German III/IV True Stories

I love my German III/IV class. Absolutely love them.  This group is packed with students who are in their third year of TPRS and they can just absolutely roll with anything I throw their way.  What’s even more important: they’re nice people.  It sounds simple to put it that way, but I don’t have to wrestle any of them into place, we just learn together.  This class is what I always hoped TPRS would be like: we just talk and laugh and spin stories and cover a good amount of material in the process.  Love them.

With that disclaimer, I can’t give much credit to what I’ve laid out for them lately because they truly are doing the work for me.  Today I looked up a couple “New of the Wierd” stories that are written for a German audience ( and just rolled them out.  It’s basically the first part of the  scaffolded literacy procedure in conversational form.

Story one involved a kid on vacation in Austria with his parents who got into a fight with his girlfriend online, so he stole the car and drove home, where he was later found after a countrywide manhunt.  We’re working on subjunctive right now, so I put Laurie’s questions in those forms: “would have done”; “would have thought”; “would have felt.”  I told the story up to the part where the kid takes off, just very clear and conversationally, stopping every so often to talk about what they would have done as the kid or as the parents.  That just flowed wonderfully.  I didn’t finish the story, though, so then I broke out the original German story and we just read and translated it together.  It turned out that I hadn’t read the story very closely myself, so I got some details wrong: I put the kid in Italy texting with his girlfriend, and they let me have it.

Story number two involved a Pony that ran away from the circus in a big city and tried to climb into a streetcar.  That’s it, nothing more. But in the hands of a group of willing listeners and speakers armed with Laurie’s questions we spent 15 minutes just working through the possiblilities: Is the pony visiting somebody?  Is he running away? What did the passengers think? (I’ve got a live-and-let-live crew as it turns out).  No real effort; we just talked and spun stories.

The best part was the German.  There were words in there I’d never choose as structures because they’re too infrequent (“ausgerissen” for escaped and “Kontrollieren” for the process of police setting up barricades and checking identification).  But we discussed each at length in contexts that made sense by the stories, and they were chewing through amazing levels of German, simply because they knew what was going on and enjoyed engaging with it.Scaffolding literacy really works simply because I can just engage them on the ideas and be a storyteller.  By the time we hit the story they have so much momentum that even my reluctant readers can hold their own against native-level diction.

Unfortunately, this is my first period class every day, so my mornings are beautiful, while I have to slog through and wrestle with a couple of particularly tough classes later in the day. Just keeping my head above water there.  With one class about the only way I’m making it is by telling myself that someday they might grow up to be like my III/IV class.  Good enough for me.


One response to “German III/IV True Stories

  1. I am running around trying to get my head around a fabulous day with Rick Wormeli yesterday (I’ll have a list of suggested books and maybe an idea or two to remember sometime soon) and conversations with Terry Waltz as we drove around Anchorage — saw on FB that Carol Gaab was impressed when the windows frosted over as she arrived, but other than that I will just wait for their wisdom to land in my brain this weekend. Now I’ll head up to beautiful Talkeetna to pull a few details of our conference together, so will not be a major force here this weekend BUT wanted to say that between hearing about this wonderful class and the Rufus ideas, I’m loving it!! I need a Rufus!


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