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

German: Sports in Action Class Context

When you’re teaching high school students, you have to keep the intellectual level up so that it maintains their interest while you keep the language level where they can function.

– Denise Tanner




Getting Started (e.g., numbers, colors, greetings)


Free Time





House and Furniture

Visiting and Special Occasions

Going Out

Health and Body


School Profile

Denise Tanner teaches German I-V and world history at Hightower High School in Missouri City, Texas. The school’s 1,968 students come from different communities across the district. The school offers four Career Academies — in medical sciences, engineering, computer and media, and television production — as well as a comprehensive, traditional high school program. Only students living in the area zoned to Hightower School may attend the traditional high school program. However, all students within the Fort Bend Independent School District (ISD) may apply to the four Career Academies.

Lesson Design

Ms. Tanner plans her lessons thematically, drawing on the Standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Languages Other Than English (see Resources). Ms. Tanner also refers to the Fort Bend ISD German Scope and Sequence, which she wrote. When designing lessons within a particular theme, Ms. Tanner considers the different modes of communication, the cultural content, and the learning objectives (for example, expressing preferences) for each lesson. She then adds the necessary vocabulary and grammatical structures to support communication.

The Lesson

In the videotaped lesson, Ms. Tanner used numerous strategies during a single class period, including TPR warm-ups, songs, charades, paired discussions, a listening and drawing activity, and TPR storytelling. This was a typical class in that Ms. Tanner often varies instruction every few minutes to meet the different needs of her students. “Every child learns differently,” she says. “The more strategies you use, the more children you teach.”

The activities also build on one another, enabling students to make significant progress and use new vocabulary in just one class. In this lesson, students began with learning and practicing vocabulary, moved to understanding and re-creating a new TPR story, and then finished by writing down the story in their own words.

Key Teaching Strategies

  • Individual/Group Writing: The teacher provides multiple writing experiences that include individual work as well as group writing activities. Both contexts include opportunities for prewriting, drafting, revising, and sharing.
  • Providing Comprehensible Input: The teacher introduces language that is slightly beyond students’ current ability to understand and uses visuals, gestures, rephrasing, and/or props to establish meaning. The goal is for students to comprehend language through context.

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