Cultural Discussions for intermediate German


Post-secondary German, intermediate-level
German 201 and 202
Brigham Young University

Purposes and background

  1. Increase quality and quantity of student writing practice
  2. Expose students to a variety of cultural topics

Students were originally assigned to write a 50 word “journal response” in the target language (TL) on a given cultural topic. See photo 1 below. There were up to 5 such assignments in each unit. After a while it became clear that these were just as boring for students as they were to grade, so we resolved to completely change the nature of the assignment type.


I reconfigured the assignments into group discussions, lasting a total of four days from start to finish. On the first day, the students were required to make an initial 50 word post and include some kind of picture, video, or other web artifact to complement their topic. On the second day they would then respond to two other posts, including a comment and a question in the TL. The third day was reserved for responding to comments, and the fourth for revising based on feedback given by the teacher and/or other students. I also rewrote the prompts to include 4-5 additional ideas underneath broader topics.

Instead of having up to 5 journal assignments per unit, I structured it so that each unit reliably had 3 discussion, following a regular schedule.


Objective 1: Increase quality and quantity of student writing practice
On average, students wrote far more and on wider ranging topics than in the previous versions of these assignments. Instead of scraping by with only 50 words per journal entry on narrowly defined topics, they were writing 100+ word discussion posts, and on a wider range of cultural practices, products, and perspectives. While online discussion cannot replicate all the advantages of in-class discussion, the accountability and personalization that these discussions introduced to the writing assignments enhanced the quality of the student’s output.

Objective 2: Expose students to a variety of cultural topics
As mentioned, the students wrote on a much broader range of detailed topics within specific themes. The need to include a media source encouraged students to do a little more thorough outside research than before. And by virtual of the fact that they were required to read some of the peers’ posts, they were exposed to at least two other facets of the cultural theme on which each discussion focused.