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Authentic Materials and Realia for Teachers of German

Beyond Decorating the German Classroom


Stern Magazin

Realia goes far beyond having a few German magazines in your classroom.

Realia: What, Where, and How to Get Realia for the German Classroom

Most teachers of German make an effort to fill their classrooms with posters, flags, magazines, and various authentic materials that help create a "German" atmosphere for their students. During their travels in German-speaking Europe, good teachers are constantly thinking about items that they can bring back and use in the German classroom.

German Classroom Photo Contest Winners

Even though it's the best way, you don't always have to go to Germany to get classroom materials. If you can't travel to Germany right now, think about asking a friend or relative in Germany to send you some specific items from our list. We also list local and online sources for authentic materials for teaching German. Many authentic materials can be obtained for a reasonable cost at a local Trader Joe's (German-owned), from Teacher's Discovery, or various online sources.

Sometimes even the most dedicated teacher of German finds it difficult to know what to bring back or ask friends to send. That's why we have a list of suggested items and where to find them (often for little or no cost!). On your next trip to German-speaking Europe you'll have a plan for picking up realia and materials for your German classroom. This list of suggested classroom realia and authentic materials often goes far beyond the usual collection of German posters, magazines, or the occasional German McDonald's place mat.

First, two hints and a few tips on item substitution or alternatives to realia, plus some practical ways to use realia in the classroom:

Hint 1: Learn to venture forth into office areas at stores, airports, train stations. Mentioning you are a teacher of German can act as a passport for access to areas and materials that "normal" people don't have.

Hint 2: Think outside the box. Just about any place in a German-speaking country can become a source of realia. Next time you're picking up a rental car in Germany, think of it as a treasure trove of materials you can use in your classroom! All you have to do is ask. You'll rarely get 'no' for an answer.

Overhead Transparencies
Many kinds of print realia are suitable for digital scanning or conversion to an overhead transparency for instructional use. With a large projected image, you can discuss vocabulary and culture with the entire class. Later you could use a similar photocopied item for cultural or vocabulary exercises.

Realia As Props
Certain kinds of authentic materials lend themselves for use in language role-playing, simulations, or (video) skits. Don't bring back just one German cereal box (they can be flattened for packing), get several. Don't get just one Nutella tube, get several.

A German Gift Guide?
A bonus connected with bringing back German realia: many items are also suitable as small gifts! If you want to give people German playing cards as a gift, don't forget also to bring along a few more sets for the classroom.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
For items that are too large or impractical to lug or ship home, take a picture! As a slide or overhead, it can serve as a teaching tool. You can't bring back a German billboard, but you can bring back a photo of that interesting billboard you saw in Berlin.

Online Realia
The Web is a good source of authentic print materials from German publications, but also for catalogs and pictures of German products and services. A classroom Web excursion to the German McDonald's site can be a good alternative activity to having actual McDonald's items or a good supplement for materials you have in the classroom. Save on shipping by combining a lot of items into one order, thus reducing the S&H cost per item.

NEXT: A list of suggested authentic materials and where to get them...

FOTO-WETTBEWERB: See the the winners of our 2004 German Classroom Photo Contest!

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