Monday, January 24, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lesson Planning: Calendars and Dates

This lesson is for beginners. I've done in about 4 different 5th grade classes in the past week - it's been a pretty big hit!

To begin, I write 7 dates on the board. I don't tell the kids what they are - or even that they're dates, just simply write, for example, "08/05/1987" (keep in mind the European system is dd/mm/yyyy). The dates I use are things like my birthday, the day I graduated college, the day I graduated high school, the first day I ever went to school (yeah ok, I just picked a day in the August 1992, it's not actually legit...) and various other semi-real important dates. I think I have 7 total. Then I ask the students if they know what the numbers on the board are. After they figure it out, I tell them they are all important dates to me, but I won't tell them what they are until they can say the dates correctly. We move to part two.

For this, I ask for 12 volunteers. The come to the front of the room and I gather them in close like I'm telling them very important secret info. This part can get really rowdy if the 12 volunteers don't stay quiet, so I find if you make them feel like they're in the cool club getting
top secret instructions, they're more likely to follow it. I hand them out signs with the names of
the months on and tell them they have to be absolutely silent

and not help the rest of the class.
Then the rest of the class is instructed to come put the kids with months in order. It's a good
way to get the class moving and feeling involved. Once they've got the months all lined up, we go down the line and each kid wearing the sign (oh yeah, they hang around their necks, they're pretty cool) has to say the name of their month in English and tell us what it is in German.

Then I take 7 new volunteers, rinse and repeat,
do the same thing only with the days of the

After we've gone through the months and the days, we talk about ordinal numbers. I tell them we can't just say "today is January nineteen" we have to have a special way to say it. I begin with the rule - just add "th" to the end of the numbers. So I give them a few normal numbers and ask them what we would say. After 2 or 3, when they seem to have caught on, we do 1, 2, and 3. (I found it's good to ask them what first, second and third are in German, because I've had quite a few students who thought second was "Sekunde" which is only second in the time sense). Basically this part goes on forever. It's a lot of repeating and and writing on the board and repeating, but the important part is to have them say it everytime.

We then go over the construction of how to say a date/write a date. I'm following the British way at this point, because that's what's in their book and I don't want to confuse them. So I write out "the 19th of January" emphasizing the "the-day-of-month" structure. So that we can now go around saying our birthdays. This goes on for a while. Once we're done, we go over how to write ordinal numbers, without writing out the whole word "8th, 12th, 31st..." (that's usually pretty quick)

The next part is fun for the kids, but not necessary as it takes up a good 10 minutes: I divide them up by birth-months handing back out the month signs from the beginning, then they all have to write on their sign their name and birthday. For example: Emily - 8th May 1987 (yes, that's the British way to write it).

Quickly we go over years (it's pretty simple so it just doesn't take very long). Finally, at the end we go over the dates from the beginning.

I've had a lot of fun doing this lesson, and the kids all seem to really enjoy it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lesson Planning: Civil Rights

This lesson is 3 parts that run smoothly together, but can also be done separately as needed. I've done it a few times now, using several different combinations of the three parts. It was originally made for a 10th grade class but can be pretty much used for any level 9th and up, I think.

As a general introduction to the topic I start with a two pictures on the overhead. Rosa Parks on a bus and Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his speech at the march on Washington. I don't tell them anything about the pictures, just ask them to describe them. Where are they? how many people are there? Is it an active photo? etc... Usually they are able to recognize MLK, so then I tell them that both photos have to do with the Civil Rights Movement and ask them to compare and contrast them and think about what each might have had to do with Civil Rights. At the end I tell who each person is and just a brief description of where/what each picture is. This can take anywhere from 5 - 15 minutes, depending on how in detail you want to go.

the first major part of the lesson is a matching exercise of different Civil Rights terms - people and events (you can download the worksheet I made here). The reason this part is so condensed is because I originally had to fit everything in one 40 minute class period, so this was the most efficient way to cover as much as possible. I gave the class about 10 minutes to go through the worksheet in pairs and finish the matching. Then, when we went over the answers, I would add a little more detail to each answer. This can take anywhere between 15-20 minutes or more, depending mostly on how much time you give them to work on their own.

The second part is deals with the "I have a dream speech" by MLK which I have on the same worksheet as the matching. I've done this part differently a few times. The first time, we were running short on time, so I read the speech to the class, but I prefer to have the class read it out loud. Usually going around one section per person. Then as a class we discuss what is meant by "dream". We record a few ideas on the board and then I split them into groups (this just depends on the size of the class, but I prefer not to have anymore than 5 people in a group) and assign each group a different section of the speech. I give them about 10 - 15 minutes and have them "translate" the speech into simple English. When they finish, they write their newly translated versions on the board and we read the "new" speech together as a class and discuss if whether or not we agree.

The third part uses the song "A Dream" from the movie Freedom Writers. Never saw the movie, but the song is basically a modern rap version of the Speech, so it worked great! I typed out the lyrics for them, but left holes in it (the underlined words are the ones I took out), for them to fill in as they listened. I've done this lesson once by leading with the song, so we discussed what it could possibly be about, but that question is pretty irrelevant when they already know the topic is Civil Rights. So I give them another 5 minutes to look through the song lyrics and the actual speech to be able to compare and contrast. At the end we record what we've found on the board. This part lasts about 15-20 minutes by itself, or if combined with just the reading of the speech it can last about 25 minutes.

Since the three parts of this lesson don't all fit into one 40 minute lesson I usually break it up and do it over two or three, or I just do the speech and the song and assign the matching as homework! Feel free to take, tweak or borrow from any part of it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ein gutes neues

Happy new year, internet people!

I'd like to start this by thanking everyone who didn't say anything about me coming home for Christmas! I've never gotten to pull off such a big surprise before, and despite the 24 hours of traveling, the 3 different planes, and the sleep deprivation, it was very exciting and totally worth it! Don't worry, there is
a video of the actual surprise on youtube.

I was nervous about going home for Christmas. During the first four months I felt like I had really settled in well, and I was afraid going home, even for a week, would reset that and cause me to have to resettle all over again. But really, it hasn't. I had a great week at home, being able to see my family and visit my friends. In some ways I wished I had had more time, in other ways I was glad to be headed back to Germany.

Luckily, Gemma got back the same day I did. Which meant I didn't have to sit around and be bored and lonely for a week. We had one more week after our return to Germany before school started back, so we really made the most of it. Oh, that's right - we played cards. Let me explain, Gemma and I have a running card game that we started back in the week of our fall break when we still hadn't been payed. We've been keeping a running score since that fateful week in November. Before Christmas we had just reached 10,000. That's two months worth of playing. Last night after one week of card playing, we just broke 20,000. We enjoyed our week. We did get out a few times: shopping in Erlangen, movie and drinks in Bamberg, trips to the grocery store so we didn't starve, things like that...

Finally yesterday it was back to the grind. Of course, averaging about one class a day so far, it hasn't been too taxing yet. Yesterday I got to pull out a sort of old faithful lesson plan: the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King and today I just did the whole "interview the foreign girl" thing
Side note: I have mixed feelings about the whole "pretend you don't speak German" thing that teachers ask you to do. Not because I'm against it pedagogically, I do see the point in it. But it just goes against every nature of my being. For the past 4 months, my biggest pet peeve is going out and people assuming you don't speak German or would rather speak English. Now, I recognize that 7th graders who are trying to learn English aren't making assumptions about my language abilities. Obviously. But then I also hate when they ask "do you know any other languages?" When I have to lie and say "no" I feel like I'm just feeding that stereotype that English speakers don't ever learn foreign languages, they feel like their language is superior and therefore the only one worth knowing, or what have you. I actually take a little pride in thinking I'm helping to change that stereotype. Then, of course, when they ask how you ended up in Germany, things just get awkward "uh... I was just really interested in Germany. It seemed cool, ja?" Like I said, from a teaching standpoint it makes total sense that I would pretend not to know German. When students know you understand their native language, they tend to just give up on the new language whenever they feel like it. I guarantee if they knew I spoke German at all, half of those interviews would have just ended up with questions like "have you got any... uh... hmm... uh... Geschwister?" But instead, they would work just a little harder to come up with "brothers and sisters". But from a language student standpoint, it is difficult to just sit there and say "no, I do not know German. The only language I know is Engish." It's just strange!
Things look like they're going to be pretty low key for the next few weeks. I have my first band concert coming up this Saturday, but other than that, no big plans. We have our first break of the new year in March (the same week that UGA has spring break, actually) and I just booked my flights to Edinburgh to visit Shahida again! I'm really excited to get back up there to see her, and we're trying to gather more of the old Zurich crew as well too.

I'll try to be good about keeping you posted on all the exciting happenings here in Forchheim (I'll let you know when we hit 30,000 in our cards). And, imaginary internet people, I hope you have a wonderful 2011!

Oh, and while I've got you here, new pics have been posted!

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