All things German

October 2, 2014

German flagI have just started listening to the excellent series by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, about Germany:  Memories of a Nation ahead of the exhibition of the same name that opens at the Museum on October 16th.  This should be compulsory listening for all teachers and students of German as he offers a fascinating insight into elements of German history over 600 years through artefacts and places associated with the German speaking world.  In the opening episode he points out how fragmented this is and how if Goethe had travelled in the 1770s from Strasbourg in the west to Königsberg in the east he could have passed, via a somewhat circuitous route, through 50 different German states!

Despite this fragmentation he talks about the number of memories common to those living in modern day Germany and how monuments such the Holocaust memorial serve as a reminder of the past.  As it happens  ‘Remember’ is the theme of this year’s national Poetry day. A Google search on ‘Erinnerung’ and ‘Gedicht’ throws up the following site with a large number of poems on the theme of remembering and memory.

The theme of ‘Remember’ is particularly apposite given this year’s anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, so perhaps taking a look at the Argonnerwaldlied might be worth doing to compare a German perspective of life on the front with that of the ‘war poets’ in English literature.  More specifically there is a collection of poems related to that period gathered together on this site, including a poem about the famous Christmas day truce, Die Kriegsweihnachtslegende by Ludwig Winder.  The Christmas truce is also the theme of a pack of resources put together by the British Council under the title Football remembers which includes ‘Truce’ vocabulary in four languages including French and German.  There are plenty of ideas for cross-curricular work and is worth checking out.

 

 

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Water, water everywhere….

October 2, 2013

water

Water, water everywhere is the theme of this year’s National Poetry day, an annual “nationwide celebration of poetry for everyone everywhere”.  It falls on the first Thursday in October which this year just happens to coincide with Germany’s National day, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on October 3rd.

When I was learning German (many moons ago!) both my grandmothers, a maths and art teacher respectively, took great delight in showing me what German they knew by reciting a German poem – Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine.  I’m sure that the reason that they could remember it word perfect years after first coming across the poem was due to the repetition of sounds, rhymes and rhythms. They may even have heard and learnt the words set to music.  If so that too would have helped to fix the words in their mind.

The story of the Lorelei luring the fishermen to their death on the Rhine whilst combing her golden hair fits perfectly with the theme for this year’s National poetry day, so if you are tempted to give it a go here are a couple of videos that could be used to introduce it to students.  The first is a spoken version of the poem showing the text with the music of the song version in the background:

The second version the song version without text but is of a boat trip on the Rhine:

Of course is the weather is not so good on National Poetry day maybe a rain inspired poem might fit the bill rather better?

Having got into the theme of water poetry I had a look for French as well.

For younger and beginner learners of French how about this poem entitled La Mer by Paul Fort?  Paul Eluard’s poem Poisson is also quite accessible.  A wider collection of water themed or inspired poems can be found here as well as this anthology put together by a class  from Grenoble.  Finally I found some examples of water inspired poems written by French school children.

With the requirement for pupils to be exposed to  literary texts under the new national curriculum there’s no time like an occasion such as National Poetry Day to get started…


Did you know……..?

March 2, 2013

Did you know that Regional TV programmes are the second most popular type of TV programme that Germans like to watch?  In the number one slot come news programmes with sport at number 3.  Crime and detective series are number 4 followed by programmes about politics and economics.

All this is according to the statistics put out by Statista.de and comes from a section entitled Toplisten.  This section of the website includes picture galleries of favourite snacks (fruit and raw food comes in at number 1), the most annoying things that women say (!), the actual most watched TV programmes in Germany, what Germans like to do in their free time and the most popular uses of a mobile phone amongst other things.

Statistics are an example of an authentic resource that can easily be exploited in the classroom:

  • For giving a cultural angle to whatever topic is being studied.
  • In a Group talk type speaking scenario;  if pupils have been learning the vocabulary for food and snacks they could be shown pictures of Germans’ favourite snacks and ask to speculate which they think comes top and why and compare it to their own favourites.
  • For practising numbers.
  • As a comparison to the results of surveys that they carry out in the classroom.
  • The short text that accompanies the pictures in the “Top lists” mentioned above could be used for introducing language and/or helping pupils develop strategies for working out the meaning of new words.

This website also has infographics which are ideal for use with KS5 classes, although some like this one on fast food could easily be used at KS3 and KS4 as well.

Sites that have statistics relating to France include Statistique publique   and Insee, although neither of these present the information in quite such a user friendly way as Statista.de….


All you need to know in under 45 seconds!

January 29, 2013

In my previous two posts I wrote about a series of short video clips in French and in Chinese.  Now for German…..this  website has a terrific collection (approx 146,000!) of short video clips lasting a mere 45 seconds or less.

They are principally information videos covering a huge range of topics including famous places, people and events.  The sound is, I suspect, computer generated and uses text from Wikipedia articles (Wikipedia.de).  Don’t let that put you off however,  as each video is accompanied by a selection of images relating to the topic which make it clear what it is about even if pupils are unable to understand all that is said;  these images on their own without any sound are particularly useful for giving a culturally specific angle to a topic

These videos would be perfect for developing listening skills at KS5 – pupils could attempt to transcribe what they hear and then compare with the Wikipedia.de entry for that topic.  Even at KS3 and KS4 there are some that would be accessible with some support, or with a simple task;  for example pupils could be asked to list the order in which the colours blue, green, red, white and yellow are mentioned in this video about Newweling (a traditional candle from Mainz).  In the video about the Oktoberfest they could be asked to pick out numbers and dates.


Songs for hallowe’en

October 22, 2012

Whilst doing a bit of research on the origins and customs of Hallowe’en recently, I came across a Youtube video of a Hallowe’en song in French which  I used to do with my classes when I taught in an international school some 15 + years ago.  It covers most of the vocabulary to do with Hallowe’en and the tune is very catchy.  The pupils loved it!

If you are looking for a song in German you could try teaching “Süßes oder Saures” (Trick or treat) – the lyrics can be found on a downloable .pdf Kindergarten 1 – Feste feiern.


An Inspector calls

July 5, 2012

I had a great day down in Croydon yesterday at the Exploring Excellence in MFL conference.  As promised I have uploaded the slides from my keynote address An Inspector calls.

In my talk I referred to the subject specific guidance for Ofsted inspectors making subject survey visits;  the full document can be downloaded here and the information about changes to the inspection framework from September onwards is here.  I also referred to the Ofsted report Modern Languages:  achievement and challenge 2007 -2010.

I have written in previous posts about some of the things covered in my talk, such as making the most of occasions like Mother’s day to develop intercultural understanding and the use of Wordles.  I also referred briefly to Greg Horton’s group talk project and gave an example of a joke as an authentic resource.

When it comes to using video clips and audio clips there are a couple of useful tools that can help you make the resources more accessible to your learners.  Many video clips, such as those from Youtube can be downloaded using Realplayer and then converted using Realplayer software to other formats including .wmv (to play using Windows media player) and .mp3 audio files.  Audacity is a very useful free recording and editing tool which can be used to slow down the speed of an audio track;  I have written about how to do that here.


What is happiness?

May 10, 2012

“Was ist Glück?” was the question that was asked of various members of the public by the  German rock group Silbermond.  Their  responses are featured in the video that accompanies the group’s latest hit single Himmel auf;  a video that is a wonderful example of an authentic resource that can be exploited in so many ways.

  • It’s a good example of something that is currently popular so provides a good insight into the contemporary music scene in Germany.
  • At a visual and concrete level without the sound the video can be paused for pupils to describe what they see – the weather, the landscape, the people, where they are, what they are doing (Wie sieht er/sie aus?  Was macht er/sie? etc) Depending on the level of the pupils this could then lead on to a discussion as to whether the images are “eher positiv oder negativ” and reasons for that.
  • The video could also be used to introduce the language of feelings:  glücklich, traurig, einsam, nervös, Angst haben etc
  • It could be used to link to the wider curriculum such as RE, PSHE and citizenship with particular reference to values and what is important in life.  Pupils could for example be given cards with words like “Familie”, “Freunde”, “Geld”, “Gesundheit” etc to rank according to what is important for them in their lives and to give a reason (…weil…..)  They could then be shown images of other people e.g. from other (poorer)parts of the world and asked to imagine how they feel and why they say that…  Activities such as this are good for developing pupils skills in being able to empathize with others, a key skill in developing intercultural understanding.
  • To introduce a specific grammar point, such as “wenn” clauses, e.g.  Glück ist, wenn die Sonne scheint/wenn man mit Freunden ist, wenn man auf Urlaub ist etc
  • As a springboard for reflection and creativity.  Pupils could write their own examples of what “Glück ist…”  These could simply be a noun, adjective + noun or a more extended sentence with a “wenn clause”, depending on their ability.  They could be challenged to speculate on who the people are, what they do, what their background is and to either write or talk about them.
  • The sound track could be used for developing listening skills, perhaps with pupils picking out specific bits of information, such as the numbers in the first verse, or filling in the blanks in a clozed version of the lyrics; there is a version of the lyrics here (looks like someone has done a transcription so can’t guarantee that it’s error free!)

In addition to the “official” video there is another version of the song uploaded onto Youtube with images that match the lyrics.  This gives a good impression of the other other side of the coin – “wenn man kein Glück hat…” and would be a good aid to understanding the song itself. Comments on Youtube on the official version on the song are additional sources of authentic text on this theme, as is the video that Silbermond have uploaded onto their website of videos people have made of themselves saying what “Glück” is.  Pupils at AS/A2 level could work on this independently and report back on which statements they most agree/disagree with.

The possibilities of “Glück” are endless…….

Viel Glück dabei!