Teaching Tips

Structuring a Successful Small-Language Group:

    1. Always warm up with a review. Even on the first Tuesday, you can review pronunciation, greetings, Betreuer names,Haus names.

    2. Create a ritual to begin your session -- a special greeting, dance, game, cheer. A ritual not only unites your group, it also establishes a clear delineation betweenFamilieand non-Familie time.

    3. Link new ideas to the old. Try to include review even when teaching new patterns. For instance, on 1. Samstag (Wann?) you can review many of the previous patterns by asking questions such as:Wo wohnt der Bär im Winter? Wohin gehst du um 16.00 Uhr?

    4. Practice and repeat patterns in different ways. Use yes-or-no questions, rhythms, group repetitions, and finally individual repetitions.

    5. Use a combination of teaching styles that will appeal to visual, aural and tactile learners. You should also adapt your lessons to the age and energy levels of your group.

    6. Praise villagers sincerely and often. Use positive rather than negative corrections: if a villager saysIch gehe nach Bahnhof, you can say,Ja! Ich gehe auch zum Bahnhof.

    7. Be sensitive to social backgrounds in your group, including different family structures, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc.

Introducing New Concepts:

When introducing new concepts to your Familie, it is important to not immediately put villagers on the spot, so that you can create a safe learning environment. Recall that many villagers, especially beginners, will have trouble understanding the pronunciation of words, and will need to hear them repeated many times. To this end, the following "build-up" of new ideas can be useful:

    1. Introduce the new concept or vocabulary using visual aids. For example, colors: rot, grün, blau,gelb, orange. Your poster should have not only the colors, but the names written out, which is important to visual learners. (It can be useful to keep the words covered when you are not directly using them, to maintain focus and so that villagers begin to learn the words without needing the constant reference.) Have villagers repeat after you. Always use words in a small sentence: for instance,Das ist rot.

    2. Next, use yes-or-no questions: Ist das rot? Do this first as a group, and then individually. Villagers can then go around the circle asking each other,Ist das rot?

    3. Next, move on to either-or questions: Ist das rot oder blau? Do this first as a group, and then individually. Villagers can then go around the circle asking each other, Ist das rot oder blau?

    4. Finally, you can ask, Was ist das? Answer the question first together as a group, and then go around the circle having villagers ask each other individually. Be sure to practice Was ist das? as a group before asking villagers to produce it themselves. The same applies to verbs -- if you teach a verb such as laufen, be sure you go over Ich laufe before asking villagers to produce it themselves.

A Good Gameplan:

An especially useful Familie structure is the "sandwich" format:

    1. Ritual

    2. Review (from the previous day or session)

    3. New material (including teaching and practicing through games or other methods)

    4. Review (from the current lesson)

    5. Ritual

Tips for Small-Group Management:

    1. Be on time and come prepared!

    2. Villagers respond toBetreuerenthusiasm. We say in Waldsee that you need to be 5 times as enthusiastic as the amount you hope to get from your villagers!

    3. Plan your session in advance. Don't plan just what activities you will do, but also how you will introduce new concepts. Have a Plan B in case your villagers are not engaged by the activity you have planned. Plan for at least 10 extra minutes. Also, don't forget a rain plan!

    4. Set up a meeting spot with your group on the very first day. Always meet there at the beginning of everyFamilie.

    5. Choose a spot with few distractions so that everyone can see and hear everyone else.

    6. Be aware of changes in weather, time of day, and day of the week. This will affect the group's attention span.

    7. A good rule of thumb is that people can do one activity for as many minutes as they are years old: a seven-year-old can handle an activity or game that lasts 7 minutes.

    8. If a villager is missing, notify a staff counselor. Do not make a big deal out of the situation, and continue with your lesson plan.

    9. Separate the most active villagers, or seat them next to you.

    10. Speak only German! English should only be used if there is a safety issue. Use gestures and visual aids to communicate.

    11. Give your villagers the opportunity to structure what they learn. For instance, take note of a particular interest in a given country or activity, and build it into your lesson plans.

    12. Develop a positive group dynamic and a high level of trust early in the session. Do a group-bonding activity (theSeilkurs is a great one!) within the first couple ofFamilienstunden.

    13. Give praise and attention as equally as possible.

The Magic Number 7:

    1. Most people can only absorb 7 concepts/vocabulary words/etc. in a single time period.

    2. Most people need to hear something 7 times before they will remember it.

Keep this in mind as you plan your lessons.

(Ideas adapted from Donna Clementi, dean of Teachers' Seminars.)