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: