick a color for the notes and then have all supplementary homework, classwork, practice activities, etc. in the same color.  It helps students identify the correct pages in their notebooks to go along with the activities we're doing.

Simplify Notes
I've actually made note worksheets a lot simpler for students - there aren't as many examples or exercises, and I'm tending to use a bigger font.  I want their notebooks to be something they can take out to quickly refer to whatever it is they need.

Grading Notebooks
Every few weeks I do a notebook check.  I collect all the notebooks (EITHER the grammar OR the vocab one - not both at the same time) and do a quick check to make sure students are keeping up with the material.  I don't do anything super-extensive...  I pre-pick three of the things we've added since the notebook check, then go through to see if students have it.

I check for neatness (pretty self explanatory) and organization.  For the organization, I make sure they have everything filled in that they need to, it's in the right spot, and the page number is clearly labeled.  Here's a look at the rubric I use (click here for a digital version):
Even with larger classes, the rubric makes it easy to go through.  Students either have it or they don't.  It's either complete or it's not.  The first couple checks need to include looking at the Table of Contents, just to make sure they've set it up correctly.

So far I'm really happy with how the notebooks are going.  Although a bit more work for me (grading them and helping students set them up), I find that overall students have fewer organizational issues.  When students need help with something, I can reference different notebooks and sections.  I would definitely recommend it!

- Frau Leonard

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kunstwerke und Schönheit

In my combined German 3/4 AP class we're in the midst of our Beauty and Aesthetics unit.  It's a longer unit that I generally break up into shorter chunks.  Right now, since we're just starting out, we're discussing what is beauty and trying to better understand our own personal concepts of beauty.

To tie in some culture, we usually look at some famous works of art from the German-speaking world.  We look at some pieces to figure out which we like and don't like, coming up with different things we like (some kids like the classic stuff, others like the modern or abstract stuff - it's a great way to know your kids better to find this out!).  Then each student picks a piece of artwork and researches it a bit, finding out about the artist and the work itself.  They then present their findings to their class, additionally explaining why they think that particular painting is beautiful.

I've always enjoyed this part of the unit (Who doesn't want to take a break to look at some art?  There's some great history behind some of these works!), but I felt like this wasn't as memorable for the students as it could be.  So what we did is this year, I teamed up with one of our fabulous art teachers.  In addition to researching their particular work of art, I had students then re-create it using watercolor, oil pastel or colored pencil.  Check out the results!

If you'd like to do an activity like this - and I totally recommend it since it was a lot of fun - here's how to set it up:

  • If you'd like the Power Point with the rubric and works of art my students chose from, it's available on TPT - just click here.
  • I gave students a copy of the Power Point.  We went through each piece of art briefly and they took notes on which they liked or didn't like.  I then had them pick their top three to research.  Warn them that they will also be painting their own version!
  • To make sure I didn't have 26 kids all reproducing der Wanderer or Hase, I limited it to two students per work of art.  I randomized student names.
  • I was nice and gave students time in class to research (about 30 minutes, the rest had to be done at home).  I also gave them some information about the work of art as a starting point (author or name of painting, this information is in "notes" section of the Power Point slides).
  • Students had three days to actually reproduce their work of art.  The first day was all about the line art - getting that ready so they could jump right into painting the next day.  They then had two days to finish their work with whatever medium they wanted.  The art teacher was there to help guide them through both parts of this process (which was amazing and super helpful since painting is never something I've been particularly good at).  If students needed more time, they could come in after school or take it home.
  • If students wanted to do an adaptation of the work, they could... but they would need to address what changes they made and why during their presentation.  For example, some students had paintings that were black and white, so they added color to them.
  • I did give students a grade for the actual art work... but it was for completion.  If I had seen them trying in class and they had something to show at the end, they got their 15/15 points.  
  • Students presented their information and their own adaptation.  We then discussed which ones we thought were the best reproductions of the original.
  • Obviously I hung these up - some of them were amazing!  
  • To get the lower levels involved (i.e. to pump them up for when they'll get to do this activity), I had them do a gallery walk and vote on their favorite.  Kids loved seeing what their friends from Deutschklub or what their older siblings were doing!
This was a fun activity, and honestly it was a great "mental break" from the work we've been doing.  It was at the end of first quarter, so it also felt like a reward for students - it's been a hard transition for most of them since we're a combined German 3/4 AP class, which is new for both groups.

- Frau Leonard

Here's a freebie activity on Was Kinder über Schönheit denken - works well as a reading and leads into some great discussion points!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

German-American Day

Recently 30 of my German students attended German-American Day at McDaniel College in Maryland.  It was our first ever German field trip, and I just wanted to share my experiences just in case you're in the Maryland area and have considered this event OR if you're outside the area and would like to do an event like this. After attending the event, I surveyed my students who attended to see what they thought about the various workshops they attended.  

Opening Address

The day began with registration and an opening welcome by Dr. Mohammed Esa.  When we signed in, we received our German-American Day T-Shirts with the theme "Deutsch ist grossartig."

Loved the shirts, but this is where the lack of organization started to show.  Because we arrived apparently too early, my students had to sit and wait over for the opening address.  I do wish they'd had something going on while schools came to check in - if no activities, at the very least music playing.

The guest speaker was completely inaudible - there were microphone or sound system problems that made it impossible for anyone to hear what was going on (even though we were near the front, we still could not hear).  This was students' least favorite part of the day, and considering 

There were various workshops students could attend, all relating to German culture.  You sign up for them ahead of time and generally got the workshops you picked.  Here's a little about some of the workshops my students attended.

German Folk Dance
I accompanied some of my students to this workshop.  There was an older couple who was teaching some traditional German Folk Dances to students.  Loved the idea and workshop, the execution could use some improvement.  The only dances shown were partner dances, so it counted on there being an even number of students.  It also made it awkward for a lot of students who didn't want to dance with strangers from other schools (or classmates from their own).  There were also audio issues with the cassettes and the speakers were just plain not loud enough to be heard in the auditorium where they danced.  Again, those are some issues that I think could very easily be addressed to make this an outstanding workshop.

Make Your Own Marzipan
The students who did this workshop loved it.  They learned about how to make Marzipan, then got to decorate and eat some.  I will point out that they did not actually get to cook any Marzipan - it was all pre-made for them.

German Cinema: From the Weimar Republic into Modern Day
Students got to watch some movie clips such as Hitler delivering a speech to (I believe) watching the entire movie Lola Rennt.  Had I known this were the extent of the workshop, I don't think I would've had any students attend, since Lola Rennt is a movie I usually use with my German 3 students...  I got mixed reviews from students who attended this workshop, ranging from "It was okay" to "It was boring."

Germans For and Against Hitler 1933-1945
I have several boys who are World War II buffs/enthusiasts and they could not stop raving about this workshop.  They thought it was interesting and informative, and especially liked that it was conducted by a man who was living in Germany during that time.  This is a workshop that probably could have been 90 minutes instead of 60 with no complaints on the part of the participants.

German Rock, Pop and Hip Hop Music
This was another popular workshop that my students enjoyed.  They basically watched German music videos that were totally ridiculous and fun.  Here are two of the ones my students told me about:

Christmas in Germany
Students learned about German Christmas traditions and watched videos relating to it.  The students who attended thought it was very interesting (and terrifying!) to learn about Knecht Rupbrecht and Sankt Nikolaus.

The workshops are really the best part of the day... though I will say that I find it problematic that students can only attend one.  There is a single round of workshops, each lasting either 60 or 90 minutes.  I think most of these workshops could have been shortened (based on student feedback).  I also feel it would serve students better if there were two rounds of shorter workshops.  Most students had expressed an interested in multiple topics, but were limited to one.

Students also brought up and lamented the fact that there wasn't much German during German-American Day.  All of the workshops were conducted in English and students were surprised to learn that some of the other kids participating in the event didn't even know any German.  I totally understand not wanting to do all German immersion workshops, but I think they're missing out on a way to encourage language growth and interest.

Lunch was provided in the McDaniel College dining hall.  They served delicious German food including Sauerkraut, Schwarzwalder Kuchen, Wurst and Braten.  No complaints about lunch from any of the students (except my one vegan student, who did acknowledge that German food is pretty meat heavy and wasn't too surprised).  Some even said it was one of the best parts of the day.

The day ended with a concert by the band artig.  While fun and authentic, I was surprised by the mixed reactions my students had to it.  Some liked it while others were totally not interested.  We ended up not staying for the whole concert, which originally I thought would be a disappointment to students (we needed to leave early to get them back to school in time for dismissal).  Turns out none of my students complained and in fact some looked relieved.

Overall I think this was a great event that brought German students from around the state together.  There were over 1400 participants this year, which just shows how big this event is.  I think there are some definite issues/improvements that could be made, but if you're in the area it's worth checking out next year.

- Frau Leonard