Saturday, December 27, 2014

Vanille Kipferl

The last weeks of school before Winter Break were really, really busy.  Most of my time was filled with helping students get ready for finals and get caught up after being absent and giving quiz and test make-ups and retakes, but I was able to set aside a tutorial period right after St. Nicholas' Day for cookie baking.

I decided we'd make Vanile Kipferl (almond crescents), which are a popular Christmas cookie in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.  We used this recipe, although thankfully I read the comments and saw that you need 14 tablespoons of butter, not the 7 listed in the recipe.  

Our tutorial periods are only 40 minutes long, so I mixed up the dough ahead of time at home. (And tested it on Nicholas and Andrew.  Nicholas liked them; Andrew thought they were too plain.)  Students shaped their own cookies, placed them on the cookie sheets, and wrote their name next to it on the parchment paper if they were especially attached to their cookie.  We baked them in the World Languages office oven.

Then, we dusted them with powdered sugar, and they were ready to eat, with just a few minutes to spare.  The unanimous verdict was that they were delicious.  The cookie baking as a whole went smoothly and wasn't too hectic for me - definitely something I will repeat in future years.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Final exams are finished!  And my semester grades are calculated and entered into the gradebook, so it is officially winter break.

After the final, my students were allowed to study for other finals, read, sleep, listen to music on their headphones, or even use their cell phones (which they're not normally allowed to do in class, so this was a special privilege).  I also had some German coloring pages for people who wanted a little stress-relief or didn't have anything else to do.  They were pretty popular, and two of my students gave me their picture!

Ich habe, wer hat?

I spent a little over 2 years working as an elementary school English as a New Language aide before returning to high school teaching 2 years ago.  I learned so many things from working with some incredible elementary teachers!  

One game that they played with students is called "I have, who has?"  One student has a card that says something like "I start.  Who has the capital of Texas?"  The student whose card says "I have Austin. Who has the capital of Iowa?" will then read it, followed by the student who has Des Moines on her card, and so on, until a student has a card that says, "I finish."  The goal is to get through all the cards as fast as possible, and it can be used to review material in a variety of subject areas.

Last year I played "Ich habe, wer hat?" with my first year German class, and they really liked it.  This year I have three German 2 classes, and they compete against each other for the fastest time.  It works best when students are pretty familiar with the vocabulary.  Here's a look at several of the cards for my German 3 class, including the beginning and ending cards.

It's not hard to create your own game using your specific vocabulary.  I usually print mine out on card stock for durability.  Here is the basic template without the vocabulary words added in if you'd like to try it yourself!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


It's that time of year - finals started yesterday.  I gave one exam today, give one tomorrow, and finish up with two on Friday.  I don't usually give multiple choice tests, but finals are the one exception.  It's such a busy time that turning the grading over to a machine is a huge help!  

This is my first year teaching German 3, so I was writing that test from scratch, and it took me the most time.  Since I taught German 2 last year, I at least had something to start from, and that one went pretty quickly.  

It takes me longer to write a multiple choice test, but once that's done, the grading is a snap. In fact, my school has installed an app on our iPads called All in Learning.  It lets me scan the students' tests as they turn them in and give them immediate feedback (if they want it) about how they did.  

We have 1 hour and 36 minute exam periods.  (We're on a block schedule, so regular classes are only slightly shorter - 1 hour and 25 minutes.)  My German 2 students took the 75 question multiple choice test and then when they had finished, they came to my desk to do the speaking portion and to have their answer sheet scanned.  It worked very well - today was my biggest class, and I was able to do the speaking test with everyone, though it did take the entire period.  The biggest difficulty was that students sometimes had to wait for several minutes after finishing the multiple choice before I could do their speaking test because several students finished at the same time.  They weren't allowed to use their cell phones or get out other materials because they still had their tests in hand, and some of my students are not very good at waiting.  Maybe it's time for the Cookie Monster video about patience and self-control!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More Speaking Exam Practice

Monday was our last day of regular classes before finals, and we did some more practice for the speaking part of the test in German 2.  I was feeling a bit more colorful this time.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting Ready for Finals

My school is on a semester schedule, and final exams are coming up next week.  My goal for this week is to get my students to review as much as possible and to help them see what topics they remember well and what they need to review some more. 

One of the activities we did was to create a foldable to practice answering possible exam speaking questions from Einheit (Unit) 3 Sport and Einheit 4 Essen (Food).  I used a basic six tab flap book, and we wrote the questions on the front side of the flap:

I wasn't especially colorful today with my example, but some of my students were

Then, on the back side of the flap, we wrote what the question means in English

and under the flap we wrote answers to the questions.

     After everyone had written answers, students worked with their table groups of 4 people to ask and answer the questions.  I set a timer for 10 minutes and instructed students to talk the whole time, even if they repeated questions.  I gave participation points for this, which I haven't done before, but I think it emphasized to them that I really wanted them to speak the whole time, and most groups did, so I'd call it a success.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Herzlich Wilkommen!

Welcome to my Blog!  I've been an admiring reader of many teachers' blogs for several years now, and I've finally gotten my act together and started a blog of my own.  I've gotten ideas, materials, and encouragement online, and I'd like to start giving back.  Hopefully some things I post will be helpful to readers.

This is the door to my classroom.  I am working 2/3 time this school year, and I teach three sections of German 2 and one section of German 3.  

Here is my bulletin board of classroom expressions.

And here is the front board.  There's more to see, but I'll leave that for another post. Welcome!