Friday, October 2, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages: High School German I

I took German in high school in part because I had German ancestors, and in part because it was offered! I wore a Dirndl my sister sent from Germany (When she was in the army) and had my hair in braids to sing Nur Ver Die Sehnsucht Kennt  at our State Music Competition, where I was asked if I was a German Exchange Student due to the fact that my name had a German spelling, and my accent was "native." My German teacher said my ear for language and accents was such that I would make a good spy... too bad I didn't/don't have the stomach for it. ;)

I must admit I was a little bit disappointed when my Eldest determined that Latin would be her Foreign Language of choice for high school. Middlest didn't do any foreign language study last year, but as he is a Sophomore this year, it *is* getting to be time for him to make a choice. He had mentioned an interest in German (hurrah!) a couple of years ago, so when the opportunity came to review a 6 month, 1 semester course of High School German Level 1 through Middlebury Interactive Languages I signed up!

Middlebury Interactive offers courses in Chinese, French, German, and Spanish 
Grades K-12

Each class is offered by semester, with a full course being two complete semesters. Almost everything is done online, with the exception of some "written" work that the parent/teacher is supposed to grade. This might be a little tricky for someone who doesn't already have some familiarity with the language, but so far I haven't run into any major trouble.

The courses are immersive in that they involve the student in 4 key areas of language learning: the auditory aspect of  Listening and Speaking, and the ability to Read and Write. Some exercises include listening to native speakers, then recording the same phrases, listening to native speakers and translating what they said, reading phrases and dragging them to the correct translation, watching videos, and more. Most of the activities are interesting and engaging.

A couple of things that could use some improvement:
We did have *some* confusion with a couple of the listening/writing exercises, where the directions weren't totally clear~ I could wish that there was a little more homeschool parent guidance when using the independent version (aka a key to the answers, so that we could guide our students toward the correct sort of answer).

As a homeschool teacher, I would like the ability to move the assignments around on the calendar. Because we had a two week vacation scheduled during the review period, I would have preferred to have control over the assignments rather than having my son's assignments constantly behind. I expect that the calendar is set up for the interactive teacher, who provides support, encouragement and feedback if you should happen to choose that option, but it would be good to have access to it as a homeschool teacher as well.

My son actually prefers the process the of accessing assignments via the calendar: with each section shown on the left, and the arrow buttons at the bottom to move back to a previous lesson or go on to the next lesson.
(Note that the presentations in the lesson that have been completed have blue/greyed out titles and the slides themselves are tinted. In this screenshot you can see the last part of the lesson, Pronunciation Practice 1 has a white title, and therefore wasn't completed...)

The Table of Contents is another way to access the lessons, and can be more straight-forward if one is not up-to-date with the pre-programmed calendar assignments. It makes it easier for the teacher (and student) to see which sections have been completed (green check box) and which haven't (unchecked box). I think that if a "Forward" and "backward" button could be added to these presentations, the "user interface" ( or "UI" to quote my son) would be much smoother. Currently when using this method to move through the course one must click back to the title in the side menu. Not a big deal, but Middlest did request that I mention it. ;)

By and large, I find this to be an interesting method of teaching German, and a far cry from my high school classes which started out learning the alphabet, conjugating verbs, and learning noun gender right away. Conjugations don't show up until the third unit, after the student has some good conversational phrases under their belt. He had enough after the first lesson to have a little fun with it. Learning to say "Herr ____ ist ein freund von mir" made him think of a slightly cheesy little song their youth pastor introduced them to... Jesus is a friend of mine: (so much better in German!)

Middlest's thoughts: I like it a lot~ it is one of the things I look forward to doing. It has renewed my interest in learning German, and I enjoy learning about German culture in the videos. I like that I can understand some conversation, and I am starting to get a feel for the language. 

I am looking forward to brushing up on my German as well, so that Middlest and I  can try to converse a little bit.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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