How to Choose Creative Activities for Your German Lesson Plans
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
There is something magical about smoothly executing a well-coordinated plan.
It feels almost like you’re a commando in a special forces team named after a letter in the alphabet.
As a teacher, there is no better feeling. Because, whether you are going behind enemy lines, liberating a hijacked plane or teaching the German language, a good plan will ensure you accomplish your mission easily and effectively.
What’s more, the more time you spend planning in advance, the less you will be burdened during the action.
Today, we are going to look at ways you can build unforgettable lessons to engage your German learners.
How to Create Awesome Activities for Your German Lesson Plans
If you want to create a truly great classroom session, you will need to come up with a solid lesson plan. Doing so will give you the necessary framework needed to really engage with your students, forge relationships and react to every question with confidence. It allows you to immerse yourself and your students in the moment while still working toward your overarching goals.
And most importantly, the better your plan, the more you will be able to concentrate on the actual teaching. You know, the fun stuff.
Want to learn more?
Read on to learn how to effortlessly create fun and engaging lesson plans for your students. And as an added bonus, I am also throwing in four ready-made, tried-and-tested lesson plans you can immediately bring into your upcoming German lessons.
Let’s have a look.
The Many Benefits of Interactive German Lesson Plans
There are a million ways to teach, and standing in front of your students and talking is only one of them. A solid lesson plan should include one or several activities for your students to engage in: it should make them active participants in their own learning.
You can even hand the reigns over to the students by “flipping” the classroom and having them do the teaching for a bit. From a short presentation, to moderating a group segment or putting together resources, there are many possibilities to get them involved.
At the end of the session, you need to wrap it up and summarize what your students have learned (or should have learned). Solidify the basics they already knew and used in this session, then stress the new knowledge they have acquired.
Open it up to the plenary for questions, have a short discussion, let someone write up a protocol to read at the next classroom meeting: whatever method you want to use, this part should not be skipped.
The basic structure of a good lesson plan consists of a starter, the main lecture, some activities and the conclusion. It should solidify the basics and integrate all four language skills to some degree; and it should be interactive and employ multiple media.
Now that we’ve looked at the importance of a good lesson plan, here’s how to put it in action.
Create Fail-proof German Lesson Plans
How do you create a lesson plan that not only makes sense to you and delivers the important aspects of your curriculum, but one that your students will love?
- Start with an idea in mind: If you understand the structure and cornerstones of a good lesson plan, you can put one together with ease with a little structure and simplicity. All you really need is a manageable objective—this is your main ingredient, and should always feed into your larger plan while being able to stand on its own. In other words, your objective needs to be small enough to be achievable within a single session but big enough to carry over into subsequent lessons, if needed.
- Build lessons around your idea: Once you have your objective, simply build the lesson plan around it. Choose a topic to combine with the grammar and the vocabulary, and use it to make the language come together with the wider world of German. To get started, you need something to break the ice and reel your students in: an activity, watching a video, listening to a song, playing a game.
- Teach students in chunks: As you probably already know, German grammar is a vast field, and there is an almost endless list of vocabulary to learn. Neither you nor your students can do everything at once, and you don’t have to. Simply break the grammar down into clear, well-structured chunks. Isolate the vocabulary for only one topic or one aspect of life, and teach it.
When your students are eager and active, lay out the grammar or have them look at the vocabulary. Give them explanations—something to work with—then, turn them loose and let them practice what they’ve learned.
4 Awesome German Lesson Plans for Your Classroom
Using the template introduced above, you can easily build your own lesson plans by combining an aspect of grammar or vocabulary with a topic. Below are some examples of well-structured German lesson plans, which you can use word for word in your upcoming classes, or to give you an idea of how to build future lessons.
1. Using Geography to Teach German Orthography
German orthography can be tricky, especially the rules of capitalization.
In my experiences as a teacher, orthography is one of the biggest challenges for new German students. But with the help of a little geography, you can create a fun and exciting lesson that helps students become familiar with these rules in a straightforward manner.
As an icebreaker, play a game of Stadt-Land-Fluss (City-Country-River). To play, write a letter of the alphabet on the blackboard, and your students each write down a German city, a neighboring country to Germany and a German river—all nouns starting with that letter you wrote on the board. Whoever came up with a unique one gets a point.
All the names that your students have written down in Stadt-Land-Fluss should be capitalized. Once you finish the game, brainstorm with them what else needs to be capitalized in German (proper nouns, formal addresses, etc.) and have them guess at capitalization rules for things like cardinal directions, regions and so on, and see how many they can get right.
The rules are relatively straightforward, but they can be hard to remember when students are actually forming sentences. Reinforce what they have learned through other orthographic activities. My favorite is spelling games covering topics like European countries, or similar geographical games that follow the same principles as Stadt-Land-Fluss, like this game about the geography of Germany and this activity on the German names for the countries of Europe.
This is also a prime opportunity to widen your students’ vocabulary as well as their knowledge about Germany’s mountains, rivers, neighbor countries or cities. Use this map and the associated exercises to build up their knowledge, then give them the task to describe Germany’s geographic features in relation to each other while keeping the focus on spelling and capitalization.
2. Politics and Pronouns
Like articles and adjectives, using the right pronoun in German depends on a range of factors.
All pronouns change with the case they are used in, and possessive pronouns differentiate between dependent and independent. There is also a difference between formal and informal personal pronouns.
In other words, German pronouns can get confusing.
One way to make grammar rules easier to learn is to connect them with the real world. Pronouns are, to a large extent, about people—and so is politics; therefore, it seems natural to combine both of these elements into one lesson.
To get started, let your students fill in a simple quiz about politicians, then brainstorm what they know about German politics.
- Who is the chancellor?
- What are the main parties?
- Can they name any other German politicians?
Show your students this gallery of top German politicians and have them try to identify their faces, functions and parties.
Give the class the task to write a formal letter to one of these politicians that mentions as many other political figures as possible. Then, have students translate their formal letters into informal ones. If everything goes right, they will have a much better understanding of pronouns and German politics when they are finished.
If your students enjoyed learning about politics, teach them about more aspects of German culture with the help of FluentU, so that they benefit from a truly interactive learning experience.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
3. Germany, Its Times and Tenses
Want to see how much your students know about general history? Have them take a quiz on it—in German!
After discussing the quiz results, brainstorm German history and try to piece together a timeline of German events with your students.
Ask your students how all of these things came into being, then ask them about the history behind these. They will probably come up with some events and developments from Germany’s past, which you can use to create a timeline.
When the timeline is established, pick several main periods on it and use them to explain the six tenses in German. But first, assign your students to a specific time period in Germany’s history.
For example, if your students would be living in the (pre-WWI) German Empire, the consolidation under Wilhelm I and Bismarck would be in the Perfekt tense, while the Holy Roman Empire would be Präteritum and Charlemagne Plusquamperfekt; the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich and modern Germany would fall under Futur I and Futur II tenses.
Repeat this exercise a couple of times with setting a different period as present, and your students should get a working understanding of the relation the tenses have to each other. You can even solidify this with some other activities or worksheets, which is great for giving your students a solid foundation to build upon. While individual tenses will need to be explored in future sessions, this activity is perfect for getting students comfortable with German grammar while teaching a little bit about German’s long and unique history.
4. Roman Numerals in German
At the height of the Roman Empire, present-day Germany was but one of its many provinces. Roman soldiers marched through the forests on Roman streets, and Roman settlers established cities, vineyards and border walls.
All over Germany, you can find the remnants of this past period, from the judicial system to incredible monuments and cities. So, why not use the Roman past to teach the German present?
You can easily use the Roman Empire to teach German numbers. Kick-start the session using the above examples of Germany’s Roman heritage. Then, go through the German numbers with your students.
Just a few examples:
- Roman legions had a deep structure
- Roman battles had numbers of soldiers, casualties and dates
Have your students research a specific location or event and give them the explicit goal to include as many numbers as possible, writing all of them out as words.
The connection to tangible historic events will help them remember much more easily, and sometimes, there is even a handy mnemonic like this: Sieben-Fünf-Drei, Rom schlüpft aus dem Ei. (In 753, Rome was founded.)
Are you ready to give your students a German experience they’ll never forget? Dive into the language and the culture!
These are just examples of creative and engaging German lesson plans; if you keep the ground rules in mind, the possibilities are endless.