Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snow Day(s)!

Up until this past week, it's been a mild winter.  My kids were complaining that we hadn't had any snow days and only one 2 hour delay, and it was beginning to feel like a long haul until spring break in mid-March.

That all changed Monday.  It started snowing Sunday night, and by Monday morning enough had accumulated for us to have our first snow day of the year.  It kept snowing much of the day, and I had two very happy kids at my house.

Our school district includes both the city of Bloomington and most of the surrounding county, so even when the roads are clear in town, school is often cancelled because the rural bus routes aren't in good shape.  So, on Tuesday we had our second snow day.  

Then, it snowed several more inches Tuesday night, and schools were closed again on Wednesday.  

We didn't get any more snow after that, but temperatures and wind chills dropped very low, resulting in our fourth snow day today.  

Temperatures are supposed to be very low again tonight, and we already have a 2 hour delay for tomorrow, but it looks like we might finally get back to school on Friday.

Monday, February 9, 2015


My German 2 students started learning the Präteritum (Narrative Past / Simple Past / Imperfekt) this unit.  They've been working with the Perfekt / Conversational Past since the beginning of the first semester, and it's time to add in the other past tense.

We started out by comparing the Präteritum with the Perfekt.  German is different from many other languages in that there isn't really a difference in meaning between these two forms of the past tense; the difference is the context in which they are used.  Perfekt is used in conversation, while Präteritum is used primarily in writing.

Next, I taught students to form the narrative past stem for regular verbs by adding "te" to the verb stem.  To that, they should add an ending so that the verb agrees with the subject of the sentence.  This is a little bit different than the way the Präteritum is taught in the textbook and online sources I consulted.  They teach separate Präteritum endings for regular and irregular verbs.  I think it's easier for students to learn one set of endings that can be applied to both groups of verbs.  Once they know these endings, forming the narrative past for irregular verbs is simple.

I don't require students to memorize the narrative past and past participle for irregular verbs until German 3, but students in German 2 have to know how to recognize and use them correctly when provided them.

On Friday students used the verb dice to practice conjugating both regular and irregular verbs in the present and Präteritum.  Some of my students did especially colorful work

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Pfingsten Paradox

My second year students started a new unit last week on Feste and Feiertage (Festivals and Holidays).  With Mardi Gras / Fat Tuesday / Faschingsdienstag coming up February 17, it's a good time to visit this topic.  Plus, we need something cheerful to focus on when it's the middle of winter, we haven't had any snow days, and Spring Break is still too far away to think about.

It's also a good opportunity to revisit vocabulary for seasons, months, and dates / ordinal numbers, which we covered in 1st year but could use a review.  Our vocabulary list includes several of the major holidays celebrated in German-speaking countries.  After introducing those, students added them to a calendar in their notes:

Pfingsten (Pentecost) is one of the holidays we discussed, and I was surprised to find that in three sections of German 2, no one knew what Pentecost was.  I had a few students refer to Pentecostal Christianity or Pentecostals, but other than a vague idea of it being a religious holiday, they were stumped.  

To some extent it makes sense, because unlike Christmas or Easter, Pentecost does not really have a secular component to it in the United States.  It's ironic, though, because in Germany, which has far lower religious participation than the United States, Pentecost Monday is a public holiday.  School students have at least a long weekend, and some have two weeks of vacation.  The majority of my students would identify as Christian, but they were completely unfamiliar with Pentecost.  It's interesting to me that the United States is much more religious than Germany, even though we have a strict separation of church and state.  Germany has freedom of religion but not the same separation of church and state - many religious holidays are also public holidays, and religion is a public school subject.  Yet Germany as a whole is a much more secular country than the U.S.  The Pfingsten Paradox.