Saturday, June 17, 2017

Assessments on Canvas

I've been enjoying a relaxed summer schedule to work on things for next year at a comfortable pace.  

One of the things I'm working on is moving our assessments from paper to our learning management system, Canvas.  I was hesitant to test on Canvas when we first started using it two years ago because it was all so new and there was so much for both me and the students to learn.  

This past year we gave our semester exams on Canvas successfully, and I've been using it more for assignments as well, so I think I'm ready to put regular quizzes and tests on Canvas as well.  

It takes some time to input the quizzes, but then the grading is quick and there's no paper to deal with.  I only have German 1 and 2 next year, so it seems like a good time to switch those classes over.

Here's what a vocabulary quiz will look like:

Nouns have two boxes, one for the article and one for the noun, so that students can get partial credit if they miss the article.  Verbs have just one box.  These questions are graded automatically by the computer.  Other questions are teacher graded: 

I am requiring that students type ß and umlauts correctly.  It's something that we practice in class, and I include the special characters in the instructions for students to copy and paste if they have difficulty with the character codes.  On the first quiz of the year, students still receive full credit even without the umlaut but get a reminder that they need to use umlauts correctly on all future assessments.

All of the vocabulary questions are in question banks, so students' questions will not be in the same order as their neighbors, and it makes generating a parallel quiz for a retake a snap.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ordinal Numbers, Feste und Feiertage - Updated Notes

Aaaah, summer!  Time to relax and think about changes I'd like to make for next year.  

Yesterday I updated my guided notes for ordinal numbers and holidays.  Here's what they looked like this year:

And here's the new version:

There are a couple of good videos on the topic of ordinal numbers:

And a Deutsche Welle video about folk festivals:


The notes file is here.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


Friday was the last day of school for students.  Teachers go back for one final day after Memorial Day, but basically, it's summer!

The last week of school was pretty much all exams and study periods (and one painfully long 3 hour homeroom period for computer collection), so I had quite a bit of time to clean up my room, sort through old files, and look ahead to next year.

I'm scheduled to teach three sections of German 1 and three sections of German 2 next year, which if you're doing the math, you'll notice is full time.  I started at 1/3 time, then was 2/3 time, and the last two years I've been at 5/6 time.  I specifically applied for this position four years ago because I only wanted to teach part time.  But enrollment has increased, so my teaching load has increased too.  To be honest, I'm still trying to get used to the idea of being full time, but that's where things stand now.

I am excited about teaching only two preps which I have taught before from this textbook, which means I can change and improve things and start to implement some of the ideas I've had along the way but haven't been able to implement because I was just trying to keep my head above the water.

I modified my guided notes for German 1 on German Nouns and Gender to make them clearer and more visually appealing.  I changed the day and date heading a bit and also added a student understanding self-evaluation element:

I am a bit skeptical about how much of an impact having students evaluate their understanding really has on learning, but it's part of the Marzano rubric we're evaluated by, so here it is.

Here's what the new notes look like:

Here's the file if you'd like them.  Happy summer!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Quick Tech Tip - Making Learning Apps even better!

I LOVE Learning Apps!  I've blogged about it several times before, and if you haven't checked it out yet, now is the time - it's fantastic and free!

One of the small disadvantages of Learning Apps is that it doesn't have a way for me to easily check students' progress/completion of activities.  

But, a short while ago, my wonderful colleague Molly, who teaches Japanese and ENL, mentioned to me that of you create an "App Matrix" with several activities, it does show when students have completed an activity.   



And, the check marks remain, even if students close the page and go back to it.  Game-changer!

We're into final exam review season now, and I've been doing a lot of paperless review, with online activities.  It gives students instant, personalized feedback, which, as I learned in my May professional development activities, has a significant impact on student learning:

Along with Quizlet in multiple choice Test mode, which is how the final is set up, German 1 has done

and German 2 


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Elmo und Bert kochen

I am a huge fan of both Sesame Street in English and Sesamstraße in German, so whenever I get to use Sesamstraße in my lesson, it's a good day:

Our current topic in German 1 is food and restaurants.  Students have learned several adjectives - lecker, süß, salzig, scharf - to describe how food tastes, so it's a perfect time to use this clip:

We watched the clip as a whole class and talked about it using schmecken and adjectives.  

Then, I wanted students to do some independent writing in response to the video.  I have some really great digital interactive notebook templates from Danielle Knight ($7 through Teachers Pay Teachers), including this one for retelling a story:

I used it to create a PowerPoint worksheet with clips from the video and questions for the students to answer:

Normally, I would just print out the worksheet and students would complete it on paper.  But since we are 1-1 with laptops, I made an assignment in our Learning Management System where students downloaded the file to their computers, typed their answers in the boxes, and submitted it to me digitally in the LMS.

I was a little nervous about how my students would do with this since I haven't given this type of download-write-save-upload assignment before, but it went very smoothly!

When students submitted their work, I could view it easily in the LMS:

Students got to see clear color pictures from the video and had a link right at their fingertips to watch it again if they needed to.  

It was a great way for me to assess how they were doing with their comprehension, vocabulary, and ability to form complete sentence answers in German.  It also held them accountable for completing the assignment.

I could even make corrections and leave comments quickly and easily on the students' work:

I'm definitely not a technology for technology's sake person, and I don't think I'll have a paperless classroom anytime soon.  (Probably not ever -  there's really nothing like a good foldable for pronouns!)

But there are times when technology really is a useful tool to enhance learning, and I feel like this was one of those times.

Saturday, April 29, 2017


I tried playing Löffel (Spoons) for the first time this week with my German 2 students, and it was a big hit.  Every student was actively involved, and I had several requests to play again.  That definitely counts as a win!

I had read about using Spoons as a review game at Teaching to Inspire, which gives a really good overview and things to consider when designing your own game.

Only a few students were familiar with the card game Spoons, so it took a few rounds and explanations until everyone was clear on how to play, but after that they were off, practicing German vocabulary, and having fun.

I had made sets of 4 cards for each vocabulary word.  For example, there might be the German noun, the gender (der/die/das), a picture, and a sentence describing the word in German.  Students tried to get all 4 cards for one vocabulary word in their hand.  Our current topic is technology vocabulary, and you can access my cards here.

We had prepped for the game by working with the cards the previous class, just trying to sort them into sets of 4 so that they would have some familiarity with them before trying to collect them in a game situation.  I think this helped a lot, especially since this was their first time playing Löffel.

The student without a spoon at the end of a round wrote a letter in the word "Löffel" on his or her desk with a dry erase marker.  The goal was to be the person with the fewest letters at the end of the game.

You'll need to dedicate a good chunk of time to playing, especially the first time.  Probably because it was new to students, we spent 25-30 minutes playing and none of the players collected all of the letters in Löffel.  Still, I think it was time well spent because it really got everyone engaged with German to German vocabulary from the unit.  Not bad for the last month of school!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cupcake Wars

Last Tuesday was my favorite day of the school year.... Cupcake Wars!

The advanced food and nutrition classes have a competition every spring to create the best cupcake, and teachers are asked to volunteer to judge the entries.  I have been doing this since my first year at Bloomington North, and I really look forward to it.

This year I was a judge for first period, which was a small class with only three groups.  The Cupcakes were The Better Red Velvet, Oreo Red Velvet, and Pink Lemonade.

All three were delicious, but my personal favorite was Pink Lemonade.  There are several judges, so I am not sure which cupcake was the final winner, but it was a delicious morning!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Separable Prefixes in German 1

One of the big topics for German 1 this unit is separable prefix verbs.  I started out by giving each student a small piece of paper with the 5 prefix verbs from this unit on it:

Their first job was to write the meaning on the back and cut them apart.  Then, when we got to the part of the notes that talked about separable prefix verbs, I had students cut the prefix off of the verb stem and move it to the end of the sentence.  

Then, we did some examples

before talking about inseparable prefix verbs.

Last year I taught separable prefix verbs with modal verbs and in the command form on the same day (what was I thinking?), but based on how poorly students did on the test, that was clearly too much.  So, this time, I divided it into three separate lessons and spent more time reviewing the modal verbs and commands before we added in the prefix verbs.  

(Somehow I don't have a picture of the prefix verbs with modals notes, but here are the command form notes.)

Students definitely liked it better because each lesson was short.  We'll see how they do on the test next week!

Here's the link to the notes: Verbs with Prefixes

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Deutsch 2: Vergleiche Comparatives and Superlatives

This week's big grammar topic in German 2 was comparatives and superlatives.  

To begin, I has students review adjectives and adverbs they had learned in German 1.  (It was the first day back from Spring Break, so they were pretty rusty.) Then, we watched a great little video from Die Sendung mit der Maus:

This clip lead right into the need for comparatives and superlatives and a foldable:

After labeling the title flap, we labeled the three tabs:

Under the flaps we wrote instructions for each form and created an example:

And now we were ready to use our foldables for some practice:

That was a lot!  So, it was a good time for a Sesamstraße video with Bert and Ernie talking about heavy and light. 

Students did a self-checking Learning Apps activity based on the video (which I blogged about previously here) so I could assess their understanding. 

That was plenty for the first day!  Students practiced some more on their own with a worksheet: Vergleiche WS 1

We continued the next class by adding the exceptions to the rule to our foldable:

and some examples for our notes:

Again, students practiced some more on their own with a worksheet: Vergleiche WS 2.

If you'd like a copy of the notes, click here: Komparativ und Superlativ Notizen

All in all, it was a pretty good first week back from Spring Break!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Schwer und Leicht mit Ernie und Bert

I don't work well under pressure.

I know there are some people who really need a deadline and do great, creative things at the last minute.  I am not one of them.

My preferred way of lesson planning and creating activities for my students is on a Saturday morning in my pajamas with a big mug of tea and nothing that must be completed by Monday.  I also get a lot of good ideas while I'm on a run...

So, I am thrilled to be both on spring break and finally healthy enough to go running again.  

And I am thrilled with what I came up with for German 2 using a Sesamstraße video about schwer and leicht (heavy and light)!  Hopefully my students will find it as amazing as I do.  

I love Sesame Street in both English and German and am always looking for ways to use clips in class.  I decided to put this video, along with a picture word guide, in a Learning Apps activity to give students practice with forming the comparative and superlative for heavy and light.  I may also eventually turn it into a graded assignment in our learning management system, Canvas.  I think it turned out great!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Toward 100% Target Language Use in Deutsch 3

My colleague Frau Nessi and I are incredibly proud of our German 2 classes!  This is the first group that she and I have both worked with using our new textbook series since German 1, and their progress is impressive!

We're already approaching the last quarter of the year, which means we're looking ahead to next year when they will be in Deutsch 3.  Our goal is for German 3 to be almost exclusively in German, with the exception of some explanations of more complicated grammar concepts.  

I try to make a natural, organic progression over the course of my German instruction to more and more German and less and less English.  I have some of the most commonly used expressions on the wall in my room and expect students to use and understand them from early on in German 1.

I then progress from giving new instructions in English to giving them in German followed by English and then German without the English.  

To get our current German 2 students ready for German 3 and using German (almost) exclusively, I'm introducing circumlocution and German-German vocabulary in small, non-threatening ways now.  

Our current topic is Auto und Rad fahren (Car and bike riding).  We read a short article in German from our textbook about bike paths in Germany.  Students answered comprehension questions about it in German, which they've been doing since German 1, but I added in another question:
(What is a one-way street?)  Most students wanted to translate it into English, but I pushed them to think about how to explain it in German using other words.  We talked about how they might explain it in English to a small child without using the word one-way.  Eventually most students were able to get to something along the lines of "Alle Autos fahren in nur eine Richtung. (All cars drive in only one direction.)  Success!

On the last day of school before Spring Break, we played Kahoot with their current vocabulary.  Students man not have noticed but there wasn't any English in the Kahoot.  

It started out with identifying pictures:

Then it got a little tougher with Where is this vehicle going? and 4 possible complete sentence answers.

And What does one do here?

Finally, they were ready for questions without pictures:

They did very well, especially considering that it was the day before Spring Break.  We also watched a video from Easy German, which I love because it is in German with German and English subtitles: (But I recommend you  preview all videos completely before showing them in class as there is occasionally some mild profanity which may or may not be tolerated at your school.)

We'll continue on after break with German-German vocabulary crossword puzzles and word association games for vocabulary.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Malen und Basteln in Deutsch 1

The past few days in German 1 have been a lot of fun, which is what you need in February: coloring, cutting, pasting, and Das doofe Fischlied.  

Our current unit, Wie sind sie? How are they? focuses on descriptive adjectives.

Adjectives in German means adjective endings, which is a really difficult topic for most students.  It's often not introduced until 2nd year, but our current textbook gives an introduction to it in 1st year, and I think it's good to start chipping away at the topic early.

Time for Das doofe Fischlied:

There are many versions of it available on YouTube, but I like this one because it has the lyrics on the screen.

Before we get to the song, I introduced the difference between predicate adjectives and attributive adjectives: 

Then, we listened to the song and completed notes for the nominative and accusative cases:

I don't test students on adjective endings or expect them to use them correctly at this point, but I do point them out when we encounter them so that students start to develop a feel for them.  Just planting the seed...

The next class began with coloring:
And some partner speaking practice, with a few adjective endings snuck in:

The following day we followed up coloring with cutting and pasting of adjective opposite pairs, which I've blogged about before.   Just like last year, students seemed to really enjoy this activity, and it pushed them to work on their vocabulary.  

Files for the activities I've described can be found here: