Culture Vulture

A week or two back I spent some time introducing something cultural, and then realized at the end that I was probably boring them to tears.  Reflexes from my former life as a grammar teacher kicked in; Bad me. So at the end of my harangue I asked them what THEY wanted to learn about Germany, as we don’t always cover that so much.  A sample list follows:

ACTIVITIES: How they handle money, Most popular attractions and why, what they do for fun, Children’s games

PICTURES: Pictures of towns and huge buildings inside Germany, Roadway signs, Types of vehicles

FOOD: Food recipes, Types of restaurants in Germany, Watch a movie on how they make chocolate, make more German food

DESTINATIONS: Good German recreation areas, Best Skiing mountain in Germany, Best places to go fishing, History behind German castles

GENERAL:  How people act differently in different parts of Germany, What kind of fish in Germany, History, Family crests in Germany

Duh.  I’ve got tons of German children’s games; there’s a Friday.  How cool would it be for each student to select (or design) a crest to put on the front of their notebooks?  I want to see that chocolate video myself.  I have to admit, I’ve never even asked what types of fish they have in Germany.

 For all the strengths of TPRS and its focus on creating a vibrant interactive classroom culture, sometimes I tend to forget to bring in enough aspects of the target culture of Germany/Austria/Switzerland because we can roll right along just fine talking about ourselves.

So now I need to figure out how to get my kids to experience all that cool stuff (plus plenty of detours) in a TPRS fashion rather than the traditional lecture and quiz. I think what I want to do with this is treat Germany/Austria/Switzerland as one big sandbox for us to play in.

This upcoming quarter (ours starts after our Spring break next week) I’m going to introduce a new destination/activity/whatnot every week or two (Berlin, castles, cooking pretzels, hiking the Alps, etc.) complete with PowerPoint presentations that THEY create for me (a quick groupsourced effort using Google Docs), which we will then play around with.  After learning about downtown Berlin, for example, we’ll have some of our recurring characters visit the capitol building and see what happens: possibly pass some new laws, possibly hijack a tour group and spread misinformation, possibly get themselves kicked out of the country, etc. 

It’s always a bit of a balancing act finding the right amount of classroom culture and target culture, but I think I can do a better job with the latter without sacrificing the former.  Anyways, I always tend to jigger around with something at the beginning of each term, and I think this will be my latest attempt.

3 responses to “Culture Vulture

  1. This is the most TPRS-styled way I can think of to get to culture–following their interest.

    Will you have them do short presentations frequently? How do you plan to work in the language? I now have one presentation on Yurii Gagarin in my grip, based on what kids wanted to know, but I had to mess with it so that it was in Russian. Or will you let it be in English?


  2. This sounds like a great idea. Very CI. I’d like to hear more about how you plan to do the powerpoints too, including what “a quick groupsourced effort using Google Docs” means. Thanks for your thoughts!


  3. You know, I really don’t think I’ll have them presenting all that much. I cracked out laptops for everybody today (the last day before spring break) and told them to generate labeled pictures for me to draw from. I’m going to take an hour our so sorting and compiling those pictures into collections and then see what inspires me. When we come up across something cool (like the swimming pool boat in Berlin’s Spree river) I’ll give them the background in German, and then we’ll decide what to do with it (such as what type of party to hold here, debate unmooring it and sailing somewhere, etc.).

    I don’t want to do presentations because I don’t want to deal with that much translation (from Wikipedia usually) into words that only the presenters and I understand. I see this as one-part cultural introduction (selected and controlled by me) and one-part episode generation. Basically we’ll provide the setting through their pictures (which they own having found them) and then storyask the events based around the pictures.

    You know Carla, the “Groupsourcing using Google Docs” sounded impressive but in practice it crashed and burned today. Google docs has a PPT emulator that allows multiple people to work on a file at the same time, so I thought that would allow people to sort their pictures in one place, saving me some time, but in practice the bandwidth on our laptops slowed everything down and people spent most of their time changing somebody else’s titles in order to call them names. So, I later just told everybody to make their own traditional PPT and turn it in through Moodle. That worked well, and that allowed for a wider range of topics instead of my pre-selected ones.


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