Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Japanese: McDonalds in Japan

HI all Junko desu.

You think Japanese people eat sushi, rice and miso soup every day? Surprise, surprise, we do eat other stuff too! We have McDonalds in Japan, and they are popular with people of all ages. What is different in Japan is that each season, they have different kinds of burgers. Take a look at the TV commercials:

焙煎胡麻フィレオ:Sesami Shrimp Bueger

グラタンコロッケ:Gratin Croquette

タンドリーピタ:Tandoori Pita

メガ照り焼き:Mega Teriyaki

月見バーガー;Egg Burger

Did I just make you hungry now? Well, it's time to go to Japan!

Japanese: Manga Activity

Hi all, Junko desu.

Today I wanted to share a fun activity for creating manga dialogues 4コマ漫画(4 colums comic) has been popular in Japan for ages, and you can still find them in major newspapers. If you want to use this in class, it's really simple. Distribute different blank mangas to students and have them work in groups to create dialogues. When it's done, the teacher can show the blank manga on a screen, and students will then tell a story!

Monday, August 30, 2010

German: Berlin Links

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share some links for Berlin as part of our ongoing series of posts providing informational links for major German cities. The list below is a good starting point with each site containing a wealth of information and further links to help you and your students learn more about Berlin! If you have any additional links that you would like to share, please feel free to send us an email or comment on the post!






Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reading in a Foreign Language

Hi all, Claudia here,

A close friend and colleague of mine told me about this great activity to start a reading or literature course in a foreign language. I recently tried it out in my classroom and it worked very nicely.

First you need to choose a short text, written in the students' native language, that will be well known among the students but that has a few uncommon words that not many of the students will know. You give each student a copy of the text and, in the target language, ask them to read it and underline any word they don't know. After they are all done, you ask them what words they didn't know, and you tell them the ones you don't know. Ask if anyone can explain the meaning of any of the words mentioned. You then close the activity by asking the class if they were able to understand the text at all.

The point of this activity is to show students that, even in their native language, there are words in texts that they might not understand, but that despite those words they can still understand the texts. So in a foreign language it also is possible to understand readings with out the use of a dictionary for every single word you might not grasp right away.

You can see below a copy of the text we used in our class. Please let me know if this works for you or if you know of any other good ideas!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I came up with this game to give my linguistics students a way to practise pronouncing phonetic symbols without context clues. It seems as though when you teach symbols simply by having students read transcribed words, students use the symbols that look like regular letters to read what the word is and don't attend to the sounds made by the symbols they don't know. This game forces them to think about what sounds each symbol makes.

The game is played the same way as Battleship. If you're not familiar with the rules of Battleship, you have five boats in your personal fleet:

The patrol boat takes up 2 spaces (XX)
The destroyer takes up 3 spaces (XXX)
The submarine takes up 3 spaces (XXX)
The battleship takes up 4 spaces (XXXX)
The carrier takes up 5 spaces (XXXXX)

You play in teams of two. Each of you has a 10x10 grid that represents your ocean. You can place your five ships anywhere in your ocean, as long as they go horizontally or vertically. You're not supposed to let your partner see your ocean.

When you're finished, you end up with a grid that looks something like this:


Your partner then tries to guess where your ships are by calling out the letter and number of a square in the grid. If your partner called out A1, you would say "patrol boat, hit." If your partner called out B1, you would say "miss." Then you would get a turn to hunt for one of your partner's ships. You take turns guessing one at a time whether either of you gets a hit or not. When your partner has guessed all the spaces for a given ship, you say, for example, "You sank my patrol boat." The object of the game is for one person to be the first to sink all five ships in the other person's fleet.

The way that I make this a phonetics game is by replacing the letters A-J with phonetic symbols for consonants and the numbers 1-10 with phonetic symbols for vowels. Instead of calling out "A1," players have to pronounce the syllable that would be made by that consonant and vowel symbol together. So, if instead of A I have [h] and instead of 1 I have [u], players have to pronounce [hu] in order to guess that their opponent's ship is hidden in square A1.

I make up several different versions of the game cards so that people in the class don't just listen to what groups around them are doing to get the answer, and so that people can play again if they finish early. In order to make the cards, you need to start with an 11x11 table; once you have filled in whatever symbols you want across the top and along the side, copy-paste that table a second time so that you will have two identical game cards for a pair of students to play with. (You should be able to fit two tables on one sheet of paper, which is a convenient way to make sure you've got a match for every game card before you photocopy multiples; then you can just cut the sheets in half). Give students a few minutes to draw their ships into their ocean, and then circulate around the room to help make sure they're pronouncing the unusual symbols correctly!

Abbreviation Quiz

This "pop quiz" is an idea that you could use for an introductory lecture about some basic beliefs held by linguists or for introducing a unit on historical linguistics and language change. I came up with this activity to deal with the common belief in the general public (and held by many beginning students) that language should not ever change. In particular, we talked about opinions about the influence of text-messaging on written language and about a decision in New Zealand to allow text-speak on written exams. Some students wrote in their journals that they feared that young people growing up with too much exposure to text-speak would only know abbreviations and not be able to recognise the full forms that the abbreviations stood for, and that this would be detrimental to the continuance of written English as we know it. To raise this matter for class discussion, I made the following quiz and told my students jokingly that we were having a "pop quiz" that wouldn't be graded, but that I wanted them to do the best they could. Then I put the quiz on the overhead and gave them a few minutes to complete it.


Without consulting any other source or individual, identify the full forms of as many of the following common abbreviations as possible.

Group 1Group 2Group 3
6.et al.HIVLOL
9.op. cit.URLTTYL

After giving the students a few minutes to record their responses, I put another overhead up with the answers.


Group 1Group 2Group 3
1.Anno DominiAlternating Current/Direct CurrentBest Friends Forever
2.Ante MeridiemAmplitude Modulation/Frequency ModulationBe Right Back
3.circaColumbia Broadcasting SystemBy The Way
4.conferCompact Disc - Read-Only MemoryGot To Go
5.exempli gratiaCash On DeliveryIn My Humble Opinion
6.et aliiHuman Immunodeficiency VirusLaughing Out Loud
7.ibidemInternational Standard Book NumberMind Your Own Business
8.id estUniversal Product CodeRolling On The Floor Laughing
9.opere citatoUniform Resource LocatorTalk To You Later
10.videlicetZone Improvement PlanWhat The F(---)?

Afterwards, we talk about how many answers people got right in each column, what the source language was for each column (Latin, English, English Text-speak), and whether that shows any patterns about how we use abbreviations to express full linguistic ideas. Usually students get very few answers right in Group 1, get at least half right in Group 2 (but not all), and get most or all right in Group 3. I try to make the point that for the abbreviations in Group 2, we are mostly aware of what the concepts referred to are and can make use of those things on a regular basis without knowing what the abbreviations stand for, and I ask the students to reconsider, in light of this, whether it still bothers them that people might use abbreviations without knowing the full forms.

Answers always continue to vary for this question, and you can get some really good discussion out of it. I don't do the activity to force the descriptivist "language changes, so get used to the idea" stance on students, but rather to expose them to how easy it can be to form an opinion about other speakers' language use that ignores the reality of your own speech. I believe this activity opens up an interesting way to talk about this issue that forces the student to consider his or her own language use critically and not just to view English in terms of blanket generalisations about what older or younger people do. Naturally, many students will still hold strong prescriptivist tendencies, and this is a good launching point to begin to discuss why people hold prescriptivist opinions and what those opinions accomplish socially, as well as to help students understand that asking them to take a descriptivist approach in the course does not mean that they have to abandon prescriptivist attitudes entirely, just that they need to see why taking only a prescriptivist approach does not adequately describe the full range of language use.

Some students get more upset by this activity than others because they feel that, particularly with regards to the words in Group 1, not knowing the full forms makes them seem stupid, or at least less well educated. I never ask students to reveal their answers to this activity individually, and I try to assure them throughout that this is not the intent of the activity, and that I myself did not know the answers to most of the Group 1 words or about half of the Group 2 words without looking them up. However, some of my students were convinced that older professors probably would know all of the Group 1 answers. To prepare yourself to conduct this activity in class, you might consider giving the test to some of the most experienced faculty in your department (or better yet, in a range of departments if you can manage it) before your lecture to arm yourself with evidence that increased education does not necessarily mean one is fluent in Latin. In any event, be prepared for the eventuality that this activity will make some of your students uncomfortable and assure them repeatedly that you are not using it to make them feel bad, but to show them in a way they can relate to that language use is an ever-changing phenomenon.

Sociolinguistics Projects

Sociolinguistics projects are a nice way to get students interacting with people and observing language outside of the classroom. Here are a few ideas for projects that you can assign or let your students choose from. With any of these ideas, you can have students create a simple report including a hypothesis about what they expected to happen, a summary of how they conducted their study, and an analysis of the results.

Dialect Survey

A dialect survey is an easy way to capture students' interest and teach them about linguistic elicitation. You can find sample questions by clicking on the "Maps and Results" link of the Harvard Dialect Survey page (which you may also find informative for a class lecture on dialect differences). Have students choose a subset of questions to ask respondents, or assign questions of your choice based on the differences you perceive may be most salient in the region where you teach. You may want to require students to interview a certain number of respondents and/or to interview equal numbers of respondents from different age, regional, or gender groups.

Labov Replication Study

You will most likely teach your students about Labov's (1966) study of [r]-deletion in New York City (cf. Labov, W. (1966). The social stratification of English in New York City (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). You may want to have your students reproduce such a study (if they live in an area where [r]-less dialects are spoken) or conduct a similar study using another variable. One where differences may frequently be found in urban and suburban areas is the pronunciation of "street" with either a stop or affricate realisation of the /t/ phoneme. You can have students pretend to be lost and ask directions to a locally well-known place with "Street" in part of the address (cf. Durian, David. (2007). Getting [s]tronger every day?: Urbanization and the socio-geographic diffusion of (str) in Columbus, OH. NWAV 35 Conference Proceedings. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 13(2), 65-79).

Colour Study

If you teach about the colour naming experiment by Berlin & Kay (cf. Kay, P., & Berlin, B. (1999). Basic color terms. New York: McGraw-Hill), you may want to have your students investigate whether and how speakers of the same language but of different genders name colours differently. You can have students collect paint chip sample cards from a hardware store and cut them apart so that the names are not showing, then ask respondents to categorise the chips by colour to see how many different categories are produced and what names are given to those categories. Some students also enjoy doing this project with students in different majors to see whether there is a difference in the responses of students of fine arts, liberal arts, business, or sciences.

Hesitation Study

You can have your students investigate stereotypes about whether men or women say "like" or "um/uh" more often. Have them select a task that forces respondents to think about the answer (for example, "Recite the alphabet backwards" or "Name the last five presidents/first ladies/prime ministers of Great Britain backwards") and pose as Jay Leno-style interviewers on the street. They can count the number of times a respondent says "like" in his or her answer, or how many times men and women say "um" versus "uh."

Language Show-and-Tell

One of the seemingly most obvious things that I overlooked about getting my introductory linguistics students interested in the subject matter of the class was that many people are fascinated by random details about things in other languages that they have never been exposed to. To help encourage students to explore this interest, you might consider assigning a "show-and-tell" project in which students do their own research on particular languages that they might not otherwise get a chance to become familiar with.

Come up with a list of languages from a diverse range of language families that have different features that your students may not ordinarily be exposed to (agglutinating languages, click languages, language isolates, sign languages, tone languages, etc.) and assign a different language to each student in the class. The student can prepare a 5-minute presentation on this language that covers where and by how many people it is spoken (you might refer them to Ethnologue for their research), what facts make it especially interesting, and, if applicable, a sound file or YouTube video of the language being spoken. (I discovered that students were never as excited as I was about talking about click languages until one of them asked if there were any YouTube videos of one being spoken, which there are). You can intersperse the presentations throughout the semester so that you only have to incorporate one or two a day, and you can schedule particular languages to coincide with phenomena you might want to lecture about. This can be a great way to get your students ready to start class and expose them to languages that you can't produce yourself rather than acting as the self-appointed omniscient expert. It's also an especially great activity for teaching about language diversity if your class includes a lot of students who haven't studied a foreign language.

Language Pedagogy Micro-Teaching

If you teach a linguistics or second language acquisition/foreign language pedagogy course in which most or all of the students have foreign language learning experience, a great project to incorporate into an SLA unit is micro-teaching. I adopted this idea from a graduate pedagogy class in which individual students took turns, at some point in the semester, teaching a mini-lesson in their foreign language, with each student teaching according to a different methodology or approach for foreign language pedagogy. The idea of this activity is to teach about pedagogy through example so that students can experience what a lesson in a given approach would be like. I adapted the idea for my introductory linguistics class when my students were primarily foreign language majors.

At the beginning of the semester, I always collect information on my students' language learning experience. For this project, I use that information to group them by language (to the extent possible; sometimes I have to combine students who have studied different languages, and I just require that those who are unable to do teaching in whichever language the group chooses for their demonstration do some of the explanatory presentation about the method in English).

I have students do a background reading on different pedagogical approaches that have historically been used (I use Omaggio Hadley, A. (2000). Teaching Language in Context (3rd ed.), pp. 106-129. Boston: Heinle). Then I assign each group to a different approach. I always cover the Grammar-Translation Method, the Audiolingual Method, and Communicative Approaches, and if I have additional students, I cover additional methods as well. I try to match languages with approaches that teachers of that language are most likely to follow, where possible; thus, if I have any Latin students, I have them teach Grammar-Translation, and I usually assign the Audiolingual Method to Japanese students and the Communicative Approach to Spanish or French students.

Students are required to come up with a short (5-7 minute) lesson in their foreign language to teach to the rest of the class that demonstrates the key properties of their assigned approach. Then, I ask them to do a 3-5 minute summary of their method in English and point out the rationale for the method, the key features that were demonstrated by their micro-teach, and what they think are strengths or weaknesses of the method. When all the groups have presented, we do a class discussion on our personal experiences learning languages through different methods, what we think has worked best and what has not, and why we feel that way. This is often a great opportunity for students who have only studied one language other than English to see how their opinions about language learning may have been shaped by what they have already been exposed to and to consider critically what they would do differently if they intend to become language teachers someday.

I also incorporate a self-reflection as part of the grade for this project in which I ask students to write (in less than a page) what they chose to do in their micro-teach, why they chose to do it for their assigned approach, and whether they thought it worked well in class or not. I include as part of the self-reflection an opportunity to report what they personally did to contribute to their group's preparation, and whether they feel any members of their group did not contribute equally.

The key to making this activity go smoothly is that students need to understand that the point of the lessons is to demonstrate teaching methods, NOT to teach about their language. Particularly if you have students who are teaching about a less-commonly taught language, you may find that the members of the class get excited about the opportunity to learn about these languages and derail the micro-teach by asking questions about the language that your micro-teaching students may be eager to answer, but which may not be informative about pedagogical methods. You need to be clear from the beginning that the purpose of the activity is to talk about teaching methods and not languages, and you may need to use a strict time-limit to cut off groups that go over if you have a limited amount of class time. (I typically only devote one class day to the presentations, and part of the previous class day for in-class preparation).

Linguistics Journals

I highly suggest incorporating a journal assignment into your course requirements. Your students will appreciate it because it can give them some easy homework points to compensate for what may seem like extraordinarily difficult problem sets. Lest you start to think that this is just a "soft" assignment, however, I like it as a teacher because it encourages students to look for connections between what we do in class and the way they see language being used in the world, and, more importantly, because it gives me a window into their thinking that I might not otherwise have. Journals provide my students with an opportunity to say what they are thinking so that I can see what they like and don't like about class, spot lingering misconceptions about points we've covered, get to know more about their individual personalities, and respond to them on a personal level with my feedback about what they've written. They are also especially useful if you are teaching students whose major is primarily something that you don't have much experience in; for example, if your class is geared to education majors and you have no education coursework in your background, you can find out a lot about what they are doing in their other classes, and how they are connecting those classes to yours, which comes in handy when you plan further lessons and activities. If that's not reason enough to use journals, they are both easy to grade and fun to read!

The key to a successful journal assignment is knowing what you want from your students and communicating it to them clearly. Decide whether you want them explicitly to journal about topics in the chapter you have been covering, whether you want each journal to be on a specific topic of your choice, whether you want them to focus on individual research and things they find outside of class, or whether you are open to anything that interests them (which I highly recommend). You should also decide whether you are willing to let the journal assignment serve as an open forum for students to discuss things they don't like about the class; I did this and I didn't have any problems with it, as I found that students were more likely to say they liked things I was doing but disliked things that the book said.

When you've decided what topics are acceptable, think about how you would assign a grade to each journal. How often are you going to collect journals? Do you care about the length of each entry or just want a certain number of pages turned in each time you collect them? Make sure you give explicit instructions about what you expect in terms of word count or page limits, spacing, fonts, and hand-written versus type-written copies. I also like to give my students fake journal entries that I have made up to illustrate what type of grade I would assign; I grade mine on a scale of "poor," "fair," "good," and "excellent" and show examples of what a journal entry that would earn each of those grades would look like.

You may also want to explore language and linguistics blogs to get an idea of what you might want to ask students to write about, or simply provide links to blogs to inspire your students or give them a topic-starter. You might be interested in looking at some of the following blogs:

General Commentary:
Language Log
Mr. Verb

New Words:
Word Spy

Varieties of English:
Separated by a Common Language
World Wide Words

Planning a Linguistics Syllabus

Hi there! My name is Elizabeth, and I'm your new resident, veteran teacher of introductory linguistics. Though I'm not currently teaching linguistics, I will try to share all the good ideas that I culled over my three years of teaching, as well as all the good ideas I continue to have that I wish I had come up with during those three years! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments section. In the meantime, I'll start with a post about how to plan a linguistics syllabus.

Teaching undergraduate linguistics often means that you have to come up with a syllabus, and sometimes select course materials, on your own. If you're used to teaching other courses where a supervisor does most of this work for you, this can be a big challenge the first time you do it. Here are some steps to follow if you are putting together your first syllabus for a linguistics course:

1. Define your end goals and work backwards.

The most important thing for your students is that they walk out of your class at the end of the semester with a well-rounded exposure to anything that they might be expected to know in any future class that requires yours as a prerequisite, and to anything that might be helpful to them in their particular field of study. You can't know what will be most useful for every student, but you can get a sense of who will be taking your class. Ask around the department: Is this class required for majors in a specific subject? (If so, how can you tailor the course to their needs?) What classes require your course as a prerequisite? (If there are any, try to find out what material gets covered in those courses, including what theoretical frameworks professors generally work in). Finally, what do other professors who teach linguistics expect introductory students to know?

Answering these questions will help you get a sense of what you absolutely have to cover, and whether certain topics are appealing to you or not, if the students need to know them, you need to spend time on them. It's an easy temptation to focus the bulk of your course on topics that you understand better or like more, but what's easiest or most fun for you is not necessarily going to be the best for your students. If you are primarily teaching education majors, first language acquisition should not be crowded out by too much focus on theoretical topics; likewise, if you are primarily teaching foreign language majors, you need to make sure second language acquisition gets covered. And regardless of who your audience is, you need to hit the "core" theoretical topics: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics.

2. Once you know your goals, begin reviewing textbooks.
If you have the option of selecting your own textbook, it will be easier to make a decision if you have an idea of what you want to cover before you start reviewing your choices. That way, you may be able to rule out texts that are substantially lacking in areas you feel a strong need to cover. Even if you are required to teach from a certain textbook, however, it is still a good idea to refer to others to look for additional information for your lectures or ideas for class activities and homework.

In selecting a textbook, ask yourself the following questions:
--Does this text cover all the topics I want to cover in my course? If not, how will I make up for the discrepancy when I teach on the missing topic(s)?
--How complex is the text? Is the level of complexity appropriate to the background level of the students I expect to be teaching?
--What theoretical assumptions are made in the text? Does it focus on the earliest theoretical advances (Sound Pattern of English, S-trees), or does it incorporate more up-to-date theories (Optimality, X-bar theory)? Are the theories covered appropriate given what I expect my students to do in future courses required for their major?
--What languages are covered in the text? Does it primarily focus on English or European languages? Are sign languages covered, and if so, are they treated in their own chapter or discussed within the context of other chapters? Are the choices made by the authors with regards to representing different languages appropriate for what I want my students to learn?
--How broad a range of homework and testing options are provided in the text? Are there a sufficient number of problems of the type I hope to assign? Do the problems range in complexity, or are they mostly similar in difficulty? Does the text provide example problems to show students how to formulate an answer? Are answer keys or a teacher's edition of the book provided? If not, do I feel confident that I can answer the questions myself and explain the answer to students? Is there a test bank with the text, or are there enough homework questions within the text that I have a wide range to select from in creating my own tests without having to repeat problems I have assigned as homework?
--Are there a large number of misprints or misconceptions printed in the text?

Some commonly assigned texts that you might consider are:
Bergmann, A., Hall, K. C., & Ross, S. M. (Eds.). (2007). Language Files: Materials for an Introduction to Language and Linguistics (10th ed.). Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press.
Curzan, A., & Adams, M. P. (2008). How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson Longman.
Denham, K., & Lobeck, A. (2010). Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Boston: Wadsworth.
Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., & Hyams, N. (2010). An Introduction to Language (9th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth.
O'Grady, W., Archibald, J., Aronoff, M., & Rees-Miller, J. (2010). Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction (6th ed.). Boston: Bedford St. Martin's.
Yule, G. (2010). The Study of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

You may also consider combining chapters from various texts to make a course packet if one single text does not fit your needs exactly.

3. Once you have a textbook, consult the academic calendar and plan your schedule.

Once you have selected a book, you can refine what you expect to teach, and it will be easier to decide how many days you are going to devote to each subject, and what order you want to cover subjects in. Your first step should be to make up a blank calendar that shows all the days your course will meet; block out the holidays right away so that you can work around them. Now you have to do several things: figure out how many lectures you want to give on each subject and in what order; figure out how many assignments you are going to give and when they will be due; and figure out how many tests you are going to give and when they will be.

Make a list of the subjects you absolutely have to teach first, and then a list of the ones you would like to cover if you have time. Count how many subjects are on your list and then look at the number of days available on your calendar. Subtract about five days for exams and review and divide by the number of subjects on your list; how many days can you spend on each subject? Is that reasonable? Are there any subjects you need to remove from your list due to time constraints? Then, go through your list and try to decide if any of those subjects may need an extra day due to their difficulty or if any of those subjects can be taught in less time. (Phonetics, phonology, syntax, and historical linguistics usually require more in-class explanation than other subjects for students to understand; plan accordingly). Revise your list of subjects until you are able to fit everything you need to cover, and as much as possible of what you want to cover, in your allotted time.

Next, you can think about how you would ideally assess these subjects. How many homework assignments or projects would you give? How many tests? How far in advance would you need to teach something before you would have an assignment due or a test on it? Will you have homework due before or after you've taught on it? How would you group subjects together if you are going to cover more than one subject on the same test?

Once you know these things, you can begin to decide what order you will teach subjects in and plug them into your calendar. You may have to adjust the number of days assigned to a subject or the order of subjects as you go to account for things like not wanting to assign something over a holiday or give a test right after one. You don't have to teach subjects in the same order that the textbook presents them, and you should figure out what makes most sense to you. There seem to be three common strategies for progressing through a course: starting with smallest units (phonetics, phonology) and building up to largest ones (syntax) before covering non-theoretical topics; starting with largest units and moving towards smaller ones (the former tactic in reverse); and starting with usage (sociolinguistics, pragmatics) and then moving into theoretical topics. Decide what makes most sense for you based on your goals for your students and the background knowledge you expect them to have. In the end, you will come out with a much more effective teaching plan if you let your overall goals for your students drive what you teach rather than letting the textbook or the calendar dictate how you make your planning decisions.

Kanji website

Hi all, Junko desu.

Today I wanted to share a useful website for teaching/learning kanji (one of the Japanese characters), called "Kanji alive"
This is very useful because you can look up pronunciation, meaning, and vocabulary with the kanji very easily.
For example, choose "pronunciation", "onyomi(chinese reading)", then type whatever you want to look up. Let's say「先(sen)」. then all the kanji with pronunciation of "sen" comes up. So you just choose the one you want. If you click the kanji, the demonstration of stroke order comes up as well as meanings and vocabulary. Now you are Kanji master!


Spanish: A jugar "stop"!

Hi everybody, Claudia here,

I would like to share a really fun game your students will definitely enjoy! The game has different names through out Latin America: stop, basta, tuti fruti, bachillerato stop.

The idea is to have a person, the teacher, draw random letters with out looking. When you call out the letter, the students need to fill out a table with different categories with words that start with that letter. Each category is worth 1 point and you add all the points in the row and write it in the total box. The tricky part is that it is a race! the first person who finishes has to say "stop" and everybody else has to stop writing. Then everybody gets to read their answers starting with the student who finished first. If someone is missing a category or wrote a wrong word they don't get that point. You can draw however many letters you wish and end the game by adding the total column to see who won the game.

You can choose to play this in small groups of 4 or do it as a whole class. I attached 2 different tables as examples so you can see how you can adapt the game for your class depending on the level of your students and the focus of the course. For example, you could use different categories such as authors, artists, books, etc. For the country category I always say that they can use a city as long as it isn't in the US.

I hope you like this game and that you use it in your classes! Please let me know how it works for you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Language Testing: Useful Websites

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share some more online resources, this time for Language Testing. Much of the information on these sites will be of more concern to those working in the field of Language Testing. However, these sites do contain valuable information which all language teachers can benefit from. If you know of any other useful links regarding Language Testing, please feel free to share with us. Enjoy!

International Language Testing Association (ILTA)

European Association for Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA)

Language Testing Resource Website

Monday, August 23, 2010

All Languages: Clipart Links

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share several links for Clipart that I have used for teaching. There are literally thousands of Clipart pictures on these sites! If you have any links to other Clipart sites, feel free to share with us! Enjoy!







Friday, August 20, 2010

News: New Team Member!

Hello all, Chris here with some more exciting news! We are now able to expand our Japanese content with the arrival of our newest team member, Shogo! Welcome, and we look forward to your posts!

Linguistics: Statistical Tests - T-test (for two independent samples)

Hello all, Chris here. There are a great variety of statistical tests used in linguistics and SLA studies and knowing the difference between one test and another can be quite confusing, especially for those new to the field. To help alleviate some of the confusion I will start a series of posts, each of which will briefly examine a different type of statistical test. We hope that you find these definitions useful! Questions and comments are welcome!

First up, we will look at the T-test. The T-test is a test which is typically used in SLA studies to compare the mean scores from two independent populations in order to determine whether the two averages are statistically different from one another.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

News: Expansion and another new team member!

Hello all, Chris here with some exciting news! We will be expanding the Language Teacher's Toolbox to include linguistics! There is of course a strong link between languages and linguistics and I believe that language teachers can benefit from having at least more than a passing familiarity with the major concepts and current research in linguistics. Toward that end we will be adding another team member, so please welcome Elizabeth to the team! She will be providing us with various teaching activities designed for linguistics classes. Language teachers will be able to draw insights from these as well!

Spanish: ¿Qué hora es? - Soap Opera

Hi all, Claudia here,

We all know that soap operas are a big part of Latin American culture. The following two videos are parts one and two of ¿Qué hora es?, a soap opera for "those who have only taken 3 weeks of Spanish in the fourth grade". These are really funny videos mocking soap operas that you can share with your students as part of a lesson on Latin American soap operas. You could have students in groups try to make up their own and act them out. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Spanish: Description Activity

Hi everyone, Claudia here,

I like this video because you can adapt it for different activities in any languge. I have used it mainly to have students describe actions and physical appearance using ser and estar in present tense. But I have also used it to make up stories in groups of what is going on in the video, which could be done in the past and progressive. It is a fun video and students like it, I hope you find it useful. Let me know if you can think of other activities we can do with it!

Friday, August 13, 2010

News: New Team Member

Hello all, Chris here. Today I'd like to welcome Ager to the team! Ager will be providing Spanish content for us and you can already check out his first post below this!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

German: Rent a Pocher bei Edeka

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share a funny video clip from the comedy show Rent a Pocher. Comedian Oliver Pocher goes around to various locations filling in for various jobs/occupations. These are usually pretty funny! Enjoy!

German: "Wetten, dass" Zungenbrecher Video

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share a funny video I found from the German show "Wetten, dass" which features a contestant going through several tongue twisters at an amazing speed! The show replays this at half speed and even then its still quite fast! Simply amazing! These feature several quite tricky tongue twisters which you can have your students try!

German: Zungenbrecher Site

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share a good site I found which contains several tongue twisters or Zungenbrecher in German! The site also contains several jokes and riddles.


Update: Reflexive Activity Complete

Hello all, Chris here. The article on reflexive verbs is now complete! Check here for the article!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spanish: First day of class activity

Hello everyone, Claudia here,

Ever wonder what to do on your first day of class? This is one activity I really like to do with my students. I ask them to sit in a circle and put everything away. I start by saying my name, "Mi nombre es", and then ask the student next to me to say his/her name.
After they say their name they have to repeat mine, then the following student has to say his/her name, say the name of the student before them and then mine.
This goes on until we reach the end of the circle. If a student can't remember a name, he/she asks "¿Cómo te llamas?" or "¿Cuál es tu nombre?" and the person has to answer accordingly.
In my experience, students find this game really fun! I usually go last and say everybody's name, or at least I try!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spanish: El Tango - Video

Hi all, Claudia here,

I would like to share a nice video on tango. This dance was born in Argentina and is very characteristic of the country. Tango is a fun part of Latin American culture you should share with your students. You can have follow up questions for your students when you show the video in class, or you could also have a disscussion on the different types of dances they are familiar with and see if they had the same beginning as tango. Enjoy!

Friday, August 6, 2010

German: Reflexive Verbs Activity - Daily Routine

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share a progression of activities to help students practice reflexive verbs, particularly those focusing on daily routines. There are of course numerous types of activities that can be done to help students practice these, from generic grammar drills to advanced role-plays. I am calling this a progression of activities for two reasons: 1) I try to avoid doing just one standalone activity when introducing grammatical or vocabulary concepts and 2) I find that simply having students work with something once and then moving on to something new does not help them retain the information. Instead I prefer to use a progression of activities which introduce, buildup, practice, evaluate, and advance the students' skills.

I will skip the grammar explanation for reflexive verbs here as that is best left to the teacher and will vary slightly between level and textbook. I will use the following set of reflexive verb phrases for this progression:

die Haare gekämmt                              die Zähne geputzt                   (etwas) angezogen/ausgezogen
die Haare gewaschen                           die Beine rasiert                      sich schminken (geschminkt)
die Haare gebürstet                              die Hände gewaschen             sich waschen (gewaschen)
die Haare geföhnt                                 sich duschen (geduscht)

A simple activity to begin with involves a partner activity where each student will pick one of these phrases and tell their partner what they have already done today. They will then ask their partner what he/she has already done?

Student A: Ich habe mir heute schon die Haare gewaschen? Und du?
Student B: Ich habe mir heute auch die Haare gewaschen. Oder Ich habe mir heute noch nicht die Haare gewaschen.

To followup on this activity and allow students to practice asking questions, I would have them do the following (with the same partner). Students should trade off between asking questions until they are comfortable with all of the phrases.

Student A: Hast du dir schon die Zähne geputzt?
Student B: Ja, ich habe mir schon die Zähne geputzt. Oder Nein, ich habe mir noch nicht die Zähne geputzt.

The next stage in the progression will be a group activity. For this I prefer having the students do interview activities and/or memory chain activities. For a description of memory chain activities, please visit this article.

Interview: Have students interview at least 5 other students in the classroom. They must find out which things their fellow students have (or have not) already done today using any of the previously learned phrases. Ask the students to write down the names of the people they interview as well as their responses.

Variation: Provide each student with a list of some of the activities. They must then try to find someone to answer affirmatively for each activity (brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc.). They must collect a signature from each student that answers affirmatively. However, they may not have the same student sign more than once. Ask the first student who finishes to read their answers. Ask the students who signed if they have indeed already done this activity: 'Hast du dir schon die Zähne geputzt?' etc.

Another activity that works well here is a memory chain activity. Have the students form two roughly equal groups and then have them stand in circles. Choose one student in each group to begin. They will state an activity they have already done. Proceeding clockwise, have the next student restate what the previous student(s) said followed by stating what activity they have already done. Each successive student will have to recall more and more information which forces everyone in the group to pay attention if they wish to finish the activity. For example:

1 Tom: Ich habe mich angezogen.
2 Marc: Tom hat sich angezogen. Ich habe mich geduscht.
3 Claudia: Tom hat sich angezogen und Marc hat sich geduscht. Ich habe mich geschminkt.

The last person in the group will have to recount what all of the previous students have done. This type of activity allows the students to practice the first and third person forms. To make the activity more challenging, you can have students restart the activity from the beginning if someone is unable to recount all of the information correctly. You can also have students practice the du and wir forms. When students are recounting what the person directly to their right has already done, have them use the du form. Whenever there are two or more people who have done the activity the student should use the wir form. For example,

1 Tom: Ich habe mir die Zähne geputzt.
2 Marc: Du (talking to Tom) hast dir die Zähne geputzt und ich habe mich geduscht.
3 Claudia: Tom und ich haben uns die Zähne geputzt und Marc had sich gesucht.

For homework, I find it helpful to assign the students a few fill in the blank activities which feature either dialogues or stories where the students will fill in the missing reflexive pronoun. These can vary from choosing either the correct accusative or dative pronoun such as mich vs. mir or an activity which features all of the pronouns.

Finally, to have the students actively practice using reflexive verbs and pronouns I would use the following role-play:

Divide students into groups of 3-4. The students are living together in a dorm/apartment and they all have busy schedules which will lead conflicts regarding bathroom use. Here you can have students use their actual schedules or provide each student with schedules which will conflict with one another. The students will have to come up with a schedule which will work for everyone. For the role-play each student should state their schedule and when they will require use of the bathroom. Following this, they must try to come up with a viable solution so that everyone will be able to use the bathroom at some point.

Hopefully the above activities will prove useful to you. Comments welcome!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

German Culture: Tipping in Germany

Hi all!

I've been asked a number of times about the customs regarding tipping in Germany. While the "round-up" of a bill at a bar or restaurant is fairly commonly known, I had to ask a friend about tipping taxi drivers and bellhops. He was kind enough to send me a link to an article in BILD that was full of all kinds of info. The article is in German.


German: Useful Site - Verein Deutsche Sprache

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share a link to a site which features an extensive list of Anglicisms that have found their way into German. This is an excellent resource for teachers in that it allows you to show your students just how great an influence English has on German and it also presents an opportunity to learn the 'proper' German word(s) for the Anglicisms as well. One note of caution is in order, as the site is very much concerned with maintaining the 'purity' of the German language and thus it can be a bit polemical. Please keep that in mind as you're using the site.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

German: Vienna Videos

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share a couple of interesting videos I came across which provide a nice tour of Vienna, allowing students to get a feel for the city. Enjoy!

German: Vienna Links

Hello all, Chris here. Today I would like to share some useful links for those teaching a lesson or unit on Vienna (Wien) as part of our ongoing series providing links to information on major cities in the various languages we teach. If you have any additional links you would like to share, please feel free to comment or send us an email at clteacherstoolbox@gmail.com











Sunday, August 1, 2010

News: Summer Update

Hello all, Chris here. Summer vacation is slowly coming to a close and as the new school year approaches we are looking forward to bringing you more content across more languages than ever! Starting in August, look for more exciting content from us than ever before! If you haven't had time to check the site much over the summer, I encoruage you to go back and look at all the excellent posts from May-July! We are very close to bringing you custom videos in Spanish, French, German, and Japanese which you can use in your langauge courses! There will be a wide variety of videos available and best of all, they will be free and easily accessible! We will also be adding more Facebook-only content, so if you haven't already, please visit our Facebook site and become a fan! Stay tuned for an exciting year!



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