Sunday, January 31, 2010

News: January Summary

Hello all, Chris here.

As January draws to a close I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the site this month as well as those who have come to the site as followers!  I encourage our followers to become actively involved in the site by commenting on our posts. If you have an activity, link, or other teaching related content you would like to share with the community please send us an email at I would also encourage you all to share the site with your colleagues so that we can continue to grow a vibrant and diverse community of language teachers!

Japanese: Sushi video

One of the most famous Japanese foods must be sushi.

This is a funny video of sushi with lots of (untrue) jokes.

Once I showed this to my students and had them guess which one was true and not true.

They enjoyed it so much!
You can guess which one is true!

News: Discover Languages Month

Hello all, Chris here, and today I have some news to share. February is ACTFL's Discover Languages Month! For those looking for more information and how you can get involved, follow the link.

Japanese: Vocab bingo

Hi all, Junko here.

In the beginning of a new chapter, we always spend one day only for new vocabulary (I'm not sure if this is necessary, but that's what our syllabus says!)

Just "teaching(lecturing)" new vocabulary is not much fun even if I use lots of authentic pictures, so here is what I do.

Prepare a blank bingo sheet. You can easy make one with Excel.

Here are the steps.

1. Have your students fill out all the blanks with the new vocabulary.

2. Then have them think about questions that they can make using the grammars from the previous chapter, and the new vocabulary.

Ex: Which do you like better, skirts or jeans?
What kind of fruits do you like the best?

3. A student asks one question to a classmate. If the classmate answers grammatically correctly, the student can cross the blank. Keep asking until all the blanks get crossed.

Students have to ask 9 different questions to 9 classmates.

This is a good way to have them memorize new words while having fun!

Friday, January 29, 2010

French: Documentary and Worksheet on Lyon for Advanced Learners

Hi, Aurore there. Today I would like to share with you and your students this video about a beautiful city. Art lovers are going to love it! You'll see renowned painted walls that are a part of the cultural heritage of the city, and their historical explanations. You will find a worksheet below for advanced students.

Fiche de travail « Murs peints de Lyon ».

1. Quel est l’un des fleuves de Lyon ?

2. Dans quel but les murs peints sont-ils apparus ?

3. Quand les premiers murs peints ont-ils été réalisés ? Combien la ville de Lyon en compte-t-elle ?

4. Qu’est-ce qu’un trompe l’œil ?

5. Citez des noms de quartiers lyonnais.

6. Quel est le legs de La Martinière ?

7. Pourquoi le mur peint décrit a la fin est-il important pour la ville de Lyon?

French: Documentary & Worksheet for Advanced Learners

Bonjour Aurore here,

today I would like to share a short documentary on Algeria which will make you and your students travel and be warmer. Please see below for the video as well as a set of questions related to the documentary. Questions and comments welcome!

Fiche de travail sur “Ghardaïa”, Emission Echappées belles de France 5.
1. Où se trouve cette ville ?
2. Que veut dire « calciné »? 
3.  D’où vient la communauté religieuse dont il est question ? Quand s’est-elle installée ?
4.  Quelle est la particularité de cette école de pensée ?
5.  Sur quoi le mode de vie de cette communauté est-il calqué ?
6.  Qu’est-il interdit de faire dans cette cité ?
7.  Quelles sont les 2 conditions pour conclure une vente sur le marché ?
8. Comment se résolvent les conflits ?
9. Comment les hommes sont-ils arrivés à irriguer la ville ?
10. Qu’en est-il de la tenue vestimentaire des femmes ?
11. Quel est l’emploi du temps typique d’un écolier ?
12. Pourquoi est-il important d’enseigner la rigueur dans cette région ?
13. Quels sont les deux mots qui contrastent avec le conservatisme ambiant ?

Spanish: Pirámide

Hello everyone, Claudia here,

I would like to share a fun vocabulary activity I have used for a while in my classes. First you need to prepare a list of vocab words you have been working on with your students and set them up in two pyramids. Before you show the words to your students you need to have them sit with a partner, facing each other and making sure that one of them has his/her back towards the board or screen and the other one is facing the screen. Once everybody is positioned correctly, you put up the words in the pyramid on the screen (or board if you don't have a computer and screen). The students facing the screen then describe each word to his/her partner using only Spanish and the partner has to guess what the word is. When they are done they switch places, they normally like seeing what words they missed so you can leave the first pyramid up while they rearrange and then you show the other pyramid for the second round of guessing.

I find that my students really enjoy this game after they have tried it a few times. You need to make sure you walk around the groups and help them if you see they are stuck, for example, you can help them by saying that the word is a verb, or that it is similar to another word, etc. It also helps if they have the list of all the vocabulary words from the chapter or unit in front of them, like the ones at the end of the chapters in some books.

You can choose to give them certain amount of time for each round or have them switch as soon as one of the groups has finished guessing all the words from the first pyramid. Also, if you want to make the game more challenging, you can have them start at the bottom of the pyramids and work their way up to the top. It all depends on the level of your class and what you see more fit for them.

This is an example of one of my pyramids from a past class, you should try it out and let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Group Activities: Guessing Game - Two Truths and a Lie Variant

Hello all, Chris here.

Today I would like to share a fun group activity which allows you to focus on some cultural and historical elements as well. Our students are already aware of several famous Germans, both current and historical figures. Throughout the typical sequence of language courses they come to know several more. I created this guessing game to serve as both a refresher and review activity to see how many famous Germans people could come up with.

To begin the activity I had each student decide on a famous German (past or present) and to write down three clues describing that person. To make the activity a little more challenging I instructed the students that two of their clues should be true while one should be false.

Once all of the students were finished I divided the class randomly into four groups. The game starts when a student from group 1 reads their three clues to the rest of the class. Each of the other three groups has one chance to guess at the mystery person's identity. If a group guesses correctly, award them a point. Proceed this way for the remaining groups and then repeat the process. Once all students have finished tally up the points to see which group has won.

To add a little bit of strategy to the game, you could have students only read one clue at first and then give the other groups a chance to guess. Should they answer correctly with just one clue then award them 3 points. If no group wants to wager a guess then have the student read a second clue. Again, allow the other groups to make a guess if they want to. If any group answers correctly award them 2 points. Finally, if no group has answered after two clues, then have the student read the final clue and award a single point for any correct answer.

This activity can be very entertaining and forces the students to do a little bit of research and features both a written and oral component. It is also easily adaptable for any language and level.

I hope you have found the above activity to be useful! Questions and comments welcome!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Speaking Activities: Scrambled Info Search

Hello all, Chris here.

Today I have another activity type to share called a Scrambled Info Search. This is a fun activity that
simultaneously involves the entire class and offers students a chance to practice asking questions. The activity is also adaptable for a variety of topics and levels. For this example, the topic will be hobbies.

To begin the activity, I have each student write down one of their hobbies on a scrap piece of paper. Once they are finished I collect the answers and then randomly redistribute them to the students. In the event that a student does happen to get their answer returned you can switch their answers with another one. You may also wish to write a few false answers of your own and include these among the sheets you pass back to the students while keeping that number of original answers from being returned. Once all of the students have a sheet returned to them they must then attempt to find the original owner by going around the class and asking their fellow students. For example if a student chose to write 'I like playing sports' then a student would have to ask fellow classmates 'Do you like to play sports?' until the correct owner is found.

This is the basic activity. There are several ways to adapt the activity or add further steps or requirements to enhance it. These will be discussed in a future post. Questions and comments welcome!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Group Activities: Memory Chains

Hey all, Chris here.

Today I would like to share a fun technique for group activities which allows all students the chance to participate and simultaneously forces them to pay attention! This technique is easily adaptable and scalable for various class sizes and levels. It can also be used for a variety of lessons and topics, from pure grammar practice to advanced conversation.

Using a memory chain as the basis for an activity or as an enhancement to one is rather simple. I will provide an example of how I used this activity as part of introductions on the first day of a class.

First I put up 3 questions on the board:

Wie heißt du? (What is your name?)
Wie alt bist du? (How old are you?)
Welche Hobbies oder Interessen hast du? (What are your hobbies?)

The number and/or difficulty of questions is entirely variable. The more questions you have the more students will have to remember which makes for a more challenging activity.

I then divided the students into groups and instruct them to form a circle. Larger groups make for a more challenging activity. If your students are lower level I would suggest limiting the group size to 5 or 6 students with 2-3 questions. For more advanced classes I have used 3-4 questions with groups of around 10-12 students.

Another alternative is to have the class act as one big group in which case there is only one question.

I demonstrate how the activity begins by asking a student in one of the groups the aforementioned questions. After the student finishes answering they turn to the student to their left and ask 'Und du? (and you?) The student will also answer the questions and must then restate the previous student's answers. This requires the student to use the 3rd person form to answer. The activity continues as subsequent students must answer answer the questions for themselves while also having to remember what each of the previous students answered. Needless to say, the last student in the circle will have the most difficult task.

This activity is an excellent way for students to practice verb conjugations in the first and second person form.

As an additional challenge, you can stipulate that if any student cannot remember what the previous students have answered or states any incorrect information, the group must start over at the beginning.

To add in practice of the plural 'wir' (1st person plural in German) you could ask students to also remember anything they share in common with other students in the group. After they have completed the circle you could ask them to report on these - such as 'Tom und ich kommen aus Chicago' or 'Sarah und ich sind zwanzig Jahre alt'.  

The teacher should monitor the groups to make sure the students are making progress and to help out if there are any questions. It may even be helpful to join  a group and participate.

As a preparation for future activities, the teacher may wish to jot down notes on student responses which could for example be used in a Jeopardy style game where students would guess which of their classmates provided the answers.

Overall, this is a fast and fun way of ensuring all students participate and its great adaptability and ease of use are helpful for newer and more experienced language teachers alike. As with any type of activity, overuse is not advised as students will quickly tire of it.

Questions and comments welcome!

German: Das Currywurstmuseum

Hi all, Chris here, and today we have a guest post from Christiane about the Currywurstmuseum in Berlin.

Check out a videolink here:

Christiane also added some accompanying questions for the video :
1) Wo liegt das Currywurst Museum?
2) Wie sind die Anekdoten und Geheimnisse der Currywurst (3 Adjektive)?
3) Wie ist das kreative Design rund um die Wurst und ihre Zutaten (3 Adjektive)?
4) Für wen ist die Ausstellung?
5) Was kann man hier erfahren?
6) Wie kann man die Currywurst erleben?
7) Was kann man in der Gewürzkammer entdecken?
8) Wozu lädt das Deutsche Currywurst Museum ein (3 Aktivitäten)?
9) Was gibt es für Kinder im Deutschen Currywurst Museum?
10) Was sagen die Besucher über das Currywurst Museum (4 Aussagen)?
11) Was finden echte Fans im Museumsshop (3 Dinge)?
Overall, this is a nice bit of cultural information that can easily be added to
a unit on Berlin or even as part of a unit on German food. Questions and comments welcome!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Using Movies in Your FL Class

Hi everyone! Becky here. Below I have included some ideas for working with movies including pre-viewing, while watching and post-viewing activities.

Ideas for working with movies:

Tailor activities to use in your class in conjunction with specific moments in the curriculum. To focus on specific objectives (for example, listening comprehension and making suggestions) and content (such as cultural, communicative, grammatical and lexical).

Pre-viewing Ideas:

1: Start a conversation about the central topics of the movie. Have students observe relevant images or symbols and comment. Look at the map and discuss the geographic location, why the setting is important and what life might be like for people that live there. Look at the DVD cover and try to determine who the character is, where he or she might be, what kind of movie it is, what are typical characteristics of this movie genre, etc. According to your experience, what opinion do many North Americans have of this person? Are there people in your country that generate such a reaction?

2: Show the trailer. After seeing it the first time without sound, have students comment about what they have seen and try to predict what the movie will be about. Use questions like: What kind of mive do you think this is? Where does it take place? What socioeconomic background do the characters come from? What can you tell about the characters? Then, hand out phrases and fragments of the dialog from the trailer. After the second (and maybe even third) time without sound, have students put pieces of the dialog from the trailer in order according to the images. After students have put the dialog in order according to what they see, turn on the sound and watch the trailer one more time. Have students correct the order if necessary after viewing. (Suggestion: Create a word document, put the phrases in order, print two copies, keep one for you and cut the other one up and hand out the pieces in mixed order and have students arrange them as a class).

3: Present pictures and descriptions of movie characters and have students match descriptions with pictures after seeing the trailer. Have them revise their answers throughout the movie.

During the movie:

4: Always instruct students to take note of new or interesting vocabulary for post-viewing discussion. During the film, show English subtitles to help students match what they hear with what they read. For shorter movie clips in other classes, I find it helpful to play the clip without subtitles so that students must really try to understand what characters say in context through listening. While showing movies and movie clips on the computer, my students and I find it helpful to pause the movie to point out vocabulary preceding a scene or to listen to important or difficult short sections multiple times until students understand what they are hearing. I often stop the clip or full film at crucial or difficult moments to check for comprehension, to allow students time to complete sections of worksheets and to answer questions. Create a post-viewing activity in which students must recall the context of given colloquial expressions or provide the context and have students come up with their own definitions and employ the expression in a new context.

5: Have students perform several activities in order (according to the chapter of the DVD for organizational purposes).

Chp 1 - Expressions with a specific verb fill in the blank to complete the word and put synonym next to it so the student understands the meaning.

Chp 2 - What do the following phrases mean? Try to define them according to the context you hear them in.

Chp 3 – Listen and choose. Copy the entire dialog and focus on a lexical aspect to have students choose the correct form or word choice based on what they hear.

Chp 4 – Complete the table with the results of the meeting/conversation that took place in the movie.

Chp 5 – Listen and complete the dialog according to what you hear.

Chp 6 – Have the dialog prepared and ask students to indicate who said what by placing the characters’ initials next to each phrase.

Post-viewing discussion:

6. Answer comprehension questions orally. (If you had been there, what would you have done? Include expressions you are working with in class.) Match the colloquial expressions from the movie with the expressions on the right that mean the same thing. Classify the following words and expressions in four groups. Read words and interviews from the director and comment.

7. Choose a crucial moment in the movie and re-enact the scene allowing each person to vote for the decision they think is right. Relate the movie with a historical moment in the target culture when relevant (in the case of the movies I work with, the United States). Discuss art as a historical witness.

8. Hold an interview panel in which a talk show host (one of the students) interviews various characters from the historical moment and the movie (other students). In such an activity the talk show host directs the conversation between the director of the movie, characters from the movie, and other historically important people of the time so that each student practices the language orally and also must be familiar enough with each figure to be able to play his/her part.

Sample Lesson Plans:

Materials: Internet (at least to prepare the movie clips from Youtube; you can save them to your hard drive or your jump drive if your teaching location does not have internet at the following websites:, ), computer and projector OR DVD player and TV to play videos

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

German: Zungenbrecher 1

Hey all, Chris here,

today I am going to start what will be the first in a series of posts for German tongue twisters. These are always fun for students to try and can be used not only for illustrating grammatical or pronunciation points but can also be culturally relevant as well as tongue twisters which are dialect-specific. I will begin by sharing a few commonly known ones:

Fischers Fritze fischt frische Fische;
Frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritze.

Nickende Nichten und wippende Fichten


Am Zehnten Zehnten um zehn Uhr zehn zogen zehn zahme Ziegen zehn Zentner Zucker zum Zoo.

blaues Brautkleid

Bierbrauer Bauer braut braunes Bier, braunes Bier braut Bierbrauer Bauer

Schnecken erschrecken, wenn Schnecken an Schnecken schlecken, weil zum Schrecken vieler Schnecken, Schnecken nicht schmecken.

If you have any tongue twisters that you would like to share for German (or any other language) please feel free to comment or send us an email.

German: Funny German Coastguard Commercial

Hey all, Chris here,

today I have a quick little video to share. This is a very funny commercial in German spoofing the German Coastguard. Enjoy!

  • What type of activity could you plan using this video?

French: Vidéo Florence Foresti, « Plus folle que jamais: avec une fiche sur le vocabulaire et expressions idiomatiques

 Hello all, Aurore here,

Vidéo Florence Foresti, « Plus folle que jamais », 4 :49.

• Vocabulaire :

Emballer qqn : draguer, et que ça marche

Les mains moites : les mains humides

Bouillonner : de rage ou avoir chaud

Dégouliner : transpirer à grosses gouttes

Mordiller le lobe de l’oreille de qqn : peut être glamour…ou pas

Le coup de boule : un coup de tête

Les coulisses : ce qui se passe hors scène

Se trémousser : bouger les fesses

Je vais lui griffer le dos avec mon pouce

La nuque : l’arrière du cou

Labourer : sens figuré ici, enfoncer son ongle en suivant une ligne

Cicatriser : une blessure qui se referme

• Expressions idiomatiques :

Etre un pot de colle/Coller qqn/être collante

Se faire des idées : se faire un film

Libère la Shakira qui est en toi : bouge ton corps comme Shakira

Ça fouette !: ça pue, ça sent mauvais

Se taper un moche : sortir avec un moche

Je lui fais de l’effet : quand on ne laisse pas quelqu’un indifférent

Cocotter : sentir mauvais

Tomber dans les vapes : tomber dans les pommes/s’évanouir

Se foutre de la gueule de qqn : se moquer de qqn

Je le rends dingue : je le rends fou

Sortir le grand jeu : mettre les petits plats dans les grands

Il va kiffer sa race : expression vulgaire, il va beaucoup aimer

Etre givré : être dingue, taré

Je suis au bord du scandale : je vais avoir une attitude scandaleuse

Il est à bloc : il est à fond

Il ne sait même plus comment il s’appelle : il ne sait plus où il habite

Friday, January 15, 2010

Useful Site: TeAchnology

Hey all, Chris here,

today I have another useful site to share called TeAchnology. It is not a language-specific site and features a great deal of interesting activities and materials. One such application is a Bingo card generator that can be used for all types of Bingo games such as vocabulary Bingo etc. Take a look. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

German: Berlin Museumsinsel Interactive Site

Hey all, Chris here,

I found an informative site for the Museumsinsel in Berlin. It is an interactive flash site with videos for the various museums there. This site could serve as the basis for an activity on Berlin, art, architecture, museums, or as part of a larger unit on Berlin or German art in general. Check it out and let us know what you think. Enjoy!

Update: Link Within Feature Added!

Hey all, Chris here, today I am happy to announce that we have added a pretty cool feature to the Language Teacher's Toolbox which will help you find related topics. Below each post you will find a small section that will present you with links to other posts dealing with similar topics. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

German: The Evolution of German Language Teaching

Hi all, Chris here,

I just came across an interesting article on the Goethe-Institut site dealing with the development of German language teaching. It is definitely worth reading and contains a few funny videos as well. This is an informative article for those wishing to learn how German language teaching has changed and how German is taught at the Goethe-Institut. Check it out here. Comments and discussion welcome!

Useful Sites: German

Hey all, Chris here,

I have scoured the Internet for useful sites for German and German language teaching. If you have any more to add please feel free to comment or send us an email. Enjoy!

German Grammar and Language/Online Games/Activities

German News, TV, and Radio

Culture & Misc.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Numbers: Bingo!

Hey all, Chris here, today I will be sharing a fun activity that can be used in any language to help students with learning the numbers. I use this activity in lower level classes as a fun way to practice numbers with students. Directions are below. Enjoy!

 Mit Bingo Nummern (1-100) Lernen (Learning Numbers with Bingo)

    B              I              N            G             O


Directions: Before the game, students fill out their Bingo cards from a range of numbers for each letter. Students must write the number out – no numerals. The ranges are listed below. The instructor then calls out numbers randomly until a student has a Bingo. The student must read aloud his/her numbers to make sure that they match numbers called by the instructor. The instructor may call on a student to call out numbers as well.

B = 1-19
I  = 20-39
N = 40-59
G = 60-79
O = 80-100 

This activity is used purely as a teaching activity. No challenge to anyone holding the rights to Bingo is intended. 

Spanish: Refranes

Hi all, Claudia here,

A fun way to get your students to learn about Spanish culture is through sayings or proverbs. One activity I like to do with my students is to divide the class in small groups of 3 or 4 and have each group pick a random saying. Each group then tries to understand their saying and find an equivalent for it in English. They then explain it as a group to the class and share the equivalent in English as well, using only Spanish of course! This is really fun because sometimes they act out what they're trying to explain when the rest of the class doesn't understand.

A good wrap up for this activity I've done in the past is to play a song in Spanish that uses some of the sayings gone over in class and have the students identify it. A song I've used in the past is La Tortura by Shakira. This way they connect the sayings to real context and it even helps them understand the meaning of the songs a little better.

Here is a helpful site with a list of popular Spanish sayings and their meanings

You should try it out and let me know how it works for you!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

German: Grammar Puzzle

Hello all, Chris here,

today I have a short activity that I like to give students sometimes. This can be used alone or as a question on a quiz or test. Students are given a list of various grammatical topics which lists items such as Modal Verbs, Passive Voice, Future Tense, etc. The students will be asked to write a sentence using a certain number of these categories. This is just to see if they can combine the various features they learn into a single sentence and can be quite challenging depending on which categories they choose and how many you assign. Below is a quick example I would use in a German course:

Schreiben Sie einen Satz, der 5 der folgenden grammatischen Strukturen verwendet:

Modal verb, Dative verb, Subjunctive mood, Passive voice, Relative clause

Present tense, Coordinating conjunction, Present perfect tense, Infinitive clause, Subordinating conjunction

Questions and comments welcome!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Useful Links - Update

Hey all, Chris here,

I've re-added the useful link sections for ESL, German, and Spanish thus far. This was a necessary step after redoing the website template. All links should be in working order. I removed a few from the ESL section that no longer functioned or were redundant.

If you have any links you would like to add, for any language, or just general teaching related sites, feel free to drop a comment or email us! Enjoy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Group Activities: Gossip Game

Hello everyone, Becky here.

Are you interested in some gossip? Read on...

Gossip is an AWESOME game that I use with many tenses and it is great for teaching any language. You will have to divide the class into 2 groups and have both sit in a separate circle. Group 1 will discuss as a group who from group 2 fits the description for each number (everybody in the group must agree upon the same person and avoid repeating the same name twice) and vice versa. (You monitor this, which is actually really fun, you're the go-between!) Then when all the blanks are filled on both sides, You will ask someone from group 1 to read number 1. Group 2 has to listen intently to what the student in group 1 is saying and for which name he/she says and then the group 2 person mentioned must say yes or no and use the first person in a complete sentence confirming or denying his/her accusation's correctness. Then I always engage students in more conversation about what they confirm or deny and tend to get some pretty funny stories once in a while. Afterwards, the student from group 2 who has confirmed or denied will read the first sentence about someone from group 1 and the activity continues that way. Insisting upon the use of complete sentences for this activity is crucial so that students actually get meaningful practice. Students everywhere love this one! Enjoy!

Group 1 talks about Group 2
1. In primary school __________________ always obeyed  his parents.
2. In primary school __________________ always received good grades.
3. In primary school __________________ always fought with other kids.
4. In primary school __________________ never arrived to class on time.
5. In primary school __________________ read a lot.

Group 2 talks about Group 1
In primary school ____________________ always had boyfriends/girlfriends.
In primary school ____________________ made friends with the popular group.
In primary school ____________________ played many sports.
In primary school ____________________ wore trendy clothes.
In primary school ____________________ fought with his/her parents often.


Teaching Topics

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