On Saturday, our group traveled to Postdam, which is just outside of Berlin, to have a scavenger hunt! The purpose of this was to get a feel of the city without having a regular guided tour. We were given a booklet with our tasks and a map of the city, and once we got to the train station, all of us took off! I was partnered with Camey, and we called ourselves Team Harlaxton because we both studied at Harlaxton during college! Team Harlaxton found the first item in the list, the Film Museum (pictured below), and then we set off for the Dutch Quarter (also pictured below). On the way, we saw a band playing at a festival that was going on in the city.
Throughout the scavenger hunt, we visited the Nauener Gate, the original Brandenburg Gate (we saw the bigger, more famous one in Berlin), and the Sanssouci Palace. At each stop on the scavenger hunt, we had to take pictures with the WKU Red Towel.
I really liked doing the scavenger hunt because it was a much more engaging way to visit the city and see the most important aspects. It also caused us to ask people in shops or on the streets for information, which allowed us to get more personalized information from people from Potsdam. This would be a good idea for a field trip with a group of older students. Obviously, it would need to be a much smaller area, but the idea is definitely one that I can use in the future for my own classroom!
Here are a few more pictures from around Potsdam!
Sunday was our last morning in Berlin. After breakfast, we took a train to Werne, which is the town where our school is. On the train, I got to read and take a quick nap! I also had a snack that I had bought from the market in Berlin. The snack was called “Jumpys”, and they are small kangaroo shaped puffy crackers! They were cute but also delicious!
Once we arrived in Werne, my host family picked me up! I had been emailing them back and forth for a few months, but it was so nice to finally meet Sarah, Matias, and their daughter Paula, who is 1! Paula and I have become great friends over the last few days here!
When we arrived at their home, we had afternoon coffee and cake (a tradition that I am bringing home to the US). We walked around and met many members of Sarah’s family and went on a walk to the castle that is a short walk away from their home. The kids were all feeding the ducks at the water.
After having pasta for dinner, we watched a movie (in English), and spent some more time getting to know each other.
Tuesday was our first day at school! We are at the Anne Frank Gymnasium (AFG) in Werne, and my host mom is a teacher there! The family lives a little outside of Werne, so it was nice to have a ride to school with her.
For the first day, we all went with Heike (the coordinator of the program) to her classes. There are many differences between German and American schools, and one of the first things I noticed was that the teachers do not each have their own classroom. Instead, the students stay in one classroom, and the teachers go from room to room to teach.
Another major difference is that the AFG has students from 5th through 12th grade, and the classes are not all the same each day. Additionally, the schedule is different. There is a 90 minute class and then a 25 minute break. This is followed by another 90 minute class and another 20 minute break. Then there is a 45 minute class, a 5 minute break, and another 45 minute class. After this is lunch, and students do not have to stay at school for lunch. Many students live very close by, so many of them go home for lunch. Lunch is 45 minutes long. Also, some students or teachers may not have classes after lunch, so not everyone stays at school the entire day each day of the week.
Heike’s first class was 9th grade English, and the students were learning how to write cover letters. All of us student teachers got to help small groups of students start their cover letter. I enjoyed working with students and getting to know them a little bit! I also liked that this was something that students in 9th grade were learning because I did not have practice writing cover letters until just a few months ago as I began applying for jobs! I wish that we had learned things like this in high school so that we as American students could be even more prepared for job applications.
In Heike’s next class, she had 5th grade English. These students were learning directions and had created a map on the smart board that had locations and street names in a town they called “Creative City”. In this class, they practiced asking for directions from place to place and giving an answer. In her 6th grade English class, we all sat in a circle with the students and discussed things we like to do, places we would like to go, and food that we like to eat in Bowling Green. I was impressed with the abilities of both classes of students!
The last class before lunch was a religion class, and the students in the class gave us tours of the school. I liked that she had the students show us around because it gave us a chance to see the school and ask the students questions about their experience at the school. All of the students seemed to be very fluent in conversation with us.
At lunch, my host mom and I both had no more classes for the day, so the two of us left school to come home. After stopping at the grocery store (grocery shopping is hard when you don’t know any German words), we had lunch at home, and I played with Paula for a little bit. They decided to take me to Münster for the afternoon, which was about 35 minutes away. In Münster, they showed me some of the main attractions. The town hall was very beautifully built, and there was a church which had cages hanging in the air, which were used as a prison of some sort. They put people in there to make an example of the person and to try to show others what would happen if they did something that was considered wrong.
We stopped and had coffee before visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral. My host parents got me an English version of the book about the cathedral, which was very helpful to learn about the cathedral.
I helped prepare dinner that night, which was potatoes, carrots, and sausage.
On Tuesday morning, I finally got my schedule for the week! Several of us went with a German teacher to her 11th grade class, and she was nice enough to hold the class in English for the day so that we knew what was going on. The students had just finished reading “Foust”, a very famous German play. The teacher and students explained the play to us, and the students began discussing who in the story was at fault the most for all of the deaths in the play. I was very impressed with their high-level vocabulary in English. The teacher wrote on the board the reasons that the students were saying, which helped the students stay organized. She also instructed them to take notes from the discussion. The teacher was very engaging and did a great job of keeping the students excited about the discussion. She did a lot of questioning and scaffolded her questions, which are techniques that we have learned in our education classes.
My next class was another 11th grade class, but it was an English class. There were many more students in this class. There were 27, which is around how many students were in most of my student teaching classes in the States; however, I was told that most classes at the AFG are only around 20. I do like the smaller classes better because it helps the teacher get to know the students more, and it allows for more individualized instruction.
In this class, a group of 6 students gave a presentation about India, which is the topic of study right now. I like that the English classes have a focus on other countries as well as their own. I was very impressed with the fluency of the students in their portions of the presentation, and I liked that the presentations were a good way for public speaking practice, as well as practice of their English skills. It is also more interesting for students to do their own research and present it for the class than to always have the teacher instructing. While the groups taught, there were 6 students in the class that were providing feedback for the members on a feedback sheet. I liked hearing the students give each other constructive critiques on how they could improve and for what they did well on. The students also took notes on a handout while listening to the presentation. This helped all students stay engaged during the class.
My other class of the day was an 8th grade English class. I loved being in this class because it is the grade I was with during the rest of the semester of student teaching! The teacher was wonderful, and she did a great job of keeping students engaged during the lesson. She had good control of the class, and she had a good personality that helps with this age of students. The class was broken up into several activities: teacher questioning and discussion, a portion to work individually, a portion to discuss, another portion to work with a partner, and finally the last few minutes to work with a bigger group. This helped the students stay on topic and working during each of the smaller portions of time, which is a really good strategy for this age group. The strategies I learned during my education classes are very similar for this age group! She also used good handouts with short reading passages and guided the students to make a Venn Diagram during part of the lesson to compare German and American high schools. I took lots of notes on the teacher’s strategies, and I will definitely be revisiting these notes as I start planning my own lessons.
After school, my host mom took me to Dortmund, which is south of Werne. We had a nice afternoon spending time in the city! There is a building which is used for many different purposes, but it had a nice lookout at the top that displayed the entire city.
Last night, we picked up dinner, and I tried dönner, which is similar to a gyro. It was very delicious and very filling!
Today at school, I observed two 11th grade English classes. During the first one, the teacher went over a test that the students had just taken. She went over some of the mistakes that were common for the class. She also provided me with a copy of their exam, which allowed me to see that the test had a reading portion, a writing portion, and a listening portion. This really tested their ability in many different ways, which is a really great and effective way of measuring what students know.
The other class was the same 11th grade English class from yesterday. There was another presentation about India by a student who visited a few years ago. The students were much more interested in this presentation because the student talked about her own experiences in India and connected them with the content. She also showed her own pictures, which was very interesting! The students asked many more questions after this presentation, which showed they were interested and engaged in her presentation. I will definitely be using presentations when applicable for my future classes because of the benefits for all students.
This afternoon, I had a late lunch with my host family and had some time to rest and to blog. My birthday is on Friday, and my family is planning on throwing me a birthday party and inviting all of the other student teachers! I am SO excited and grateful that they care about me and want to make sure my time here is wonderful. Another student teacher and I will be traveling to Hamburg for the weekend, and we are going to meet my cousin Haley who is staying in Prague for a year! I am so glad that I am going to get to see Haley after long months of planning to see each other while I am in Germany!!!
I have only been at the school for a few days, but I can already tell that I am learning a lot and that this trip is going to have countless benefits for me in my future classroom!