AP® German Language
German IV/V is an advanced study of language usage and syntax. My primary
objective is to develop the highest level of fluency possible for my students. We
concentrate simultaneously on speaking, oral comprehension, reading, writing,
and culture. The class is conducted completely in German, with the exception of [C1]
grammar explanations. This course provides intensive preparation for the AP®
German Language Exam.
The course has no primary textbook. Instead we use a variety of materials.
These include short stories and poetry, primarily from the twentieth-century. I
take many of these from Auslese and Lies mit mir! Advanced Reader Level 3. Auslese
includes prose by Kafka, Tucholsky, Borchert, Böll, Dürrenmatt and Thomas
Mann as well as poetry by authors such as Hofmannsthal, Rilke, Morgenstern
and Kästner. I always include one or more pieces of Jugendliteratur (Damals war
refer to Schaum’s Outline of German Grammar and Schaum’s Outline for German
song lyrics, video interviews and the listening exercises from Komm mit! Level 3.
I supplement heavily with authentic materials that are appropriate to the topic we
are discussing. I use the AP German Released Exams to prepare students for the
AP German Language Exam.
First Semester Pacing
Interessantes oder besonders Schönes am Wochenende gemacht?” We spend 5
to 10 minutes talking about our weekends. We also discuss new films, school
activities, or sports events, and important or interesting things the students did or
experienced. I encourage them to ask each other questions and comment on what is being said. As always, my main goal is oral practice with material that
is meaningful and extremely interesting to them. Once our weekend discussion is
over, I present the four idioms for the week and we practice using them.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: I begin with an aural comprehension practice
from the videocassettes or CDs that come with the Komm mit! textbook
We begin with our in-class reading.
Thursdays: Because our periods are five minutes shorter on Thursdays, we do our
vocabulary work on these days, using Schaum’s Outline of German Vocabulary. I
begin with a vocabulary quiz, we correct the vocabulary exercises I assigned the
previous week, and then we move on to sharing if it is a sharing week. We generally
spend two to three weeks on each chapter of the book. We cover half the chapters
each year; I use the other half the following year.
idioms, we listen to the day’s sharing if it is a sharing week, and then we watch
a few minutes of whatever full-length feature film the students have chosen. [C4]
During nonsharing weeks, Friday begins with the idiom quiz, possibly followed by
grammar work (it depends on what we are working on at the time), and ends with
a few minutes of whatever film we are currently watching.
(two chapters of a novel followed by special activities/group projects, or a [C3]
short story followed by special activities/group projects), vocabulary work and
quiz, idiom quiz, and 15 to 20 minutes of film viewing.
per day plus an hour-long test at the end of the unit), reading (2–3 chapters of a
[C3] novel followed by special activities/group projects, or a short story followed by
special activities/group projects), vocabulary work and quiz, idiom quiz, and 20
minutes of film viewing.
During the last three days before our two-week winter vacation, I allow my
students to relax with Home Alone. Because I purchased this film in Germany, it
has no subtitles. Students love the story and the German is easy to understand.
and any novel(s) we have read during the semester. The students usually [C7]
work as partners to prepare a large poster of a chapter in the novel or one of the
short stories. The poster includes the title of the work or chapter, the author, the
main action and characters, several important quotations, the theme, and several
drawings. I give them two class periods to make their posters; if they do not finish,
they must work on their own time. It usually takes two or three days for all sets of
partners to present their posters to the class. They must explain in German what
they chose for their poster and why. The rest of the class always asks many questions.
It is an efficient and impressive way to review a lot of material.
Second Semester Pacing
The second semester is when I swing into high gear with my preparation for the
AP German Language Exam. Instead of sharing weeks, we concentrate on gaining
familiarity with the question formats and timing of the AP German Language
Mondays through Fridays: We do one AP Exam practice exercise every day: a
cartoon picture sequence, a 20-second directed responses section, a cloze passage
exercise, an AATG National Test reading comprehension passage, or an oral
comprehension exercise from Komm mit! After our practice session we work
on grammar: verb review, the passive, the conditional, and the subjunctive. We
continue with the in-class reading from first semester. In addition, students must
read a page every evening and complete one exercise in Komm mit!
Mondays: We begin with a discussion of our weekends (“Wer hat etwas
Interessantes oder . . .?”) and then continue with our four idioms a week, which I
present on Monday and test on Friday. Every other week, I assign a new essay topic,
which is due the following week. I return the previous week’s (first draft) essay,
and students’ corrections to it are due two days later.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: The weekly Internet assignment: Deutsche Nachrichten is due on Tuesdays.
I return the previous week’s assignment with comments and corrections, and give
the next week’s Internet assignment. If an article is especially interesting or relevant,
we discuss it, practicing with the new German vocabulary.
using Schaum’s Outline, spending two to three weeks on each chapter. Class begins
with a vocabulary quiz and then we correct the exercises that were assigned the
speaking activity, I end the week by showing a few minutes of a feature-length
film the students have chosen. If we have just finished a major grammar unit, I test
students for the full 50 minutes on Friday.
Overview of a Week
Four idioms; five practice AP exercises; daily discussion of nightly reading and
exercises in Lies mit mir! (5 minutes); Internet assignment collected and discussed;
essay assigned or collected; draft returned or revisions collected; reading (2–3
chapters in a novel followed by special activities/group presentations, or a short story followed by special activities/group presentations); grammar lecture,
practice, and test (the timing depends on the difficulty and how quickly the students
understand the material); vocabulary work and quiz; and 15 to 20 minutes
of film viewing.
Because we are focused on preparing for the AP German Language Exam
and do not have sharing weeks in the second semester, each week in the month is
similar, if not the same, as the others.
After the AP German Language Exam
A full month of school still remains after the AP German Language Exam. We
usually tackle one last book and continue with our idioms and vocabulary work.
I give the seniors their two-hour final exam a week early so we can relax with my
favorite film for teaching German, Forrest Gump. This film is dubbed with no subtitles.
Forest, of course, speaks very slowly and the students can easily understand
The last day is always Tschüss Tag. We have been together for four years; it is
been a very special time, and the students have formed lifelong friendships. We
stay connected by e-mail, and many students come back to visit and let me know
how their four years in my classroom have changed their lives.
Typically, in the first semester my students read one novel, seven or so short
stories, or a combination of a novel and several short stories. During the second
semester they usually read one novel, seven or eight short stories, or a combination
of one short novel and several short stories.
Every year I vary the selections we read in German IV/V. I usually begin the year
with a series of short stories. Over the years, I have built up an extensive short story
collection. Most are from the twentieth century, with the majority coming from the
postwar period. In addition to these collected pieces, I also use Auslese, an excellent
anthology that includes poetry. When we work with poetry, I introduce a study of concrete
(picture) poems and ask students to create their own poems and picture poems.
I am always impressed with their creativity.
In addition to our study of the short stories in Auslese, my students read several
pieces of Jugendliteratur. I have developed all of the support materials (e.g., vocabulary
aids, writing assignments, group and partner activities and assignments, speaking
practices, and visual projects) for all of the selections we read. I give students the
vocabulary lists ahead of time so that no one needs to ask what something means. In
this way I can keep the instruction completely in German. See the student activities
section of this syllabus for examples of some of the writing activities I do to reinforce
my students’ reading.
In class during the first semester I always have one of the students summarize
in German what we read in class the day before and another student summarize
what was assigned for homework. I answer any questions about the homework
reading pages. If we have just completed a chapter, we all share our new titles for
the chapter. Depending on the book we are reading, the students’ abilities, and the
difficulty of the German, we generally average a chapter a day (3–4 pages) or so.
What we do not finish in class, I assign for homework.
In the second semester I add three additional aspects to our reading. First, I
assign some of the short stories from Lies mit mir! for students to read alone at
home. I want them to develop their reading skills so that they can read without
my help. Second, I also assign the excellent comprehension and vocabulary exercises
that follow each of the reading selections. I usually assign one page and one
exercise per evening. Third, I allow students only a couple of minutes of class time
to ask questions about the stories and to clarify any misunderstandings before we
correct the exercise. My goal with this approach is to shift the burden of comprehension
onto the students and spend minimal class time on it.
To help students practice for the AP Released Exam, I use the reading passages
from old AATG (American Association of Teachers of German) National Tests. I
try to do several selections in class each week with the students. We read the selections,
answer the questions, and discuss our answers and any problems that they
may have had with them.
detail in the student activities section of this syllabus. In the second semester they
have a standing weekly Internet assignment. I ask them to go to Yahoo.de and click
on the current news link. They are to choose one article, print it out, and complete a
worksheet in German. The worksheet asks for the following (in German) about each
article: its title, its date, a four- or five-sentence summary of the article, a four- or fivesentence
explanation of why the article is important, and five new vocabulary words
defined and used in sentences.
I have found this weekly activity to be very successful. The students are enthusiastic
because they have the freedom to choose an article they find interesting.
They are also amazed at how differently the news is reported in Germany than
in the United States. It is an excellent cultural immersion tool because it allows
students to see current events from a German/European viewpoint. At the same
time, they improve their reading comprehension and add current expressions to
their vocabulary. The assignment is interesting for me, too. It is fun to see what
my students choose and what they get out of the articles. As an added bonus, the
articles can be used as a springboard for class discussions of current events.
I have amassed a large collection of essay questions from old AP German
Language Exams. During the second semester I give my students one question [C6]
every two weeks. At first, I give them the easier topics, let them do the writing at
home with no time limits, and allow them to use dictionaries. I correct their grammar
and use the AP Exam scoring guidelines to grade their essays. The students
must revise and correct their essays, and I grade them again. It is a lot of work for
all of us, but there is no other way to practice writing other than to write. As we
get closer to the May exam date, students must write their papers in class with no
dictionary help. The final step is to allow them only 40 minutes for writing. When
transitioning to in-class writing, I usually try to choose easier topics at first.
In addition, I have numerous cloze passage writing exercises, many of which
I have made myself. We complete at least one per week in class during the second
semester. I give students 10 minutes to do the exercise on their own and then we
correct it. I require them to keep a “sin sheet” on which they list the common
constructions that reoccur in the cloze passage exercises. This list then becomes a
study guide for their AP German Language Exam review.
activity is similar to the “show and tell” exercise elementary school teachers use to
teach their students how to speak in front of the class. Students may bring in something—
or someone. We have had little sisters and brothers, cats, dogs, a snake,
and even a chicken come to the class to be shared! Or they may simply talk about
something they feel is important. Initially I allow students to use a small card with
a few key words, but they quickly outgrow this crutch. The student speaks for a
couple of minutes and then the class asks questions. I encourage questions that
cannot be answered with one or two words.
3 students make sharing presentations each day during a sharing
week, which allows all 25 to 30 students in the class to have a turn. Each presentation
lasts about five minutes, depending on how long the presenter speaks and how
many questions the other students ask. I grade the presenter on a scale of 1 to 10,
which is similar to the scale used for the speaking component of the AP Exam. I
use 10 instead of 9 as the top score because the math is easier! The students who
ask questions also receive points; the goal is to get students to do as much speaking
My students love sharing because it is always interesting and always
something in which they are personally very involved. The presentations are
extremely creative and often humorous. Although I try to limit the sharing to the
first 20 minutes of class, students think they are getting away with not doing the
“real” work of the class and sometimes try to extend the sharing into “my” time. I
have found that my students’ speaking skills skyrocket as a result of our sharing.
Unfortunately, the demands of the AP German Language Exam preparation
do not allow us to continue our sharing weeks in the second semester. Instead, we
practice with a large collection of six-picture cartoon series. I have many picture
sequences from old AP German Language Exams. Other sources for cartoons are
Vater und Sohn and Comics and Conversation.
Because we have no language lab, students work with partners on the cartoon
series. I train them to spend their two minutes of planning time filling out a sixpart
grid with the key words and concepts they want to use during the speaking
time. That way, if they start to panic, they have their lists in front of them. When
the planning time is up, one student relates the cartoon story for two minutes
while the other student listens. Then they change roles. The next time we do a
cartoon, the second speaker gets to go first. In this way students can give each
other feedback and help each other with vocabulary and expressions. I have students
rotate partners frequently. After both students have had a chance to tell the
story, I call on one of the better students in the class to tell the story for everyone
while I time the two minutes. We discuss the vocabulary the student used, what
was particularly good in the response, and what special touches were included;
and we make suggestions.
I have also developed a very long list of 20-second directed responses prompts.
Again, the students work in pairs. I give the prompt orally and time the 20 seconds
the speaker has to respond to the listener. I go through all six prompts.
Then the students change roles and I repeat the same prompts. We go through
the six prompts for a third time as a class; I give the prompt and call on three or
four students to give their responses. In this way we hear a variety of answers and
A few weeks before the AP German Language Exam we practice both the
cartoon series and the 20-second directed responses with individual cassette tape
recorders, which are provided by the school’s Parents Club. It is important for
students have actual practice with the recording device so they understand how to
hold it, how to speak into it, how loudly to speak, and how not to stop recording
unless told to do so! This process also teaches them to concentrate on their own
speaking in a room that is very loud. We do one cartoon series and at least one
set of six 20-second directed responses a week. If I have six to eight minutes left
at the end of a class period, it is enough time to do an extra 20-second directed
I have a PAL VCR and a multiregion DVD player that play European videos
and DVDs, so I can show the full-length feature films purchased during trips to
Germany. Because these dubbed films without subtitles are made in Hollywood
and my students are already familiar with the stories, they are able to understand
the dialogue relatively easily. This is a painless way for them to practice listening
comprehension. It takes a number of weeks to complete a film because I allow
them to watch for only 15 to 20 minutes on Fridays. I usually let the class to select
which film we watch, but a few that I have found to work well are the Germandubbed
versions of The Wedding Singer, Home Alone, Forrest Gump, Meet the
Parents, and The River Wild. Two German-made films that are excellent are Bella
Martha and Jenseits der Stille. I am careful to avoid films that are R-rated or that
do not have clear German. Additional aural comprehension practice includes the use of the interviews
on the videos that come with Komm mit! These exercises take 5 to 10 minutes of
class time. I ask the students to listen for specific information or to answer specific
questions I have given them before the viewing. I also use the listening comprehension
practices that come with that textbook; I think they are too difficult for
German III students but appropriate for my advanced class. I try to do several
I use Schaum’s Outline of German Grammar to reinforce the more difficult aspects
of German grammar. I have taught the basic grammar in the first three years of
the language study, but during the first semester we review the most difficult
concepts, such as adjective endings, relative pronouns, the prepositions and their
cases, word order, and irregular verbs. Most of these grammar units take two
weeks, and at the end of the second grammar week I give a test that takes the full
In February I do a major review of the irregular verbs and their tenses. When
we have finished this review, I teach the passive, the conditional, and the subjunctive.
The passive and the conditional generally take two weeks each; the subjunctive
often requires three weeks. I give a period-long test after completing each
After a presentation, we practice the new grammar in class. I try to devise
activities that involve students’ personal interests to make the practices more
meaningful. I assign the homework (due the next day) out of the book, and we
have a big test when we are finished with a unit. If possible, I try to devise a writing
assignment that forces the use of whatever concept we have just finished studying
(due a week later).
In addition to the vocabulary work we do in connection with the reading selections,
I use Schaum’s Outline of German Vocabulary. We spend several weeks throughout
the year on each unit, doing the exercises and learning the lists of words. I give
students weekly quizzes on the lists and one big test at the end of the unit.
We work intensively with idioms during both semesters. I teach four new idioms
every week and test students on them at the end of the week. The testing is cumulative
throughout the year. I expect students to incorporate the idioms into their
speaking and writing.
I use the following formula to determine the semester grade for my advanced class.
First quarter 40%
Second quarter 40%
Final exam 20%
Semester total 100%
Each quarter grade is based on the accumulation of points earned for specific
types of assignments and evaluations.
Sharing week grade 100 points, based on the quality of
the presentations and the number of
questions asked of the other presenters
Oral presentation grade 100 points, based on the quality and
frequency of the participation, group
work, and presentations
Large grammar tests 100 points each
Homework grade 50 points, determined by the number of
Essays 30 points each, plus 20 points for
Weekly Internet assignments 22 points each
Weekly idiom quizzes 20 points each
Weekly vocabulary quizzes 20 points each
Test corrections 10 points each
This section contains many examples of the reading and writing activities I do
with my students when we are working on a book. I have organized the examples
in a way that follows our progress through the book.
These activities are done during the class period. The nature of the material we
are reading determines which ones I select for students to do; some of these [C3]
activities lend themselves better to different themes or topics than others. The
number of activities we do also depends a lot on how the class reacts to them.
Sometimes the students really get into a specific activity. When this happens, I let
them go further with it, which, of course, takes more time.
I introduce the title of the reading and invite the students • to anticipate
what the story will be about. We do this as a discussion, or I write the title
on the overhead projector and the students add their ideas. (5–10 minutes)
• I use a picture or photograph as a stimulus and the students list or say
what comes to their minds. (5 minutes)
• I use the book cover (with or without the title) as a stimulus. The students
list what comes to their minds and then we discuss it. (5 minutes)
• I use a single, significant word as a stimulus and follow with a discussion.
• I use a poem that introduces or ties into the reading selection and follow
with a discussion. (15 minutes)
• I use a song that introduces or ties into the reading selection and follow
• I list the chapter titles for the book in a mixed-up order and have the
students arrange them in what they feel is the correct order. They must, of
course, explain their reasoning in German. This can be done as individual
or partner work. (20 minutes)
• I present biographical information on the author as a partner activity.
Each student has half the information, and the two partners must
exchange their information to answer all of the questions. (20 minutes)
Early Reading Activities
Once we begin the new book or chapter, students volunteer to read aloud
so that they can practice pronunciation. I constantly interrupt with comprehension
questions or further explanations in German of what we have read. If we are
dealing with an important cultural theme like Ausländer, we will stop and have
a full discussion in German. The evening’s assignment always includes rereading
include an additional, creative assignment, such as one of those that follow here,
to go with the reading.
Students write a new title for the chapter. • (Due the next day)
• Students draw or find a picture of a specific character. (Due the next day)
• Students write a Diamant (a five-line nonrhyming poem) for a character
following this format: line 1, the character’s name; line 2, two descriptive
verbs in the infinitive; line 3, three adjectives; line 4, a four-word sentence;
and line 5, a final descriptive noun synonym for the character. The poem
that results is in the shape of a diamond. The students do fabulous things
with this assignment. (Due one or two days later).
• Students develop a concrete poem for a character or something that
happened in the reading (a synonym word that is presented as a picture).
(Due one or two days later)
• Students write a name poem by writing the character’s name vertically,
with each letter serving as the beginning of an adjective or noun that
further describes the character. (Due one or two days later)
• Students keep a “Who? What? When? Where?” log for each chapter.
(Continued for homework each evening)
• Students do other activities as assigned—activities that reinforce what
they have learned but force them to synthesize and take the language to a
higher level. (Due one or two days later)
When we come to the end of a chapter or other logical stopping point, I usually
have a special group activity.
• Students work in groups to draw a large picture of the character and then
justify (in German) why they drew the character the way they did. We
hang the pictures around the room and discuss them before voting on
which one is truest to the text. I give the students one class period or part
of a period to make their drawings and decide what they are going to say
for their presentations. The presentations and discussion usually take part
of the next class period.
• Students work in groups to make a large map of the chapter that
includes the title, the action, important quotations, illustrations, and any
important concepts or themes. The students present their maps to the
class, and we discuss and critique them. As always, all of the discussion
is in German. I give the students one or two class periods to make their
maps and plan their presentations. The presentations usually take a class
is written on a large piece of paper. The students draw the character’s
picture and then select descriptive words or phrases for the character from
the text and write the words around the picture. A variation is to write the
significant events that involve the character. The students present their
posters to the class and explain their choices. I give them a class period to
make their maps and plan their presentations. The presentations usually
take part of the next class period.
When we have finished a book or story, there are a number of writing activities
students can do.
• Students choose two characters and have those characters write letters to
each other. (Due a week later) I allow part of a class period for students to
read the letters aloud in class the day they are due.
• Students make original valentines for one character to give to another
(the characters do not necessarily need to come from the same book or
story). We present the valentines on Valentine’s Day and display them in
the classroom. I make the assignment a week before Valentine’s Day; the
presentations take part of the class period.
• Students answer the question: “What would these characters write to
each other 10 years from the end of the story?” I choose the best or most
interesting answers to read to the class. (Due a week later)
• Students write a continuation for the story. I choose the best or most
interesting continuation to read to the class. (Due a week later)
• Students write a new ending for the story. I choose the best or most
interesting ending to read to the class. (Due a week later)
• Students rewrite the story in dialogue form instead of prose. I choose the
best or most interesting rewrite to read to the class. (Due a week later)
• Students rewrite the story from another character’s point of view. I choose
the best or most interesting rewrite to read to the class. (Due a week later)
A variation on the last four activities is to put the students into groups and have
the students take turns reading their work to the rest of the group; the group then
chooses the piece to be read to the entire class.
To review for a test on the book or story my students do one of the following two
• They prepare a series of 10 to 12 key sentences lifted directly from the
story or chapter, print out the list, cut the list apart, rearrange the order of
the sentences, and put the sentences in an envelope. Another student has
the task of arranging the sentences in the correct order. This works well as
a group or partner activity. (Due two days later. The activity takes part of
a class period.)
I choose the key words from the story and write • them on index cards. I
give each student two cards in random order. The cards are numbered so
that the students explain the significance/importance of their words to
the story in the correct chronological order. (I give students five minutes
to plan what they will say; it takes part of a class period for them to speak
about all the cards.)
These are only a few ideas for reinforcing the reading material and practicing with
the language. The important thing is to provide relevant activities that are enjoyable
for students and give them an opportunity to be creative. I never fail to be