Friday, October 29, 2010

Lesson Planning: Halloween

This lesson was prepared for a 6th grade class at a beginner level.

The thing I love most about working with these 10 to 12 year old kids, is that they have only been taking English for about a year and still I could carry out the lesson almost entirely in English. I'm still amazed at how quickly younger children are able to comprehend a foreign language!

This lesson was divided into two activities, with two different sets of vocab. The first was a worksheet I copied from another teacher, so unfortunately I can't post it here :-\ buuuuuut, it's pretty basic so I'll just give you the details.

it is basically a kid-crossword puzzle. There are 12 pictures and the children have to write the names of each picture in the corresponding blanks. The words were: Sweets (you know, the British word for candy), cauldron, spider, cat, pumpkin, ghost, star, witch, fire, web, bat, and skeleton. First we just looked at the pictures on the overhead and learned the vocabulary. I wrote all the words on the board as they answered. Then I turned the overhead off, but left the vocab words up and handed out the worksheet for them to fill in. They were given between 5 and 10 minutes to work together and fill it out. At the end, their answers revealed the hidden answer: Trick or treat!

After this we did what I like to call an interactive story. I wrote a simple ghost story for them that focused on six words: haunted, midnight, scary, spooky, ghost and wind/windy, and each word is assigned as sound (and yes, I named the main character after my brother...). Before reading the story we went through each word. I wrote them on the board and had them give me the German word for each. Then as a class we practiced our different noises for each word (before telling them which word they went with). Then I divided the class into 6 groups and assigned them each a word and told them what noise they got to make. (haunted: tapping on the desk, midnight: a single clap, scary: Ahh! *but you have to be sure to tell them only to do it quietly*, spooky: Ooooo, ghost: Boo!, and wind/windy: shhhhhh). then I read through the story with them making their different sounds.

I've done this lesson 3 or 4 times this week, and in some of the classes it didn't take the whole period, so an easy solution is to do the story again, but reassign the words.

They really seemed to get into the story part, and I think it is good because it keeps them focused while you read and they have practice listening to hear their word! good times. I will definitely do the interactive story thing again, it is easily adapted to any theme!

I don't have many older kids this week, but for a "fun" halloween lesson for them, I've just been filling out a Halloween madlib as a class. Simple and fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

woo hoo pictures

Pictures from Tag der offenen Brennereien and the Kerwa!

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the album for new pictures!

Fulbright - Fall 2010 (#2)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

VLOG #5!!

Wooo hooo!! It's Vlog time! Watch as I attempt to tell you about the local life... key word being "attempt"

But it does have a special surprise song :D

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music Club!

Yes, that's right, I have unofficially joined the Musikverein (which literally translates to music club) here in Forchheim. I say unofficially because I only went last week as a sort of "trial rehearsal," and I don't know if I need to sign a contract in blood or something first, but I'm definitely going to stay on!

What is a music club, you might ask. Well, you can check out the website (Musikverein Buckenhofen-Forchheim). But, on the off-chance that you don't speak German and can't understand the website (however, you can still see the awesome uniform I'll get to wear), it's sort of community music center. They have 3 or 4 different large ensembles, for all different abilities, classes for beginners, and small ensembles. I'll be playing with the sinfonische Blasorchester, which is basically the adult band. The members of this group are basically high school and up. It's a really nice group of people and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere!

I have to admit that sitting through a two hour rehearsal run entirely in German was both the coolest and strangest musical experience I've ever had. Although my musical vocabulary is pretty limited (well, it's not like we ever had a day in German class where we discussed practical music terms), I was amazed at how much I understood immediately just by context and familiarity. I had to laugh (or at least grin ear to ear) when the director used practice techniques quite familiar to me. Isn't there some saying about music being the international language? Pardon the momentary cheesey-ness, but it was really amazing to be sitting in a room of 50+ other people who learned to play music half way across the world from where I did, in a different language and a different culture, and just be able to make music with them.

They seemed pretty excited to have me because I rounded out their horn section to a complete 4. The music we played was probably on a level somewhere between the UGA symphonic band and wind symphony. But considering I haven't played my horn in... well, let's just say a while... I wasn't looking for anything too challenging. In a few moments of fleeting horn-nerdy-ness, I noticed that only 2 of the 3 other horn players played double horns. And both of the 2 double horns were yellow brass Geyer wraps. And when I consider the amount of conn 8ds I've played with (usually silver), I guess I just feel like back home you usually see Kruspe wraps.... just thought that it was a fun little observation.

So after every rehearsal, one section brings snacks and drinks to share. This was a fun way to get to talk to people too! And I've decided that every rehearsal should end with beer and cake! :)

I'm really excited to have found a musical activity. I don't think I really realized how much I missed it, till I found myself enjoying the rehearsal so much!

....and don't worry, I'm still working on a legit oompa-band to join, too. :D

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lesson Planning: Everyday English

This lesson was prepared for a 12th grade class at an advanced level. The first activity is easily adjusted for almost any level, but the second activity works best at the intermediate-advanced level.

The goal of this lesson was to focus on everyday English, or practical English. So instead of just working on academic English (analyzing a text, having a debate, etc.) we worked on simple English used in normal situations (making a reservation, returning something at the store, etc.). I used put together two different activities for this lesson.

To begin with, I wrote
short dialogues (there were 16 students in the class, this lesson works best with even numbers, but can be tweaked for an odd number) having to do with different "real life" situations, each dialogue was between a "speaker 1" and "speaker 2." I then divided the dialogues, so that for each scenario there was one sheet with only speaker 1 parts on it and one sheet with only speaker 2 parts on it. I passed out the parts randomly and had the students walk around the classroom and read their dialogues with each other, trying to figure out which speaker 1s and which speaker 2s belonged together.

Once they found their partners, we went through the class, reading the dialogues out loud (I wasn't actually planning to do this, but it didn't take as long as I had thought to find their partners, so I was killing some time). The students who did not read the dialogue were then asked to identify the situation. And, of course, I asked for any vocabulary questions after each dialogue.

Then, still with their partners, I handed them out
new scenarios that had to do with their original dialogue (for example, the group who's original dialogue dealt with making a reservation, now had to write a dialogue to change a reservation). I gave them about 15 minutes to write a new dialogue based on the scenario they were given. After they finished writing their own dialogue, they passed it to the group on their right, and we read through all the new dialogues out loud.

After having done this lesson now, I definitely think I would change/rearrange parts of it, but I think the main point still came across!

Lesson Planning: Smart Machines

This lesson was prepared for a 12th grade class at an advanced level, however, I think it can be easily adapted to work for most any grade or level.

For this lesson I used a text from the book (link to the text below) about smart appliances. It was written in a very informal style and used quite a bit of humor. With this sort of tone already set by the class, I didn't want to dull it down with just another boring old question and answer session, so I tried to think of something a little more interactive and exciting for the students to accompany the text.

To begin the lesson, I had the students read the article, "Remote Control" by Dave Barry, aloud as a class. The article is fairly short, so this only took about 7-8 minutes. I prefer reading texts out loud as a class because it is much harder for students to get away with pretending to know a word, or not realize they are mispronouncing/misunderstanding it. I also think it's just good practice in general for pronunciation - especially for students who otherwise don't speak in class too often. I also end any reading exercise by taking vocabulary questions straight away.

The text came with 4 or 5 discussion questions, so I took the first one ("Describe Barry's attitude to appliance manufacturers. Use quotations from the article to illustrate your answer.") and gave the students 5 minutes to work in pairs to answer the question. After they were given time to prepare their answers, I took examples from the class. Altogether, we probably spent about 10 minutes on this part of the lesson.

Through out the text were marked vocabulary words. I chose 5 (not for the number, but because they were the only ones that really worked with the activity) and wrote them on the board. In this case, the words were: at random, to decipher something, to disable something, appliance, and foolproof. I then called on students to define the vocabulary in their own words (this wasn't too difficult as they had the dictionary definition on their handout with the article). After defining the vocab they were given the following assignment:
In groups of 2, create a new smart appliance. Your appliance can be a modification of one that already exists, or something brand new. It doesn't have to be realistic, but it has to have a function. You must draw a picture of your new appliance, give it a name, and write an advertisement for it describing it's function and trying to sell it to the class using at least 3 of the 5 vocabulary words listed on the board.
So for another 15 minutes or so, they split into partners and worked on creating their own machines. During this part I just floated around the groups proof-reading sentences, helping with vocabulary and encouraging creative ideas. After they all finished creating their machines, they came to the front of the class, one at a time, and tried to "sell" their product to the class.

Overall, the students responded really well to the activity and came up with some pretty creative ideas (which I wrote about in an earlier post).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Unsere Schule ist bunt"

This is one of the many slogans on the many posters around my school proclaiming Ehrenbürg Gymnasium to be against racism.

Oh racism in Germany. Where do I start? To begin with, we must remember that this is not quite the overly race-sensitive and politically correct country that the USA tries to be. However, to one raised in the aforementioned environment, the "non-racist" racist comments heard around Germany can often be quite shocking. They would almost be endearing ("aw, those cute little Germans sure do hate the Turks!"), if they didn't make such blatantly offensive remarks. But I also can't only point the finger of racism at Germany - I hear equally as offensive things in the US, just usually on a more private level. Here it just comes out whenever the speaker sees fit (and as loud as they see fit, for that matter).

For example, in class today we were doing an exercise where students had to pick a few names from a list of 20 that they would kick out of a hot air balloon. The names ranged anywhere from Leonardo Da Vinci to Britney Spears, covering influential people throughout history as well as famous names in pop culture. I was working with one group when a student suggested, "We should keep Einstein because he is German!" to which another student answered, "Yeah... but he's JEWISH! And we should also get rid of Özil (a player for the German national soccer team) because he's half Turkish." Now in this case, I'm not entirely sure how serious he was being because he definitely had the class-clown thing going for him. But outbursts like this (especially about the Turks) are not uncommon here. I've had teachers complain about bad classes just because "well, it's mostly Turkish students..."

Like I said before, I can't point my finger at Germany alone, and as Avenue Q so eloquently puts it, "everyone's a little bit racist sometimes," but I do think there is a line somewhere.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

oh hey, washing machine

So this is how it all went down....

---Flash back to Sept. 9th, 2010: the day I moved in----

Me: So, is there a washing machine we can use?
Mama Baptistella: ermm.... well, there is one in my apartment, but well... uh.... do you need to do laundry today?
Me: oh... well, I mean, not right now, but eventually.
Mama Baptistella: ok, just let me know when you need to do laundry. Just buy your own detergent and bring your laundry down to me when you need it done
*exit Mama Baptistella*
Me: ummm... so Mama Baptistella is going to do my laundry every time I need it done? that's awkward...

----Flash forward to October 16, 2010: 20 minutes ago---

Gemma's teacher: (to Gemma) are you ready to bring your laundry over?
Mama Baptistella: Why would you need to do laundry there? we have a machine to use any time you want.
Me: but... well, do we need to ask first?
Mama Baptistella: ...No... It's just in the basement, you can use it whenever you want, just not on weekends, because that's when we use it.
Me and Gemma: WTF?!!!!


And that's the story of how we found out there is actually a washing machine in the apartment, free and available to use at our discretion, without supervision. So glad that was clear the first time. Well, at least I know what I'll be doing on Monday! Yay!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

did you just say that?!

Today I got to do a lot with my classes, so I thought I would post about it... that, and they were also pretty amusing at times!

My first class today was a 12 grade class that I know pretty well. I've been with them at least twice a week for the past 2 or 3 weeks. I've done one lesson on my own with them before, but it was basically a worksheet the teacher gave me with the questions already written there. So I pretty much had nothing to do with creating the lesson, I just carried it out. Well, for today's lesson, I was given the text again, but the actual lesson was left up to me.

To give you a little background, the text was about "smart" appliances, or how unnecessary they can sometimes be (e.g. a refrigerator that can tell you when it's out of milk). So we did the regular read-the-article-out-loud-in-class, go-over-vocab, talk-about-the-mood-of-the-author, give-examples-of-devices-used, etc. The thing that I love about this class (because lets face it, they are definitely my favorite class so far...) is that they all are so enthusiastic about participating! Even if no one offers up an answer right away, if you call on someone, they will speak. Which, I have found, is not always the case.

My "fun part" of the lesson was to create their own "smart appliance", draw a picture, give it a name, and write a description trying to sell it using 3 of the 5 vocab words. I was nervous that they wouldn't really get into the creative part, but they all responded really well! As I walked around the classroom to help them, I saw things like "the automatic board cleaner", "the cat washer" (which involved catching a cat with a mechanical arm and scrubbing it against a wash board), a few house-cleaning machines (including a broom with wheels and a full-on maid robot), the "super-duper-unbelievably-outstanding-marks machine" (a pair of glasses and bracelet to wear to school which help you always understand the texts you're reading and make sure you always write down the correct answer. The students also notified us that the upgrade would be released next year with in a contacts version). My favorite two (and by favorite, I mean most controversial/never would have been allowed in the states) were the "beer-and-more-o-matic" and the "woman translator".

Not that the idea of the Woman Translator would have been a bad one back home, but while presenting it they gave examples of a few translations. "If a woman says 'It's cold here', she means 'give me your jacket', if she says 'I want to go shopping', she means 'give me money'," etc. it was all pretty funny, but the real kicker was at the end. If you are easily offended by language, just go ahead and skip to the next paragraph... Their last example of a translation was "if a woman says she has a headache, what she really means is, 'I don't want to fuck tonight'." OMG. I can't imagine any setting back home in which that would be ok for a presentation! The class all laughed, but not the "I'm laughing because that was inappropriate" (the kind you would get in the States), just the "lol, that's funny" kind of laugh. The teacher was sitting right there and didn't say anything, so I just closed my eyes, had a good chuckle to myself, and pretended it never happened.

The "beer-and-more-o-matic" didn't have quite the shocking presentation, it was just the concept alone that would be an automatic no-no in an American classroom. "BEER?!" *gasp* Then again, these students can legally drink beer, whereas in the states, no high schooler is old enough to. The beer-and-more-o-matic was the perfect party machine: it brought you more beers, cleaned up after you, played music and had a deluxe version that would take your trash out.

Overall, it was a very entertaining class period for me and, I think, for the students as well! I was really pleased with their creativity and excited about their enthusiasm! :D Go team.

My next class was a 5th grade class. Adorable! I'd never been to this class before, so I didn't do any planning. First of all, I would just like to say how impressed I was with their language abilities! They can't have had much more than a year of English (if that!) and the entire lesson was conducted in English. The kids would often ask questions in Germans, and the teacher would sometimes repeat instructions in German, but otherwise, everything was in English. It makes me wish we had more options to start foreign languages at a younger age in the States. In the lesson, they were just learning how to use question words (who, what, where, etc.), so they were split up into groups of 6 and, group by group, were sent into the hall to interview me and figure out who I was (I wasn't introduced at all before hand, to help this exercise). It was really adorable! The first question from every group was "what is your name?", only one of the 6 groups asked for my last name as well. I thought it was pretty funny that almost all their 2nd questions were "how old are you?" The best part, however, was that only after a string of favorites (food, movie, song, color, number, outfit, among others) did they finally ask me where I was from :-p

My favorite question, that I only got from the last couple groups, was "Do you have a friend?" Sounds pretty depressing in English. "Well, I'm not even going to bother asking if you have friendS, because you obviously would only have one anyway, but I still have to ask if you have even ONE because I'm skeptical." Fortunately, knowing a little German myself, I knew that wasn't what they were thinking (umm... at least I hope not!) I knew their German question was "hast du einen Freund?" which literally does translate to "do you have a friend?", but the word "Freund" also means "boyfriend." There is really no clear way to differentiate in German whether "Freund" is supposed to mean "boyfriend" or "friend," it's mostly just contextually understood (well, there are idiomatic ways of differentiating, but I won't go into that). So when I got these questions, after quietly laughing to myself at the accidental and completely innocent demeaning question, I would repeat "do I have a boyfriend?"

And such is the life of the German English Teaching Assistant.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Picture update!

New pictures are up from last weekend's trip to Nürnberg. It was a beautiful day, so we walked around der Burg, or the castle, and enjoyed scenery!

Sorry I don't have too much else to report right now, after Oktoberfest the excitement has been slowing down a little bit. But I have started teaching more, so soon I will post a full report on that so far! :D

don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the page for the new pictures!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Prepare yourself for the most magical combination of Ikea, beer, Germans and Ke$ha!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I tend to put things in my life into categories: when I lived in the dorms vs. when I lived in Switzerland vs. when I lived in Arbor Creek. I do this especially with the categories PC vs. Mac. For example, there are two major cell phone companies in Germany: Vodofone and O2. Based on advertising and product design it's very easy to say Vodofone is "PC" and O2 is "Mac".... I'm hoping this makes at least a little sense...

Another category I often use is for education. When I was in Switzerland I was at the Universität Zürich, which I would consider a "UGA", where as then neighbor school was the technical university or a "GA Tech".

Well, here in Forchheim there are 2 high schools. One is very clearly a "UGA" and the other is definitely a "GA Tech". The UGA school offers an entire music program, with the opportunity to study individual instruments for class credit. They also focus more strongly on foreign languages and the school is 70% girls. Whereas the other school is more focused on math and sciences, they offer music classes, but not as a "main subject" and there are way more guys than girls. A definite "GA Tech".

So anyway, the point of this entire post is because I've been placed at the GA Tech school for the longer period! How rude! But I'll make it over the "UGA" after christmas.

oh, btw, Oktoberfest Vlog will be posted tomorrow!! So keep a look out, it's pretty fantastic :D

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Ok guys, pictures have been posted... post to come soon, I promise! I've just actually been - wait for it - busy!

Updated fall album (new pictures at the end)

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