Friday, March 27, 2015

Making a game out of learning German: spielen und lernen in the classroom

Even though Volkshochschule classes are geared toward adults, teachers of the Deutsch als Fremsprache (German as a Foreign Language) courses often use games and other activities as an opportunity for students to practice speaking German. It's a fun and low-key way to improve vocabulary, work on the imperative case, and practice grammar.

Here are some of the activities from class that our teachers used to help us practice:

1. Children's games, in German: often the rules are more straightforward and the game is simpler, which allows the players to split their concentration between playing and speaking.

2. Word games for adults: we've had great fun in class while playing Tabu, which is the German version of the game that English speakers know as Taboo. During the timed event, the player draws cards with a set of words from a pile; she tries to get her team to guess the word without using any of the words printed on the card. It's a timed event and whichever team guesses the most cards wins. This is a great way to practice vocabulary and use synonyms.

3. Play acting: to encourage us to practice using the correct endings for adjectives and comparative words, our teacher set up a Flohmarkt (flea market) in the classroom, labeling various household items that she brought. Each person led another student through the "market" and described and compared the various items.

4. Throwing things at one another: yes, we actually did this! We would form a circle and would ask one another questions, related to that chapter's theme, at random. Using a koosh ball, the first person chose the second person by tossing the ball and asking the question. This really kept everyone on their feet!

Even though they sound somewhat basic, these activities were well-received by the students and resulted in a lot of laughter. From a perspective of learning theory, they are excellent, incorporating many different learning styles, including bodily-kinesthetic. Traditional classroom methods, especially those geared toward adults, often neglect this style of learning. The traditional idea of classroom lectures doesn't work well for people who need to move or touch things to help learn. By playing games and incorporating movement into learning German, every learner can benefit.

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