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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Beyond the text book

April 23, 2013

Looking forward to meeting teachers at Anglia Ruskin University today for the event organised by Routes into Languages and OCR.

We shall be looking at ways of addressing some of the issues identified by Ofsted as being in need of improvement in the report Achievement and Challenge, and developing pupils’ language skills that do not rely on the use of the text book.

A .pdf copy of my presentation is also available here.


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….


Activities for Chinese New Year – Papercutting

February 10, 2013

Paper cutting charactersThis week I’m planning to do some paper cutting activities with the Chinese club I run. This traditional handicraft is particularly associated with festivals such as Chinese New Year (celebrated today), both as gifts and as decorations.  As ever I will show a video first and there are any number to choose from;  this one from Hello China gives some information about the origins of paper cutting and the cultural significance of them.

Then there are a range of videos on Youtube which demonstrate how to do papercutting.  This one shows some beautiful examples of some paper cuts before demonstrating a very straightforward and easy pattern to follow.   Chinese Papercutting HQ has a wholes series of videos starting with a general introduction to papercutting, followed by specific videos such as the basic equipment needed and simple designs to cut out, such as the classic double happiness character. For the more ambitious there is the Monkey pattern and the Butterfly pattern.


Intercultural understanding – Le Jour des Crêpes

January 31, 2013

Chandeleur2

Here in the UK we are just under two weeks away from pancake day, but in some European countries like France, Belgium and Switzerland they will already celebrating their Jour de crêpes this coming Saturday as this day, 2nd February, is La fête de la Chandeleur. 

Depending on what you read and where, this has its origins both in a pagan festival of light (the roundness of the pancakes bearing some semblance to the sun) and in the Christian festival of Candlemas, or Christ’s presentation in the Temple, the word chandeleur being derived from the word for candle chandelle.

Either way it’s another occasion, like Mother’s day, when different cultures mark events in different ways. This means it’s also an opportunity to develop pupils’ sense of intercultural understanding by drawing out the similarities and differences between what we do and when, compared to other cultures.  A simple activity is to sort some statements into those which relate to Pancake day in the UK, those in France and those which relate to both using a Venn diagram as in this .ppt slide:  Le jour des crêpes.

There’s plenty more information as to the origins of La Chandeleur on Wikipedia as well as on sites like Mômes.  This site also includes some rhymes to do with La Chandeleur and some recipes for crêpes.

For more advanced learners of French there is this video explaining the history of La Chandeleur and another on L’histoire des crêpes.


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.


Le tour de France

January 24, 2013

I’ve just come across a fantastic series of videos about regions in France produced by SNCF voyages courtesy of the J’aime le français page on Facebook.  There are over 100 short videos most lasting under 4 minutes which cover the length and breadth of France.  Some are a “visite guidée” to a town or region, so obviously tie in very well with any travel, tourism and holiday related lesson, but there are a surprising number of other videos that relate to other themes:

  • Shopping – this video introduces viewers to Isabelle, a “personal shopper” at the  Galeries Lafayette and to the language to talk about your clothes.  It then moves to a boutique which sells some pretty wacky glasses and shoes, amongst other things, and finally it looks at some areas of Paris with small “trendy” individual shops.
  • Green tourism – in this series of videos a number of personalities (the singer Nolwenn Leroy, the chef Alain Passard, and the explorer Nicolas Vanier) explain what “green tourism” means for them.
  • Food – Un week-end gastronomique  introduces some of the specialities from Lyon and sees the presenter in the kitchen!

And so much more….

These short videos can be exploited in a number or ways, some of which need not involve too much preparation beyond familiarising yourself briefly with the content beforehand:

  • Give pupils a list of some words in French which appear in the video but which are new to them and which could be useful;  get the pupils to put up their hands whenever they hear one of these words
  • Give pupils a short list of words from the video, ask them if they can work out the meaning from the context
  • Choose a few key words from the video, get pupils to put them in the order in which they hear them
  • Pupils jot down words as they watch the video – these could either ones they can work out from the context, or ones they want to know the meaning of
  • To gauge pupils’ level of overall comprehension – give them a series of true/statements to which they respond on mini whiteboards – these statement could be in English or French
  • More advanced pupils could make up their own questions in French about what they have seen, or produce a brief oral or written summary