5 Tools to Teach German

Being the first foreign language that I began learning, German will always be the language that’s closest to my heart. I took up extra classes in school to learn German in the 8th standard and continued to do so ever since. As my journey began with Goethe Institut, it was virtually impossible for me to not find my way to classes. In 2016, I had the opportunity to learn the language in Dresden, Germany for 21 days through PASCH. Owing to that unforgettable experience and the teachers who taught me at both college and Max Mueller Bhavan, I developed an unyielding love for the language.

When I began teaching German, I started incorporating the methods that my teachers had in their classrooms. I had always been in awe of their system. However, I knew that holding a class virtually would be a different experience. Going beyond the course material is extremely essential in terms of building an interest in the students. This interest will develop a motivation for them to look for different sources of learning the language and immersing themselves in it. In this blog, I have gathered the resources I employ to make the learning process more fun and easier for my students. 

1. Deutsche Welle

DW is a website that has developed several “courses” online for German Language Learners. The one that I use in classes is the series Nicos Weg. DW has formulated the entire series to cover the vocabulary and grammar that is expected out of a student in their A1. The series focuses on listening and reading along with speaking of course. 

It has segregated each topic into videos of 2-3 minutes and then compiled these shorter clips together- forming an entire film with them. I find it extremely necessary to introduce my students to Grammar topics through visuals. Clips like these help me grasp their attention. For instance, while teaching the preposition ‘mit’ I use this video first:

In the video, it creates all the difference when you hear a native speaker say, “Fahrt ihr nicht mit dem Bus?”. After playing the video twice, I ask my students what they understood from the video and we begin with the process of comprehension. This brief introduction, allows me to then explain what they have already understood. So instead of only a lecture on prepositions, it transforms into an interactive session, where the students first explain what they have understood rather than me “telling” them what it is. Showing and elaborating with an example is always the key. Also, it helps to see and listen to native speakers employ the topic you have just learnt, in their speech. 

To give credit where it’s due- the film does not in any way lose its story to give in to the process of learning or vice versa. They have very mindfully created films carrying this storyline forward even for intermediate levels. 

2. Kahoot

Kahoot is a learning platform that uses the gaming medium to enhance your understanding. This is one of my favourite learning tools and I attempt to integrate it while teaching as a spaced repetition technique. 

Although Kahoot has plenty of quizzes that can be played straight away, I like making a few by myself for the class. What makes Kahoot so special, apart from the music is its fastest finger first approach. I’ve seen my students be so excited and enthusiastic while playing. This enthusiasm of getting as many correct answers as you can is the same through all age groups. 

I’ve used Kahoot to revise the concepts already taught, to enhance grammar and vocabulary. Here’s a picture of what a revision of the basics of A1 looked like on the first day of the A2 class:

Revising A1 Grammar through Kahoot

This app helps me practice active recall as opposed to passive revision. I’ve seen students remember their mistakes and correct them by themselves if they repeat them. This for me is the hallmark of growth when learning a language. When you are mindful of what you’re saying spontaneously, you learn faster and become more cognizant of what you’re learning. I cannot lie, it also makes me look pretty cool, “apparently”.

3. Music 

This is a given- but listening to music in the language that you’re learning right from the beginning boosts your morale. Playing songs is a great way for me to get my students talking- about the music, the lyrics and the vibe. It also makes the students explore words we have not done in class. Needless to say, being able to sing an entire song in the language you’re learning will make you want to pat yourself on the back! (as you rightly deserve it 🙂 )

I choose songs that have the concepts we did in class. After playing the song twice, the students themselves point out the structures and words we have already done. Sometimes I also take the lyrics of the song and put blank spaces instead of the words in some places. Then I ask the students to fill in the blanks while listening to the song. 

For instance, I played the song Anderen Wegen to teach both reflexive verbs and comparative adjectives. Using its lyrics, I played the video in class and sent them the lyrics with blank spaces, for them to fill while watching and listening to this video. Here’s how that would look like:

4. Mentimeter 

In 2020 I was still pursuing my C1 and we had to shift online owing to the pandemic. At the time, I thought- “there goes all the fun we had in-class writing on the board”. It was as if my trainer heard that thought and introduced this website to us. I was so in awe of its colourful structures, that I went ahead and used it for my last semester at the university as well. 

Mentimeter helps a lot with Wortschatz (Vocabulary). It is a platform that hosts a word cloud for multiple participants who can type in words from their devices. It then builds a rather fascinating word cloud out of all the words which the participants have typed. You can see the word cloud build in front of you. Later, you can save this image and go back to it to revise the vocabulary for any topic. For instance, this is a word cloud we built in class after the very session of A1.

These word clouds are very visually appealing too. Just the right tool to captivate your attention, while you learn a list of new words! 

5. Books

When I say books, I mean to say books other than the course books. For the record, the course books have amazing exercises for every part of the exam. However, only sticking to these books can get a little repetitive and will not allow a flow of other materials that can be used to enhance your language. 

I always recommend reading books that are made for the level you’re learning. Especially fictional books curated by Cornelsen. These books have exercises at the end of every chapter as well as a list of new words for vocabulary building. These books will improve your reading skills and help you grasp even tricky grammar concepts, very easily. 

I am using the book, Jeder ist käuflich, which has these exercises at the end of its chapters:

These are some of the resources and materials I engineer in my classroom to keep the students captivated and engaged through the sessions. Although this is not a conclusive list of all of them, these are the cornerstones of learning tools for me. Teaching has made me look into more methods of making the learning process easier for the students. Along the way, it has helped me gather concrete materials for myself too. Most of these were collected when I was learning, from my teachers and I am ever so grateful for their system. 

If you try any of these, please let me know how you find them! Do you have any other resources which you use when you’re studying? What are your go-to tools when you’re learning or teaching?

Thank you!