Tag Archives: Teaching Tools

What Does the Fox Say? A Simple Tale with a Plethora of Possibilities

By Maryann Henck

When I first read George Saun­ders’ fable-like tale, Fox 8, I ini­tial­ly felt amused, then sad, and final­ly out­raged. I also felt a blog brew­ing – not of the book review vari­ety but of the teach­ing tool/creativity cor­ner vari­ety. For starters, Fox 8 is less of a charm­ing bed­time sto­ry for chil­dren – who will no doubt enjoy it – and more of a dark­ly com­ic cau­tion­ary tale for adults. The tit­u­lar first-per­son nar­ra­tor takes the read­ers on a jour­ney through his life as a fox who lives and for­ages with his fel­low fox­es in the for­est. Fox for­est life is run­ning smooth­ly until Fox 8 has his first con­fus­ing encounter with humans, which results in con­flict­ing feelings.

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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.

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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:

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Remote Learning with American Studies

By Carolyn Blume, Andreas Hübner, Michaela Keck

With this fifth blog, we are com­ing to the end or our series on dig­i­tal teach­ing tools. We hope that you’ve been inspired by some of the Amer­i­can Stud­ies links rang­ing from the heart-warm­ing and hilar­i­ous antics of humans and ani­mals to the more schol­ar­ly posts on Aca­d­e­m­ic Earth.

Make Way for Duck­lings by Nan­cy Schön in Boston Pub­lic Garden
Google Lit Trips
By Carolyn Blume

“Trav­el is fatal to prej­u­dice, big­otry, and nar­row-mind­ed­ness.” Mark Twain

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Literature Circles Rock!

By Sabrina Völz and Jennifer Kühl

Image cred­it: Tim Geers

As we all know, more and more adults are read­ing less and less in their free time. That’s not a judg­ment, just a fact. Bud­ding book­worms might even be con­sid­ered an endan­gered species, so a few years ago, I start­ed look­ing for a dif­fer­ent approach to teach­ing lit­er­a­ture to stu­dents of all majors and back­grounds. While look­ing for inspi­ra­tion, I came across the lit­er­a­ture cir­cle, an approach that might just engage even the most skep­ti­cal uni­ver­si­ty stu­dent who’d rather be writ­ing code for an app or start­ing his or her own busi­ness. While it has become an inte­gral part of the Eng­lish class­room from ele­men­tary school upwards in the Unit­ed States, this stu­dent-cen­tered activ­i­ty is rel­a­tive­ly unknown in Ger­many. At least it was to me. Dur­ing my research, I found out that lit­er­a­ture cir­cles come in all shapes and sizes and can be struc­tured in many dif­fer­ent ways, so there’s no one “right” way of doing it. That very fact appealed to me and led me to explore unchar­tered territory.

In a nut­shell, a lit­er­a­ture cir­cle is made up of a small group of indi­vid­u­als who read the same text. Togeth­er they explore the text’s con­tent and style while reflect­ing, ask­ing ques­tions, and shar­ing feel­ings, just as any lit­er­a­ture cir­cle would do. Sounds sim­ple, right? It is and that’s exact­ly the point. When I first start­ed adapt­ing the lit­er­a­ture cir­cle to fit my university’s cur­ricu­lum, I didn’t real­ize how this method would rev­o­lu­tion­ize my class­room – at least for a day.

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