Teaching Tools

Tips, Tricks, and Tools of the Trade

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.

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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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