Born and raised in Germany, Hannah started learning English as a Second Language in elementary school, and French in middle school. After completing her Master’s in Education, ESL, and History at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, she moved to the United States to become a teacher at the Milwaukee German Immersion School.
As teachers, we often look to improve our lessons and supplement our teaching with various materials or resources. The internet is a great way to start looking for those items, but it’s also easy to get lost between all the different websites, curricula, textbooks, and online resources out there. So which German curriculum resource really works? And what can I do if I like the materials I have already but want to supplement with speaking and listening exercises? How can I get my students to speak and offer them authentic listening activities to motivate and engage them throughout their language learning journey?
If you have asked yourself these or similar questions, this blog post is here to help!
The German Textbook “Deutsch - Hörverstehen und Sprechen" by SmartClass was developed by German teachers for German teachers. The authors know the daily struggles of teachers and what every teacher dreams of. So they compiled it for you in one supplemental German textbook series that focused on listening and speaking activities.
Based on the CEFR, this German curriculum focuses on six general topics in six chapters with three subsections each. Teachers get a comprehensive teacher handbook with answer keys and valuable tips and tricks. Students don’t need a workbook because all of the activities are already created in the accompanying digital language learning platform. All you need to do: select the activities you want your students to do, assign them, and let them do their work. Students can work on assignments in class, at home, or on the go. About 50% of activities are automatically graded, so you can focus on listening to the recordings that your students are asked to do. Having a lot of the grading done for you lets you focus on your students' spoken output and driving them forward in their speaking journey.
All of the activities you see in the teacher handbook are already created for you to assign to your students in the corresponding platform called “SmartClassHUB”.
The vocabulary necessary for all activities is given in vocabulary lists at the beginning of each chapter so that students know exactly what words they need to be successful in completing the assignments. Every word or phrase on that vocabulary list is recorded by native German speakers for students to listen to and repeat to practice their pronunciation individually. No more reading aloud whole vocabulary lists in class and wasting an entire session on the pronunciation of single words. Even better: AI-supported pronunciation activities automatically grade your students on complete sentences around the vocabulary words! Now students can practice individually and in private without worrying about making mistakes or sounding silly in front of classmates.
Grammar isn’t a focus of this supplemental resource, but, if needed, there are brief grammar charts throughout the A1 level book to explain essential topics that come up in any of the activities.
The authors also created an overview of grammar or vocabulary concepts necessary to complete activities so you can make sure your students know exactly what they need to know before assigning them any activities.
Every activity that is already in the SmartClass HUB platform is also listed in the teacher handbook for easy access and overview. It gives you the language skills, type of activity, name, and if it is graded by the platform or needs your input. There is even an online program to filter specific activities by level, language skill, or grading type (automatically or by the teacher)
Each chapter focuses on a different overall topic with activities for vocabulary building, conversations with partners/groups, and authentic interviews. Each chapter also includes an assessment section with two projects, speaking and listening activities.
One all-time favorite: segmented recording activities. Instead of having your students answer questions in writing, make them speak! Record a short audio file with 4-6 questions directly in the platform, add pauses in, and watch how it transforms into a recording activity where your students get prompted to answer in the pauses provided. Just like in real-time conversations, your students will have to think of an answer and respond. It’s a great way to prepare them for the real world of German speakers out there!
You are not limited to these activities, though. There are 19 different templates that you can choose from to create an assignment with your already-existing materials. Did you work hard on creating an assignment about a reading text? No problem! Upload the text as an image or PDF and create a Multiple Choice/Fill-in-the-blank, Category Match...activity with it. The platform will automatically grade this activity for you from here on out, and it’s there for you to reassign, year after year.
Our German Content team is comprised of Hannah Haase (lead author), Robin Tessereau (co-author), and Lindsey Klein (co-author). All three are former German teachers with a passion for language teaching and learning. They know the struggles of immersing students in the classroom, empowering them to speak German, and not to fear mistakes. Danielle Kempf (English framework) and Erin Swierczek (student perspective and audio creator) support the authors throughout their collaborative writing process as well. Mirella Morrone is to be thanked for the beautiful design of the teacher handbooks and images. The German Content team hopes that creating this speaking and listening curriculum in conjunction with the platform will provide students all around the world with a language experience that encourages learning, reflection, and growth.
While it seems overwhelming to think about yet another supplemental resource, I believe that this one is the last you will ever need. You can be super creative with the activities created already and slowly import and switch to more of your materials to be housed in the SmartClass HUB. With the automatic grading capability, you will save hours and hours of grading, which will free you up to listen to your students’ recordings and give them individual feedback. You will see your students become more comfortable, confident, and engaged because you are providing them with so many opportunities to speak, listen, and work with authentic materials daily.
(Language Teacher, Textbook Co-Author, Pedagogical Mentor)