Get Set German Day 2 – Learning to read

I’m a bit traditional with Day 2. 

Many great courses start the teaching with simple conversational sentences like ‘Mein Name ist Preeti,’ ‘Mein Nachname ist Pillai,’ and ‘Ich wohne in Bengaluru.’

But I like to treat my first lesson as one of the most powerful confidence-boosting sessions for beginners. 

Welcome to Day 2 of my course. 

The day you will learn to read just about anything in German.

After my student knows me as an experienced but approachable coach on Day 1, I kick-start Day 2 the traditional way.

With the German Alphabet.

Leading with the letter A

I teach my students that A is called ‘aaa.’ That’s not all. 

We repeat this multiple times, until it is completely internalized by the students. 

I tell them individually, and I tell the group.

I tell them that the newsflash of the day is: A is ‘aaa.’ 

They repeat it individually, and as a group (and inevitably sound like a choir warming up 🙂 )

What's the big deal about 'A'?

The 2 minutes of ‘aaa’-ing is extremely important, because it gives my students a teaser of the rest of the session. What the vibe is going to be, how everyone’s going to be a part of the learning process. 

Also because it gears them up for the next part of the session. (Hint: It’s not the letter B)


Setting up the challenge:

I let them know that the next big part of the session is crucial if they want to hold on to the change in their wallets. 

Or something to that effect.

The undivided attention of all my students is absolutely required throughout the session, and setting up a challenge is my way of ensuring that.

That’s because I’m about to teach them how to pronounce and read every single letter of the German alphabet.

My goal with this, is that by the end of the session, no student of mine should read a German ‘A’ as ‘A’ again (the same applies to the other letters, of course.)

Setting up this challenge is incredibly helpful. Bringing a jar labelled ‘FINE ₹1’ to class or making a game out of it raises the stakes, and then we’re all set to move.

Letters A - ß

Now I’ve got everyone’s attention. Now it’s easy, really.

With my entire class involved, I go through the letters A – Z, plus the additional letters.

For each letter, I focus on:

– What the letter is called in German

– How the letter is pronounced (using 2 – 3 short German words as examples)

– If the letter has different possible pronunciations, I share those, with examples for each different pronunciation.

Every letter we learn, we write, repeat, and finally master.

Common Diphthongs: I also cover common diphthongs in a similar way, packed with examples and pronunciation practice. 

Quick Evaluation:

With that, the core session is over. The students should now know how to pronounce letters and syllables in German. 

Now it’s just a matter of extrapolating that knowledge to reading words, then sentences, then paragraphs.

But before that, I like to squeeze in a quick evaluation activity, to test if they are comfortable with the pace of learning, whether they have internalized the alphabet well, and whether they are ready to move ahead.

This is one of my favorite ways to evaluate my students on the German alphabet. 

I simply think of an English word.

Without saying the word, I start spelling it out loud to the class. 

They must write the letters as I say them, and figure out the word at the end.

Go Big Before They Go Home

Once I’m convinced that my students are ready, we take the next two steps. 

This is the point where I sit back, listen and observe, intervening only when absolutely necessary. The two steps are:

1. Students individually pronouncing words that I have listed on a sheet

2. Students individually reading out a short paragraph of 2 – 3 simple sentences

My Observations:

1. By the end of the session, they’re not just trying to read the words / sentences, they’re actually excited about it!

2. Most of the students are doing quite a decent job, considering that they are beginners

3. They have internalized the German alphabet well

4. If I’m teaching a group, I hardly have to intervene when a student makes a reading error, because they voluntarily correct each other


The 5-minute Assignment

I like to make sure that my students take their learnings home with them.

I usually give them a related home assignment that will:
 – keep them hooked
 – get their creativity on
 – not take more than 5 minutes to complete.

My Favorite 5-minute assignment: The Voiceover

I ask my students to find any simple paragraph (about 5 sentences) on a topic of their interest online. The job is to record themselves reading the paragraph out loud and share the recordings with me before next class.

(Students love it when you acknowledge their efforts. Whenever I can, I’ll set the recording to some background music or make a simple video with stock footage to go with it. The expression when I present it before them in the following class is priceless!)


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Would you like to learn German my way? Simply reach out!