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Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices

German: Holidays and Seasons

German I, grade 3: Margita Haberlen's lesson combines the topics of seasons and German holidays to reinforce basic reading skills, build cultural knowledge, and introduce more abstract thinking. Using a Venn diagram, students compare aspects of Fasching and Halloween.



Margita Haberlen






Austin Elementary School, Dunwoody, Georgia

Lesson Date

March 28

Class Size



30 minutes daily

Video Summary

In this lesson, students review the months, seasons, and German holidays. They practice vocabulary and develop oral and written comprehension while singing songs, solving riddles, and participating in other activities. They also use a Venn diagram to compare the German holiday Fasching with Halloween.

Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal

Cultures: Practices, Products

Connections: Making Connections

Comparisons: Cultural Comparisons


authentic materials
Authentic materials are resources that have been developed specifically for native speakers. These include print, audio, and visual materials.

Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES)
This elementary school model organizes instruction around a scope and sequence taught by a qualified foreign language teacher. Its goals include developing language proficiency with an emphasis on oral skills, as well as providing a gradual introduction to literacy, building cultural knowledge, and tying language learning to the content of the early grades’ curriculum. FLES programs vary, especially in the number of meetings per week or minutes per session. See also Foreign Language Exploratory Program (FLEX).

information gap
Information gap is a questioning technique in which learners respond to a question whose answer is unknown to the questioner. This contrasts with “display questions” that seek obvious responses. Example of an information gap question: What did you buy at the mall? Example of a display question: What color is your sweater?

Venn diagram
A Venn diagram is a type of graphic organizer consisting of two partially overlapping circles. A Venn diagram helps learners see the similarities and differences between two topics. Each circle represents one topic (for example, “U.S.” and “Target Culture”). Common characteristics are recorded in the overlapping area between the circles. Information unique to each topic is recorded in the area outside the overlap. The Venn diagram is a strong visual support for concrete and abstract comparisons.

Connecting to Your Teaching

Reflect on Your Practice
As you reflect on these questions, write down your responses or discuss them as a group.

  • If you were teaching this class, what content might you introduce in the next two lessons in this theme?
  • What other thematic units might you teach to beginning students? What cultural concepts could you integrate into those themes?
  • How do you keep all students, particularly young learners, involved in a lesson?
  • How do you integrate songs that are appropriate and appealing to the age of your students? How else besides singing do you integrate music into your lessons?

Watch Other Videos
Watch other videos in the Teaching Foreign Languages K–12 library for more examples of teaching methodologies like those you’ve just seen. Note: All videos in this series are subtitled in English.

  • Daily Routines (Japanese) and Mapping Planet Earth (French) illustrate multiple activities with young students and feature teachers without permanent classrooms.
  • People Who Help Us (Arabic) demonstrates techniques to keep young students engaged, on-task, and behaving appropriately throughout the class.

Put It Into Practice
Try these ideas in your classroom. Where it’s not already evident, reflect on how to adapt an idea that targets one performance range for application to other performance ranges.

  • To prepare a thematic lesson, brainstorm on your own or with a colleague. Many teachers find that creating a concept map (a web) helps them see the many paths a theme may take. Choose and organize the topics under a theme so that each new one builds on or is directly related to the one before it. For example, Ms. Haberlen taught the year, then months, then seasons, and finally holidays. You can identify new themes by looking at what your students are studying in their other classes. For example, in science they may be studying planets, in social studies they may be studying how communities work, and in art they may be making collages. These same themes can be incorporated into a foreign language class to draw upon student knowledge and reinforce the content areas. For example, students can look at different communities in a country where people speak your target language, or students can make collages using authentic materials and incorporate elements of the target culture into the collage.
  • Try to conduct your class entirely in the target language. All beginners, regardless of age, are primarily learning concrete vocabulary and basic structures. Speak at a rate that feels comfortable to your students, and check frequently for understanding by observing and listening to students. To help get your meaning across, use visuals, graphic organizers, and written models. In Ms. Haberlen’s class, students always had something to look at — for example, words, pictures, and Venn diagrams. Teachers of older students can use more sophisticated visuals while relying on students’ background knowledge. Let beginning learners know early on that the target language is the language of the classroom. And remember that once you fall back on using English, it is hard to get students to stop.
  • Review a unit that you recently taught to see how you could integrate cultural content. Consider how Ms. Haberlen built culture into her lesson at her students’ language competency level: She used a Venn diagram to show the cultural similarities and differences between a German holiday and its American counterpart. Ms. Haberlen’s lesson clearly meets the Cultures standards — Practices (marching in parades, wearing masks) and Products (masks, foods) — even though she does not address the religious traditions behind Fasching or Halloween, perspectives which older students might explore.
  • Include songs as a regular part of your classes. The songs should be appropriate to your students’ language level and appeal to their age group, as well as be representative of authentic culture. Consider how you might include songs that connect to thematic units. For example, Ms. Haberlen’s class sang a song about the seasons. Students can also write their own songs or make up new lyrics to familiar tunes.


World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages create a roadmap to guide learners to develop competence to communicate effectively and interact with cultural understanding. This lesson correlates to the following Standards:

Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes

Interpersonal Communication

Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.

Interact with cultural competence and understanding

Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the cultures studied.

Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the products and perspectives of the cultures studied.

Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations

Making Connections

Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively.

Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence

Cultural Comparisons

Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.


Curriculum References
Georgia Elementary School Foreign Languages (ESFL) Model Program

Margita Haberlen’s Additional Resources

Web Resources:
Goethe Institute
Teaching materials, courses, and seminars on German language, geography, and culture (Available in English and German)

Series Directory

Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices


Produced by WGBH Educational Foundation with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. 2003. 2016.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-731-2