Compare and Contrast Current Events
Encourage students to compare and contrast coverage of current events in the USA and the target culture before class, then discuss in class (using the think-pair-share model)
Require students, either on their own or in small groups, to give a presentation, write a newspaper article, produce a film, create a website, etc. that builds on their research and accomplishes a course learning outcome: https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl
Invite students to study and propose localized solutions to contemporary problems in the target country or culture. (Here is an example of cultural problems via Stanford that has a decidedly PoliSci focus, but similar projects could be created for our courses: http://web.stanford.edu/class/msande298/problem-statements.html)
Business Case Studies
If it makes sense for your course, you could have students work through a case study of a company in the target culture. Harvard Business Publishing (https://hbsp.harvard.edu/cases/) features businesses from all over the world and these can provide an interesting window into the foreign culture. The bookstore can help you acquire these for your classes. You may also invite your students to use Hofstede’s cultural dimensions (https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/) to help them analyze the cultural differences embedded in foreign businesses.
- Getting-to-Know You Activities
- Question of the Day
- Class Openers
- Cooperative Learning & Team-building Activities
- Writing & Reflection Activities
- Breakout rooms in Zoom
- Cultural artifact analysis using the think-pair-share model
- Guest speakers
- Peer instruction (students prepare and present content)
- Role plays
- Service learning (students learn by serving others)
- Incorporate multisensory methods and materials (e.g., use images and sound effects as prompts for speaking and writing)
- Invite physical movement (e.g., 30-second energizers, such as culturally authentic fingerplays, dance breaks, stretch breaks, or yoga poses.
- Use physical objects to signal understanding (e.g., hold up objects when they hear vocab. words, show prepositions using stuffed animals, etc.).
- Use total physical response (especially from the waist up)
- Conversation practice (students practice speaking in the target language (e-mail, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, Whereby, Whatsapp)
- Debates (Tricider)
- Independent or small group research (Community of Online Research Assignments (CORA)
- Interview cultural informants (Ethnographic Interview Questions)
- Scavenger hunts (Goosechase)
Consider limiting large group discussions and focusing more on small group conversations focused on student readings and student papers (something like the tutorial system in the UK)
Use reading questions that students answer individually and then discuss asynchronously in Digital Dialog (Learning Suite) or together in Breakout Rooms (Zoom).
Emphasize student outcomes—what do students produce?—and organize activities that lead them step by step toward that (e.g. break down how to write a literary analysis: introductory paragraph, body paragraph, a conclusion and have them work in groups writing samples of each in Google Docs or in Digital Dialog).
This writing guide from the French and Italian Department shares ideas of how to teach writing in a literature or culture course.
Setting expectations and avoiding overload
Take advantage of moments when you are addressing the entire class (synchronous class sessions, group emails) to create clear expectations, focus on general principles or problems, and explain assignments. Create a class FAQ for assignments and provide examples of sample work. If one student emails you with a question about an assignment, consider sending the response out to the entire class (keeping the original sender anonymous, of course). Save yourself the dozens of individual emails from students all asking the same question!
Use regular informal writing as a way to create community
Writing can help create a sense of place for students and can help them feel that they belong to a group. Use discussion boards, chats, Google docs, Slack, and other online formats to facilitate interactions between you and your students and between students and other students. Written communication can be especially helpful in building community if your writing is warm, inviting, and conversational.
Use regular informal writing to assess learning
In online classes, you’ll see more of your students’ writing than ever before—formal and informal assignments and daily communication through email, chats, and other messaging platforms. You can use these interactions to assess learning. For example, you might ask students to send you a memo about their learning after a synchronous meeting or a short progress memo reporting on their paper or project. Intentionally designed communication assignments give students opportunities to write in new genres and give you important information about their learning. You can find ideas for exploratory, write-to-learn activities online or in John Bean’s excellent book Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom.
Pay attention to all student writing
Because you’ll see more of your students’ writing, you can get a better sense of who they are as writers. As you see more texts (and more variety of texts), you can note patterns in students’ writing. Use these patterns to guide your responses to their formal writing assignments. Look for patterns to praise and areas where they can improve.
Respond promptly and often
Giving prompt feedback on drafts and graded assignments is even more important in online classes than in face-to-face classes. Students need a sense of where they should be going with a paper, how close they are to getting there, and what they should do next to reach the goal. Frequent feedback can keep them on track. This feedback can be short, focusing only on what students need at that point in the writing process. All feedback should be a conversation between you and your student. If you give written feedback or record feedback for asynchronous viewing, ask students to respond to your comments. Design activities that direct students to do something with your feedback. And then respond again.
Here is a collection of useful tips for online teaching put together by BYU University Writing: https://uwlibrary.byu.edu/resources-for-teaching-online/
- Great Writers Inspire – A series of resources organized by writers and by themes that include links to e-books, images, talks, videos, and other materials that can be freely incorporated into courses under Creative Commons licenses.
- Open Access Textbooks on Writing
- Readings on Writing (Volume 1, Volume 2)
- Writing Commons – An “encyclopedia” of information about various aspects of writing, including the composing process, genre, information literacy, rhetoric, and style. Also includes links to course materials and assignments from courses on business writing, technical writing, and others.