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

German: Holidays and Seasons Class Context

When you start speaking to students in a target language from kindergarten on, they’re really trained to take all of this language in. Even if they only understand a certain percentage, that’s okay. The next time, they’ll grasp more by constructing the meaning themselves. It’s important that the student feels, “It’s okay if I don’t understand everything.”

– Margita Haberlen




My School

  • School rules, supplies, and subjects
  • Schedules and time
  • The year, months, seasons, and holidays


  • All About Me
  • Family members and helping/chores
  • Family members in fairy tales
  • Healthy eating/food pyramid
  • Pet care

The Wide, Wide World

  • German-speaking countries (location, flags, and geography)
  • Cardinal directions
  • Holidays/festivals of Germany
  • The planets

My Community

  • Exploring my neighborhood (stores/jobs)
  • Career day at school/professions

School Profile

Margita Haberlen teaches grades 2-5 German at Austin Elementary School in Dunwoody, Georgia. The school, which serves 560 students in grades preK-5, is one of the founding members of the Georgia Elementary School Foreign Languages Model Program (ESFL). In 1991, the school began German instruction for kindergarten students. Each year the program has added another grade, so that currently each K-5 student receives 30 minutes of German instruction daily. Austin students are graded on participation rather than on test performance in German class. Teachers also monitor and evaluate students’ progress by correcting their work and helping them learn from their mistakes.

Lesson Design

The Georgia ESFL Model Program defines the foreign language curriculum and vocabulary guides for each language studied in grades K-5. Using this curriculum as their guide, teachers can design individual lessons according to their needs. Ms. Haberlen designs lessons by webbing topics in the ESFL curriculum to see which general curriculum areas she can reinforce. For example, she often incorporates math into stories that she tells or connects to drama through fairy tales drawn from the target culture. Ms. Haberlen considers music to be an integral part of teaching a foreign language. She believes that songs can motivate students, extend learning, and stimulate movement and dance, all necessary elements for teaching young students.

The Lesson

The videotaped lesson was a culminating activity for the unit on the year, months, seasons, and holidays. At the end of the lesson, Ms. Haberlen expected students to be able to name the months of the year and identify holidays in the target culture. She also expected them to be able to describe the holidays and associate each with a particular product. Students next moved on to a weather unit, which connected to their science curriculum.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Information Gap Activities: The teacher uses questions or prompts to get students to respond with facts or opinions that inform or convey meaning from their personal perspective.
  • Manipulating Language Structures: The teacher helps students develop an awareness of how the language is structured by engaging them in reading activities that involve rearranging sentence fragments to change meaning.
  • Scaffolding: Scaffolding is a method of structuring an instructional task in a way that helps learners gradually advance through the process. Initial portions of the task are designed to be within learners’ competency so that they can complete them on their own. As students’ confidence, skill, and knowledge increase, the teacher provides less and less scaffolding for that task in a gradual release of responsibility.

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