Culture in the FL classroom: Happy Easter! Frohe Ostern!

Easter is long gone, I know – as is Easter break. It’s back to school for everybody, back to good old routine…. As you may know, the celebration of the Easter Week is an important moment here in Spain. Countless processions have taken place all over the country, while we have been indulging ourselves with special dishes characteristic of Spanish cuisine. But how do people in other countries celebrate Easter?

On this occasion students found out more about Easter traditions related to German-speaking countries. From Year 5 up to Year 8, every class was assigned a different task in order to create the colourful decoration you can see in the photos.

The decoration of the Easter tree, an absolute must in any German household, was created by Year 5 students. Year 6 was charged with writing the Easter greeting, both in Spanish and in German, as well as with making some paper daffodils.

Year 7 and 8 did an activity on traditions and folklore that are paramount to the celebration of Easter in Germany. Each group was given a picture about a specific tradition which had to be matched with 3 suitable text passages. Finally, each text received a title in bilingual version Spanish – German. Texts and pictures were made into two huge banners to complement the decoration of our school’s entrance hall.

By: Lucía Rodríguez Cuenca

“Vintage” translation: How to give traditional translation exercises a modern twist

Translation exercises in the FL classroom are often still frowned upon. Their bad press stems from the fact that they bring back memories from traditional, endless and boring classes where students would just sit and translate. The foreign language was not to be spoken; it simply was to be whipped into written shape.

However, translation can be a very useful tool in the FL classroom. It actually can be made into a collaborative learning task that allows students to adopt an active and reflective role.

For this purpose you just have to create a text in your students’ mother tongue (i.e. formal / informal letter, chat conversation, recipe). Make it suit your needs by including the vocabulary and grammar you want your students to work on. I use this activity in my German class from Year 7 to Year 10, A1-A2 level

Stage 1

The text is organized into paragraphs of the same length and photocopied as many times needed so that every student receives 1 paragraph. Students translate their fragments on their own. They aren’t allowed to ask questions to the teacher or their classmates. They may use all their personal material, though, such as notebooks or course books for the task. (10 minutes approx.)

Stage2

Students form groups (2/3 people) with those classmates that have the same paragraph. During this stage of the activity they may compare their translations, ask questions, and make corrections. (5 minutes approx.)

Stage 3

Finally, students sit again in groups, each of them has a different fragment of the text. Now it is time to put the paragraphs into the right order and to cooperate to write a neat copy of the whole text. During this stage, group members may help each other again, ask questions, and simply improve their translations. (25  minutes approx.)

 

Those who think that the translations handed in by the different groups are identical couldn’t be farther away from the truth. Obviously, there are students who, when working in groups, just copy their classmate’s work – if possible from someone who is good at German. But most of them really work together and reflect upon the languages they are working with, both the mother tongue and the foreign language. Students explain to each other the translation choices they made, help with grammar and spelling and simply learn in a collaborative way. Sometimes it even comes to rather heated discussions about who is right.  Isn’t this just as life itself?

By: Lucía Rodríguez Cuenca

Chit-chatting school material

On this occasion, Year 5 students turned their school material into a special kind of puppets in order to create dialogues in German. Books, scissors and pencil cases came to life and chatted away happily asking each other questions about names, age and hometown…

Videotaping dialogues is possibly one of the most valuable resources in the classroom because it implies a lot of different learning processes. For this activity in particular, students (in groups of three or pairs) had to write down, practice and learn by heart their dialogues. As always, special attention was paid to pronunciation and intonation. Creativity took on the design of a set of eyes that would turn the different school items into the talkative and lively fellows you can see in the videos.

Students put time and effort into the activity to create videos they could be proud of. The aim, though, was not to attain flawless perfection. Having fun and learning was the main goal – and that was definitely achieved.

By: Lucía Rodríguez Cuenca

First day at school in Germany

Generally, traditions we do not have in our own country strike us as rather odd or, at least, surprising. This might well be the case with children’s first day at primary school in Germany. On that particular day parents give to their children a paper cone filled with candy, which is actually taken to school. Yes, it is all about sweetening things up! The origin of this tradition goes back to 19th-century Germany and should spread to Austria later on.

Nowadays those cones can be bought at the beginning of the school year in stationary shops or department stores. They are usually decorated with cartoon characters or other motives youngsters are keen on. There are families, though, that go for a homemade approach and design and make their own cone. Cardboard, glue, crepe or glossy paper, yarn, paint – any material will do to craft a unique model that cannot be bought in shops.

In order to experience this tradition, in German language class, Year 5 students created their very own cones. This activity took place after only 3-4 hours of German and was the perfect excuse to have fun with something rather unpopular among children: writing. Our “mini cones” (the original models are approximately 70 cm long) were decorated with newly learned words in German that were written down in very careful handwriting. There is only one catch to our cones: they aren’t filled with candy!

 

By Lucía Rodríguez Cuenca

Fingers speaking – German?!

Learning a new language always opens a door to a completely new universe. It’s about starting a journey that brings us closer to people living in another country and, in the case of German, people who use very long and strange sounding words (to mention only one of the most common clichés when it comes to German language)

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When this journey takes place in Year 5 (Primary school) it necessarily becomes an adventure. Children always want to know and learn more. More and more and more – it’s always more they want. And it’s never enough. I therefore find it really difficult to live up to my students’ enthusiasm and expectations when time allocation for German as a second foreign language is more than reduced: 60 minutes a week. So little time and so many things pupils want to learn! As a teacher one is doomed to failure. However, this time handicap can actually be made into a positive challenge. It can boost a teacher’s creativity in order to come up with interesting, funny and motivating classroom activities.

This short video is part of this approach. It shows an activity after only 7/8 hours of German. No more was needed than drawing funny faces on fingers and adding colourful hats to perform little plays. It’s no little accomplishment though. Students had to learn to greet in German, ask for names and introduce themselves using German names and surnames, and, finally, say goodbye. Not to mention that, at the same time, they were struggling with the pronunciation and intonation of a new language.

I hope you enjoy the video.

The fingers are voiced by the following students: Vega, Daniel, Adrián, Blanca, Judith, Diego, Paula, Carlos, Claudia, David, María, Laura, Carmen, Clara, Daniel, Luca and Miguel

 

By Lucía Rodríguez Cuenca