Chelsea Timlin Abstracts

Chelsea Timlin

Ph.D. Candidate

Second Language Acquisition & Teaching GIDP

 

American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) 2018 Conference

Chicago, Illinois

 

This paper presents findings from a lesson study informed by a multiliteracies framework (Paesani, Allen, & Dupuy, 2016; Cope & Kalantzis, 2009; New London Group, 1996) during which beginning-level (i.e., first-semester) learners of German engaged with an authentic poem, Günter Eich’s Inventur. Inventur was implemented in place of communicative textbook-activities because of their tendency to connect linguistic structures related to “having” with items of significant monetary worth, and to ignore the discussion of why these items are valuable to the learner. The goal of the lesson was to provide students with a sociohistorical representation of how one might go about determining and describing value of one’s possessions, and to present them with a wider variety of linguistic structures that can be used to write and speak about what they mean to the possessor. After reading, annotating, and discussing the original poem, students wrote their own poems in German, as well as a short reflection in English about the choices they made while writing. The analysis of these poems and reflections was informed by Critical Language Awareness and Discourse Awareness frameworks (Fairclough, 2014; Janks & Locke, 2008), and sought to investigate how L2 learners interpret, assign, and describe “value” of possessions after interacting with a historical interpretation of what it means “to have”, and how they reflect on the process of writing about these possessions. Findings suggest that while a number of students still equate monetary worth to value, many mirror Eich’s process of attributing value and spend time thinking about what it means to be valuable. The paper discusses several pedagogical implications including whether learners’ values reflect what is already present in mainstream textbooks, and if the implementation of sociohistorical representations of commonly discussed topics allows for increased critical language awareness. 

                 

 Abstract for Lay Audience

Learning how to describe items and important possessions is a common objective in beginning-level foreign language courses. The textbooks used in these courses provide various activities and tasks through which students are able to learn and practice key vocabulary and grammatical structures that are useful for this process (e.g., the verbs “to have” and “to want”, adjectives to describe the appearance of items, etc.); however, textbooks often limit students’ opportunities to use the foreign language to express complex ideas about “value” and memories they associate with these possessions. This poster describes a study conducted in 22 sections of a college-level first-semester German course (i.e., German 101) in which several activities from the course textbook related to possessions and ownership were replaced by a lesson designed around a poem written in 1945 by Günter Eich, a German soldier and prisoner of war during World War II. This poem, titled Inventur (Inventory), and the activities designed by the researcher for students to engage with the poem, replaced several textbook tasks that tended to connect linguistic structures related to ownership (i.e., “to have”) with items of significant monetary value (e.g., computers, iPhones, tablets, cars, etc.), and to ignore the discussion of why these items are valuable to the student.

The goal of the new lesson was to provide students with a literary, yet non-fictional, example of how one might go about describing the value of one’s possessions, and to present them with a wider variety of vocabulary and grammatical structures that can be used to write and speak about what they mean to the owner. After reading, annotating, and discussing the poem, students wrote their own poems in German about their possessions, as well as a short reflection in English about the choices they made while writing. These poems and reflections acted as the primary source of data used to respond to the following research questions: 1) How do beginning-level German students describe and attribute value to personal possessions after interacting with a historical interpretation of ownership? 2) What decisions do students make while writing about their personal possessions? Data analysis was guided by two theories within the field of Critical Discourse Studies: Critical Language Awareness and Discourse Awareness (Fairclough, 2014; Janks & Locke, 2008), which emphasize the process by which language students’ knowledge about language and its use in social settings develops through engaging with content and texts.

Findings suggest that, while a number of students equate monetary worth to value, many others spend time thinking critically about what it means for an item or person to be valuable and how this can be presented through the language they choose. The poster presents several implications of this work for foreign and second language instruction, including whether mainstream textbooks truly provide tasks that reflect learners’ values, and if the implementation of texts that present a variety of perspectives on commonly discussed topics allows for increased critical language awareness. This project helps to inform language program administrators in designing curricula and selecting instructional materials that encourage and guide learners’ critical thinking about how language affects and represents their own realities, and the realities of others.

Last updated 23 Jul 2019