Friday, September 30, 2016

Past Participles Speed Dating

File this one under: It's just crazy enough that it might work.

German 2 is learning the Perfekt (conversational past).  After practicing how to form past participles for regular verbs enough that they could recite "ge-verb stem-t" in their sleep, it was time to tackle irregular past participles.

And here we once again come up against one of the unpleasant truths of language learning:

Some things just have to be memorized.  

I've actually come to the conclusion that at least 75% of my job is simply thinking up new and creative ways to trick my students into drilling, drilling, drilling whatever it is they have to memorize.  (The other 25% is split between explaining German grammar and paperwork.)  

There isn't much that's fun or exciting about irregular past participles, but they are necessary.  

While thinking of ways to get my students to practice these past participles, I remembered an activity I had read about recently on my math blogger friend Sarah Carter's blog, Math = Love: Speed Dating.  Sarah was actually featured on NPR's 50 Great Teachers series doing polynomial speed dating.  She credits Kate Nowak with the idea of the speed dating activity.  I've wanted to try speed dating with my German students for a little while.  Could it work for past participles?

On Monday I decided to give it a try.  Just the name caught the interest of some of my more observant students who were reading the agenda board.

Basically, the students each have a card with an infinitive on one side and the English meaning and past participle on the other side.  They move around the room quizzing (dating) each other on past participles and trade cards if they both get the other person's verb correct.  The aim is to date (know the meaning and past participle of) all of the verbs on the checklist.  The materials are pretty basic, just some cards and a check list:

And, it was a hit!  I heard lots of great practice going on, and the students thought it was fun.  It took longer than I expected - the winning speed dater in my first class finished in about 16 minutes.  

I did have the problem in the second class of students checking off verbs they hadn't actually dated (at least I suspect that is what was going on when a student said he was done in 8 minutes).  I dealt with this by requiring that a student tell me a definition and past participle at random from the list in order to be declared the winner.  If the student can't do that correctly, it's back into the dating pool.  I also had some students lose interest after about 10 minutes and spend more time chatting than dating verbs.  It might work better to ditch the checklist and set a timer for 10 minutes, requiring that students date the whole time.  No activity is completely student-proof, I guess.

I wholeheartedly recommend trying speed dating with your students.  Here are my files to get you started:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Haben and the Accusative Case for German 1

This week German 1 learned the verb haben (to have), which means also introducing the accusative case (for direct objects).  

Cases are something that most German students struggle with because they are a lot less noticeable in English.  (The one exception is my students who have had Latin - they are usually thrilled that German has only 4 cases instead of 6!)

The question I get asked the most is "How do I know what case the noun is in?"  My answer, which does not please students, is that you have to figure out the role of the noun in the sentence, which means figuring out what the sentence means.  In other words, you have to think.  Students would like a simple formula, such as the first noun is always the subject, the second noun is the direct object, and so on.  Sadly, it just doesn't work that way.

So, I tried to come up with a way to describe what I mean by "you have to think" and came up with German Sentence Dissection.

The mad scientist on the cover is Dr. Two Brains from PBS Kids Word Girl.  (I love PBS Kids!)  

We made a stacked foldable with the steps for German Sentence Dissection on the outside and the details inside.

I separated out definite and indefinite articles into two separate days.  Here is Step 2: Find the Subject on day one with only definite articles.

And here is Step 3: Find the Direct Object after the second day with definite and indefinite articles.  

I have a terrible time with my students using "eine" (a/an) before a plural noun.  In the past, we used to write "keine" (not/no) in the chart for plural, but then students thought it means a or some for plural nouns.  These days, I have students write "meine" for plural in their ein words charts because it goes along with Das doofe Fischlied.  

But German 1 hasn't learned possessive adjectives, and I wanted to emphasize that plural means more than one, so we wrote "zwei" (two) to signify that you can't say "a books" but you can say "two books."  We'll see if that helps...

This was German 1's first foldable, and they did quite well.  I had them do all of the cutting and preparation work as their bell work, so that when we got to this point in the notes, they were ready to go.

Here are the files for the guided notes plus two worksheets for practicing haben, the accusative case, and articles in the accusative case:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Vocabulary Practice Tutorial for German 1/2

I had my first vocabulary practice tutorial for German 1 and 2 this week.  

One of the most important things I'm trying to convey to my German 1 and 2 students is that sitting and looking at your vocabulary list is not the most effective way to study vocabulary.  They need to be actively engaged with the words - writing them, saying them, spelling them, etc.  

Quizlet is one of my favorite high-tech tools for vocabulary practice.  I especially like the Speller and Learn modes.

This tutorial, though, focused on low-tech (and hopefully fun!) ways to practice vocabulary.  Several of the ideas come from observing Word Work in elementary school classrooms.  (Thank you, Rogers and Binford Elementary Schools!)

This tutorial featured Hangman, using my vintage hangman game boards, purchased at Goodwill for $1:

Hidden Letters (Probe), which is similar to Hangman and also was a $1 Goodwill find:

Letter tiles (pink dots for umlauts):

And letter stamps:

I didn't have anyone choose to do letter tiles, but students seemed to enjoy the other stations.  

Here are my instruction files for Hangman and Hidden Letters if you'd like to give them a try.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Farben und Kleidung

I am such a morning person!  I'm so much more creative in the morning than any other time of the day.  

On Saturday afternoon I was trying to do some planning and creating for my next unit in German 2 - Kleidung Clothing.  Since I didn't teach German 2 last year, it's been two years since I last taught this topic.  We have a new textbook now, so I was looking through what I already have and seeing what fits in with our book and what I need.  I got stuff done, but it was a slow slog.

Then, I woke up early this morning, made myself a cup of tea, and the ideas started flowing.  
I introduced colors last year in German 1, but students were never tested on them, and I have a feeling they need a bit of a review.  I used the above picture in German 1, but I like it and think it will make a good review.  Who doesn't like coloring on a Monday morning?

Several months ago I found a great free worksheet at GrundschulAtelier for beginning clothing vocabulary and colors:

I modified it a bit to work for my students and came up with this:

Since I just introduced clothing vocabulary for the first time on Thursday, I think this will work well to get students using and learning both colors and clothing in class Monday.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

In the Dark

On Friday morning I went in to school expecting to be giving my German 1 students their first test of the year and to be talking about city vocabulary and Berlin with my German 4 students.

Then, when I walked in to school it was much darker than usual in the office.  In fact, we had only emergency power and lighting.  No one was quite sure what had caused it or how long it would be out, but students were already on their way in to school, so it was too late to call a delay or cancel.

Most classrooms had a single emergency light.  My room also has a window, which provided some more light, but no power meant no computers, no water for washing hands in the restrooms (motion-activated sinks), no drinking fountains, and no air conditioning.

I was lucky that I have first period prep on Gold days, so I spent the time trying to figure out what I was going to do in my classes instead of the things I had planned that required electricity.  My German 1 test was on paper, but I hadn't printed it out yet, so that would have to wait.  

Meanwhile, other teachers tried to teach as best they could.  Since the career center also had no power, the day care located there wasn't open, so teachers whose children normally go there had their children with them in the classroom.  It also started getting very stuffy and hot in the classrooms.

By the end of first block, the power still wasn't on, and an announcement was made that we would be dismissing early, at 9:30.  Apparently my school and the attached career center as well as the middle school nearest us were all affected and it was going to take a while to get it fixed.  

Since my children attend the other high school and a middle school that wasn't affected, they had a normal school day, but I got to go home at 10:00.  My kids were jealous, but we may have to make up the missed day, so in the end they may have the last laugh!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Peer Editing in German 2

I've always found peer editing with my students to be a challenge.  

On one hand, I think it is a useful activity for them to read a classmate's work and see if they can understand it and help correct mistakes.  It's also practical because I just can't edit 28 paragraphs in fifteen minutes of class time.

On the other hand, I find that they often don't do a very good job of it.  They will read through the paragraph quickly, say "It's fine," and hand it back to the owner, even when there are obvious basic errors - nouns not capitalized, words misspelled, etc.

As with most things, I've found that my students have more success when I give them specific instructions, like in the picture above.

I introduced the Perfekt (conversational past tense) to German 2 at the beginning of the year, and we've been working hard on it for the past 2 weeks.  This week, students began working on their first writing assessment: a paragraph about a special event such as a birthday that has happened in the past:

We did some pre-writing and brainstorming in class to think of words and phrases we've learned in this unit that could be used here:

Then, students wrote a rough draft that was due on Thursday.  My hope was that giving them a specific checklist would improve the quality of peer editing.  

Overall, I think it was a success.  In my first class, which is generally pretty strong in language skills and students do an excellent job of following directions, almost everyone got through the editing checklist and I saw lots of papers with highlighted helping verbs and past participles and some helpful changes.  

In my second class, which has a little bit weaker language skills on average and has students who are easily distracted and not as good at following instructions, I had fewer successfully edited paragraphs (It didn't help that several students hadn't done a rough draft, so they had to use the time to write one and didn't get the opportunity to benefit from peer editing.) but still a reasonable amount of success.  

Here are the files if you'd like a copy: