Help me be a substitute teacher
February 18, 2014 1:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm substituting as a German teacher for a class of seven Japanese students of varying ages and levels (and attendance.) Help, please?

The Japanese school where I used to work as an intern has recently re-hired me to substitute as a German teacher for an hour two times a week. (The usual teacher is on maternity leave and hasn't left any documentation on what she has previously done. I love it when people do that...) I know all the kids from before, and I know that their levels (and ages: 8 to 14!) vary. They're all in the advanced class because the school just bumps whoever is closest to good when the intermediate class is full (same with the beginner's class where kids get bumped to intermediate), and no one seems to actually expect the kids to really learn German, but I'm getting paid for this and I'd love to get the kids a little excited about their classes. (Plus doing pointless work might make me depressed.)

Over the past few weeks, we've had children visiting from other schools, so I mostly just did exercises like asking for directions and acting out dialogues on that topic. Now that all the visiting kids are gone, I finally entered into a sort of bigger project: Building upon directions, I have asked them all to think of their favourite vacation spot and describe a fictional holiday there. Where would they go, when (which season is best to travel there?), how, with whom and why? What would they do there? We have finished taking notes on these questions today, but that alone seems a little meager for a project which I would ideally use to grade them on. (I also have to grade the children despite having only taught them for close to two months.) If possible, I'd like to avoid giving them too much homework because the consensus seems to be that all their other classes are more important. I'm somewhat stuck as to what I should make them do in the next few lessons. (Also, one of the seven students is currently on vacation and won't be back until next week or the week after that, nobody could really tell me, so I don't know whether I should try to catch her up or wrap the project up before she comes back. I'd hate to make her feel badly about this because she already seems rather self-conscious.)

I'm supposed to speak mostly German in class, but all the kids know that I can speak Japanese and I know them well enough to suspect when one of them who isn't yelling "sensei!" to get my attention needs my help. If it really feels necessary to get the point across, I can do it in Japanese. Neither of the two full-fledged Japanese teachers who sit in my class have made any complaints about my style of teaching, but then again, as I said, I'm only here to sub for a while and no one really cares about the German lessons anyway.

Long story short: Could anyone please make some suggestions how to handle this class situation and how to proceed with the project? Veterans to newbie teacher?
posted by LoonyLovegood to Education (5 answers total)
Can you find some topic that would get them excited about participating in a conversation (in German)? I'm thinking talking about football, like doing the commentary on a budesliga game? I'm not sure what a non-sport example of that would be. Maybe watching a scene from a german language popular film and having them make a short movie about what would happen next. Or perhaps something about the olympics.

Basically, exposing them to native speakers in a context they are interested/excited about, and having them extrapolate from there.
posted by danny the boy at 2:46 PM on February 18, 2014

Additional information: Advanced level means nothing here. Their German level is still pretty low, even the best kid has trouble understanding my slowest and easiest sentences sometimes, and the younger kids often just give me puzzled stares. (I hate that they just throw these levels together completely randomly.) I'm constantly working between not boring the more advanced kids and not losing the younger kids. Even the two half-German boys in the class don't get exposed to German often enough to actually speak or write it correctly, so this is really difficult.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2014

It's better to present a variety of activities of differing length and complexity, instead of focusing all your energies as a teacher and as a class on one big thing.

For one thing, as you noted, it's tough to fill class time with the One Big Thing. As well, as you also noted, the One Big Thing could present potentially underwhelming results. Finally, the One Big Thing may be too difficult for all levels to perform with excellence while doing the One Big Thing.

Instead, use this large project as a driving force with an end goal. Give the students some time in each class (20 minutes MAX out of an hour) to work on this project. This is essentially "mastery learning" and it allows students to proceed at their own pace, and also allows the higher level students to try out more interesting things, while giving the lower level learners an opportunity to focus on the basics.

Use the rest of the time to provide students with a variety of activities such as games, drills, role-playing, whatever.

While this may take more time to plan, the up side is that you can create a faster pace in the lessons, and this increases energy levels.

Providing more varied activities (which might include worksheets and quizzes) also gives you a wider range of assessment tools.

So, you can structure the course so that every student who completes all worksheets and quizzes can expect to get 50%, or a C-.

To get higher grades, they would then have to complete (and do a good job on) more complicated assignments like this project you are working on.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2014

What KokuRyu said. There are big differences between 8 year olds and 14 year olds, language ability being just one of them. So it's kind of a mission impossible with such different levels. You might want to split the class in half, with slower activities and faster activities, but that's a challenge itself. Just keep with basic German vocabulary and make everything a game: quizzes, shiritori, bingo, janken.
posted by zardoz at 4:31 PM on February 18, 2014

One of my favorite games when I was taking German would work for both beginner and advanced classes: Was ist das?

Basically, you split the class into 2 teams and then pick appropriate worlds that the two teams have to race to find an example of. If neither team knows it, you can start to describe it, in German, until one person figures it out.

With directions, a version of Simon Says or Mother May I would help reinforce it.

You might also want to break the big thing down more and give some options, grading wise. Maybe have them make a collage of where their spot is and write a paragraph about it in German, for example.
posted by eleanna at 11:44 PM on February 18, 2014

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