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

German: Sports in Action

German I, grades 9 - 11: Denise Tanner guides her students through graduated activities including a TPR vocabulary review of the body, a grammar segment teaching the German structure gefallen, and a discussion of the German medals won at the 2002 Winter Olympics. As a culminating activity, students act out a TPR story in front of the class.



Denise Tanner


German I




Hightower High School, Missouri City, Texas

Lesson Date

April 9

Class Size



Block schedule, 90 minutes every other day

Video Summary

In this lesson, students learn new vocabulary about sports. After several warm-up activities, students focus on terms related to Olympic sporting events and make cultural comparisons between Germany and the United States. Next, students listen to and interpret a story presented through Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS), then recreate that story by acting it out and narrating it themselves. They conclude the activity by rewriting the same story in their own words and contributing to a composite class version.


Standards Addressed

Communication: Interpersonal, Presentational

Comparisons: Cultural



thematic units
Thematic units are designed using content as the organizing principle. Vocabulary, structures, and cultural information are included as they relate to the themes in each unit. For an excellent example of theme-based units, see the Nebraska Foreign Language Education Web site in General Resources.

Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS)
This adaptation of TPR adds the element of storytelling and uses the story narrative or episodic structures to build meaningful comprehension. The technique begins with the teacher telling a story and using actions and gestures to introduce new vocabulary. As students listen to the story, they confirm their understanding by repeating the actions: First they perform the actions for specific events and then recreate the whole story. Once the story is understood, students take over the narrative task, either as a group or individually. See also Total Physical Response (TPR).

Connecting to Your Teaching

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

  • How do you design activities so that students will use new vocabulary and grammatical structures to express authentic personal preferences/interests?
  • How do you take advantage of current events such as the Olympics to create a teachable moment of linguistic or cultural relevance? What are some events you have used recently?
  • What are some recent examples of lessons in which you saw significant language development during a single class period? (For example, this lesson began with students developing an initial understanding of an oral story and proceeded through a sequence of activities that ended with them rewriting that story in their own words in paragraph form.)

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.

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.

  • Design a lesson that begins with a TPR story and ends with a writing experience. You can invent a story, as Ms. Tanner did, adapt an existing children’s or young adult story, or use any text that has a beginning, middle, and end. Have students first work on understanding the story and any new vocabulary, then practice by retelling the story, and finally use their writing skills to recreate the story in their own words. Research* has found that students often benefit more from working with longer texts than with sentence-length exercises. The combination of TPRS and writing tasks gives them the opportunity to use oral and written skills with a cohesive narrative.
  • Introduce from your target culture’s perspective current events that your students may be following, such as sporting competitions, elections, or holidays. Also, be prepared to adjust lessons (or even entire units) when major current events affect your target culture. For example, Ms. Tanner used her students’ interest in the winter Olympics to introduce them to new sports vocabulary not in their texts and not among the basic sports terms. She used the German medal count to keep the discussion in context and had students record on a worksheet the similarities between the German and American cultures. Adolescent magazines and Web sites are good sources for learning about high-interest topics in the target culture. You can often find surveys, polls, and short articles that students can read to learn about their peers around the world.

*Oller, J. W., Jr., ed. “Reasons Why Some Methods Work.” In Methods That Work. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1983.

Riley, G. L. “A Story Structure Approach to Narrative Text Comprehension.” Modern Language Journal 78 (1993): 199-221.


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.

Presentational Communication

Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.

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.


Lesson Materials
Sport in Deutschland: Student Work (PDF, 141 K)
Sample worksheet completed by a student about sports preferences in Germany and in the U.S.

Curriculum References
Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Languages Other Than English

Denise Tanner’s Additional Resources

Web Resources:
American Association of Teachers of German
Links to German-language, Web-based student exercises; standards-based project ideas; and sites dealing with German history, politics, sports, and other topics

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