Your students will be ignited by these songs, videos, and readings.
When I started teaching a 6th-grade exploratory language class years ago, I knew the German segment was going to be my biggest challenge. I was getting ready to spend the semester introducing my students to Spanish, French, and German cultures—and some words here and there.
The problem was that, although I was trained in teaching Spanish, had experience teaching English as a second language, and had dipped my feet in French, never had I taught German. Heck, I had only taken one semester of German. So, with my intent to not do a disservice to the students, I went on a deep dive into German culture, including talking to several friends that lived in Munich and Berlin.
I fell in love with German through the culture. The same way I knew my students would.
I read about many German legends and folk tales, many of which are actually the basis of many English language tales. I learned about the influence of Turkish immigrants in Berlin—to the point that kebabs and curry are now considered German dishes. Also, I realized that most of what people associate with Germany is an illustration of the people of Bavaria, not an accurate picture of the whole country.
I decided to create a "movie festival" experience for the students, exposing them to the culture I had discovered. They listened to stories from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland from their own people. A lot of students approached me at the end of the lesson, stating that they didn't know so many people lived there and that they wanted to travel to Europe.
The magic in these moments couldn’t be planned. Still, the lessons to get there sure were—especially considering that I had just become an honorary German teacher! It took a ton of effort, mainly because I was prepping curriculum for three different languages, plus I had 6 preps a day, so I know from my years in the classroom myself that you have a lot on your plate. That's why I've gathered three resources you can use to immerse your students in German culture. You will hopefully save time so you can focus on what matters most—helping your students love German.
1. Traditional German Recipes With An Imaginative Twist
IVIDEO: LECKER PFANNKUCHEN
Introduce your students to Pfannkuchen, the German breakfast, lunch, and dinner staple. A cross between pancakes and crepes, this delicious German pancake will make your students’ mouths water, especially if you show them what Pfannkuchen can be filled with: jam, Nutella, fruit, bacon bits, cheese, or even jalapeño peppers. Here’s one way to structure your lesson, including interpretive and communicative skills that can be differentiated for all levels. Plus, it’ll get your students’ creative juices flowing!
Step 1. Show your students this iVideo from iCulture, which covers the historical origins of Pfannkuchen and how to prepare them at home–all in German and by a native speaker! If you have iCulture, your students can check their comprehension by answering the accompanying questions.
Step 2. Now, it is improbable—unless you have access to a Home Ec lab—that you'll be able to prepare this dish with your students. However, you can still have a creative and engaging lesson where students practice food vocabulary and express their imagination.
This activity is called Lecker Pfannkuchen, just like the video, and the goal is to make up the silliest, most unlikely, yet delicious Pfannkuchen recipes! For example, your students could paint their pancakes red because they added "beets" to the dough.
Group your students in pairs or groups of three. Give them one printable per group and a set of coloring pencils. They will have eight minutes to come up with an original Pfannkuchen recipe, whether the dough is mixed with beets, making red pancakes, or they’re filled with sprinkles and goose feathers. Have your students draw and color in the ingredients of their Pfannkuchen and name their concoction.
Step 3. At the end of the eight minutes, have each group do a speed-dating-style presentation of their recipe. One pair presents in the target language to another couple, and when the teacher indicates, they must switch to another group. That way, they are limited to small-group presentations, reducing speaking anxiety, and they will learn about their classmates' different combinations!
Any activity that requires student imagination will be a hit, even if it seems silly at the beginning to older students. Trust me, as a language teacher, I have had 16-year-olds pretend they are capybaras and love it.
2. Highlighting Magazines for Interpretive Reading
As teachers, we know that students learn best when they can connect their learning with what they already know. Magazines provide them with a rich source of content they can relate to in their lives, making it easier for them to digest and retain new information while they engage with authentic language in use. However, getting magazines in German can be challenging if you don't live in a German-speaking country.
The Goethe-Institut, the non-profit German cultural association that promotes the study of the German language abroad, has an updated magazine library accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This library has free magazines for all ages, levels, and interests. Magazines are a great way to practice reading. One way to make reading engaging, especially for struggling readers, is by highlighting structures. How?
Choose any article from any magazine or text, and print it out. Hand the piece to your students.
Provide highlighters or markers (blue/green/yellow/pink/orange).
On the board, display a category per highlighter color. If you have a novice class, you can show question words: Blue for Wer?, green for Wo?, yellow for Wie?, pink for Was? and orange for Wann?
For a more intermediate or advanced class, you can display more nuanced categories, such as action, important dates, complementary information, or any type you want students to find in the text.
Also, ask them to put an asterisk (*) next to any cognates or words they understand.
Students will now have to pay close attention to the reading, which can help them later when you ask comprehension questions.
As a teacher, you will read aloud the text the first time while students follow along. Then, give students five to eight minutes to read a second time independently.
End the lesson with "think" time with a "pair, share." When I did this activity, I encouraged students to share what they highlighted with an elbow partner.
Next, I would ask the class in the target language: "What words/phrases did you highlight for the ‘Who’ category? I would let them know if they did not mention an important phrase I thought they should know. Or, I might point to a phrase that I felt was particularly relevant and ask, "What category would this be?"
If you want to save even more time, and if you have a 1:1 classroom, you can recreate this activity with eReaders, including a digital annotation tool that allows students to highlight different colors within a text. As a teacher, you can change the categories of each color display.
3. Cultural Videos With A Funny Side
Sometimes, you might have planned to start a new unit, but something came up—a class trip, an unexpected lesson plan change—and now you're stuck with a dead hour. Or maybe your students are doing well with the current material, so all you need is something to fill in that little bit of extra time at the end of class.
Whatever the reason for your slow time, there's a solution: watching tv!
An episode of a popular show will give your students real-world examples of what they'll be learning, which can help them retain information faster than if they had only read about it in a textbook. Plus, who doesn't love a good Fernsehsendung?
A great show to watch, available on Netflix, is the German-speaking version of "Nailed it!" called Wer Kann, Der Kann! This version of the top-rated baking show, where amateurs try to re-create fantastic sweets, brings model Angelina Kirsch to host alongside chef Bernd Siefert.
This show is school-appropriate and frequently uses food vocabulary and verbs. Each episode lasts about 25 minutes and has two challenges. The first is called "Baker's Choice," where the contestants pick one of three existing confectionery treats and try to recreate it. The winner of this challenge gets a special prize and is allowed to wear a golden chef's hat. In the second challenge, "Nail It or Fail It," contestants have two hours to recreate a complicated cake from scratch.
You can watch it as a brain break or have one class period where your students get comfy and watch the whole episode in one sitting.
Do you only need a one to three-minute video, or don't have Netflix? Check out these YouTube promo videos for the show with your students:
Help Your Students Discover the Beauty of German Culture
Making German fun and improving communication skills can be achieved by incorporating culture into lessons. As you immerse your students in German culture, through these listening, speaking, and reading activities and more, they’ll love the language almost as much as you do.
This is just the tip of the iceberg! Learn more ways to integrate interculturality into your German classroom and make your communicative objectives more engaging for your students with our on-demand webinar, "Lighting the Spark for World Language Students." Betsy Vergara Strawn and Jane Maloney, world language content specialists, discuss how digital environments can ignite a love of language and culture in students.
Former Spanish teacher based in Columbia, MD. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from la Universidad del Zulia and a Master's degree in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her interests include SEL education in the world language classroom, theater, and how to make the world a less scary place.Explore more related to this author
As you immerse your students in German culture, through these listening, speaking, and reading activities and more, they’ll love the language almost as much as you do.