Thursday, July 30, 2015

This Summer's Quilt for my Classroom

One of my favorite things to do when not teaching German is to quilt.  Last summer I made my first quilt for my classroom:  

I moved to a new classroom over the summer, and of course I took my quilt with me.  But I also had time to work on a new quilt, so I decided to make a German flag out of 2.5" square scraps.  My older son took Preparing for College and Careers last spring in middle school, which included a unit on sewing.  He helped out with some of the piecing.

I just finished sewing the binding on this evening, so as soon as I finish the hanging sleeve, I will be able to put it up in my room.  Here it is:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Week from Today...

school starts again for me!  Whoa!  Summer has gone by really fast, but it's been a good one. I've gotten quite a bit of work done for school, and hopefully it will make the start of the year a little less hectic.

And I'm looking forward to this new school year.  There are several changes:

New books!  After a long selection process, we have a new textbook with materials that I think will work well for our students and give me more resources for effective teaching.  

New devices!  My school is going 1-1 and all students will get an HP tablet computer at the beginning of the year.  I'm sure it will take time to get everyone up and running on it, and there are pros and cons, but I am looking forward to my students having access to Quizlet and Duolingo every day, not just when it's our turn for the iPad cart.

New room!  I'll be in my third classroom in three years, but it's a nice big room and has a window.  Plus, moving has forced me to clean out and reorganize things, which is always a good thing.

New classes!  Our German program is growing!  There will be an additional section of German 1, German 2, and German 3 this year.  And we will be offering German 4 (together with German 3) for the first time since I have been at BHSN.  

I feel mostly ready, which is a good thing since Aug. 3 (first student day) is almost here!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Germany by Scooter

I'll be teaching German 1 again this fall, which means I get to introduce my students to Germany by Scooter!  

Germany by Scooter is a video series made in 2013 by Deutsche Welle, in which reporter Michael Wigge attempts to cross Germany from North to South by scooter in 80 days.  He chats with people he meets and stops at some of the less well-known sights in Germany along the way.  Each video is about 5 minutes long, and it's a light and humorous introduction to Germany geography and culture.  I like to use if for a quick break between classroom activities and a lead-in to cultural topics.  

Does he make it all the way in 80 days?  You'll have to watch to find out.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Starting class, Starting the Year

I'm a big fan of starting class with a bell ringer/do now (I call it Macht jetzt) activity.  It gives students something relevant to do as soon as the bell rings to get them on task, thinking about German, and ready to learn, even if I am taking attendance or talking to an individual student.  It sets a good tone that my classroom is a place where we are working and learning and thinking for the whole eighty-five minutes of class (hopefully!).  

I even like to start out the first class of the year this way.  Again, I think it sets a good tone of what class is going to be like for the year and gives students something to do as I am helping students who are lost or have a schedule problem or all the other stuff that comes up on the first day of school.  

For German 1, I give students a crossword puzzle of German words that are very similar to English words that they should be able to figure out.  

I make my crossword puzzles at the free Discovery Education Puzzlemaker site.  

One of my big goals in German 3 is to get students describing German words with other German words they know (circumlocution), rather than translating to English.  So, their crossword puzzle has clues in German for German words they already know.

Click on the pictures of the puzzles for a copy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Vocabulary Games

As I mentioned earlier this week, a huge part of learning a language is studying vocabulary.  I try to do a variety of different vocabulary activities to make learning it as interesting and enjoyable as possible, and this includes playing games.  One of my favorite whole-class games is Ich habe, wer hat? (I have, who has?) which I've blogged about previously.  My other games are located next to my Vocabulary Practice Tools cupboard in my Vocabulary Games cupboard.  Here's what I've got:

I hit the jackpot on a trip to Goodwill during my first year of German teaching when I found two vintage games in one trip!  The first is a really cool hangman set, which I'm sure is older than my students and may even be older than me.  (One of my students said her grandma has the same hangman boards.)  The other game is called Probe, which I had never heard of before, but it's basically a hidden letters game, played very much like Hangman.  

Below that I have 3 small metal mailboxes that I got in the dollar bins at Target.  I've labeled the flags on them with "der, die, and das," and students sort nouns by gender into the correct mailbox.  Simple, but it gets the job done.

Another whole-class game we play is  Lotto (bingo), often as a review before a quiz or test.

Then, I have two different board games that can be used for any unit.  The first one is for practicing verb conjugations.  Each square has a different subject pronoun on it.  A player takes a card which has a verb in infinitive form written on it and conjugates it for the subject on the square.  If it's right, he/she stays there; if it's wrong, he/she moves back to the previous spot.  The other board game just has plain squares, and the cards have conversation questions from the current unit on them.  

As you can see, I have space for more games, so if you have suggestions for others, let me know!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Handy Haus

I've blogged previously about why I don't permit cell phone use in class and how I enforce this policy.

When I have to take away a student's cell phone, it goes in to my Handy Haus for the rest of the class period.  My original Handy Haus was just a basket with a label on it.

This worked just fine, but this summer I decided I wanted to upgrade.  I found a cardboard house with a removable roof for just $3 and knew I had found my new Handy Haus.  It was plain brown, but my kids offered to paint it yesterday, and I happily took them up on the offer. 

Here they are, planning the color scheme:

In progress:

The finished product:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Vocabulary Practice Tools

There's really no getting around the fact that mastering a language requires learning the vocabulary - lots of it.  And that requires practice, practice, and more practice.  So, a big part of my job is developing as many different ways as possible for getting my students to practice vocabulary.

I went in to school today for the first time since school ended in May.  I'm in a new room, so I spent time unpacking boxes and putting things in their new homes.  Here's a look at one of my cabinets which contains a lot of the tools in my vocabulary practice toolbox:

On the right hand side are white boards and dry erase markers.  I don't know quite why, but students are more willing to drill on vocabulary or grammar on white boards than paper.  I'll take whatever I can get, and we usually practice on white boards once or twice a unit.

We use Quizlet a lot, which has digital flashcards and vocabulary practice activities, but I will always have 1 or 2 students in a class who prefer low-tech, paper flashcards.  That's fine with me, and I keep a supply of index cards around for them.  (They're also useful for students who forget their digital device or have lost the privilege of using it that day.)

I also have letter tiles from old board games like Scrabble.  I really emphasize to students that they need to practice vocabulary actively.  They need to write, type, or otherwise form the words, rather than just looking at a list.  Letter tiles are another way for students to form words - I haven't used them that much but hope to do so more in the future.

On the bottom left shelf I have some letter stamps and ink pads.  I haven't used these yet, but I'd like to give students the option of stamping vocabulary words for practice.  I'd also like to give students the option of making a collage out of letters cut out of magazines, and I have the boxes on the left for storing cut-out letters. It might seem a little elementary school-ish, but I think at least some of my students would think it's fun.  Whatever it takes...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Frau Swank sightings

The other day my husband and I were walking to dinner at a downtown restaurant when someone in a passing car stuck her head out the window and yelled, "Hallo Frau Swank!"

After dinner we were walking home along a bike and walking path.  Two runners were coming toward us, and as they got closer, one of them called out, "Hey, it's Frau Swank!"

This happens to me quite a bit.  I'm a little surprised - I've only been teaching German here part time for two years so far.  This never really happened to be in my previous teaching job in Indianapolis.  Indianapolis is much larger than Bloomington, and the school where I taught was in a different part of town from where we lived.  But in Bloomington, there are only 2 high schools, and everyone knows everyone, so I see my students a lot.  Overall, it's a nice thing, though it does mean I can't expect to go to Target or the grocery store in my pajamas without being seen a student.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Unit Planning

I've been working quite a bit this summer on unit planning.  During my first two years of teaching German, I really had to take things day to day because I didn't have a good sense of what my German 2 and German 3 students knew from the previous year.  Also, I wasn't sure how much I could accomplish during an 85 minute block period.  I really like to plan ahead more, but it just wasn't possible as I figured things out as I went along.

Now that I have two years of experience teaching on a block schedule and we have a new, more useful textbook, I feel like I can finally do some real unit planning.

The first thing I did was search on the internet for a unit planning template for secondary world languages.  I found a couple that were close to what I thought I wanted, so I started with those and made changes until I had my own.  Here's what it looks like:
Each unit lasts about 10 days, and I'm planning for 4 units per semester.  

After a short 4 day review unit, my German 3/4 students will start their first regular unit on Die Alltagsroutine / The Daily Routine.  Here's what the unit plan looks like so far for that:

If you'd like an editable copy of my Unit Plan template, click on its picture.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Looking Ahead

Whoa, school starts three weeks from Monday!  Time flies in the summer.

I've had a really nice and relaxing break so far.  In mid-June we spent a week in San Francisco for a wedding in my husband's family and for some sight-seeing.

Next weekend we'll head up to Michigan to spend a week with both of our families, and after that, there are just 3 break days left before teacher work days.

In between, I've been enjoying the relaxed pace of summer and having a chance to do some big-picture unit planning with our new textbook.  I updated this blog to indicate that next year will be my 5th year of teaching (3rd year in German at Bloomington North).  Next year I will be five-sixths time and teach three sections of German 1 and two sections of German 3/4.  I'll miss teaching German 2 - it has always been my favorite level to teach, but I'm looking forward to teaching German 1 again.  And I'm excited that we will be able to offer German 4 for the first time since I have been at North.  There are only 3 students, so they are combined in with the German 3 classes, but it's a start.  And there are about 50 students enrolled in German 3, so hopefully we'll have more students continue on to German 4 the following year.