How to Transform 5 Basic Online Resources into Top-notch German Teaching Tools
Don’t you just hate all those online German teaching resources?
It’s kind of like how you get stuck in a Netflix void, just browsing and never watching—there’s so much German teaching content to choose from that you spend more time choosing than preparing!
Yes, you read that right: The overwhelming quantity of teaching ideas, platforms and apps can strangely make it harder to prepare your lessons sometimes.
However, if you know what you’re doing, all you need are a few basic online tools like Google, YouTube and online games to greatly simplify your life as an educator. Try to snag a classroom with some computers connected to the Internet, or make a trip to the school computer lab or library one day.
With just a little preparation, you’ll be able to create fun lessons that your students will ask you to repeat again and again!
5 Surprising German Teaching Resources: Use Basic Online Tools to Create Great Lessons
1. The Duden Online
The Duden dictionary, your old friend.
First thing that comes to mind is a big yellow book, right?
Actually, the Duden is available on the Internet these days. The Duden Online is a great teaching resource: You can use it any time to do some vocabulary training with your class.
Imagine you come back from jogging around the block, and think: “Hey, is Jogging a German word at all?” Just enter it into the site’s search box. In this case, the site comes up with 15 results: 7 in the actual Duden Online section, 1 result under Sprachwissen and 9 results under Englisch.
The word Jogging exists, but so does a German word, Dauerlauf. The result under Sprachwissen (language knowledge) provides a snippet from a newsletter about Scheinentlehnungen (pseudo-loanwords). And there’s your lesson theme: English words used in the German language.
Now you can continue doing this for a while and prepare a quiz for your class. Come up with some trick questions, such as: “Is it Website or Webseite” in German?” (Answer: They both exist and there’s a difference).
Below you’ll find a lesson suggestion for digital gameplay in the classroom.
Alternatively, you can have your students prepare quizzes for each other in a vocabulary challenge. Divide your class into teams of 3 to 5 students. Tell them what the theme is and explain that each team has to use the Duden Online to compile a quiz and challenge the other team’s vocabulary knowledge.
Depending on what you think will work best for your students, you can have them exchange answer sheets and announce their results, or use a projection screen and do the quizzes with the whole class.
These Duden Online vocabulary training exercises work with any theme. You can even have your students come up with a theme themselves. If you’re looking for more dictionary activities, check out Educationworld.
2. Google Street View
Google offers many services that can be used for education. But have you ever thought of using Street View in a German lesson plan? It’s an amazingly effective tool for creating German immersion situations. In this lesson, your students will improve their understanding of German in a real-life context and practice their writing.
For this lesson, make sure that the computers in your classroom have:
- Microphones that work
- Enough processing capacity to handle Google Street View
- Google Chrome browsers
- Google.DE set as homepage
- Search results set in the German language
Prepare a cheat sheet for your students, with info on:
- How to type the German characters like ö and ü
- Adding the specific location (eg “Wo sind Restaurants in Hamburg” – “Where do I find restaurants in Hamburg”) in their search question, otherwise Google will present results based on your school’s location.
- Some questions to get and keep them going.
Divide your students into small groups and tell them that each group is going to take a virtual tour of a German (or Austrian, or Swiss) city. You can have them all visit the same city, assign each group a city or have them pick one themselves.
They have to describe what they see and do in a letter to a German-speaking friend. They can use Google Search to get information.
For example: “Wir waren in Berlin. Wir haben unseren Spaziergang beim Hauptbahnhof angefangen. Wir haben gefragt, wo sich der Bundestag befindet. Man hat uns gezeigt, ..“ (We visited Berlin. We started our walk from the central station. We asked where the Bundestag is located. People showed us…”
Give the class 45 or so minutes to do the tour. Walk around and encourage them to notice things (“What’s that big building?” or “What does it say on that sign there?”).
Any problems the students encounter, like getting lost on the maps, they have to describe in German.
You could even set up a virtual Schnitzeljagd (scavenger hunt) for this lesson. Give students clues that lead them from one location to the next around Germany!
3. German YouTube Videos
Authentic German video content is a great resource for immersing your students in real-life spoken German.
Some content will include subtitles and translations, but you can also have your students translate a video themselves. The translation activity will intensify their understanding.
For this lesson, both you and your students need some basic skills in using presentation software like PowerPoint or Google Slides. Essentially, you pick a German video on YouTube video and divide it into pieces for each of your students or student groups to translate. The video should be fun to watch and the German language use should be a challenge for your class.
YouTube videos can easily be embedded in a presentation slide in PowerPoint or Google Slides. You can select part of a video by tweaking the YouTube video link. Create one presentation file with the whole video in it, and a series of numbered files that contain different snippets. For the snippet, use as many slides as your students will need to add the translations. Add two text boxes to each slide: One for the translation and one for notes.
Store the files on the classroom network or on any sharing platform you use. Make sure you know how to distribute them and how you’re going to integrate the results.
Start the lesson by playing the whole video once, on a presentation screen. Ask the class for some reactions, but don’t explain too much. Distribute the files and give instructions. The students should watch the video a few times more before they start translating their snippet. They can use the Internet to search for words or expressions they think they hear.
Watch the results together by playing the numbered presentations in the right order. Discuss and explain. Students can take notes in their file.
Make sure you pick YouTube videos from actual content owners that allow embedding, to make things easier on yourself.
The Google for Education Training Center has a training unit on how to use YouTube videos in a class, which you might find helpful for this purpose!
4. German Games Online
Educators have different opinions on the use of computer games in classrooms. Meanwhile, it’s becoming a reality everywhere.
So many learning resources, particularly for language learning, are in fact online games. Even non-educational games are now being used for educational purposes.
Gaming enables students to learn effortlessly while focusing on something else. They’ll pick up new words and phrases in context in a very natural way, creating an immersive experience.
Using online gameplay in your lessons is easier than you think, if you do two key things.
First, pick the right game. The Goethe-Institut offers some free online adventure games. They’re a bit slow, but useful for beginning learners.
Games that aren’t designed for language learners can be used, if an understanding of German language is needed to get ahead and win. Your students should be able to understand some of the language right away, or they’ll lose interest.
Secondly, it’s important to have a strategy for classroom management. Know how to wrap up and how to deal with enthusiasm.
Start the gameplay with an introduction, but keep it short. Let the students play for about 30 minutes, or as long as you feel “works” for your class. Then shut down all systems except your own computer and projection system.
At this point, you’ll want to discuss the game with the class. What was the goal? What did they do to solve the first level? How did everything work out? What level was hardest and why? Ask who got to what level and got how many points. Do this all in German, if the students are advanced enough. For beginners, make sure you repeat and write down key German words and phrases that students picked up.
Do a second round of gaming if your class wants to and if there’s time, or let the students know how they can continue playing on their own time.
Educators are often encouraged to connect and share resources on Twitter. Maybe you’ve already opened a Twitter account and connect with our students online.
But there’s another side to Twitter that makes it a great teaching resource: The advanced search options. These deliver material for countess research projects that can improve your students’ understanding of natural German language use.
All you have to do is set Twitter to German (on the home page) and have your students search for German-language tweets.
Prepare a worksheet with some general questions, such as:
- What search term did you choose?
- Why did you choose it?
- What are people talking about?
- What hashtags are people using?
- What leading accounts could you follow?
- What German phrases did you find?
If you feel more comfortable determining the subject(s) yourself, do just that. You could also have the class research words and ideas you found in Duden Online.
More advanced students will be able to write a short research paper in German on this. Alternatively, you can ask students to give presentations of their findings in the classroom.
Finally, you could add some cultural learning to this lesson plan by discussing the influence of social media on the German language. Here are two newspaper articles on this: Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Die Welt.
That should be more than enough to keep you and your students busily tapping and typing for some time to come.
You’ll soon get to watch your German students blossom with the help of technology.
Get out there and get started!