What were your favorite classes in school?
The ones where only the teacher talked and you had to listen?
Or perhaps the classes where your teacher talked, made you read something, and then talked with you some more.
If you are like me, neither of those were all that great.
A lot of my student days (unfortunately) blur together in memory, with one main exception: I remember my classroom in vivid detail.
Like the time we tried to decipher foreign song lyrics just from hearing (and how we tried!). There is the time we conducted a huge multi-station scavenger hunt, and there is one time we roleplayed ourselves onto the Titanic just as it hit the iceberg.
All of these sessions have been etched into my mind.
The time of full-frontal teaching has long passed, and it has passed for a reason. Neurological research has concluded that active learning stimulates more neural connections in the brain, causes more neurological “cross-talk” and leads to better memory retention.
Teaching should not be one-directional, and there is no reason you have to do all the work; your students can be active and happy participants. What you need are great classroom activities. And you are looking for some fresh ideas, you have come to the right place.
Goodbye Boredom: 9 Unforgettable German Classroom Activities
Sometimes your students just have to sit down and learn: memorize this vocabulary, understand that grammar and then translate a sentence. If this is all they do, they will grow bored with your lessons and even the German language itself.
It is incredibly easy to prevent your students’ burn or bore-out by loosening up the curriculum with some fun classroom activities.
Why use them? Glad you asked.
The Many Benefits of Classroom Activities
Classroom activities offer high immersion and a fun language-learning experience for your students. They loosen up and energize the classroom, plus they are rich in variety.
There are many types of German classroom activities, as there are things to teach and learn. And best of all, you can implement them into any classroom and any lesson to teach everything from vocabulary to grammar.
Because activities force your students into active learning, and because they often address multiple senses, your students will have more brain connections and retain the learned content much better. And on top of all this, activities can bring your students into close contact with German culture and everyday life, preparing them for real-life language application and showing them the value of what they are learning.
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The Most Effective Follow-Up to German Classroom Activities
Before we introduce you to nine awesome classroom activities, consider this: You will have to justify them from an educator’s perspective.
Fortunately, this should not be a problem—Just remember that they are not only fun things to do, but are also tied to language content your students are supposed to learn.
To make sure that the learning process happens, it is important to check your students’ comprehension. At the end of the lesson or the beginning of the next, have them summarize what they learned.
For example, you could have them draw a mind-map of the most important facts, give a one-word summary of key concepts (harder than it sounds—if they can do this, they really understand the concept) or go with the 3-2-1 exercise.
This is when you have your students state three facts, ask two questions and give one opinion about what they learned (all parts obligatory).
You can also hand out questionnaires or review cards to the class and have them evaluate the activity, which will give you a feedback loop and the opportunity to finely-tune your lessons for the future.
9 Great German Classroom Activities to Revitalize Your Lessons
Are you convinced of the many benefits of classroom activities yet?
Great! Here are nine German classroom activities you can use to turn your classroom into a truly memorable place.
1. The Icebreaker
What better way to kick off your lesson than with an icebreaker?
For this simple classroom activity, randomly assign pairs of students and task them with finding out something about their partner in German. This is a good time for students to learn each other’s names and get to know their peers better by asking about hobbies and interests.
After the pairing phase, everyone presents their findings to the whole class.
Another variant is to equip all students with bingo sheets and have them walk around to find someone to put into each box; the student with the most boxes filled wins a small prize.
2. Crosswords and Word Scrambles
This classroom activity works best if you divide your students into groups and pit them against each other. Take a crossword puzzle from an internet source or the online version of a newspaper and give a printout to each group. Then, let them solve it as teams (maybe with the help of a dictionary) and give a small prize to the fastest group.
You will be amazed at how interested your students suddenly become in new vocabulary!
A variant of this is the word scramble where you have the teams compete to unscramble a letter salad you write on the board. You then give an award to the team that correctly unscrambles three words the quickest.
3. Going Native
What better way to teach German than to experience it in action under natural circumstances? There is a limit to what books and videos can teach. Beyond that, you need to interact with a native speaker to learn more.
Since you probably cannot take your whole class on a field trip through Germany, why not invite Germany to the classroom? Find a native German speaker and introduce them to your students, then have them do a Q&A session.
If you need help finding a native German speaker, contact the German, Austrian or Swiss embassy if there is one not too far away. You can also check and see if there is a local Goethe Institut or even a German expat living and working nearby.
It is best to offer a framework to get this going. Set two or three topics you know your German speaker can talk about, like:
- Their job
- Differences between Germany and your country
- German food
Then have your students take turns to ask the speaker a question in German.
To get the most out of this activity, discuss the results afterwards or ask your students to write up a summary of their insights.
Unable to find a native German speaker? No worries! You can provide the same level of cultural immersion by adding FluentU to your classroom curriculum. With FluentU, you can teach students authentic German lingo through real-world material. Instead of having them memorize scripts from their textbooks, FluentU lets you teach German language and culture through popular songs, television shows and current events. As a result, your students learn to speak naturally while gaining a deeper appreciation for all things German.
4. At the Movies
This activity might bring back school memories: watching a movie. Sometimes, it is a documentary that delivers valuable insights. At other times, it is shorthand for a teacher who did not prepare a lesson!
But you can turn watching a movie into a classroom activity that engages your students. Do this by giving your students several questions or topics to look out for. Watch a short movie or a German commercial. Afterwards, have a discussion round where everyone reads out their notes and compares and contrasts opinions with each other.
5. Arts and Crafts
Instructions speak their own language, and understanding them is a crucial step to language mastery. For one session, turn your classroom into a workshop and have your students create something, either on their own or in groups.
Present them with a series of blueprints to different arts and craft projects and make them choose one object to build. After its completion, let you students explain what it is, how they went about it and what significance it holds in German culture. It could be an eagle, Lederhosen or a windmill.
Most language use happens not alone in a study, but in interaction with other people. German is no exception: and to learn it properly, your students should try their hand in conversations or maneuvering situations.
Decide on a scenario from murder mystery to daily life at the grocery store and provide your students with a handout containing the basic background of the scenario. Then, have them play it out either until they reach a predetermined goal (like using key vocabulary or holding a basic conversation) or until a certain amount of time has passed.
Depending on the size of your classroom and your scenario, you can either have everyone participate at once or have a small group act out the scenario while the others serve as the audience.
7. Cooking Class
Often, food in the classroom is frowned upon. But why should it be? Go online and download recipes to analyze and discuss with your students. Have them translate the ingredients and the cooking methods, memorize the order of things or try to find equivalent dishes from their own experience.
Then, if you really want to involve them, try cooking in the classroom or as homework, maybe have one student prepare a snack or finger-food item for each session.
8. Trail of Post-Its
This activity requires more preparation but is certainly worth the effort. You need to formulate ten to twenty questions related to your current curriculum and put them on an equal number of post-its/pieces of paper. Each piece of paper also has the solution from the previous station on its backside.
Now, every student starts at one station, checks out their question, writes the answer on a piece of paper and proceeds to the station that corresponds to that answer.
For example, the questions could be about vocabulary and the number of letters in the answer could correspond to the number of the next station. Alternatively, you could have factual questions corresponding to stations named after objects, or questions about colors corresponding to color-coded stations. It does not matter how, you just need something in the answer that tells your students where to go.
If they don’t find their answer at the back of the post-it they went to, they have to go back to the original station and figure out the right answer to move forward. A student finishes when they complete the loop and arrive back at their original station.
9. Singalong and Song Lyrics
Everybody loves music, and your students will not be an exception. Of course, you cannot just sit down and listen to some songs instead of learning, can you?
Actually, you can!
Why not add some multimedia variety to your lessons by having your students listen to German songs. You can even let them try to transcribe and translate the lyrics!
Go through the song word by word and sentence by sentence together. After your students are done, compare their results to the actual lyrics.
A good source for this is music channels like Digster Pop, which collects the official music videos of new German songs and archives them in a variety of playlists (for artists, genres, top tens and so on).
For bonus benefits, bring up the songs whenever you discuss vocabulary that appears in their lyrics—it will help your students remember.
Above and Beyond: Getting the Most Out of German Classroom Activities
Keep in mind that you can do these activities more than once without boring your students. Just do not continue to do them the same way you did the first time—add a twist.
For example, if the activity had teams, rotate members periodically.
If there was a time limit, make it shorter. And if there was not a time limit, introduce one.
Be creative and mix it up. Repeat these nine activities as often as you want, tailoring them to different lessons as you see fit. Your students will thank you!
Dennis Mombauer is a German who currently lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka, as a freelance writer of fiction, reviews, and essays on climate change and education. He co-publishes a German magazine for experimental fiction (Die Novelle—Magazine for Experimentalism) and has published various short stories, poems, and one German-language novel.
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