Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Feeling out of sorts...

I just can't get into the swing of things.

Things are actually going pretty well.

I just easily fall down into a pit and can't seem to get out of it.

I know what I need to do... and I even know how to do it... I just don't care to.

I'm just feeling fully blue and I can't really figure out why (or really care to for that matter).

Maybe I'll try taking some D vitamins.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Today I found out that the girl who was murdered from the Craigslist thing was someone I personally know. I never had her as a student and she graduated the year before I taught at Park, but I have sat in many a judges' lounge with her discussing the world, her experiences, politics and future plans.

She was truly a dancing spirit. She vibrantly entered people's lives and left a footprint no one can forget... even after meeting her just once. Her short, curly red hair would bounce as she told of her experiences in Turkey and how she's trying to decide between programs and what do you think? Her blue eyes would flare with abstract processing as she took your words, a perfect stranger's words, to heart.

Someone killed her.

She was answering an ad to be a nanny. But it wasn't a nanny ad at all. It was a nineteen year old boy. And he killed her.

I can't get past this.
I see myself going through the stages.

Right now I'm just angry. And I want to blame it on anyone.
And I'm hurt.
And I'm scared.

She wanted to change the world. She was changing the world. And now the world is a sadder place without her. Truly.

Every once in a while my eyes will wander to the wall of senior pictures that I have and my mind begins to wonder about them... hoping, maternally, for safety. At least safety.

At least safety.

I remember that one of the last conversations we ever had was about one of her speechers. The girl was doing an informative piece on eyes: bringing in a lot of the sayings about the eyes being the window to the soul and what about eyes make people beautiful and how eyes read things and even to the scientific of how eyes work. Blue eyes versus brown eyes, eye placement, everything. She was so excited because it was going well and, truly, she was passionate about the topic.

I wonder what she saw through this nineteen-year-old boy's eyes and into his soul.

It makes me shudder to think.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Heute... noch wieder...

What went well:
German 2: The lunch tray way of learning went really well. As we were doing it, I was reminded of the success I have had with it in the past... and I wonder why I don't do it every time. I think it's because I remember it as being something I had originally just dreamed up on the spot, so it must not be useful... but BOY it is! So let this stand as a lesson: DO IT EVERY TIME. The kids get to draw a lunch tray, then they get a HUGE list of food vocabulary and they draw the food they would like to eat (at least 5 things) and label the foods in German on the back. This is good because kids get to construct and use the knowledge that is meaningful for them. THEN we stand in a circle, and play "musical lunch trays". I play music and they pass the lunch trays around. When the music stops, they write down 1-2 words they didn't know in their notebooks. This is a great (and interesting) way for them to get a bunch of new vocabulary that their peers thought was (at the very least) interesting. Cool. It was cool and I need to keep this as a reminder that I should, in fact, do this every time that I teach food.

What could have improved:
My planning for 4th hour. It will all come together, but since I'm leaving early (for the doctor apponitments) I just started them on new vocabulary for our first movie. Bleh. Oh well. At least it is something that needs to be done.

Who I need to touch base with:
KT to see how it went today during 4th hour.

I got my musician's new songs!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


What went well...
German 1 was excited to get the packets... they worked ahead on their own... so I'm glad I didn't stop them! They also had done very well on their tests... All A's and B's with only like 2 C's. Sweet!

Reflecting back on yesterday, the PowerPoint with German 3 and the games and such. They were up and moving at variuos times, they interacted with the whiteboard and everything went really well. I like it.

What could have been improved...
German 2: It felt like we just weren't doing purposeful things. I feel like sometimes this arrangement of desks leads to that b/c the kids are so busy focusing on other things (like each other). (The desks are in groups/circles right now.) It's just frustrating. I also think it was a bit early to do the touch game with the vocab... since hardly anyone knew any.

Who I need to touch base with...
My German 1 11th and 12th graders... we get to play tomorrow! The sophomores are gone. I am looking forward to connecting with them personally... because there are only 7 of them. I think we'll play Cranium.

*Erin told me today that her song has been remastered and she will e-mail me the new version!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Memememe again...

What went well today:
The students in German 3 were really impressed with the "ambient learning" powerpoint that I had created to play between classes. They also seemed to think the SpongeBob trailer was alright. I'm wondering if I need to do a new ambient learning PowerPoint for the German 3 class, or if I can just add more... or if I even need to do that.
Splatsch also went sowieso well.

What could have been better:
Since I had let myself believe that I didn't have sophomores in German 1 today, I was just kind of off my game. We went over endings and they did what I wanted them to, but I just wasn't feeling the normal excitement. Then when they wrote 3 sentences about what they did in their freetime, I noticed that although we said the -e ending thing, the majority of them didn't apply that knowledge. So that tells me we need more practice tomorrow. I think the chart from today probably helped. But they probably also need to hear more and need to see more actual examples for them to just pick it up. This is something to think on, and maybe create a more practice-voll experience for them tomorrow. I wish I would have noted how many didn't do it correctly, but it felt like at least 70%. So that will be a place of need for tomorrow.

What/who I need to touch base with tomorrow:
Erin about her music: how's it going?
German 1 about verb conjugation.

*I'm noticing that it's easy for me to fall back into the routines of what I've always done. This does "get me by", however, I think it's more meaningful if I purposefully plan ever more new things as I implement that perfect classroom. The more I put in, the more I'll get out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back to memememememe...

What went well:
This morning in German 2, one of my students said that he felt bad for the Spanish students because their classes just seemed to be lame. Everyone was always quiet, sitting in their desks, doing their stuff, and every once in a while they would have fun. He then said that he would probably take French if I were teaching it, but if it's not me, there's no way he would take it. :) It's those kinds of things from a student who is highly intelligent but also definitely what one would call a "typical German"... not necessarily popular, verging on gothic and truly a free thinker. It is so good for me to have these badges of honor because every once in a while I wish I had those quiet Spanish classes... but I know I'm really reaching these kids where they need to be met... and that they appreciate it. That's awesome. I've had a girl who is also in that class tell me the same thing... and she took another language.

German 1, we learned spielen and some new sports today after the test. First of all, I felt good about that use of time (instead of just letting them sit around mindlessly), but second, I made the decision this year to teach the verb endings in German 2 so that the students can discover them a bit more on their own. Today I previewed the fact that we'll learn the "general rule" to how things go together, and one boy (whose sister is in German 3) was so excited that he already knew how because his sister taught him this past weekend! I think it will be great for the kids to "discover it" on their own. I'm excited about this move. Chapter 1 was full enough and this will bring some meaning to all the verbs in Chapter 2.

The Speech Team meeting went well. We had about 12-15 at the meeting... and others signed up. All of the coaches had a chance to talk, which is important as we create this team. Overall I think it went very well.

What could have improved:
In German 3 the past tense story was okay. The kids were listening and they drew well, but they didn't pick up on the words like the lady promised they would. Oh well. The rest of the hour was very productive though, and I found myself speaking a lot of German... I think it's because I had the opportunity to hear it again last week from "real" speakers! I decided internally that, like in the immersion programs, they can still speak in English when they need to, but I can still speak in German. This way they'll move into that German place when they feel comfortable.

Who I need to touch base with tomorrow:
Those 11th graders in German 1 because I don't think I'm going to have much of a German 1 class tomorrow. I don't know what we'll do... maybe I should bring a game. We'll see.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The conference...

On Thursday and Friday I went to the Minnesota language Teacher Conference. I went Thursday night, even though it was only from 3 PM - 6 PM. I went to a college in the schools meeting as well as one about the virtual item bank and also a German Idea Share. The CIS was good information to get and good questions to have answered. It was a panel presentation. The idea share was the beginning of a tradition and should be very exciting when it is used often. Overall, it was very very nice to hear German from adults again. It has been so long since I've heard a real level of German. Other than that, I was a bit disappointed at the conference. But I was looking forward to the next day.
Friday morning I was the only one from the district at the first meeting. It was about reading strategies for German music. There were some great ideas and it helped me realize that I can go further into analysis with the music before hearing it... AND that I should never ever, ever show the full text of the song... because WOW that is overwhelming! That is a great thing for me to remember. Do analysis and listening and everything with pieces of the song/text. Wait to give the entire text until you absolutely have to... if ever. I like the discussion about reading the text and then guessing what kind of song it is.
Then, before the keynote speaker, I saw the remainder of the district people. Almost none of them were planning on staying until after lunch (and some were leaving before lunch). That means that the district has paid $75-$100 per person for them to come for one session, lunch, and leave.
I finished the German music session and then was off to lunch and then a major letdown: "Bonding with technology". I was going there expecting to see/learn new ways of bonding with technology for foreign language. Instead I got to see an overview of a survey they have been taking of teachers... and was asked (not personally but very generally) what might help increase technology. It was hard for me to not be cynical and say that meetings like this that actually TAUGHT technology instead of just talked about it.
Then one that had ideas from various teachers from the Apple Valey/Eagan/Rosemount district. It was really nice and things that I can bring back and USE!
Finally one about iPods. Now this is what I'm talking about. She was a wonderful presenter and told her own story as well as talked pedagogy and gave ideas for technology/iPods in education! Way to go!! It made me leave with a good taste in my mouth.

Overall, I don't know if I will go again. I felt like, for the time spent, I got little out of it. It reminded me of how, in Champlin Park, I need to be excited and exciting... just like I am in class. I need to give the relevant information and tips that they came to hear and focus on what's useful. Make it and keep it interesting and useful!

A sad note: one of the really cool technologies I learned about in the final session doesn't work on PC's! Does anyone know of something that is similar to ProVoc for the PC???

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I don't really know what that means, but I saw Liesl's and thought I would give it a try!

What went well today:

German 1 was awesome (again) today. They worked well with remembering our work from yesterday and practicing their new verb (kommen). We did patty-cake today to try something different. One of the students even mentioned that she was singing the verb conjugation to herself the other day without thinking about it! Awesome! We also watched the Landeskunde video today and the kids did a great job of picking up on the age/how they get to school. I think I front-loaded it correctly with saying you won't get everyone... but listen for what you do get, leave some blanks and we'll fill them in as we listen more and more. They did great. I think they are listening well... not getting down on themselves when they don't know/hear right away... and being creative! That is awesome. I think I might implement the conversation groups with these kids right away. Keep those high standards high and let them scaffold the experience a bit. The babies of a new era.

German 3: We just could not get the German past tense down. Yesterday I had them tell a story about what happened on my weekend and only 2 or 3 had the past tense down pat. I was distraught. Yet I also didn't see them being creative or taking risks or anything... so I was hitting a wall. I knew I needed to do something... so I put the e-mail out to everyone with the hope that I would get some great feedback. I didn't. I think I need to explain it in the "I have done blah blah blah" words. Maybe that would help. But while I was waiting for other people to send me ideas, I came up with one on my own. I decided that I needed a purpose for them to make things easy. They needed to make an animated PowerPoint story that uses present tense and changes to past tense for the German II students to use when they learn past tense this fall. The beauty of this? The kids HAVE to keep it easy... they have every excuse FOR keeping it easy and not getting down on themselves! So they wrote their stories and did their thing. Tomorrow we put it on the computer. I think I just need to do more baby step scaffolding with them where they can feel proud of things at the baby step level... and then they'll move into the stuff they think they should be doing. But the key is I can't make it seem remedial. Baby steps are the way... better than not moving at all... "Habe keine Angst davor, langsam zu wachsen. Habe nur Angst davor, still zu stehen!"

What didn't go well:
German 2 must have been nothing spectacular today because I don't remember it. Oh yes... now I remember and this is a good place for it. We learned "Durch den Monsun"... not enough front loading... or perhaps not the right place for the song. They did not like it. At least the very vocal ones didn't... the same way they didn't like "Nie Wieder". Ah well.

Who I need to touch base with tomorrow:
Karsten and Edgar. Make sure they're still on track and feeling good about their past tense.

*One other note: Tave came in and worked on my LCD and such this afternoon for about 45 minutes... and the LCD projector works!! Now, seriously, we are just waiting for the SmartBoard!

*One MORE thing: I got approved for the conference and got everything figured out and sent in so I can go! WooHoo! I am looking forward to learning new tricks, tips and other things from educators just like me!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Updates... and Conferences...

Yesterday I mentioned how awesome the use of those pictures were going in German 1... and how I was excited about using those in German 3... along with the money.

So maybe I built it up too much. The German 3 kids weren't as creative as the German 1 kids. They said hardly 4-5 sentences for each one... and I was pulling teeth to get that. Bleh. And then we brought in the money idea... which was good that kids were policing each other... but they were a bit gamey with it... and loud... and playing around with the coins. And I noticed a couple kids who had run out of money (yikes!) and they just completely shut down. Ugh. I think it's important to keep it... and maybe they will settle down. We'll see. Let's get positive!!

So now on to the conferences... you'll take the good, you'll take the bad, you'll take it all and then you'll have the Facts of Life. Just kidding.

Conferences went well. I love conferences. It's SO nice to talk to parents... tell them how great their kids are... and have a nice time talking with them. So here are some of the highlights...

First, and truly most importantly, I truly felt I was able to have more meaningful conversations with parents about their child's actual language progression. Some of this is due to the "Snapshots of Learning" and otherwise it is due to just being aware... taking note of the kids and what they're doing and being proud of them... and making sure they are proud of what they are doing. I loved being able to have those meaningful conversations with the parents... and noticing the things myself. Awesome.

Next, a conversation with one of the parents... she asked if we had college in the schools. I told them that we don't have it at this point and that they are pushing AP, when we would prefer the college in the schools program. She asked who she could talk to as parents to help get this in motion. So I gave her a couple names... I hope that wasn't a bad idea.

And at one point, my principal came up and sat down... saying that she never knew I was the German teacher. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm thinking it's bad... but I suppose it could also be good... Ugh.

Finally, just a couple notes... warm fuzzies, if you will...
German 1 guardian: Her student said that "If everyone taught like her (me), I would learn so much more!"

German 1 parent (I've had both of her other children in the past... all are great kids but get mediocre grades): "I wanted to thank you for what you do for th ekids. All my kids really loved you...and I'm sure that's why it went all the way down the line... because of you."

German 2 parent (of a very quiet student): "I can tell he likes your class--he does the work." and "You keep him going! You keep him motivated!" and finally "You're always my favorite to talk to--that's why I save you for last."

I had almost all the other parents talk about how much their student loved German... how excited they were about it (especially the German 1s) and how much they truly enjoyed the class... and me.

SO I'm glad this blog is just for me... or I would feel ashamed of "tooting my own horn"... but I don't want to forget these things... save them for a rainy day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Plans: Part One...

I need to start planning for my 3/4/5 split NOW for next semester... that way I don't go crazy with 46+ kids and just cry (read: drink) on a daily basis.

So here are some thoughts I've been spinning around in my head:
*Thematic planning. It HAS to be thematic. I will not separate these kids from one another. Right now I'm thinking about planning it around history. (Specifically WWII and the East/West)

*Kids say they want a book. It's as if they don't think the vocabulary is "real" unless it's printed somewhere in a book. So I need to find a way to remedy this. Maybe print off "books" for the students of simply paper (like I used to get in college) so they know what they are looking for/at during any unit.

*KEEP DOING STUFF YOU'VE DONE IN THE PAST. If you re-invent everything, you will SURELY go insane.

*Keep the fluency (Speaking and dialogue journals)

*Talk to Jodi about her Comp/Conv class and great things she does in there

*DO the centers... just not every day... or maybe not at the end of the day... I think this group still expects their "Frau time" at the end of the day every once in a while. (Thank you, Laura)

*DO keep using technology... integrate it more.

Just some thoughts for now.

Holding On...

A few thoughts about holding on...

My German 1 students are so well behaved. They work hard... are super excited... and quiet down instantly when I do the hand! I see this and then get frustrated with my upper level kids for not quieting down in the same way... so I realized that I need to look at this differently. It's awesome that these kids are great and that things are getting done and they are living up to my expectations. Instead of getting down on myself about the others not doing the same (because they've been trained for a longer amount of time NOT doing that), I'm starting with the 1's... and holding on to it with them. They are, if you will, the beginning of a new era. And the others will be out within 2 years. By 3 years, it will be an entirely new crew! So I'm beginning the new era with these guys and it is good. I am really enjoying the class and the things we accomplish. For instance, today I showed them the bent objects powerpoint I had prepared for my 3's... and told them we needed to say as much as we could and prefaced the entire thing with it being "a chance to be creative". I was SUPER surprised at what they came up with! They were saying things I would have never even thought of. And to think that if I would have stopped them, or moved on after I heard the 2-3 sentences I expected, I would have never had the opportunity to be impressed and surprised! They are excited about verbs and excited to learn "haben" tomorrow. I want to keep building on this in a very fluent way. I'm excited about this.

Another bit of holding on... it is dark, dreary and (very) cold around these parts lately. My body is going into hibernation (AKA eating/craving fatty and sugary foods and not exercising). I hate this. I need to get back into the schedule of exercising at least. That helps. But there is a bit of stress coming up that I want to be sure I'm well taken care of for...

We have conferences tomorrow night, then Friday is there and Saturday/Sunday is another Master's weekend. So I need to finish my homework on top of the grading and meetings that I have in front of me already. I haven't gotten to that stressed/anxiety place yet about any of this... and, honestly, I hope I don't. So I'm trying to do it bit-by-bit so I can get some things taken care of ahead of time. Then we're back at school again next week... but at least we have conference days on Thursday and Friday. That should help with some of the stress... and should re-energize me!

I'm excited to go to the language conference. It's the first time for me and I know how energized I feel going to the speech conferences and the master's conferences... I'm excited to be energized and to make some contacts who are interested in the same things I am. So I'm holding on for that.

Finally, we talked quickly about circumlocution today in German 3. It was a good thing for them to be told about... they got it right away, and then we practiced (probably too easily) with some food words. But it was a good stepping stone. What they didn't know was that tomorrow, during "Deutscher Donnerstag", they are going to have to use some of those skills. I think it is a great stepping off point.

Tomorrow is also the first day of money. This should be interesting. The Spanish teachers have had huge success with the money. I am excited to give it a shot and have the students police each other (and myself!). I think I will also try it with German 2... and tomorrow we will not have a walk.... we'll keep it all inside. I would like to move the German days to twice a week for German 3... start slowly stepping it up. Spanish 3 is doing 30 minutes at the beginning of every day. We can do the 45 minutes at least twice a week! So, just keep holding on to this fluency... it will only keep getting better...

and I need that as a strong trick in my bag for next spring!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Just an idea...

Something I'm throwing around in my brain...
But want to let it simmer as to how it would actualize itself...

What if:
Students chose how they were going to be part of the "Team" that is known as a classroom. Each student takes their strengths and commits to using those strengths (drawing, singing, movies, rote memorization, usw.) to help the class.

I think it's a great idea... it's so much like real life where businesses hire different people to take on the different tasks in order to have the business run smoothly and at its best. Why should we, in education, be different? Yet, I think it might necessitate a few things:

Contract grading of some sort? Perhaps contracted services? I don't want students to not offer their service because they feel that it will be on top of work that might already be overwhelming.

A real use of their skills. Not just a one-time thing and a very minimal one-time-thing at that. It needs to be real... and it needs to be purposeful and fulfilling for the students.

All of this came to mind as I see the amazing artists I have in class and the student who writes and sings her own music... beautifully. How could I harnass that to give them pride in what they do and have German be a part of it?

So I want to think this through a bit more... and then try it on a small scale still this semester... because it might be something truly amazing for my ENORMOUS split class next semester.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I can hear you...

We got our microphone/voice amplification system today (or really last night). Mine didn't work for the majority of the day. Finally, it began working and I was kind of screwing around with it "talking whale". It was interesting.

Students didn't think it was necessary.

But then I did the "cover the mic" test and the kids in the back said it did make a difference after all. So we'll see.

I want to putz around with it for a while and see if I can figure out how to do the podcasting of the entire class.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Ahhhh, the enjoyment of German 1... again...

Today we had another fantastic bout of discussion.

We did the history quiz and I had the chance to do my normal "spiel" abou the various questions on the quiz... and we ended up getting into a few discussions about various things... one was why people voted for Hitler. Another was genocide in general... and how America did it as well. We had an interesting conversation about the Native Americans as well as war today. I was able to meaningfully side-step a question directed at me about my opinion of war and discuss that we shouldn't have tunnel vision and that everyone needs to consider that question because it affects their future... which brought us to the discussion of a draft which would surely include both women and college students this time. A girl in the back teared up a couple times today... both during the Native American discussion and the discussion of the draft. She is so soft hearted and such a thinker.

I really enjoy these conversations.
And this class has been amazing for having these conversations.

P.S. on a brighter note, one of my 11th graders mentioned today that his mom says that German has changed him. He said that he used to be quieter and crabbier... and now he's just (and then he did this crazy flipping the pen dance with a big smile). I'm understanding that as a good thing. I asked if maybe he just finally felt like it was okay to be that person... he kind of nodded as he looked over and started to talk with his Tischpartner.

An idea...

Since the podcasting, in order to fully thrive on a large scale, needs to have multiple people recording at the same time, that project is kind of in limbo at this point. Perhaps I would be able to e-mail Al about getting more microphone headsets and then download audacity in a lab somewhere. Who knows.

Until then, I am considering a "weekly variety show" for everyone to participate in... with whatever they dreamt of.

*Must be in German
*Everyone has to, in some way, partake and be involved

*Music in German (singers/songwriters write and sing their own music)
*History corner
*Culture corner
*Other things?
*Vocabulary/Grammar corner


Surprise #1: After our first Thursday of just speaking German (15 minutes in 2 and 45 minutes in 3), I have had many students asking for and looking forward to that Thursday. On top of that, Annaliese asked me to ensure that Thursday we were going to go on a walk again with the German. Apparently the "real-life" application of seeing things and being able to talk about the things around us every day has been meaningful and other students asked for that as well. When I feared that we wouldn't be able to go for the walk (due to time) I asked if they wanted to just do the German in the classroom. It was unanimous that we should go for the walk. This time we stayed in the building. It was nice. I often get a couple stragglers, and the students look forward to the stamps if they just spoke German during that time (I tell them it is their own integrity and ethics on the line if they lie). The kids are reacting positively to this at this point. I'm glad I'm doing it.

Surprise #2: Last Wednesday was the talent show and one of my students wrote and sang her own song. It was AMAZING. I've been pestering her ever since about it... and she's doing some recording this week! I hope I can get her music.

Surprise #3: Friday after the carnival, each of the returning speech coaches found an envelope with a 10-page letter along with a personal letter full of gripes, complaints, venting and castigation. It was hurtful and did not make for the start of a good weekend.

Surprise #4: We returned a letter... and received a surprisingly positive e-mail in return. Alles wird besser... aber nichts wird gut. (Aber besser ist auch jetzt gut.)

So that's it for these parts! More about an idea in a moment.