Tag Archives: teaching languages

To The Boy in Berlin – Fantastic resource for German students

Last week I travelled to Melbourne for a meeting of the Professional Development Facilitators for the Goethe-Institut and also to present at the Victorian German Teacher’s Conference. It was fantastic! In fact, I would go so far as to say that I came away completely inspired and fired up, ready to boost my numbers back up in German.

One of the fabulous workshops that I attended was by Tina Wilkinson on using ‘To The Boy in Berlin’ as a text in a middle school German classroom. It’s written by Elizabeth Honey and Heike Brandt and is centred around two main characters; Henni and Leo.

The blurb on says:

To the Boy in Berlin

A funny, suspenseful novel, bursting with character and ideas: a quirky detective story about righting the wrongs of the past and fighting injustice in the present; a touching story of friendship, football and the power of the Internet.

Henni lives in Melbourne, Leo lives in Berlin.

Different countries, different lives, so far apart;

but sometimes the person furthest away is just the one you need

A postcard from Leo Schmidt? I can’t believe it. I’m trying to solve the mystery of a boy called Leopold Schmidt who migrated to Australia years ago. Leopold is long dead, but this new Leo is very much alive and kicking.

Emails fly as they explore the world according to Henni and Leo. It’s friendly and funny, but deadly serious, too. Without Leo, Henni would never unravel the dark secrets from the past. Without Henni, Leo would have to save his friend Felix single-handed.

Amazon suggests that this book is suitable for students from ages 9 and up, but as I want to incorporate German language and an investigation into internment camps during World War 1 in Australia, I am going to have a go at running it with my current Year 9 class, and possibly also my Year 8 class later next term.

You can buy an eBook copy of the book from here – if you download their free Kindle for PC here, you can actually read it using a normal PC without the need for a Kindle device. The novel costs $9.99 and will be well worth the price in my opinion.

As I don’t have a class set of these books, it would be great if my students could buy the eBooks, so that they have their own copy of the book to refer back to.

Here’s a little teaser though that I downloaded from the Amazon site – they have it there as a free preview and is publicly accessible. NB – this is all copyrighted material.

To The Boy in Berlin teaser (Year 9 students, this is your homework: please read it and add any information you find out about either Henni or Leo to your brainstorms)


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Back in the saddle again: SAGTA Conference 2013

Yesterday I got back on the proverbial horse and presented at the state German teacher’s conference in Adelaide. I’ve done this a few times now and I’ve absolutely loved it in the past, but since being on maternity leave for almost a year, I was a bit worried about how I’d go.

The day didn’t start well; I slept in! Thankfully my parents had offered to have Hannah overnight so that I could get a full nights’ sleep, but without having her as the alarm clock that you can’t turn off, I rolled over and enjoyed a few more zzz’s. I did make it to Adelaide with enough time to set up though and take a few deep breaths. I even got to enjoy the morning tea that was provided – yum!

My workshop this year was on ‘Using Social Media and Web  2.0 Tools in Education’. It brought together a range of websites, apps and ideas that I’ve been playing with for the past 2 years and also the work I have been doing as a freelance social media marketing assistant and how I see this as relevant in education.

My presentation style is a little… energetic at times. I’m so passionate about what I do that I can’t help but get really into what I’m talking about, which can be a great thing… or not, if your audience isn’t feeling it too. As I had an 80 minute time slot, I decided to touch on 5 major aspects, or else I might be facing participant revolt! That’s ‘a long time to concentrate on one topic! It’s bad enough when you’re teaching a double lesson at school, let alone asking adults to stay in the zone for that long.

I talked about:

  1. The many great benefits of Moodle in education,
  2. Showcased what the DECD (SA Education Department) Languages team has produced for Government language teachers (which is a fantastic resource of Web 2.0 tools),
  3. Introduced how Facebook might be used to keep German (or any subject) at the forefront of a student’s mind and looked at the benefits of pages v groups, 
  4. Showed off the awesome vocab learning website ‘Language Perfect‘ and talked about the World Championships that starts tomorrow, and
  5. Explained what Pinterest is and how it could be used in an educational context.

I also briefly mentioned my Elance work and freelancing.

Overall the reaction was fantastic! Although it seemed like a few of the workshop participants weren’t following or weren’t interested, a couple of them actually came up to me afterwards and said that they found it inspirational. Aww, shucks 🙂

I’m so happy with how it went and I hope each of the participants went away with at least one idea for using social media or a web 2.0 tool either in their German classroom or to assist in their professional learning and development. It has also inspired me to create a couple of pages devoted to these topics on this blog – Social Media in Education and Web 2.0 Tools in Education. It may take me a little time to gather my resources and get everything on here, but I’m determined to share any resources and ideas that I have 😀

If you’re a teacher in South Australia and you think that your staff might benefit from some training and development in one of these areas, I would be more than happy to have a chat about visiting your school. Please contact me via the following form and I’ll be in touch as soon as I can.

I’m pumped! 😀


Please provide your contact details here, if you are interested in a workshop at your school:


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