Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nichts neues...

Everything feels the same.

I was really enjoying that feeling of "something different"...

And now it's just back to the same.

however I will still keep up the "Deutsch Donnerstag" and "Foto Freitag"

That is at least one right step. (Can you tell I'm feeling a bit down?)

(But I am excited about maybe seeing some of my superstars in the talent show tomorrow night!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In der Sprache...

Yesterday we had done some "practice immersion" time in German 3. During that time, I asked if they would rather talk (today) for 30 minutes or 45 minutes. The vote was 6 to 13... in FAVOR of the 45 minutes! That is awesome!

So today I began with D2... we went for an "in building field trip" where we talked only in German as we walked around a bit of the school (and outside) talking about the different classes, teachers and nature. It was good. When we returned, I asked how many enjoyed it. At least 75% raised their hands. Then I asked who thought it was beneficial (whether or not they enjoyed it). 100% raised their hands!

So then on to D3... We began the hour with the 45 minutes of German. Some times were tough when we were trying to fully describe everything... and hope that everyone understood. But it was really pretty good! Only a couple kids were doing the English thing... and some of the time because they didn't even realize they were doing it.

The fantastic time came at the end of it... when we went over all of the stuff to be sure they understood... and Karsten (who had been advocating this when we first voted as well) said that next time we should just do it the whole time. The majority agreed with him! Saying things like "It can only help!" I agreed and told them how excited I was that they were excited about this. I did, however also explain the brain frying that sometimes happens... so we'll have to watch that carefully and not go so long that everyone's brain just fries. Because then it's not just not positive. It's negative.

They got it.

Overall: Exciting! I can do this! I AM doing this! Cool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All wet...

So today I was sitting, minding my own business, when KT came in and asked, "How much would you cry if I told you that you were in the top two for the dunk tank (for Homecoming)?"

I didn't believe her.

I didn't want to believe her.

But then it struck me.

So I ran into her and Biener after German Club and asked who I need to bribe and what kind of lie I need to create in order to get out of this...

They said that the amount of change the kids had dropped on me so far (and today was the first day of voting) was going to be hard to overcome.

I was a wreck. An anxiety-filled wreck.

I called Liesl.

She helped talk me down a bit... also felt sorry for me... and really helped me pinpoint what the scariest part was for me: having a group of teenagers see wet clothes clinging to my body.

It's a crazy high school self-esteem thing... but it's there.

So she had to go and I called my mom. (In all fairness, with the words, "I need someone to talk me off the cliff.") And she said that she couldn't help me out because she thought I should be honored... and definitely not feel badly about my body. Thanks for the sympathy, mom.

Next it was off to Laura (do you feel that I was going a bit overboard here?). She laughed. And she laughed. And she laughed some more. She tried to hide and stop her laughter... but she just kept laughing. She apologized for laughing. But she just kept laughing. I told her it was the epitome of Schadenfreude. She told me she felt bad for me... and is also trying to help me figure out what clothes I will have to wear if, in fact, this nightmare does come true.

So here's to hoping that, by Friday, I won't even be in the race anymore.

But that probably won't happen...

So here's to having fun with what you've got.

Side note: the UbD is not on schedule... I'm stressed at the lack of "push" in especially my German 3 class. Ugh.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ich liebe meine Schülern...

Today in German 1 we had yet another amazing discussion... and a real connecting point with the kids. It was amazing.

We began with the geese (which the vast majority of THIS class actually had done...) and then, while we were still in a circle, moved on to "Wie Geht's" and how, in Germany, you only ask that question if you really want to know. It's not a shallow/polite thing to say just as passing conversation.

I then tell them the Cora story (about having an awful morning and someone in passing time asks how she is, but doesn't stick around to hear how she actually is... so she just ends up there in the hallway... talking to absolutely no one... before she realizes that person is gone).

This time we discussed the downfall of this in our society... and how they should try a social experiment and when someone asks... they need to answer "awful" (or really, just something other than "good")... and see what happens.

Then I challenged them. I challenged them to be more like the Germans. To not have meaningless or heartless conversations with others... to not ask if they don't care... and, if they ask, to stop, listen, and care. Because, as I said, we are all humans, and we all just want to be loved. Then the kids brainstormed what it meant to "actually care" and really found some meaningful answers. Simply put (according to the kids): Stop not caring, start caring, don't ask if you don't care, and be ready to listen with care if you do.

Then we practiced our "Wie geht's" question around the circle(and this is where, in the past, there has been a disconnect)... and we agreed that if people said so-so or not good or bad, we should ask why (so they learned the word "Warum")... and really listen. So we did. We also asked "warum" even when kids said that they were doing awesome! Because we wanted to know! But we allowed people, if they weren't feeling brave, to just say "good" and we wouldn't ask any more.

It was such an amazing connecting point. I heard students who had bad mornings, others who are having major problems with friends, others who bombed tests, yet others whose bones hurt because it is going to rain and even those who just "have a case of the Mondays". The fantastic thing is it gave the students an opportunity to care. Sometimes it's not "cool" to just start caring... and giving them this opportunity gave them the chance to care openly and not feel like they shouldn't ask or know. It felt amazing.

I just need to be sure to build on this and keep it up again tomorrow.

If I can't teach my old dogs new tricks... I can sure as hell teach the new dogs some pretty amazing ones.

What a great day.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vision Statement

The German classroom is a place where students are cared for and find meaningful learning experiences as they strive toward excellence in fluency.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It doesn't have to be hard...

Today we played the "Ich mag Leute..." game and again they LOVED it. It's always a little loud, but also a lot of fun. And best of all? The kids are speaking, listening and responding to the language!

Today I also started the routine of "Foto Freitag"... where I will bring in Fotos... and it could go anywhere from there. Today I described what the fotos were... then the kids had to guess, and then it came up on PowerPoint once they guessed it! So they were listening to the German, getting meaning, and remembering vocabulary. I think I will also bring in fotos for them to use to tell a story or to tell what is happening (I got an idea from Kate that I could bring in Fotos from my youth and then they could tell the story of what was happening... I love it!)

What's important here is that there is just more language happening. I need this. I love this. And I especially love how easy and fun it can be. It does NOT have to be hard. It should be fun. (Unsere geheimnisse Sprache...) now I just need to be sure that we reinforce that usage!

It is the baby steps of a big and exciting change. Baby steps that I need... not because I can't handle the big steps, but because I can get overwhelmed and depressed about the big steps... and really, the kids need the scaffolding just as much as I do.

So here's to baby steps. PROST!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Podcasting 101

Not enough front loading with 4th hour.

I just sent them on their way with minimal explanation. I need to remember that these kids won't know it unless you spell it out for them. So AFTER we got back from the computer lab, I had this discussion with them:

  • Remember everything we've been learning about learning styles for the past week and a half? Do you know how beneficial this knowledge is for you? You get to share it with others.
  • You are going to take your learning style and look more in-depth into it... then share that information with others.
  • This information is beneficial for EVERYONE! It can help anyone with anything!
  • Hopefully we can get people across the district (and maybe even around the world) listening to our podcast... so let's make them amazing!

I think they got it then.

I must have done something different with first hour, because they got it. I think the frontloading from yesterday (that 4th hour didn't get) made a ton of difference. Some of the more thoughtful discussions have come from 1st hour as well. I just end up sharing them with 4th hour.

And then I got to pay for some "sins"...

Yesterday I had told my 1st hour kids that they had done a better job with their speeches than my 4th hour kids... so I told my 4th hour kids that I shared that information with 1st hour.

TODAY a number of kids kept saying that they were hearing from their 1st hour friends that I said that they were "better than" the 4th hour kids. I told them that I was just talking about the speeches and that I had told 4th hour that I said that yesterday.

They seemed quietly down about it.

I need to figure out what to say/do to figure out how to make it not personal for them. It's true. First hour's speeches were better... Fourth hour didn't push themselves like first hour did. But that means nothing about who is "better". Maybe simple clarification will work. Hm.

WAR: What is it good for?

That question came up today... and not out of my mouth.
(and not even by a student who was making a pop culture reference... however old it may have been.)

It was a real question. From a real inquiring mind.

And the class went silent.

"That is a big question," I said. "A big question. Seriously. Such a big question that you will be asking that of yourself your entire life. I don't know. I still don't know. But I think about it. Often. That is what kind of an amazing, big question that is."


And all because of Nena's "99 Luftballons".

This is the first time I've ever discussed the song. In the past, I just feed them the fact that the German version is more heavily political.

This time we read through the first verse... and then stopped to ask, "What might this mean?".

It spawned beauty.

Before we talked about the middle, we talked about the end... and about taking a balloon, thinking of someone and letting it go.

I got an answer from a student (all about the prior knowledge here) who said maybe it was about the split of East/West Germany and how they couldn't see their loved ones (remembering the slide I have of "To: Astrid Maybe Some Day we will be together")

I hadn't even considered that. So I gave it kudos and let it sit. And we discussed.

At the end of our discussion we talked about the time period... Korea, the cold war... and the symbolism of red.

And it fell together with his comment of the loved one. It was beautiful. I couldn't have scripted it that way. Exhilirating.

And all because of processing time together... and those poignant, essential questions that everyone has on their mind.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Technology reflections...

Week one is done and the UbD has been going well... I planned too much for especially the first day... so I've had to do some rearranging... but otherwise it's good. In reflection, though, I'm seeing that until this point, it is heavily focused on technology and learning and perhaps less so on language usage. This will be a place for improvement for the unit, and those to follow.

So some quick notes on technology:
*PowerPoint: as we still don't have our "smart classrooms", I checked out an LCD projector from the media center. I have been doing the notes, agenda, city presentations and a bit of internet on PowerPoint. It has been beneficial to kind of keep me on track, and one student mentioned on the first day (before we even talked about learning styles) that he really liked the PowerPoint things because he is a visual learner... so he hoped we would have more of these. :) I think it's going well. It forces me to at least preview the plan for the next day and get things together and going.

*Audacity: We recorded our voices for the audio vocabulary section of the UbD. I exported it to mp3 and published it online. It took a bit of time to do the recording (just because there were so many people who needed to get up and to the microphone)... but once I had the file cut and exported, it was about 4.5 minutes. Everyone's voices sounded really good and I was inspired to do more with this because it truly is an authentic means of assessing their pronunciation and understanding (especially if they recorded conversations on it). I loved it. The kids liked to hear themselves and many mentioned that they downloaded it and "didn't sound as stupid as I thought I would". This is good. Step one in preparation for the podcasting. It should prove to be super beneficial for me... and they like it too! What else can you ask for? Great for step one!

*StudyStack: For our visual practice, I inputted the vocabulary into StudyStack for the students to be able to interact with online. We'll see how many actually put this to work and how seriously they are taking this.
Which brings me to some reflection about the quizzes...

Will the students actually take this seriously if they are not being graded on the quizzes? Do we need to have a discussion about the purpose? Is the purpose meaningful enough for them? I think it is interesting and good, but do they? And will a grade motivate them anyway? Should we have the discussion that a language is nothing without vocabulary?

I don't know. I was a little concerned about all of this tonight as I was thinking about the 120-240 words they will be studying for tomorrow... and how some might remember that just tonight... and then, instead of studying, just tell themselves that it doesn't matter anyway because they won't be graded...

that just might break my heart.

Heat Stroke is over...

Well, the great land of Minnesota has finally cooled down. Last week we had hit our 29th day of over 90 degree weather this year. (The average is 15 per year.) Being in school was horrific. We are without air conditioning and wilted is an understatement (for both me and the students).
It was amazing to see how significantly the weather affects me and my level of excitment. I especially see it in German 1 because I've taught it so many times that I have a good feel for the "normal level of excitement"... and it was definitely low this week. And you know what happens when my excitement is low? The kids' excitement is seemingly non-existent. I guess that explains why the upper level kids sometimes seem less than excited... happy... but not really "excited" per se. I guess it's because I'm not. Crazy.
The first week went well (as well as could be expected with the weather anyway). My kids are all rockstars. I am so excited and they have done a fine job... all of them! We did the "what are your goals" talks that moved into the "rules for the room" talk... and those turned out very... let's say... creatively. I like it. And after I let go of my idea of how they should look, I really wouldn't want them any other way. I need to get those printed on big pieces of paper for the kids to sign and we'll hang them up.
Friday night we met up with Jenn and Ahmed at Buca and had a great time. Then we were off to South Dakota for Brittany's shower. I was in charge of games, so they played the "who am I" game with names on their back, then found their partner (they were married couples) and with two other partnerships they made toilet paper wedding dresses. The community building there was actually great. Before the day began, I was second-guessing myself and the decision to play games that I knew the older ladies wouldn't be thrilled about... but I decided to just go with the plan... and I'm glad I did. I had at least five older ladies say "Thank you!" and one even said "That was so much fun! I haven't done that in years!" Whew. That made me feel good. It was great to see people meet each other and really connect. And all because I know how important all of this is because of St. Mary's! Thanks, Roger and Michele!
So looking forward to the next week... It should be cooler... and fun! I need to be sure to get the kids signed up for the computer lab (or some access to computers) on Wednesday. And we have open house tomorrow night!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Our First Day...

Wow was it HOT!!
It was 93 degrees outside today... and outside seemed cool. There is something about 90+ degrees plus about 2000 hot, sweaty, stinky bodies in a building with no air conditioning... it makes for an interesting learning environment.

First hour took a lot of time simply going over the rules and procedures... so much so that we got almost nothing else done. That stinks. The whole UbD thing is now going to be at least 3/4 of a day behind. I suppose German 3 will catch up tomorrow when the seniors all leave for senior class meetings.

Then German 1 was fantastic... it always makes me a bit off my game when I don't have German 1 first hour... but I think it was nice. And then some kids needed more copies of the homework and one of the "cool girls" came to get her homework and said that she is really excited about German and will look forward to it every day. I told her I look forward to it too. That is awesome. I can't wait to get those letters... they should be a good "pick-me-up"... and a good reminder of what good it does to truly be excited and share that with the kids.

So about halfway through German 3 (as everyone was looking really blah), I decided to just pull out the same discussions I had with German 1 and 2. It was like turning on a light. The kids were laughing and interested again. Reminder to self: keep up that excitement... nobody is ever too old for it and they are in your class to hear that and share in it. JUST DO IT! It will never seem silly or old.

Final note: I had so many students stop and talk with me today... even if they didn't have me until next semester. It was so nice. Then one student stopped me in the hall saying how sad he was that he didn't have German this year because he "wasn't supposed to have it last year and" he "didn't know how much he would enjoy it" so he hadn't signed up for it (He took German 1 in the spring). So it is nowhere on his schedule... but he promised "sincerely" that he would be in my class for a full year next year!! He was so honest and sad and excited... and said he would surely will still do German club. I'm so glad.

All in all it was good. I need to readjust some planning... but it was good.