Pedagogical and Theoretical UnderpinningsAs reflected in the introduction to Deutsch im Blick, vocabulary acquisition is of central importance for this learning program, since meaning is central to interpersonal communication, and vocabulary provides most of the meaning. To that end, activities emphasize meaningful learning of a large amount of new vocabulary in each chapter. Activities begin by presenting new items in use (usually by native and non-native speakers) and progress toward eventual practice of productive skills which feature personalization of the new vocabulary for students. Consistent with research on vocabulary acquisition, a conscious effort has been made to recycle and reinforce language targets from previous chapters. While Deutsch im Blick prioritizes meaningful acquisition of vocabulary, it does not neglect structural accuracy, nor should instructors sacrifice one for the other. You will notice that activities utilize a mixture of “language chunks” and meaning-making which target specific language structures. In this way lexical and structural accuracy are integrally woven into the language learning process. This should help adult learners use their cognitive resources effectively (e.g., problem solving, pattern recognition, critical thinking and awareness, etc.). This approach is underscored by current theories of second language acquisition regarding the role of awareness, noticing, culturally embedded, meaningful input and creative language production.
The focus on noticing and raising awareness of the language – both for meaning and metalinguistic knowledge – is linked to a sociolinguistic approach to language learning. Students participate in a guided version of ethnography of communication: activities draw their attention to language patterns, ask them to reflect on variation between types of interaction both in their own and the focal language. The extensive use of authentic materials (texts, images, videoclips) is closely connected to the sociolinguistic approach. Learners will recognize and learn to use relevant patterns of interaction only if they are presented with such. As a result, we tried to limit pedagogically prepared materials to a minimum, and systematically raise awareness of meta-knowledge along with a focus on vocabulary and grammar in context.
Deutsch im Blick has limited explicit grammar modeling, but it is supported by an extensive companion online resource: (http://www.coerll.utexas.edu/gg/gr/index.html). This Web site appropriates the characters from the Grimm fairy tales to guide students through explicit discussions of German grammar. It is not a pedagogical grammar resource, as it is not limited to the actual material covered in the first-year textbook (DiB). Rather, all beginning-level grammatical structures are introduced, even those that are not explicitly covered in the 10 chapters in DiB. The grammar points that are relevant for DiB are indicated in the textbook (linked in the online textbook to the specific grammar points in Grimm Grammar), and students should focus their attention on these structures. On each GG page, students are presented with a description of the grammatical structure and are provided with English and German examples, a practice grounded in years of experience, where we found that many students struggled with basic grammatical concepts, which needed to be clear before these students could learn effectively from the material presented to them in the classroom. In addition to model sentences, explanations, each grammar point has one or more self-correcting exercise(s) to help students learn to use that structure. Due to technical limitations, the exercises are multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank or ordering tasks. Unfortunately, here pedagogy is limited by technology. While the Grimm Grammar exercises rely on a broad range of vocabulary, the activities in the Deutsch im Blick book incorporate target grammar points receptively and productively with the target lexical information. As a first-year program, DiB, also specifically does not cover certain more complex grammatical concepts: passive voice, relative clauses, past perfect, adjective endings, for example. Students are not asked to work with these features actively either receptively or productively, but they will come across them in the authentic materials.
While some students might find authentic materials overwhelming at times due to their rhetorical structure, vocabulary or grammar, it is possible to work with these materials effectively. Deutsch im Blick relies heavily on authentic materials to drive learning. Students interact with a variety of texts—both written and spoken—from the beginning. Experience and research has provided evidence that it isn’t the text as much as the task which determines successful interaction with the materials. The design of activities which set students up to succeed and to learn from authentic materials can help raise confidence levels and encourage ongoing exploration and learning. These materials also help contextualize target skills and vocabulary which facilitates communication and meaning-making.
Lastly, the authentic materials include activities (e.g., reflection & comparison tasks) which were designed in a way that helps guide students develop intercultural competence. It is important to note that the exercises do not ask students simply to compare what “Americans” do with what speakers of German do. We do not believe that tasks like that achieve anything more than reinforcing stereotypes. Rather, students are guided on a journey of self-awareness, during which they come to understand their own cultural background. The diversity of students’ cultural perspectives as these are revealed in class, should lead to the understanding that while there may be cultural trends, diversity within a culture is at least as – if not more – significant than the differences between cultures. Thus, the objective should be, once again, awareness of cultural phenomena without a simplistic conclusion that “Americans do X” while “Germans do Y.” Institutional practices (e.g., schooling, politics, etc.) can be analyzed, compared, and contrasted based on facts – and class-external research is very much encouraged – without having to draw evaluative judgments. Let the students develop the skills and the habit of gaining knowledge, analyzing evidence clearly, and drawing their own conclusions about what people do (be it individuals or groups of people).
How to use Deutsch im Blick and Grimm Grammar
Deutsch im Blick is made up of 10 chapters, covering topics that our students studying abroad found interesting and useful. Each chapter begins with a short video of a UT student who presents the chapter's thematic and grammatical material. The student speaks in a combination of English and German, and highlights the various topics and learning objectives of the chapter. Most chapters are divided into separate sections, based on interrelated themes that pertain to the overall chapter topic.
Each chapter is preceded by a core vocabulary list that should be assigned before working with the activities in that chapter. The more extensive vocabulary at the end of each chapter should serve as a reference point, so that students can express a variety of ideas, beyond the core vocabulary, that pertains to their own experiences. The online vocabulary is a comprehensive list of the chapter's key vocabulary items arranged according to semantic fields, e.g., salutations, colors, days of the week, etc. Students listen to the native speaker pronunciation and may download the files in mp3 format. Please note that we do not advocate that students should develop “native-like” pronunciation (whatever that might mean). It is expected and normal for adult language learners to develop a variety of accents, based on their proficiency levels, their first language background, and/or on their experience with learning other languages, among other variables. Instructors and students should work explicitly with the vocabulary throughout the chapter (and reflected in all assessment materials). There is a set of suggestions for activities that enhance lexical acquisition, which can be found at the beginning of every chapter. Download the pdf template to complete the Vorbereitung exercises at the beginning of each chapter. This sequence of exercises includes different strategies to help students learn the chapter vocabulary. They practice pronunciation, identify cognates and word families, and relate words to create associations.
Activities in the textbook move from vocabulary-building to interpretive, then productive tasks. Instructors should feel free to leave some exercises out or segments of certain exercises (e.g., part C, D or E) if students have already mastered a particular lexicon or grammar point. We very much encourage assigning grammar points in advance, outside of class, in preparation for in-class work. The online, self-correcting exercises are fairly mechanical and provide basic practice, practice that should precede the more integrative and creative in-class exercises.
In order to introduced and practice vocabulary, grammar, pragmatics and cultural themes, the textbook builds heavily on a large number of videoclips (interviews with native and non-native speakers of German, and language in context videos). These videoclips can be assigned prior to class and/or can be watched together in the classroom for students to complete assignments with a partner or in a small group. Transcripts in German and English are available in the tabs of the interview clips, although they can also be shown without any transcripts for a more challenging listening exercise. Guided activities in the text help students process the new material at increasingly sophisticated levels. Learners watch the videos with or without the transcript in preparation for their own similar interviews. These tasks may be assigned at the instructor’s discretion for homework or for use in-class. These often include follow-up exercises for use in the classroom.
Grammar links throughout the online textbook lead students into Grimm Grammar. Individual grammar items are carefully explained in English, then exemplified in a dialogue, and finally tested in self-correcting, fill-in-the-blank exercises which are drawn from a database. These grammar lessons are all embedded into postmodern adaptations of the famous Grimm’s fairy tales. To facilitate reference and learning, all grammar items are thoroughly cross-linked. Important grammatical terminology is defined in an introductory page for every part of speech. For example, the definition of infinitive, conjugation, and paradigm can all be found in the ' Introduction to Verbs' page. The exercises in the Deutsch im Blick textbook then implement these grammar points in open-ended, often pair and group-work based integrative tasks about the chapter topic, using the target lexicon.
Deutsch im Blick includes several web quests, cultural research assignments that students should complete at home, and then present in class. We encourage these presentations to be in German from the beginning. They include working with authentic websites, learning how to reserve train tickets, how to find out information about areas of study at a German-speaking university, etc. This is often the culminating activity of a chapter whose purpose is to unify the various lexical and grammatical and cultural points of the given chapter. Students have responded very positively to these quests, which can also be done as partner work in a computer lab. Pronunciation The Aussprache section introduces systematically and accessibly essential aspects of German pronunciation, dialectology and the impact of German on the English language. Each lesson recycles previously learned vocabulary and emphasizes the chapter's vocabulary. Listening discrimination exercises – available online – provide instant feedback.
There are also songs included in every chapter. For copyright reasons, the activities that support these songs are available directly from the Deutsch im Blick website, but their recommended place is indicated in each chapter. The chapter – and online PDF documents – are linked to a YouTube video associated with the song, so no separate CD is required but an internet connection is.
As the last content component, each chapter has a non-scientific poll, that is purely for fun (available online, the link is also provided in the textbook). No intercultural conclusions should be drawn on the results, but they may be good discussion starters about interpersonal preferences.
Finally, a note on mechanics. Much of the book is in workbook format, where space is left for students to take notes. This may, however, make it difficult to remove pages to hand in assignments. Students can photocopy pages, print off a copy from PDF documents available online, or they many need to write the assignment on a separate sheet of paper. The PDF of each chapter can be printed off directly from the Deutsch im Blick website, or the book can be ordered through print-on-demand from Lulu.com.
Foreign Language Teacher Method: http://coerll.utexas.edu/methods/