Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sometimes it's the Little Things

It's fitting that my first blog post in a while is about teaching, since teaching is what has kept me from blogging. I'm not complaining - I spend a lot of my free time preparing lessons and creating worksheets, but I enjoy that!

If you were hoping for something about Christmas, I can refer you to these posts from previous years:

 Advent in Deutschland
 Heiligabend (How we spend our Christmas Eves)
 Christmas Eve to Boxing Day (Plan ahead, because everything's closed!)
 Supermarket madness around the holidays
 Staying warm in the winter despite Lüften

I'm also planning to write more in the next two weeks about whatever holiday topics I haven't covered yet.

What I want to write about today, though, is something fun that happened in class yesterday during a grammar lesson. "Fun? And Grammar?," you say? Absolutely! We were combining two concepts we've learned in the last few weeks - adjective endings and comparatives/superlatives. For those of you who haven't learned German and have therefore never had to live through the horror of learning about adjective endings, consider yourselves lucky. The creators of the German language came up with this system to torture foreigners. I'd still like to know what they were smoking. It's widely believed that suspected criminals in Germany during the Middle Ages were tortured with sharp instruments heavy wheels, and frightening devices. No, no, no. That wasn't necessary at all. The sadistic beasts just locked their charges in cold, dark, solitary cells until they could correctly say "The nice man in the blue suit gave the pretty lady at the noisy party a large bouqet." Few survived.

Yesterday my students needed to learn how to say and write sentences like the following:

That is a big book.  This is a bigger book.  This is the biggest book.

Sounds fun, no? And super easy! English.

However, in German, most articles and adjectives - and even some nouns! - have special endings which are determined by the gender and the case of the noun they modify. The German sentences look and sound a bit like this:

That is a biges Book.  This is a biggeres Book.  This is thes biggste Book.

To prepare for this lesson, I stuck three books of different sizes into my schoolbag (visuals are always helpful). My smallest book, which was going to be used for the "That is a biges Book" sentence, was a only slightly larger than a normal-size reading book. For "thes biggste Book" I used our textbook.

Here you see my biges Book and my biggeres Book.
Having already been a teacher for 16+ years, I can anticipate questions and comments that will likely arise. As a teacher you also know there is going to be some wise ass (and I say that with great affection) in the class who is going to try to throw you off or disagree with you, especially when you make it easy for them. (I know that isn't a big book.) So I armed myself with a perfect come-back and then hoped for the best.

I introduced the subject with way too many words and gestures, and then I brought out my first prop.

"This is a biges Book!" I said.

No kidding, as if on cue, one of my Kasachstani ladies looked skeptical and said, "Nein!"  With great drama, I looked shocked and said, "This is NOT a biges Book?"  She insisted it wasn't. I reached into my bag, pulled out another book, and said, "But it's bigger than THIS book!"

Thank you, Lilliputians!
She and the other students had a good laugh, I could feel terribly proud of my cleverness, and we went on with the lesson.

It's little moments like this that make teaching so much fun. Seriously, any time I can make my students laugh or smile while they're learning grammar... those are good moments. I like being able to anticipate my students' questions, mainly because the lesson goes smoothly when I can answer them without faltering. It's also fun to be ready to stay ahead of the wise guys - but that takes years of experience!

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a festive season!


  1. I wish you a happy Yule, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Festivus, and so on ;) Hehe!

    That is a really cute lesson and visuals always help so much.

    I was so excited: after three years of admiring these lovely, handmade, tiny books at my favorite Christmas market, I finally bought one of the darn things. I try not to buy things I don't *really* need, but I've pined over these books for years. The elderly book binder is set up in a hallway outside the ladies' restroom so of course I've had the chance to look at the display while in line. It's a charming display - regarding the books (I had to clarify that since it's near the ladies' restroom!) it says things like "looking allowed," "photos allowed," "reading allowed." So, I finally broke down and shelled out 4 euros for a tiny book. Even better yet is that it's about Elwetritsche! I was beyond tickled. I think that they're one of my favorite regional traditions here.

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    2. Elwetritsche - I had to look that one up! But then there was a reference to a similar creature - the Wolpertinger, which I have heard of. If there's ever a perfect time/place to buy something for yourself that you don't need especially after pining over it for years, it's at a Christmas market! Enjoy these peaceful days, and don't miss "Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel"! :-)

    3. I should someday write the story of how I found out about Elwetritsche because of food allergies. Ever since learning about them, I've been obsessed ;)