Dr. Robert A. Morrey
3404 Merrimac Drive
San Jose, CA 95117-3624
Teacher – retired
Foreign Language Department
Cupertino High School
Fremont Union High School District
Sunnyvale, California, USA
Copyright ©2005 by Robert A. Morrey
The following topics are covered in this article:
· Author's Background
· Physical classroom design
· Critical elements of a multi-level class
· Computer-based practice and review materials
· G1-4 audio & video materials
· G1-4 reading materials
· Why & How to start using the Internet in the German Class
· G1-3 curriculum design
· G4 and beyond student designed curriculum
· Benefits of This Type of Program
When I began my teaching career, 16mm film projectors, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and filmstrip projectors were the advanced technology. Between 1979 and 2001, the classroom computer system went from one very elementary computer to a Novell-networked computer system of 20 computers with a few computers linked to the Internet. Videotape and laserdiscs were brought in during the mid-eighties and CD’s by the mid-nineties. Since 2001 the entire German curriculum has been presented only over the Internet.
These instructional modifications allowed for the introduction of multi-level classes in the mid-eighties and new technology permitted students who wanted to continue their study of German to attend during any period of the day. By the late nineties about 10% of the students in the program attended at a different time than the class in which they were enrolled. These students were often the most highly motivated and succeeded remarkably well using the computer-based practice materials, video listening materials, and a variety of textual materials available in the classroom.
Other changes began to impact the German program in the late nineties. The Eastern-Pacific student population of the school was increasing which led to the introduction of both Japanese and Chinese language classes at the school. Fewer students were entering the German program as these languages grew in popularity. In addition, the California Digital High School program increased the emphasis on the use of technology, encouraged teachers to consider the concept of ‘anytime/anywhere learning’ and expanded the availability of Internet access.
The following recommendation from “The Future of German in American Education - Summary Report, July 1996” delineates quite clearly how the use of technology in language instruction can greatly modify the structure of the course and even support courses where there otherwise might not be any:
Consider technology not merely as an optional add-on but as potentially reshaping the entire language learning construct (e.g., individualized, student-centered learning, access to on-line information, task-based learning, linked learning with native speakers of German, distance learning in areas where German programs can otherwise not be supported, language maintenance, specialized programs). (Byrnes, 1996, p. 6)
In the author's school district the student-teacher ratio had to be at least 32:1. The number of students in the German program never allowed for separate classes after the second level, so the third level, fourth level, and other students were always in one class. As we will see later, the third level students had a set curriculum to follow, but all other students created their own curriculum which meant that few students beyond the third level were working on the same thing all the time. This curriculum design requires that students have places to work independently within the classroom whenever the teacher is not working with them. A well-designed classroom provides these places within the classroom and not in a library or dedicated computer room. The author's classroom contained some 20 networked computers lining the walls of the room and a certain number of these allowed access to the Internet. In more modern classrooms students may have their own laptops and a wireless connection to the class or school network. It is important that the computer network have access to a printer, so that students can send scores from tests in the computer materials to the printer for the teacher. At the same time some students are working with the computers, other students may wish to watch German videos or listen to taped material in German, so there needs to be a video/listening center in the class that can be adjusted for small or large groups. Another area of the class room should allow the teacher to work with single students or small groups on oral work or for instructional activities.
Critical Elements of a Multi-Level Class
As we have seen from the physical arrangement of the classroom, a wide variety of things are often occurring at the same time. The curriculum design must also allow and require students to work in a variety of categories as they complete each unit of work. Below are listed a number of curriculum design concepts that guided the development of the curriculum for the advanced levels:
- Students must develop and expand their active vocabulary;
- Students need to learn the grammar of the language under study and be able to practice the new material, preferably using computer-based activities;
- Computer resources should also allow students to review previous grammar and vocabulary materials;
- The curriculum must provide practice listening to the spoken language at the student's level;
- Students must practice speaking;
- A variety of reading materials at all levels of difficulty should be available;
- Students must be asked to write in the language;
- Access to cultural information through the reading, listening, and viewing materials should be available.
In the author's program the most valuable resource for the multi-level class was the extensive set of computer practice materials1. Appropriate computer software helps students learn how to spell accurately and to use correct grammar through extensive practice with a variety of exercises. Such software provides options for highly talented and motivated students to use technology to break the traditional one year/one level connection, and several students have used the computer materials with various listening and reading resources to complete two years of German in one school year. If students have broad access to the computer software, they have the opportunity to redo the new material they are learning as often as they need to learn it well. This learning time factor is quite variable and depends, among other things, on the language aptitude of the student. Thus students who have a very high aptitude may only need one or two times through to be able to fully integrate the new material into their active knowledge. On the other hand, students who have a lower aptitude may require many repetitions over several days to be able to master the new material. A multi-level class by definition contains students at different points within the curriculum and with different learning rates and interests. The set of computer materials is the most important element in allowing the author to effectively handle individual student needs and to dramatically redesign the instructional program beyond the second level.
These computer-based practice and review materials focus on the core elements of the curriculum: the actual vocabulary and the grammar elements that are tested in many small computer-based exams, on the unit exams and on the final exam. Many high school students need repetitive practice through varied activities with immediate access to the correct answers to help them learn effectively. These materials contain several activities at differing cognitive levels and cover the vocabulary and grammar for four years of instruction. The software provides student-controlled options for handling incorrect answers; it moves rapidly from one item to the next when correct answers are given. It also provides a testing option that allows the student to send results to the network printer for the teacher. In addition, the software should be expandable to allow new data to be incorporated into the materials and should provide means for the instructor to print out hard copies of the data to give to the students as a study aid.
G1-4 Audio and Video Materials
From early in the first level the teacher needs to gradually expand the use of the language in the various classroom activities. Students also need to hear other speakers who may have a different accent or speak at a different rate than the teacher. The most appropriate listening materials for the level 1 students are rather short dialogs that contain a controlled and limited vocabulary dealing with high frequency topics. They should contain short declarative sentences, be only 10 to 15 minutes long, and have very little background or white noise. Initially, the dialogs should be spoken clearly and somewhat more slowly than in normal conversation. If the material is a video, it should be set in the country whose language is being studied. As the students gain in ability to understand the language, the listening material should become gradually more difficult. This expansion of the level of difficulty can be achieved through the use of a broader vocabulary, a wider variety of sentence structures, somewhat longer sentences, and the addition of some background noise. Some older materials that the author used for the first and second levels are listed below:
Level 1 videos
1960's black and white Guten Tag series – episodes 1-13 – first semester
A children's video language course Anna, Schmidt und Oskar – episodes 1-8 – first semester
A very popular 'soap opera' series Deutsch Aktuell 1 – episodes 1-10 – late first semester +
A beginner's introduction to Germany: Lernexpress 1 – episodes 1-4 – second semester
Level 2 videos
1960's black and white Guten Tag series – episodes 14-26
Anna, Schmidt und Oskar – episodes 9-13
Deutsch Aktuell 2 – episodes 1-10
Lernexpress 1 – episodes 5-10
Alles Gute (the modern replacement of the Guten Tag series) – episodes 1-8
Level 3 videos
Anna, Schmidt und Oskar 2 – episodes 14-26
Deutsch Aktuell 3
Lernexpress 2 – episodes 11-20
Alles Gute – episodes 9-26
A set of 12 fairy tales that had a taped story and 10 small books – a 'Read-A-Long' series with The Story Teller by Superscope – probably no longer available
Level 4 listening materials (some of these are cassette tape based materials that are still available through EMCParadigm. Similar newer CD/DVD based materials can be found now)
Die Spur Führt nach Bayern – tapes/EMC
Das Mysteriöse Konzert– tapes/EMC
Geheime Mission– tapes/EMC
Gefährliche Wege– tapes/EMC
Schauplatz Deutschland – 30 videos of places in Germany that were available at one time
Länder und Sitten – 3 VHS video tapes for D., A., und CH – they do not appear to be available
Der Schwarze Teufel – a set of longer individual taped stories
Several operas on video tape and laserdisc
G1-4 Reading Materials
Reading is an enormously important skill. Through reading students review vocabulary and learn new words. They view examples of the grammar elements they have learned, they see a variety of sentence structures, they learn new information, and they amuse themselves. Reading is required at all levels, but students are encouraged to read material that is within their comfort zone; that is, they should not read material that has too many new words or has language structures that are too complex for their skills. Students are asked to read a certain number of hours per semester and this amount increases somewhat with an increase in level. What also increases is the difficulty level of the material as student progress.
Level 1 students should have stories that are short (about ½ of a page long), have new words glossed in the margins or through hyperlinks, have primarily short declarative sentences or questions in the present tense and contain no complex sentences. These students also need to be taught various reading skills. They should refer back to the initial information that the instructor provided on how to ‘read to learn’. If vocabulary lists are available for the story, students should be asked/encouraged to learn the words before they read the story. Some pre-reading strategies such as looking through the glossed words (if possible) and reading any questions about the story which the teacher may have provided or which are available following the story may help the students narrow the content. Students should be encouraged to read the story more than one time and in different ways: once through rapidly without looking up any additional words or analyzing sentence structures, a second time to clarify those areas that were difficult or unclear, and a third time to focus on the meaning of the story or to answer any questions either mentally or in a written manner. Stories can also be the content for some of the required question-answer sessions with the teacher in level 1. One good reader for the students in level 1 is the reader Beginner's German Reader.
Stories for students at the second level should still be rather short and contain relatively short declarative sentences or questions in the present and narrative past tenses. Grammar complexity can increase as the students are exposed to a greater variety of structures through their grammar materials. New vocabulary should still be glossed and pre-reading vocabulary lists of words for the stories are helpful. Good story genres at this level include fables, folklore, legends and fairy tales that relate to the country whose language is under study. The five-part book entitled Graded German Reader – Erste Stufe is very effective at this level. Other readers for more skilled students would be German Easy Readers such as 'Gänsebraten und andere Geschichten'. High-interest stories designed for non-natives who are starting to learn the language are often short and not too difficult and would be appropriate for very good level 2 students or for level 3 students.
Students at the third level and beyond exhibit much more variation in their ability to read and understand written material in the language, and, therefore, they are not required to all read the same stories. They are required to read fifteen hours of 'outside reading' per semester. Students have a variety of books and stories at different levels of difficulty from which to select their reading materials. Students should be encouraged to select easier material first, read a lot of this material rapidly, and then gradually move to more difficult items. The easier reading material can be used as a basis for oral story retelling and it certainly allows them to review vocabulary and structures that they have already learned. Some readers that have been effective in the author's program are:
MD in den Alpen (part of Die Krimi Serie – now no longer in print)
Die Aktentasche (part of Die Eisenbahn Serie – no longer in print)
Die Falsche Adresse (part of Die Strassenbahn Serie – no longer in print)
[I listed these three series because they were very effective short stories for students in the third and fourth levels and were often used as a basis for an oral discussion or retelling. The stories were a small format book, some five by eight inches, and about 15 pages long each.]
German Easy Readers – A Level
Wahre und Erfundene Geschichte
All readers from the first and second levels
12 Read-A-:Long readers which were a set of 10 small books with a tape
[While this particular set of stories does not appear to be available, many similar CD-based stories are for sale through the Internet]
Many different levels of reading material have been available for the third and fourth level student so that these students can read at their comfort level and not be discouraged by texts that are too difficult. Students with a stronger background are encouraged to begin to read high interest novels and to find other material on the Internet. Some of the readers that the author employed are listed below (a more complete list is on the author's website under 'Resources at CHS'):
German Easy Readers – Levels B, C, D
Pack den Rücksack
Deutsche Märchen und Sagen
Deutsche Sagen und Legenden
Emil und die Detektive
Kai aus der Kiste
Die Verschwundene Miniatur
All of these resources represent a large monetary outlay over many years. Sometimes funds for these kinds of materials can be obtained as grants from local or national companies. The California-based Computer-Using-Educators organization offers relatively small yearly grants to teachers. Some states have had competitive grant programs. Sometimes the local language department or school district makes funds available for special kinds of materials; the author always placed an order for new supplemental materials when such funds became available. Various service clubs such as the Rotary Club can be approached with a request for a specific item or set of materials. Some districts have an educational foundation that may solicit grant requests from individual teachers and is a source of some funds. The teacher can also seek permission for fund-raising activities such as an ice-skate-a-thon, candy sales, a spell-a-thon (with German words). Occasionally, a local family will support a special purchase, i.e. the cost of the National German Exam. The author obtained well over $100,000 in various grants throughout his teaching career through sources such as those listed above.
Why & How to Start Using the Internet in the German Class
In January, 2005, the United States Department of Education unveiled the new National Educational Technology Plan (see: www.NationalEdTechPlan.org). This document contains a rationale for such an educational technology plan, a discussion on how educational technology and virtual schooling is blossoming that describes a dozen different programs in as many states, and a seven part plan. The emphasis of the plan is to encourage middle and secondary schools to move more of their educational program to the Internet. Below are some ways an individual teacher can begin to integrate the Internet into the local program.
Bringing Elements of Your Program to the Internet
Three different websites are used for this program. The first site – www.schoolnotes.com - is a site where any teacher can place daily or weekly assignments, information for substitute teachers, details for student projects, and links to other sites for student listening, reading or even grammatical practice. The site is easy to use and does not cost anything. When assignments are available on-line, one can expect students to have assignments even if they are absent and one can give assignments that students can complete even if substitute teachers are not qualified in the language being taught.
The second site is the on-line grading site – visit www.chariot.com for one possibility. On-line grading may be provided through one’s school. A commercial on-line service will probably cost something to acquire the software and may require a use fee for website access. There are important advantages to the use of a secure, password-protected on-line site for grading. If you set up the user name and password to be something like the student’s name and student's school identification number as a password, then the student AND the student’s parent can have access to the grades. Students will have immediate access to cumulative grades and can see what additional assignments they must still complete, so they cannot complain at the end of a term that they did not know that they had not completed all the work. The grade is in black and white so there is no room for complaints about lack of fairness2.
The third site is a dedicated school site3. Here one can establish the entire language curriculum for the students to use. To begin to develop an on-line site for students to use, one can start with required vocabulary lists provided as PDF files. One can add verb paradigms, reference materials such as lists of pronouns, prepositions, adjective endings, and so forth. Short stories with word glosses can be made available for the students to read. Later, one can create and add practice materials and answers, supplemental explanatory materials, and unit assignments provided as PDF files. It may be possible to reduce the amount of paper that you have to use to make copies, if you place your material on the school website and ask the students to either read it on-line or copy it at their home. You can also require that students begin to use various on-line resources or do as one teacher did and require that all students write e-mails in the language under study to other students and send a copy to the teacher to be part of the student’s graded material.
In the last few years the Internet has become a rich source of materials for the students. So much material is available it is sometime difficult to find appropriate materials. One important resource for the German teacher is the American Association of German website, www.aatg.org. Currently, there are 916 reviewed resources listed under Teaching Resources on that site. In the author's opinion, Deutsche Welle in Germany provides several excellent series of listening materials for students from the second semester of level 1 on. Below are listed several series that have over 150 separate listening episodes from late beginner to intermediate (see: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/0,,2548,00.html)
Deutsch – Warum nicht? – Series I – Beginning
Deutsch – Warum nicht? – Series II – Beginning
Deutsch – Warum nicht? – Series III – Intermediate
Deutsch – Warum nicht? – Series IV – Intermediate
Wieseo nicht? – Intermediate (20 episodes)
Marktplatz – Intermediate
Nachrichten – current events spoken slowly and changed regularly
G1-3 Curriculum Design
For levels one through three the focus is on ‘learning the language' and the curriculum is determined to a great extent by the teacher. Initially, the curriculum for the first three levels was determined by the textbook in use for those levels. As more material was placed on the Internet the course structure was altered somewhat. Larger and more difficult chapters were divided into separate units so that each level eventually had ten separate units. The goal was to have ten separate units which allowed students to receive less than the normal ten units of credit if they were unable to finish an entire year's work or more units of credit if they completed more work, and this situation did occur for a few students. In the first three levels of the program students are expected to learn the sound system of German, new vocabulary words, and grammar concepts. Computer materials to practice new vocabulary and grammar concepts are available in class and may be obtained by the students for work at home. Students are required to speak and write using the new material. Students must also fulfill specified outside reading requirements and complete a certain amount of listening to the spoken language.
The level 3 students must record the listening and outside reading work and turn it in as part of their grade. Students in the third level and also fourth year students are given a pretest at the beginning of the year. Based on their pretest at the start of the year the teacher designs an individualized review assignment for each student. During the first semester of the year the students must complete this assignment which consists of a set of a dozen or more computer-based grammar review units. Some students learned the previous year’s work well-enough that they have few review exercises, but are given instead frequency-based vocabulary lists so that all students end up with the same number of points for the semester-long assignment.
G4 and Beyond Student Designed Curriculum
Once students reach the fourth level4 and beyond, a pre-determined curriculum is no longer provided due to the varied background and needs of the students. The focus now shifts to ‘using the language’ and the students now need to begin to consider what they want to emphasize. The school motto ‘Life-Long Learning’ was taken into consideration in the original design of the advanced program so that students actually have the opportunity to select much of their work. In this manner they can have some exposure to the concept of designing a learning program along the lines of their interests. Students are required to do at least one assignment in seven of the ten defined learning categories (Morrey, 1998, p. 12) and produce a minimum of 450 points of work per each six-week grading period. Students electing to do AP work need to complete between 550 and 650 points per grading period in order to obtain enough exposure to the written and oral language to be successful. Students at this level find the computer practice materials and the on-line materials very helpful: they are able to review any of the grammar concepts they might have forgotten, they can study a variety of topics in further depth and learn new advanced topics, they find a variety of reading materials on-line and some students listen to German on-line. They also have access to a large reading library in the classroom, a variety of videos and tapes and the networked computers for in-class practice. Level 4 students5 submit a spreadsheet via e-mail to the instructor every six weeks that details the work they did to carry out the six-week plan that they had initially submitted to the teacher.
Benefits of This Type of Program
In the early days of the author's teaching career – before computers – a really satisfying advanced German class was a rarity. If the students were asked to read the same story or book for discussion, some students found the material too difficult to understand and others read the entire thing in short order and were bored by the slow progression through the material. Similarly with work on new grammar concepts, some students did not remember preparatory work and could not correctly use the new material while others wanted to cover more material. The multi-level class design described in this paper provides many ways that the instructor and student can adjust the student's learning plan to fit the needs of that student.
This course flexibility was important during the last 15 years of the author's regular teaching career because the author was able to provide a way for students who had class conflicts with other required subjects to continue learning German. In a small program such as the author's program it was important to keep as many students in the program for as long as possible. With new methods and materials these students could come and study German when they could fit it into their schedule even if they were in the class while a different level of German or even a different subject was being taught or even during a teacher's free period. Not only does this type program allow students to continue the study of German longer, it can also provide an appropriate learning program for students with widely differing background preparation. Below are some examples of the varied student backgrounds and student schedules:
· A few students had lived and gone to school in Germany, but they were not native Germans, and they wanted to continue the development of their German skills at a high level.
· An American student, who had spent a year in Germany but had had no formal training in the language before he arrived in Germany, had very good listening skills and a broad vocabulary, but his grammar knowledge was quite limited.
· A student was out of school sick for a couple of months; the only class that she was able to continue in the regular school program was German because the program was very flexible and she could work when she was able (she did not complete a whole year, but she did get credit for what she had done).
· Another student was involved in a legal case for many weeks and was absent from school many days during the year; she completed the equivalent of one semester’s work during the entire year and finished the following year.
· Students needed to take courses at another location for several days of the week and thus missed those days in the German class; the students were able to use the in-class technology and the flexible structure to complete their projected learning plan.
· A number of students (particularly if they were sophomore or junior students) who exhibited a very high language learning aptitude as shown from their score on the Modern Language Aptitude Test (Carroll, 1959) were able to complete two years of German study in one year which they usually did very successfully.
· One young lady with substantial German experience outside of school took the German AP exam at the end of her ninth grade year and obtained a score of 4, but she wanted to do better, so she entered the advanced class to improve her grammar background. The next year she obtained a 5 on the AP exam, but she returned for two more years of German study in order to continue to expand her abilities.
· One very motivated senior student decided that she wanted to do twice the work of a normal level 4 student and completed two periods of German that year.
· More recently upper-class students inquired about learning German outside the regular class setting and in addition to their regular course load.
· Former students have asked about refreshing their knowledge of German in order to be able to use German in Germany.
· The little sister of a current student wanted to start German before high school.
Obviously, it is not possible to create one single curriculum that would be suitable for all these students, but the student-designed curriculum for students beyond level 3 can be tailored to the needs of each students. This option is now even more viable with the resources that are on-line and the much broader range of materials available through the Internet.
Such a program might also allow students in schools where there are too few students for a regular class to learn German via the Internet under the guidance of a mentor teacher in their school. Such a program might be appropriate in a small rural school or in a part of the country where German in not a very popular language. It is even entirely possible that dedicated and highly motivated individual students could use the comprehensive program that the author has now devised to learn German effectively over the Internet by themselves.
Tremendous advances in the available technology for the classroom and the enormous expansion of the Internet have paved the way for major changes in the design of the German curriculum. The teacher who has computers in the classroom linked to a printer and attached to the Internet has available one of the most important and versatile tools for modifying the world language classroom. Good computer software provides the basis for a strong and effective curriculum, much of which can be migrated to the Internet. With the addition of good materials for listening, either in the class or on the Internet, and with the addition of a wide variety of reading materials, the teacher can help the advanced student tailor a learning program to fit that student's own individual learning goals. As more of the teacher's curriculum is placed on the Internet, students can access the materials anytime and from anywhere that they have access to the Internet. Such broad access also allows students who may not be currently enrolled in a class to be able to benefit from a teacher's program. All of these modifications are designed to help the teacher provide a more individualized program for each student in a flexible but effective learning environment.
1. In addition to generic level 1 German software (Morrey, 1994), and new generic software for level 2, similar software for levels 3, 4, and 5 developed specifically for the textbook of the course provides critical practice materials for these levels.
2. On-line grades for a sample class on one student can be viewed by going to http://www.eclassinfo.com/home.asp?id=RMorr; select the ‘SampleGer2Class’ and use ‘12345’ for the Student ID and ‘NEC’ as the password.
3. The dedicated site containing all the language related material created by the author for his students is located at: http://chs.fuhsd.org/German/index.html
4. L4 students were the most successful students in this program probably because they were older, had more technical and learning skills and were primarily in the class to enjoy learning the language.
5. L4 students prepared six-week learning plans that varied greatly depending on what the student wished to emphasize. To view plans submitted by a student using the default plan and one preparing for the AP exam, refer to: http://www.chs.fuhsd.org/German/index.html and under 'German 4 Student work' look at --/BrianH D4-plan.xls and ‘Carola’.
Byrnes, Heidi, Georgetown University, AATG Newsletter, Vol. 32. No 1. p.6.
Carroll, J. B., & Sapon, S. M. (1959). Modern Language Aptitude Test. New York: The Psychological Corporation.
Morrey, R. A. (1994). Foreign Language Instruction. German Level 1 [Computer software]. San Jose, CA: Author.
Morrey, R. A. (1998). Multithreaded Language Learning. Students at Different Levels Working in One Classroom. Learning and Leading with Technology, 26, 4, 11-14.
Also available on-line at: http://www.chs.fuhsd.org/German/rmchswb2.htm#German%204