German Learning Scenario:
Dating Service

Author: Michelle Barnett & Denise Tanner
Level: Intermediate/Advanced

In this scenario, students research dating customs in German-speaking countries with the aim of running and participating in a dating service. Written material, Internet information, and community members are consulted to gather information. Students create a personal ad in preparation for the final product: a video spot for the dating service. Each activity set contains multiple task options so that teachers may choose what best suits their situation and teaching style. This scenario may be more appropriate for high school students. Teachers should be aware of community standards and consider contemporary issues related to dating prior to implementing these activities.

ACTIVITY SET 1: Dating Customs and Issues
Students use a variety of media to investigate dating issues, comparing and contrasting the practices of German-speaking locales with what they know of American customs. To begin, students look through American and German-language teen magazines or online Web-zines (see Resources for suggested materials) to identify issues, customs, attitudes, manners, etc. in youth dating. They use a graphic organizer such as a T-chart or Venn Diagram to illustrate the similarities and differences they find in the two dating cultures. Native speakers are excellent resources for gathering more information on dating practices and provide an opportunity for students to confirm their initial hypotheses. After preparing questions as a class, students consult e-pals in a German-speaking country, visit an online chat room designed for students, or interview a resident foreign exchange student. Next, students investigate relationship issues further by reading “Dear Abby”-type letters in German (see Resources). Students read the letters and, as a class, brainstorm appropriate solutions to the various predicaments, or they may be given only the responses and asked to extrapolate the inquirer’s original problem. Students then write their own letters asking for advice on a real or imaginary problem. Letters are collected and redistributed so that students can counsel one another either in written or conversational form.

To illustrate their new-found knowledge of dating issues, students create a “pocket dating guide” for German speakers in the United States or a “dating phrase book” for young Americans visiting a German-speaking country.

ACTIVITY SET 2: Describing Myself and Others
In order to have a meaningful dialogue in German with a potential date, students need to master certain conversational skills such as discussing likes and dislikes and describing themselves and others. To begin practicing these skills, students create graphs of their hobbies and/or interests. They list their favorite activities on one axis and comparative adjectives that describe degree of interest on the other. Students then exchange graphs with a partner and take turns describing their partner’s interests. Another option is to survey the whole class’s interests by creating a human bar graph; students change places on the graph as the teacher calls out different interests, activities, and hobbies. Students can also play charades, acting out their various interests.

To practice describing personal characteristics, students play variations of “Who is it?” games in which famous people are matched with their descriptions. Such games are played orally, in “game show” fashion, with one student reading a description and competitors “buzzing in” to guess who is being described. Another game involves taping cards with famous people’s names on them to students’ backs. Students then ask their classmates yes or no questions to try to determine who they are.

To tie together what students have learned about describing people and expressing their interests, they create a song/rap, poem, or journal entry to tell about themselves.

ACTIVITY SET 3: The Ideal Date
To give students an opportunity to synthesize what they’ve learned and to practice writing in German, students write a short paragraph describing their ideal date. They can combine “favorite” practices from the German and American cultures, describe where they went, what they did, etc.

(In order to describe their ideal date, students need to be able to manipulate certain structures, such as the subjunctive form. A variety of exercises can be used to help students practice these structures such as identifying structures within the authentic texts they’ve studied or rewriting portions of descriptive writing tasks in the subjunctive. Many more ideas and activities of this nature can be found on the American Association of Teachers of German’s Web site at http://www.aatg.org.)

ACTIVITY SET 4: Modern Means of Mingling
Students investigate modern “strategies” for meeting people, such as personal ads and dating services. They set up and run a mock dating service where they create videos that feature either themselves or a famous German-speaking persona (their choice). To create the ads and video and to run the service, students use the skills developed above (to talk about interests and describe people) and will also need to express needs and wishes.

To begin this activity set, students research and read personal ads from German-language sources. They pay close attention to terminology, length, language, form, etc. They look at similar ads from American sources and create a comparison of American and German ads using lists, mapping, charts, etc. Next, students write German-style personal ads of their own and “publish” them in a class newspaper. The newspaper is distributed, and the class tries to determine who wrote each ad.

Next, students complete various tasks to prime themselves for the videotaping. There are two segments within each video: a prepared statement and an impromptu interview. Individually or as a class, students identify the kind of information that is important to mention about themselves or to find out about a potential date. For example, students brainstorm as a class to create a list, or they create mindmaps of personal characteristics and desired characteristics of a date. Based on the brainstorming and/or mindmapping activities, students work on their prepared statement for the video. They practice this piece before a classmate. They may choose to play background music while they speak.

To prepare for the impromptu interview, students work in pairs to develop (in German) a list of questions a dating service employee might ask. A class bank of questions is compiled from which the impromptu interview questions are taken. In pairs, students roleplay interviews before appearing in front of the camera. (Note: Authentic, online applications exist that could be used for ideas, vocabulary or assessment. For an example, look under the heading Partnersuche at http://grow.aatg.org/vol_1 3/web_activities/activities_pages/familiewa.html.)

In order to set up their mock dating service, students create a task list for “employees” and “customers.” The list should be detailed enough so that students playing each role know their responsibilities, both linguistically and task-wise. Students have the opportunity to play each role. During the roleplays, each student is videotaped reciting his or her prepared speech and answering questions in the impromptu interview.

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Targeted Standards

  • Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretative, & Presentational Modes
  • Cultures: Practices & Perspectives, Products & Perspectives
  • Connections: Access to Information, Other Subject Areas
  • Comparisons: Nature of Language, Concept of Culture
  • Communities: Within & Beyond the School Setting

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Materials

  • Teen magazines from the United States and German-speaking countries
  • Art supplies: construction paper, markers, magazines, scissors, etc.
  • "Dear Abby"-type letters (German) can be found in magazines or on the Internet
  • Personal ads (German and English)
  • Video camera
  • Internet access for e-mail, research, and/or chat rooms

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Reflections on How the Standards Are Met

Communication: Interpersonal mode is used as students interact in brainstorming, interview, and roleplay situations. The interpretive mode is used as they read magazines, "Dear Abby" letters, and personal ads. The presentational mode is used in the prepared self-presentation piece of the video.

Cultures: Students research differences in dating cultures, including not only practices, but the issues encountered by teens in the two cultures and their perspectives on them. They then apply this knowledge in written and spoken ads.

Connections: The students gather target language information about dating in German speaking cultures.

Comparisons: Students compare the two dating cultures and show an understanding of the target culture through their ads and videos. They are also called upon to reflect on the benefits of each system. They may discover ways in which American pop culture is influencing German dating practices.

Communities: The use of an exchange student and/or e-mail correspondence allows student to use the language outside of the classroom context and brings the world community into the classroom.

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Expansion Ideas

  • Students act out a dating situation in which a German and an American are out on a date.
  • Students create advertisements for their dating service.
  • The dating service is expanded to other class levels, with the upper level class serving as the dating service employees.
  • Students host a TV-style dating game.
  • Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPRS) could be used to teach date vocabulary. (For information on TPRS, visit http://www.blaineraytprs.com/.)

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Resources

Books

Graves, P. (1988). Streetwise German. Chicago: NTC/Contemporary Publishing.

Ray, B. (1999). Look, I can talk! [German edition]. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks Productions, Inc.

Ray, B. (2000). Mini-stories for "Look, I can talk!" [German edition]. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks Productions, Inc.

Tomb, H. (1992). Wicked German. Chapel Hill, NC: Workman Publishing Company.

Webliography

NOTE: These Internet resources may have changed since publication or no longer be available. Active links should be carefully screened before recommending to students.

Online Teen Magazines
(Tip: Search under Jugendmagazin for additional sites.)

"Dear Abby" Sites
(Most of the above teen magazines have advice column sections. For additional sites, search under Ratschläge.)


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