Welcome to Grenzenlos Deutsch, an online, open education resource for introductory German!
We’re glad to have you here. Regardless of whether you are using Grenzenlos Deutsch (GD) as your primary curriculum or as supplemental material for a more traditional textbook, we hope that you will find the content useful for your classroom.
Grenzenlos Deutsch is a no-cost alternative to textbooks. We seek to represent a breadth of perspectives that will enable our students to talk about their own lives; thus we have designed content that is actively feminist, anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-ableist, LGBTQIA+ friendly and represents a spectrum of experience. We hope that GD will enable students to communicate with other speakers of German about a range of topics, including their own lives. Since 21st-century students are more likely than ever to have complex identities and family structures, we started there in our Familie und Freunde units. The units on Einkaufen und Essen not only teach the language that one needs to buy food, but also get into topics such as organic food and veganism. Reisen und Transport units discuss types of travel and reasons for doing so. The units in the theme Ort: In der Stadt und auf dem Land include descriptions of housing and towns, but also housing styles not found in the US, such as a Wohngemeinschaft. Umwelt und Nachhaltigkeit starts with language for plants and animals, and moves on to talk about biodiversity and environmental politics. Soziale Gerechtigkeit-themed units teach language about social justice topics, including people with disabilities, gender, and education as it relates to class. We welcome your feedback, and would hope that you would report any broken links or other website issues.
Structure of Grenzenlos Deutsch
For each of the thematic modules, there are three units of increasing complexity. Each unit has approximately six lessons, and each lesson has an Erweiterung, which includes additional activities to recap and solidify activities in the main lesson; they were designed to be used as homework or in additional hours (for example, in a lab or conversation session). For someone using Grenzenlos Deutsch as their primary curriculum, we would recommend teaching material from Einheit 1 of each topic in order (i.e., Familie und Freunde: Einheit 1 then Einkaufen und Essen: Einheit 1, then Reisen und Transport: Einheit 1, and so on), since grammatical sequencing in those units builds on material from previous units. Once your class has reached the Einheit 2 for each topic, it is easier to adjust the sequence of the topics, and at the third level, the sequencing of units is very flexible. For a class that meets three days a week and completes one lesson per day, approximately 5-6 units may be completed, depending on how much time is taken for assessment and other activities. A class meeting four days a week could complete 6-8 units, and a class meeting 5 days a week for 15 weeks could finish 9. The levels, therefore, correspond to approximately one semester per level in classes that meet either 3 or 4 days a week. Classes that meet 5 days a week could finish all of the units in all of the levels over the course of two 15-week semesters.
Classrooms and Course Management
As you begin to plan your classroom lessons, we would encourage you to think about the physical makeup of your classroom, and the likelihood that your students will have a portable device of some type, whether it is a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. If you are using Moodle, the H5P activities can be easily integrated directly into your LMS and will “talk to” the grade book. The ease of integration with other LMS’s varies, but you can link directly to lessons and specific sections of a lesson from your LMS to make navigation easy for your students. Depending on your classroom, audio and video clips can either be shown in class, or assigned as homework. Finding ways to encourage student interactions independent of the technology is also an important component. During the pre-pilot, instructors used group work, information gap activities, and question circles, where each person in the circle is asked a question by the person on one side of them, answers it, and then asks a related question of the person on the other side.
We are in the process of gathering suggestions for additional materials: films, music, and short texts that you might want to integrate into your lessons as a way of varying text type and building more sustained listening and reading. On the main page of each module, or content area, we have provided a list of texts that match the theme. We suggest you select one or two of these for each unit.
We also suggest that you read our “For Students” section, particularly the portion about vocabulary and our suggestions for working with vocabulary. In case you’re interested in online flashcards for your students: Dr. Pascale LaFountain has created an excellent set of Quizlet vocabulary sets for Grenzenlos Deutsch; those sets are available at: https://quizlet.com/lafountainp/folders/grenzenlos-101/sets for German 101 and https://quizlet.com/lafountainp/folders/grenzenlos-102/sets for German 102.
GD is actually a collection of websites. To move from one module to another, click on the “Curriculum” button at the top of the page. Select the module or content area you are currently exploring. Once you have selected your module, when you click on the “Curriculum” button again, you will see the possible units and a cascading menu to select your lesson. The home page of each unit provides an overview of topics and provides links for quicker navigation to each lesson. The menu at the top of each page will allow you to jump to specific sections within the lesson or expansion.
All the urls for the curriculum follow the same pattern to make it easier for you to link to your LMS—and for your general navigation. You’ll see that each module has a short name (like Familie) and then the urls cascade from there with e for Einheit followed by the number of the unit, l for Lektion also followed by the number of the lesson, and erw for Erweiterung. (examples: grenzenlos-deutsch.com/familie/e1/l3 or grenzenlos-deutsch.com/ort/e2/l3/erw)
PC users need to use HTML codes (alt+132 = ä, alt+129 = ü, etc.) to enter special characters into H5P. Here is a useful link with those codes. We are currently working with our technology consultants to see if there might be a way to make this process easily. You might also suggest that students switch their keyboards to German if that might assist with special characters.
Open Educational Resource
All of our activities and content are Open Educational Resources (OER), and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Anyone is welcome to use, reuse, and share this content, as long as the resulting content is also licensed with a share-alike license, and is being used for non-commercial purposes. The curriculum was created using free tools, as well: WordPress for the website itself and the wonderful collection of H5P tools for interactive activities. Note that any of these H5P activities can be embedded and/or downloaded, so feel free to place them in your LMS or to reuse them in other ways that meet your classroom goals.
As you think about assessment, we encourage you to consider your options, and use a variety of strategies over the course of a semester. In our pre-pilot, the instructor used a portfolio process, where students had the opportunity to demonstrate the completion of learning outcomes by submitting writing, video, and other artifacts. These portfolios included both writing created in-class and writing that was created through a drafting process. Asking students to write with a drafting process can be a productive way to encourage students to think about the skills that they might need to practice, but in-class writing will ensure that you are getting the students’ own writing, rather than content created with inappropriate assistance. In addition to this type of portfolio, you might consider these additional options for assessment: an online portfolio that includes audio or video files of the student speaking; oral interviews; frequent low-stakes quizzes, perhaps using the existing H5P activities; reflective pieces of writing about the learning process and progress; and creative works by the students.
We feel that traditional unit tests are not the best measure of language learning, and thus we have not provided a test bank. However, we have provided a Zusammenfassung for each unit. This page includes general ACTFL Can-Do Statements for the targeted level of language production, plus more specific can-do statements that relate to the content at hand. We have also provided a short Bildgeschichte (a comic strip without words) that students could narrate, either in speech or writing, as a way of demonstrating their ability to use the relevant vocabulary and structures. Finally, the Zusammenfassung also includes a slideshow of images relevant to the unit; these pictures could be prompts for writing, for an oral interview, or for partner work. We hope these materials at the end of each unit will provide you with rich content and alternative ways of assessing your students.
We have created the curriculum with accessibility in mind. Not only is the curriculum freely accessible to all students, but we worked to ensure that we are using ADA-standards for web design. The images have alternative text descriptions, and the H5P activities as well as the tables are all readable for text-to-speech readers. You will notice one big exception: the videos do not include captions, except in some specific situations when German subtitles are provided. This was a conscious decision: we want students to practice listening specifically and to push themselves to understand natural speech. However, we know that some students will require text to provide equitable access to the curriculum, and we have complete audio transcripts of the curriculum. Should you require or wish to have the transcripts, please contact us and we will send them to you.
Gender and Pronouns
Grenzenlos Deutsch strives to be particularly attentive to questions of gender in the German language. In a communicative approach to language teaching where a primary mode of language acquisition is having students talk about themselves and their classmates, students must have the language to describe themselves and their identities in all their diversity, including gender diversity. In GD you will see some things that you don’t usually find in traditional grammar guides, like the non-binary pronoun options xier and they. For decades, activists and language innovators have worked to undermine the rigid gender binary of the German language and offer alternatives like the Binnen-I, the gender gap and gender star (you can find an overview of these on this page of GD) or other creative formulations like those listed on https://geschicktgendern.de. We make use of these in GD and also introduce two options for non-binary pronouns: the English they as a singular German pronoun and xier, a pronoun developed by Illi Anna Heger as a German equivalent to the English singular they. While neither xier nor they has yet achieved widespread use in Germany, we believe they are the two most common options at present in Germany and have therefore included them. We encourage you to adopt a syllabus statement about gender and pronouns (a sample is included below) and to work with your individual students to find pronoun options they are comfortable with. The Nonbinary Wiki lists many gender neutral pronoun options for German; with all these resources, we hope you and your students will find comfortable ways to address individual identities. The German language continues to evolve, and we will update GD to reflect the changing landscape and language of gender identity. If you are interested in more concrete strategies for teaching gender neutral language, two of our editorial board members have published on the topic: Steffen Kaupp in the Goethe Institut Magazin Sprache and Angineh Djavadghazaryans in Diversity and Decolonization in German Studies.
Sample syllabus statement from the Department of German Studies at Grinnell College:
Nouns in German have a gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter) that often doesn’t obey any apparent logic: why is a chair “he,” a lamp “she,” or a window “it”? Whereas linguists may offer different explanations for that, one thing is clear: we must learn the gender of nouns in order to speak German properly. The correct use of pronouns, possessive adjectives, adjective endings, or declensions depends on knowing the correct gender of a noun. The German language also assigns humans a gender and German is not special for having a rigid binary gender system. As a matter of fact, you will hear binary forms in most public discourse. Patriarchy, heterosexism, and gender normativity are reflected in our use of language and language instruction is one of the spaces in which such power structures are reinforced. This does not mean that such practices cannot be contested. Feminist, queer, intersex, and trans activists in Germany have been advocating for many years the use of gender-inclusive and non-binary language when addressing other people. Many German speakers are fighting for their right not to be erased by implicit sexist language (are all Studenten male?) or to be addressed by their preferred gender pronoun. The use of gender inclusive language is becoming more common in German, for instance through the use of the Binnen-I form (as in StudentInnen). In addition, activists are advocating forms that challenge the gender binary even further, for instance with the Gender-Gap (Student_innen), the Gender-Sternchen (Student*innen), and the alternative ending x (Studentxs). At ________ we strive to be respectful and inclusive. Whereas we still need to learn language in its normative form, I encourage you to be aware of the implications of such norms and to be attentive to your classmates’ and instructors’ desires. There is no reason why we cannot join these activists’ efforts in making language less oppressive for all. If you’d like to know more or continue this conversation, contact …..
We welcome feedback! We do hope you will understand that your feedback may not result in immediate changes to the curriculum, unless your comments deal with typos, broken links, activities that aren’t working correctly. Our team will try to address these as soon as possible. More substantive comments and feedback will be shared with the entire Editorial Board, and then a decision will be made by the collective about how to proceed.
You should know that the authors and editors of GD are current or recent faculty at an institution that teaches German. Our IT support is limited, and we do not have the financial backing of a textbook publisher. Our authors and editors are all colleagues, who are working on this project as part of their professional development, pedagogic research, and/or out of the kindness of their hearts. We hope you will understand this situation and be patient with us.
Thank you so much for working with Grenzenlos Deutsch. If you’re interested in becoming part of our editorial board or creating content, we invite you to get in touch with us. If you have questions, feel free to contact the co-directors at abelATmacalester.edu or youngaATcentral.edu.
The Grenzenlos Deutsch Team