Weimar Republic Party Games
Young teachers often worry about appearing un-academic when first teaching A level. Surely we can’t use the same methods that we would with 11 year olds? That line of thinking leads to some very tedious teaching and significant under-achievement on the part of students. Good teaching at A level and university should follow the same basic tenets as good teaching at any age – identify the problems that students have in learning and create activities that solve those problems. It’s the effectiveness of the method that counts, not its apparent seriousness or otherwise.
Here Ian Luff describes how to help students develop their knowledge of the multiplicity of political parties in Weimar Germany and improve their confidence as a result. Low confidence is a sure-fire recipe for failure so any activity, however un-academic it may appear at first glance, is worth using if the outcome is enhanced knowledge and understanding.
[For overseas readers – AS level is the first year of the two year English and Welsh Advanced Level qualification. AS is usually taken at 17, A2 at 18 and they create the qualifications that led into university education.]
Weimar Germany, what a nightmare at AS! The complexity of the party system is integral to the topic and is skimmed over at a teacher’s peril. Pupils unsure of the standing of the parties will suffer in confidence as a result and may not deploy knowledge to maximum effect. How then to memorise the place in the political spectrum of a plethora of parties represented by an endless procession of acronyms – and acronyms, what is more, representing a complex foreign language: NSDAP - Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. Need I say more? The trick is to make the learning enjoyable by using team challenges in the style of games – Party Games, indeed.
Make the acronyms of the main parties available to the pupils in a form showing the parties of the right on the right and those of the left on the left:
KPD, SPD, DDP, Z, DVP, BVP, DNVP, NSDAP
1. Divide the group into teams. Give each team a set of eight A4 sheets. Each sheet will have a party acronym on it and the sheets will have been shuffled into random order. At the command ‘Go’ one representative from each team will attempt to blu-tack the sheets in the correct order onto the wall nearest to his or her team. Team members may shout advice!
2. The first team to complete correctly wins the round. This activity can be done at first with a correct list available to each member of the team apart from the one carrying out the blu–tacking. Later such support can be removed.
3. Next give each team an envelope containing a set of all the parties cut into separate initials. The first team to make up all eight acronyms wins the round. Read the list out as if in a bingo check – any false claim disqualifies the team from the round.
4. Then sit all the teams in a line. At first have all initials on display in the correct order – remove in stages. Then ask the pupil on the extreme right of the line (pupils’ right) to say “NSDAP”. The person to his or her left will then say “DNVP” and so on. When KPD is reached the line starts again at “NSDAP”. One reaching the end of the line the recitation changes direction but continues the sequence in party order from political right to left. Any pupil making a mistake sits out. The team with the most representatives remaining at the expiry of a time limit wins the round.
5. Finally using again the A4 sheets with complete acronyms. Shuffle and issue a card to each member of a team face down. Each pupil will reveal his or her card and will attempt to recite the actual party name in German. Correct = 2 points; close = 1 point. This is quite a tongue twister and is taken light heartedly – nonetheless much will stick. All will long to get the Zentrum card!
The games are fun and do work. The team element creates incentive and the necessary dry information will be committed to memory without destroying the students’ love of history.
- Did students enjoy the nature of the activity and what impact did this have on their learning?
- Did this technique make a long-term impact on knowledge and understanding?
- Will you need repeat this activity and, if so, how often?
- Did you need to explain to A level students that you were using a different style of activity? If so, how did they respond to your explanation?