Give Students an Exchange Experience without Travel!

The GAVE program from Goethe Institut is perfect for a pandemic!

Carah Casler, German/ELL Teacher, Watkins Memorial High School

In this time of uncertainty, it has been amazing to observe my students learn, grow and develop cultural understanding the same way I did as an exchange student. With the GAVE program, my students are connecting with German students while using their language and social skills to tackle global issues in a collaborative digital workspace. The materials are well designed and my partner teachers in Germany and I find them user-friendly. 

GAVE is the German American Virtual Exchange launched by the Goethe Institut in 2020 to provide a person to person exchange experience for students in the United States and Germany. German students from Watkins Memorial High School in Pataskala, Ohio participated in an exchange with students from two different schools in Germany. GAVE provides materials free of charge to all, some are in English, some are in German and ALL are topics that were chosen by teenagers in Germany and the United States. I encourage all teachers to investigate the program materials at:

Watkins Memorial students completed the exchange about Everyday Life listed in the materials. They began by writing about themselves using the Information Sheets provided, then the German and American teachers matched the students based on interests. Next, students completed a lesson on Common Sense Media to reinforce the ideas of internet safety and the importance of digital reputations as we completed most of our work on password-protected Padlets. The program materials encourage students to email once or twice a week. The partner schools and I found that students were more likely to use Snapchat, Instagram, Whats App and gaming apps to communicate with each other to complete the exchange. I was thrilled to learn about this type of communication happening while the students were using German for authentic purposes.

We exchanged Padlets describing our clothing outfits and daily routines to introduce ourselves to our partners. For the exchange, we created virtual tours of our cities/areas and shared them on a Padlet for commenting. Many German students now want to visit the Hocking Hills after our presentations and my students now see that not all of Germany is mountainous! Our final project is for the students to create a video project with their partner about activities they can do offline with no screens! They are working together and editing their videos to create a quality, creative product.

Here is what some of my students said about their experience with the virtual exchange.

“I learned a lot about the German culture through these assignments, that’s why I liked them so much. I was proud of the way I was able to represent my class and personality as a whole through my posts and communication with others. One thing that definitely surprised me, and may surprise you, was the fact of how I could relate to someone who lived in a completely different country. Yes, there were differences, but the similarities are what jumped out at me.”

“While talking to Johanna, we constantly switched between English and German. I am very proud of myself for being able to understand most of what she was saying and me being able to respond in German. This was a big milestone for me having a real-life conversation in German. This connection helps illustrate my strengths in German because I am able to have a conversation in full German with someone who speaks German fluently. Although it was simple words and a short conversation, it shows I am getting more fluent and learning more German!” 

The exchange was not just beneficial for the students. It has also been an opportunity for me to connect and learn from teachers in Germany while reminding me that we are all in this together.  The partner schools and I are continuing the exchange in 2021 using the materials for Sustainability which include a comparison of how your area is managing the pandemic! I strongly recommend the materials to all who are searching for an authentic exchange without travel!

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