Teaching Tools

Tips, Tricks, and Tools of the Trade

Having Fun with Language on German American Day 2022

By Sabrina Völz

In coun­tries, such as Poland and the Nether­lands, learn­ing Ger­man is on the rise. Yet, in the U.S., it’s been declin­ing for the past hun­dred years. Num­bers of stu­dents learn­ing Ger­man have decreased from rough­ly two mil­lion in 1910 to a lit­tle over one mil­lion today. There­fore, it shouldn’t come as a sur­prise that Ger­man pro­grams have been clos­ing all over the U.S. The very lib­er­al arts col­lege I attend­ed as a bach­e­lor stu­dent in Indi­anola, Iowa – Simp­son Col­lege – elim­i­nat­ed its Ger­man pro­gram a few years ago. So in prepa­ra­tion for this Ger­man Amer­i­can Day (Oct. 6), I decid­ed to attempt to do some PR for German.

Recent­ly, while I was surf­ing the web, I came across some­thing that almost knocked me for a loop. It’s noth­ing bad, just a 58-let­ter word. So let’s hear that drum roll….

That word is: Kurz-fris­ten-energie-ver­sorgungs-sicherungs-maß­nah­men-verord­nung.

Read more »

All the Stories That We (Were) Told

By Nora Benitt

Pixar’s Rules of Sto­ry­telling by Pro­found Whatever

Life writ­ing – which includes a wide spec­trum of sub-gen­res such as (auto)biography, mem­oir, let­ter, diary, (dig­i­tal) life sto­ries, and oral his­to­ries – has a long tra­di­tion in the U.S. and is becom­ing more and more pop­u­lar all over the world. An abun­dance of arti­facts com­piled by famous, semi-famous, and not-at-all-famous peo­ple fill pub­lic libraries, pri­vate book­shelves, research cen­ters, social media, hard dri­ves, and web­sites. And that’s actu­al­ly not even sur­pris­ing since writ­ing and/or talk­ing about our­selves is a deeply root­ed cul­tur­al prac­tice and comes very nat­u­ral­ly to most human beings. We do it all the time: We tell a sig­nif­i­cant some­one how our day was, we put togeth­er our résumé when apply­ing for a new job, we talk about child­hood mem­o­ries with sib­lings or a close friend. How­ev­er, talk­ing and writ­ing about our­selves in an aca­d­e­m­ic con­text and, to boot, in a for­eign lan­guage is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent story.

Read more »

Teaching Native North America: A Continuing Challenge

By Christoph Strobel

Intel­lec­tu­al lega­cies of col­o­niza­tion play a pow­er­ful role in shap­ing how main­stream U.S. and glob­al soci­ety has come to see Native Amer­i­cans. Art­work from the 19th and 20th cen­turies – such as James Ear­le Fraser’s sculp­ture, “The End of the Trail” – have helped to cre­ate the image of Native Amer­i­cans on horse­back as rep­re­sen­ta­tions most asso­ci­at­ed with Indige­nous pop­u­la­tions of North Amer­i­ca. Type “Native Amer­i­can” into a search engine, and you’ll like­ly get many his­tor­i­cal images of Great Plains Indi­ans. In parts of Europe as well, the per­cep­tion of Native Amer­i­cans has been shaped in unique ways by authors like Karl May and the lat­er movies based on his books. With­out a doubt, our stu­dents’ per­cep­tions about Native Amer­i­cans are influ­enced by these fan­tasies and representations.

Read more »

Setting the Stage for Black History Month

By Sabrina Völz

Pho­to Cred­it: “Woman holds up sign at the Black Lives Mat­ter protest in Wash­ing­ton DC  6/6/2020” by Clay Banks

It’s that time of year again. Feb­ru­ary 1 marks the begin­ning of Black His­to­ry Month. Before I sug­gest some use­ful resources, let’s briefly look at its origins.

Fact 1: The Unit­ed States is not the only coun­try to offi­cial­ly cel­e­brate it. In addi­tion to our neigh­bors to the North, who also cel­e­brate this time of remem­brance in Feb­ru­ary, the Irish and the Unit­ed King­dom observe Black His­to­ry Month in October.

Fact 2: The roots of Black His­to­ry Month in the U.S. can be traced back to his­to­ri­an Carter G. Wood­son and the Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Negro Life and His­to­ry, who togeth­er marked the sec­ond week of Feb­ru­ary – which coin­cides with Abra­ham Lincoln’s birth­day – as Negro his­to­ry week in 1926.

Fact 3: Even the Great Eman­ci­pa­tor had his fail­ures, and so it’s undoubt­ed­ly best that in 1969 stu­dents at Kent State moved to cel­e­brate the con­tri­bu­tions and cul­ture of Black Amer­i­cans for an entire month, instead of plac­ing Pres­i­dent Lin­coln, who upheld the mass pub­lic hang­ing of 38 Dako­ta Sioux on Decem­ber 26, 1862, in the cen­ter of their celebrations.

So, if your school has nev­er cel­e­brat­ed Black His­to­ry Month before, it’s nev­er too late to get on that ‘soul train’. And since we didn’t want to leave you in the lurch, we’ve pro­vid­ed a list of some suit­able blogs we’ve pub­lished over the years on sub­jects, rang­ing from cul­tur­al icons, such as Aretha Franklin, Don Cor­nelius, and Bey­on­cé, to best books and fab­u­lous films deal­ing with Black iden­ti­ty and his­to­ry. You’ll also find infor­ma­tion on some cur­rent controversies:

Read more »

Start Spreading the News: A Cross-Cultural Virtual Newsroom

By Deborah Steinborn

Can­va BEST mag­a­zine cover

A vir­tu­al what? asked the per­plexed high-school prin­ci­pal on the oth­er end of the line. I was halfway through my one-minute pitch of the BEST Vir­tu­al News­room, a new cross-cul­tur­al media-lit­er­a­cy pro­gram for Ger­man and Amer­i­can teens. Appar­ent­ly in a hur­ry, he huffed and quick­ly passed me on to a teacher of Eng­lish at the Ham­burg school. To my relief, she was more enthu­si­as­tic about the oppor­tu­ni­ty. She promised to dis­trib­ute the call for applications.

I made that first cold-call in spring 2021. The Amerikazen­trum Ham­burg, a bina­tion­al cul­tur­al insti­tute, had approached me a few weeks ear­li­er with the germ of an idea. Why not devel­op a vir­tu­al pro­gram to teach teens in Ham­burg and its U.S. sis­ter city Chica­go the basics of jour­nal­ism? A firm believ­er that media lit­er­a­cy is need­ed now more than ever, I loved the idea. I threw myself into the plan­ning right away.

Read more »

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 »