This article is the fourth in a series of guides and suggestions for German classes with refugees — by Babbel. The articles introduce useful teaching methods regardless of prior pedagogical experience. Here, we summarize the experiences we’ve gained as part of our workshop for volunteer German teachers. The workshops are organized by Babbel language learning experts and primarily serve volunteer German teachers for the organization Multitude e.V.
Maintain the highest level of concentration in class? For one whole hour? That’s hardly possible. In order to learn something you need to alternate between focusing and relaxing. That’s why, as a teacher, it is a good idea to incorporate this necessary alteration into your classes. Periods of conscious dedication towards learning should always be followed by periods in which what you learned can be processed in a playful and relaxed way.
Variety makes all the difference! Playful elements in classes encourage and motivate you. This is because games involve different senses and help you process what you have learned. Games, therefore, promote the learning process. Besides — and this is just as important — games are fun! They bring movement into the class, speak to our imagination, make it possible to change roles and perspectives, create a relaxed atmosphere and strengthen the sense of togetherness in a group.
Games for beginners’ classes
But which games are suitable in German classes for refugees who have only just begun to learn German? In this case, games such as memory or dominoes are good choices, as you can easily create your own version. There are already a number of templates on the Internet which you can fill out yourself and easily adapt to the group’s respective needs.
If the students are still learning the letters of the Latin alphabet, then dominoes, for example, is a useful game which requires you to match uppercase and lowercase letters. The domino tiles may well only have single letters. Our example here shows the first and the last domino tiles and two additional tiles – for a proper game of dominoes we recommend that you have at least 12 domino tiles:
You can also write entire words on the domino tiles. In this case, the last letter of a word must always match the first letter on the following tile:
Of course you can also review and practice vocabulary with dominoes; for instance, by matching contrasting pairs (heiß (hot) – kalt (cold), alt (old) – jung (young)) or the masculine and feminine forms of job titles (Koch (chef, masc.) – Köchin (chef, fem.), Lehrer (teacher, masc.) – Lehrerin (teacher, fem.)).
Even verbs in the infinitive form with their corresponding conjugations can be easily trained by playing dominoes (kochen (to cook) – ich koche (I cook), kommen (to come) – ich komme (I come)). It is also possible to match the infinitive and conjugated forms of separable verbs (einkaufen (to shop) – ich kaufe ein (I shop), fernsehen (to watch television) – ich sehe fern (I watch television)). There are no limits to your imagination when creating a game of dominoes!
Since it’s best to play dominoes in groups of twos or threes, as a teacher you need several sets of tiles so that each group has their own set.
Memory is another very good game that can be used for various learning purposes. Taking turns one after another, the players must always turn over two cards. If the cards match, the player keeps the pair and takes another turn. If the cards do not match, they are turned upside down again, and it’s the next player’s turn.
Playing memory is excellent for practicing and repeating vocabulary. In this application, one of the cards has a picture while the other card has the word written on it with its article, like in the example below. It’s helpful when the words fit together thematically, i.e. when all the words are from the topic “body parts,” for example, or from the topic “fruit.” The learners are able to retain the words more easily if there is some sort of link between them.
The memory cards may also contain rhyming words (Fisch (fish) – Tisch (table), Hase (hare) – Nase (nose)). With this kind of memory example, it is possible to train the learners’ listening skills and raise their awareness of phonetic structures in the German language.
You can even practice grammar by playing memory; for example, by training the singular and plural forms (Auto (car) – Autos (cars), Haus (house) – Häuser (houses).
One important rule: Everyone joins in!
It is important that everyone is involved in the game. You should, therefore, ensure that all the players can see the memory cards when they are face-up. What’s more, the words written on the cards should be pronounced loudly and clearly. When playing memory in German classes, it is equally important to ensure that everyone is not just playing for themselves, but rather as part of a group and bearing the whole group in mind. As a teacher, you therefore have to divide the learners into small groups at the beginning of the game.
Other games that you can play
A modified version of the game Alle Vögel fliegen hoch (All Birds Fly High), also known as Simon says, has proven to be successful as well. One person in the beginners’ classes gives instructions (it is best if the teacher gives instructions in the first round). The others then follow these instructions, but only if the word “please” is mentioned. For example, if one of the instructions is “please take your pens!”, then the learners react by taking a pen. However, if the instruction “put your pens on the table again!” is given, this instruction must not be followed – because the word “please” was not said! With a game like this, which requires little preparation and which can easily be incorporated now and then, learners can practice both the imperative form and listening comprehension.