Deutsch 221/231 Kursinformation – Herbst 2019

“With every mistake we must surely be learning.” [George Harrison]

German 221/231:  a study of Identity

What does it mean to be German? How do Germans see themselves? How does the world view the Germans? What about the Austrians and the Swiss? Chances are, if you have had any contact with German-speaking culture, you have probably encountered the question of German identity. In fact, there is even a word that describes Germany’s image: das Deutschlandbild. Try Googling: “Was ist (typisch) deutsch?” or “Deutschlandbild” and marvel at the multitude of articles and surveys. Why do Germans so frequently ask such questions about themselves? Is it because of the relatively late founding of the German state in 1871? the brutal use of racial criteria for citizenship under Nazi rule? the country’s division into two vastly different and opposing political systems during the Cold War? the challenges with reunification? Germany’s role in the EU? the current debates surrounding the admission of refugees? How do most Austrians and Swiss see themselves in relation to Germany?

In this intermediate German language course, we will consider these and many more questions surrounding the topic of identity. We will also consider by comparison, our own personal and cultural identities. How do we perceive and express ourselves? What factors (gender, age, ethnic heritage, etc.) have shaped our own identities, and how have these changed in our lifetimes?

Required Texts and Materials to Purchase for class

1. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug. ISBN: 1476796629. Please get the hardcover book, not the Kindle or audio version.  

2. At least one composition book (no spirals or wire), ink pens, at least one non-black pen or pencil, 4×6 index cards, a glue stick. Leave the cover and first page of comp. book blank until directed otherwise.

belonging textbook cover image

Required composition book


Thematic units

Throughout the term, we will ponder and discuss the concept of identity auf Deutsch within a series of thematic units. Each unit involves all three modes of communication:

  • the interpretive (one-way communication / comprehension),
  • the interpersonal (two-way communication / conversation),
  • the presentational (one-way communication to an audience or readers).

and concludes with summative assessments in all three modes. The assessments resemble a variety of real-world communicative tasks. Our objective is not to see what students don’t know on a test, but rather to see what students can do in real-world situations. For example, the first unit concludes with partners conversing in German for 5 minutes, writing an English synopsis of a short German text and writing a zine or illustrated story about a childhood memory. Leading up to the summative assessments, our aim is to review thoroughly the grammar, vocabulary and cultural content while practicing all four skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) needed for success in completing the assessments. This means that all the course work we do in and outside of class will be with the end goal in mind.

High Frequency Vocabulary:  the key to proficiency

Another key component of this course is daily work with high-frequency vocabulary (HFV). The research is compelling: knowing the 1,200 most frequently occurring words / word families makes 70-75% German comprehensible. The problem is that when linguists have measured the percentage of HFV in first-year textbooks, they find only 30-40% of those words represented. Our goal is for students to master the first 1,200 words, no matter what textbooks they have used previously. To do this, we will cover approximately 100 words per week in class and expect students to spend around 20-30 minutes per day 4-5 days per week on their own making flashcards and memorizing the vocabulary after we have introduced the words and provided assistance in how to make the most of online or paper flashcards. There will be many Quizlet sessions and weekly quizzes in class to help keep students on track. There is also a vocabulary midterm and final exam, which together make up 10% of the final grade. That means that only with a passing grade (80% or better) on the vocabulary final is it possible to earn an A for the final course grade.

Language acquisition requires regular participation

Cramming does not work for language acquisition, or for any complex skill for that matter. It takes daily practice in speaking, hearing, writing, and reading the language for acquisition to occur. Because our class meetings give students the chance to engage actively in the language, class attendance and participation are a critical component of the course. In other words, we take attendance and participation seriously. While several excused and unexcused absences will lower the attendance and participation grade to differing degrees (see our website), 10 unexcused absences mean a final course grade of E.

Final creative project

Another important feature of this course is our final creative project to be completed in groups of 3-4 students. In the past, students worked together to make short (5-10 minute) films, in which they performed in German and incorporated as much course content (ideas, texts, films, grammar, vocabulary, etc.) as possible. This year, we would like to maintain the spirit of the assignment but at the same time allow for other media: role plays, podcasts, zines / illustrated stories, games, comics, etc. A 200$ Kothe-Hildner Prize is available for the best final project out of all sections of German 221/231.  The nominated projects are screened between 4-6 pm on the Friday of the last full week of classes ==> please come and take part in the vote!


All assessments and weekly quizzes will be graded as pass / fail or meets specifications / does not meet specifications. Because we are piloting this new system this term, we will allow you to make up (one time) any assessment for which you do not receive a passing grade. All work must be completed within the semester.

Grading Criteria

50% Formative Assessments

(show that students are learning)

50% Summative Assessments

(show what students have learned)


Attendance and Participation


Core Vocabulary: Midterm Exam 3%, Final Exam 7%


Homework (daily), Online Quizzes, AMDs (3)


Interpretive Assessments (4)


Weekly in-class P/F quizzes on the core vocabulary and class content from the preceding week: texts, grammar, vocabulary


Interpersonal Assessments / Partner Interviews (4)


Presentational Assessments / Writing, Presenting, Performing, Final Project (5)

Final course grades calculated by percentage on Canvas will translate into the following letter grades:

97-100 A+ 77-79.99 C+
93-96.99 A 73-76.99 C
90-92.99 A- 70-72.99 C-
87-89.99 B+ 67-69.99 D+
83-86.99 B 63-66.99 D
80-82.99 B- 60-62.99 D-
0-59.99 E


Recommended Texts, Sites

  • Our departmental website – thank you, Hartmut!
  • Best bilingual dictionaries online:
    PONS  –>best for choosing the right word       –>easiest to use, has great “crowd-sourced” pronunciation samples, and lots of handy tools (Note the “Wildcard Search” option!)
    Linguee    –>shows you translations in context and has great pronunciation
  • Useful dictionaries:  
    LEO provides easier access to noun plurals and verb conjugations, covers more technical terms, and has a great forum for tricky questions.
    BEOLINGUS provides messy results, but useful examples.
  • If in doubt, check your results by a Google search and/or by comparing German and English Wikipedia entries.
  • Monolingual dictionaries / resources:
  • Google Images can make vocabulary learning fun. Do an image search of a word or phrase you want to learn. offers images, too. Very entertaining!
  • Google (not Google translate). If you wonder about a phrase you have created, trying googling it. If little pops up, chances are it is awkward. For entertaining fun, type a German word in the Google search bar to see what Google wants to add to it. Adventure awaits!
  • For titles, concepts, idioms, try Wikipedia, then click on Deutsch in the lower left column. Wikipedia sites in German are amazing resources for harvesting vocabulary on any topic.
  • If you want a paper dictionary, try:
    • Langenscheidt Standard Dictionary German(Get the paperback version: much cheaper and easier to use!)
    • Harper Collins Beginner’s German Dictionary(Helpful usage examples; especially easy to read and use)
  • Rankin/Wells. Handbuch zur deutschen Grammatik (grammar text), 6th Edition. All the grammar you are required to know is in the course materials online, but this book is an excellent reference.
  • Zorach & Melin: English Grammar for Students of German, 6th ed.
  • Jones & Tschirner: A Frequency Dictionary of German(ISBN: 0-415-31632-4) The gold standard in high-frequency vocabulary lists. New edition due Oct. 2019.
  • Gabriel Wyner: Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It(ISBN: 0385348118)

Canvas Expectations

We expect you to check Canvas regularly for:

  • Assignments in your assignment calendar (even if there is nothing to submit!)
    • Assignments are due at the beginning of your section’s class time
  • Announcements: Enable notifications and check your email inbox daily OR: visit Canvas daily to check for new Announcements.
  • Gradebook: Please check regularly to make sure you have gotten credit for all assignments you have submitted, tests you have taken etc. Notify your instructor within a week of a grade being entered if you think there may be a mistake.
    • ==> Gradebook comments do not generate email notifications ==> log into Canvas to see them!

Attendance and Participation Policy

  • Speaking and listening in class are a very important part of this course. We will keep track of your attendance and participation by an “A&P Tally” grade on Canvas, as follows:
  • Each day, you will earn two “attendance points” for coming to class, and two “participation points” for participating actively.
  • If you are absent unexcused, you lose all four attendance & participation points for that day.
  • If you are absent for an excused reason (e.g. documented medical, psychological or family issues; religious holidays; family events such as weddings, funerals or graduations; job interviews; musical performances or athletic events in which you are participating, etc.), you will still earn the two attendance points for that day, but you cannot earn participation points if you are not in class.
    • As a courtesy to your instructor, please explain ALL absences, even if the reason is e.g. oversleeping, or work for another course, a trip, going to a concert etc.!
  • Lateness: Loss of 1-4 points for that day, depending on how late you were.
  • Inattention (inappropriate cell phone or laptop use, “zoning out,” etc.): Loss of one or both participation points for that day.
  • Difficulty participating: The “A&P Tally” grade is primarily an effort grade, but it does have an achievement component. If you are in class and making an effort to participate, but you have noticeable linguistic difficulties understanding and carrying out partner activities and/or responding when called on in class, you will lose 2 (or 1) participation points per week.
    • BUT:  We expect mistakes! Research has shown that language acquisition happens in a predictable sequence of stages. Each stage is characterized by certain patterns of useful mistakes!  ==> Difficulty participating (on an ongoing basis) may reduce your A&P grade. Making mistakes will not!
  • Absence Make-Ups/Participation Bonus: You can earn 2 make-up/bonus participation points for attending events such as
    • Schokoladenstunde
    • Max Kade Kaffeestunde or Deutschtisch
    • German Club events
    • Conversation and Free-Writing Hour
    • Actively engaging with an instructor in the German Lab for more than 30 minutes
    • Attending your instructor’s office hours for more than 30 minutes
    • Occasional special events, as announced by your instructor
    • You can earn a maximum of 10 make-up/bonus points in the first 2 calendar months of the semester, and up to 10 more in the second 2 calendar months of the semester.
  • Your instructor will enter “A&P Tally” grades weekly–please check these.  If you wish to contest an “A&P Tally” grade, you must do so WITHIN ONE WEEK.
  • ***If you have lost a net total of 40 or more points (the equivalent of 10 unexcused absences) in your “A&P Tally” by the end of the semester, your FINAL COURSE GRADE will be an AUTOMATIC E***
  • We will translate your final “A&P Tally” grade into your actual Attendance & Participation grade for the semester as follows:
    • “A&P Tally” of 96 percent or more ==> 96 percent for the final Attendance & Participation grade (i.e. an “A”)
      • Only in very exceptional cases (“A+” level of participation throughout the semester), your instructor may enter a higher final grade of 97-100.
    • 95 percent or less: Your final Attendance & Participation grade will be the same as your “A&P Tally” grade.

Max Kade Haus–a place for German community

  • The Max Kade Haus is the University’s German residence, located in North Quad. You are encouraged to attend events here and to meet interesting people who love German. You may want to consider living here!
  • If you tell the R.A. or facilitator to write down your name, s/he will inform your instructor that you were there; each full conversation hour you attend can make up 2 participation points OR you can write about this for an “Abenteuer mit Deutsch” blog entry.

Course Methods, Resources and Advice

Learning By Speaking; Language Learning Anxiety Advice and Resources
Respectful Classroom Environment Gender and Gender Pronouns in German
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Mental Health Resources
Student Sexual Misconduct Policy Academic Integrity, Essays, Homework

Learning By Speaking; Language Learning Anxiety

The best and most motivating way to learn all aspects of language (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, fluency, etc.) is by speaking. We will use as much class time as possible to let you speak. We use a lot of partner and group activities designed to let you actively practice vocabulary, so that you can speak for most of each class hour.  You will learn the most by relaxing, having fun, and experimenting with new words and structures without worrying too much about mistakes. This will save you a lot of memorization time before the tests – AND it will make it much easier to learn and practice grammar!

We spend very little time explaining grammar in class, but we will constantly be practicing it. Research has shown that grammar is learned most efficiently and lastingly by using it to communicate, not by explanations and drills. You will read grammar explanations at home before/while taking the diagnostic quizzes. There are many grammar resources available on-line. When the class needs it, your instructor will provide explicit explanations. Please ask questions.

Language Learning Anxiety

Researchers have found that about 1/3 of students feel anxious when learning a new language, in part because their limited language proficiency keeps them from “being themselves” when using the new language. They suggest two things that may be helpful in this context:

  • Know that you are not alone. Consider letting your instructor know how you feel.
  • Anxiety is often connected to perfectionism. As we will keep telling you throughout this course, your goal in speaking German should not be to “avoid mistakes,” but rather, to “keep talking”!

Advice and Resources

  • ASK QUESTIONS!! For every question you ask, there are likely to be several people in the class who will be grateful you asked it.
  • German Lab: There is a “German Lab” in the Language Resource Center in North Quad, MTWTh 1 – 4 p.m. During these times, one or more German instructors are there to help you with your questions.
  • Course Coordinator: Vicki Dischler (3120 MLB;; Language Program Director: Hartmut Rastalsky (3214 MLB; 647-0404). Your instructor may pass some questions on to Vicki or possibly Hartmut. Let Vicki know if you find a great learning resource!
  • Take a look at the “Reading Strategies” page on the Resources site. Above all: (1) Skim texts once before you read them thoroughly. This will save you time: it is the first thing you will hear in any speedreading course. (2) Fight the urge to look up every unfamiliar word. Use your knowledge and common sense to help you fill in the gaps. Remember how efficiently you do this in English e.g. when you are having a conversation in a noisy place!
  • Find a study partner. You’ll have more fun, you can share pizza (or Bratwurst), two heads are better than one, and you never learn a thing as well as when you try to explain it to someone else. Research data shows that students who work in study groups are more successful language learners.
  • Set aside a time every day to think in German about what you are doing (“Ich stehe auf. Ich putze mir die Zähne. Ich bin der/die Beste…”). This is great practice for the oral exams. Look up words for things you care about.
  • Explore the many resources on the Resources site, including Self-Study Advice.

Respectful Classroom Environment

This class depends on all of us being comfortable interacting informally with each other, experimenting with the language, taking risks, and being playful. That means that what is important in every college classroom is especially important for us: an environment in which everyone feels welcome and respected. That means thinking about the things we say, not perpetuating stereotypes, and apologizing if you said something you didn’t mean. It also means that we really want you to let your instructor know, in class or outside of class, in person or via email, if something happens in class that makes you uncomfortable, so that we can talk about how to make things better.

  • If there are students in your section whom you know from your previous German course(s), then of course it’s great if you continue to enjoy working with these old friends. But we also hope you will make an effort to meet new people in this section!
  • In this context, please bear in mind the University of Michigan’s non-discrimination policy: The University of Michigan is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.

Gender and Gender Pronouns in German

Anyone who speaks German has learned the various gender distinctions for nouns (der, die, das) as well as their declension in nominative, accusative, dative and genitive. As far as distinguishing gender pronouns for individual people, the most common conversations in German-speaking countries will use binary grammatical gender (e.g.sie and er; der Student= the male student, die Studentin= the female student), but many options have been proposed. We want to prepare you for communicating in German based on our experiences and research of the language in order to create a bridge to other cultures. We also want to cultivate the most inclusive classroom environment possible. If there is a way that you would like to be addressed in your German class, please let your instructor know so that we can show our respect for you in every way possible.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you think you may need an accommodation for a disability, please let your instructor know as soon as possible. In particular, a Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations (VISA) form must be provided to your instructor at least two weeks prior to the need for a test/quiz accommodation. The Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Office (G664 Haven Hall) issues VISA forms.

Mental Health Resources

The University of Michigan is committed to advancing the mental health and well-being of its students. If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and/or in need of support, services are available. For help, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (734) 764-8312 and during and after hours, on weekends and holidays, or through its counselors physically located in schools on both Central and North Campus. You may also consult University Health Service (UHS)at (734) 764-8320 and, or for alcohol or drug concerns, see

For a listing of other mental health resources available on and off campus, visit:

Student Sexual Misconduct Policy

Title IX and our school policy prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, and all forms of sexual misconduct, including harassment, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you can receive confidential support and academic advocacy at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC). SAPAC can be contacted on their 24-hour crisis line, 734-936-3333 and online at Violations can be reported non-confidentially to the Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) at Reports to law enforcement can be made to the University of Michigan Police Department at 734-763-3434.

Academic Integrity, Writing and Homework

Very important: All work submitted, including all homework assignments, must be original student work produced for this course, with proper quotation and citation of the contributions of others. When in doubt, cite (see below)!

This course is governed by the prevailing Codes of Student Conduct and of Academic Integrity of the University of Michigan and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA).Violations of Academic Integrity will be taken seriously and can in serious cases result in a failing grade for the course and/or referral to the LSA Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education. Official LSA policies on Academic Integrity, and also a quiz on Academic Integrity, can be found at:

The written work that you submit for this course are where this policy crucially applies. This means:

  • You will get the most out of writing for this course by creatively making the German you have learned “your own.” When you write about a German text you have read, look for opportunities to express the ideas from the text more simply in your own words.
    Citing resources
    Note all of the following situations in which you should put words or phrases in BOLD (or, alternatively, underline them) in your essay, and then CITE the source at the end of your essay.

    • You can ask your instructor, an instructor in the German Lab, or some other proficient speaker 3 or 4 specific questions on how to say something. Cite their name and the date you got help.
    • You may ONLY use an online translator like Google Translate for single words and short phrases. Clearly indicate these, include the English phrase you were checking, and then cite the translating tool. **Important: If your essay is clearly above the level of your work in class and on tests and homework, your instructor will hand it back to you and ask you to rewrite it.
    • If you consult any additional resources (e.g. Wikipedia or other online sources), even if you did not quote from them directly, cite these.
    • Put any direct quotes in quotation marks.
    • If you have no sources to cite (you didn’t look anything up in a dictionary, no one helped you, and you consulted no other sources), please write “I did not consult any outside sources for this essay” at the end!
    • Situations in which you DON’T need to cite: 
      • It is good practice to look up the genders and plurals of nouns, and the conjugation patterns of verbs you use in your essay.
      • We strongly encourage you to use a German spellchecker for your essays.

Homework: You are allowed (and even encouraged!) to get help from others and to collaborate with classmates on homework; if you use online translators (only to look up individual words and simple phrases) and other sources, you must cite them.