Teaching Tools

Tips, Tricks, and Tools of the Trade

Grammarly Premium Also Works for Advanced EFL Students: Reflections on a Pilot Project at Leuphana

By Janina Sähn and Sabrina Völz

The Grammarly Premium Toolbar in Word

Ok, people. This is probably not going to be the most exciting post you’ve ever read, but if you teach at an institute of higher learning – especially in Germany – this post on our experiences with Grammarly Premium for the past year at Leuphana University Lüneburg may interest you warts, oops, I mean statistics and all.

Let’s start at the beginning for any of you who haven’t been bombarded with Grammarly ads. Grammarly Premium is a one-of-a-kind app for writers that uses artificial intelligence to scan a writer’s work in real time. It not only finds spelling errors, plagiarism, and over 400 types of grammar mistakes, it also offers suggestions on how to improve your writing style. It allows users to set the audience (reader’s level of expertise on the topic), register (formal or informal), tone, type of writing (academic, business, creative, technical, or personal), and genre (review, letter, fiction, etc.). None of Grammarly’s competitors has such sophisticated settings, which is one of the reasons we – after seriously reviewing the top five competitors, including ProWritingAid – decided to try it out with our students at Leuphana. Read more »

“Be Free or Die”: Teaching Harriet (2019)

By Sabrina Völz

It’s not easy to make a biopic that pleases the critics. And, to some extent, Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons, falls into that category. Harriet weaves together facts about Harriet Tubman’s life into a compelling story, but some critics are not so enthusiastic about the film’s aesthetic qualities. In Harriet, there are no truly unusual composition of shots or camerawork the likes of 12 Years a Slave, and the physical horrors of slavery receive almost no screen time, leading some to wonder if audiences are sophisticated enough to fill in the gaps. The audience sees, for example, the scars of brutal beatings without any supporting dialogue. Thankfully, Lemmons resists the temptation to take an overly didactic or ‘preachy’ approach. Any aspects of slavery – and there are several – that the film does not cover can be dealt with as film preparation. It is unrealistic to believe that one film can show all there is to show about slavery. It’s not the focus of the film anyway. This is in, the words of its director, a “freedom film.”

Both of these so-called limitations that I’ve just mentioned, however, make the film accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. They further make Harriet, rated PG-13, an excellent film to explore with EFL students in upper-secondary schools, especially since teachers are deeply concerned about the impact of media violence on young people. Let’s face it, some scenes in 12 Years a Slave, rated R, may overwhelm or traumatize teenagers. Before outlining further reasons for using the film in the (German) EFL classroom and providing some original teaching materials for this action-packed film, let’s preview the trailer and get a taste of the experience:

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Collaborative Writing – The Final Frontier

By Lynette Kirschner

If you want to go where no man has gone before, why not try your hand at collaborative writing? The idea is simple: Combine various types of writing in an elective course with a deep understanding of a specific theory. The seminar, “Where no man has gone before: Women and Science Fiction,” was my attempt to have students not only apply various forms of writing but also gain a deeper knowledge of intersectionality using social science fiction – with a dose of creativity. Just look at these student-produced project covers!

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Chicana/o Quiz

By Maria Moss


In order to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the – unfortunately not official – holiday of Mexican Americans in the United States, I’d like you to do the quiz and see how much you know about “la cultura chicana.”

Download the quiz and don’t look at the answers yet!

The Stick Jar: One Tool – Many Uses

By Sina Rautman

Imagine the following situation: You want your students to read out their results, but you are running low on time. Your students are highly motivated, and most of them want to share their work with the class, but it is clear from the start that you can’t involve all of them. What do you do now? Pick your ‘favorite’ child? Pick the child who did the best job as an excellent example to the rest of the class? Or would it be better to involve the shy child and give her a chance to contribute to the class? Will some children feel neglected or preferred?

JarLast summer, I spent three months in the United States where I’d been offered a chance to observe different elementary school classes. There I found a solution to the problem mentioned above. In one class – full of highly motivated fourth graders – I noticed a beautifully decorated jar filled with tongue depressors. At first, I couldn’t think of any purpose for this glass, so I decided to ask the teacher about it after class.

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