Teaching “Europa wird alt” (DW)

Here are additional materials and activities I have created for teaching Deutsche Welle’s Top-Thema module entitled “Europa wird alt“. The original Deutsche Welle materials can be accessed from the theme webpage, or the text and exercises (pdf) and audio (mp3) can be downloaded for offline use.

In the post Teaching with Deutsche Welle’s Top-Thema and Video Thema, I outline how I use these Deutsche Welle modules in an intermediate- to advanced-level courses with varied goals. Visit that page to see how my students begin to work with the materials Deutsche Welle provides. Here I am offering and explaining the extension activities that I use (before and) after we have exhausted all of the excellent materials Deutsche Welle provides to accompany the text. Downloads of all exercises described here are linked at the bottom of the page.

Advance organizer

Before assigning the text “Europa wird alt,” I have students examine some demographic data as a sort of advance organizer. Was zeigt diese Grafik? Welchen Trend zeigt die grüne Linie? Welchen Trend zeigt die blaue Linie? Seit wann gibt es mehr Geborene als Gestorbene? Warum fällt die Anzahl der Geborenen zwischen 1965 und 1975 auf einmal so steil ab? (die Einführung der Geburtenkontrolle!) 

Teaching Deutsche Welle Top-Thema "Europa wird alt" - Advance organizer

When students read the article, they recognize the demographic problem that the text discusses is tied to the chart they saw. They can surmise what kinds of consequences such a trend can have. Most understand that this means the population is declining. Others may be able to carry their extrapolations further. Either way, this background knowledge better prepares them for approaching the text “Europa wird alt.”

After they have read the text and the accompanying Deutsche Welle activities have been exhausted, we work with the text in new ways.


Vocabulary definitions

DOWNLOAD Vokabelübung

Students work with vocabulary from the text, referencing the article as necessary for context, to find the German synonym or definition that fits best.


Vocabulary flash card game

DOWNLOAD Vokabelkarten.

On Day 2 of working with the text, students work with vocabulary again. This time, they use flashcards containing vocabulary words. Sitting in groups of 4 (ideally), pairs of students take turns trying to describe the word on their card to the other pair, but without using the word or any root contained within the word. For example, if the word is Geburtenrate, students are prohibited from using the words Geburt and Rate. The words can be copied onto slips of paper or index cards. Or you can print my set of cards using two pieces of paper or cardstock — or print multiple sets if you have a lot of students. Use a different color paper for each set so it’s easy to keep them separated. If you want to turn it into a game, have students keep track of which pair or which student correctly guesses the most words.



DOWNLOAD Weitere Fragen zum Text.

Students explore the content further using a set of questions I put together. First, they discuss answers in small groups, and then we talk about each issue as a class. During the class discussion, I introduce supporting evidence for or against claims they may make and ask them to evaluate it against what they are saying. For instance, students offer opinions on the effectiveness of each of the three factors named in the article as ways to counter current demographic trends: “mehr Kinder, längeres Arbeiten und Zuwanderung.”

• “Mehr Kinder.” When students offer “mehr Kinder” as the answer to Germany’s demographic problem and suggest that incentives could spur women in Germany to have more children, I offer up some data — or ask students what they already know — about what Germany is already offering (and has been progressively expanding over time) to make having children easier and financially more feasible for parents. For instance, Kindergeld until the child reaches 18, or 25 if pursuing further education or training:

Kindergeld in Euro
Jahr Kind 2. Kind3. Kind weiteres
1970 bis 19750133131
1975 bis 197726366161
1978 bis 198826417777
1990 bis 19912666112123
1992 bis 19953666112123
1997 und 1998112112153179
2000 und 2001138138153179
2002 bis 2003154154154179
2004 bis 2008154154154179
2010 und 2011184184190215
ab 2012184184190215

But not only Kindergeld. Also Elterngeld in the first 12 to 14 months to replace lost income so that a parent can stay home with the infant, Elternzeit which allows a parent to stay home until the child’s 3rd birthday and not be terminated from a job, and Betreuungsgeld for children who stay home with a parent instead of going to a day care facility. Students discuss in this context what cultural factors contribute to Germans having fewer children despite financial incentives and what kinds of incentives might be more attractive. Was könnte die Regierung noch tun, damit man mehr Kinder haben will?

• “Zuwanderung.” Statistics for the period after 2010 show that the German population on the whole rose ever so slightly three years in a row, reversing the multi-year downward trend. And it rose only because increased immigration made up for the low birthrate.

• “Länger arbeiten.” Workers who have paid into the social system for 45 years can retire at 63, but the current retirement age for most workers is 65. A norm of 67 is gradually being phased in and there is talk of eventually adding a tier of 69 years for the youngest workers.

Read up on current thoughts about pension reform and immigration and check the most the current table of federal child care support to supplement the discussion of the text.


Prepositional phrases

I have assigned other work with this text. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I like to give intermediate and advanced students individualized language assigments so I can target the areas where I feel each needs extra practice. For instance, students who need help with prepositions and cases have the task of listing 15 different prepositional phrases that occur within the text, underlining the preposition in each, and naming the case of the prepositional object. For example:

in Europa – dative
vom Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft – dative

Assigning this activity lets me see what’s going on in students’ heads. Many don’t know where a prepositional phrase begins and ends. Some identify adverbs, separable prefixes, and other parts of speech as prepositions. Prepositional phrases often contain the “extra information”, the details of a sentence and students can get bogged down by them when trying to make basic sense of longer sentences. If they learn to bracket off prepositional phrases in their minds, they can more easily break down the language chunks in front of them. But first they have to learn what a prepositional phrase looks like!


Here are all the downloads for “Europa wird alt” one more time:

Vokabelübung zu “Europa wird alt” (Vocabulary definitions)

Vokabelkarten zum “Europa wird alt” (Vocabulary flash card game)

Weitere Fragen zum Text “Europa wird alt”

And the original Deutsche Welle Top-Thema page in HTML, with audio and comprehension exercises, is here:”Europa wird alt“.


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