Nov. 15, 2023
Creating Kinderbuch OER: Undergrad storytellers create rich German-language children’s books for use by primary-school educators
For generations of Canadian children, storytelling before bed is a fond memory. Whether read by a parent or under the covers with a flashlight, the tradition of learning about language, people and places through story is at the heart of a University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grant-supported project.
Awarded $10,000 from the Development and Innovation funding stream, By Learners for Learners: Level-Appropriate Children's Literature for Bilingual German Primary Education creates open-access learning resources for primary-school educators by enriching stories written in German by UCalgary undergraduates with professional illustrations and layout design.
By building a library of high-quality open-access resources, the project will have a direct impact on the way teachers can use storytelling as a tool in kindergarten to Grade 6 (K-6) German bilingual classrooms.
“Kindergarten to Grade 6 is an important development period in a child’s life,” says project lead Dr. Roswita Dressler, PhD, an associate professor in the Werklund School of Education. “It’s important to make sure that teachers of German have books that are age appropriate, interesting, and at a just-right level of German proficiency.”
German language learning resources for primary school students are hard to come by and often not designed with contemporary audiences in mind. In German-speaking countries, books for children are often text-heavy and introduce topics and ideas beyond the comprehension of younger learners of German as a second language.
“In North America, it is easier to get French and Spanish resources, but for German, there are a limited number of items for primary school educators,” says Dressler.
Library of resources for underserved secondary language market
One in 10 Canadians has German heritage, though the language is only taught at two schools in Calgary. Despite the limited availability of German-language education, demand at the post-secondary level is rising dramatically — both in Calgary and across the country. Though some students explore their heritage by learning the language, project partner Dr. John Scott, PhD, attributes growing interest to a desire to speak German professionally, often by way of economic or diplomatic opportunities in Europe.
Both a lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park and an adjunct assistant professor in the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Culture at the University of Calgary, Scott says students often explore German following a less-than-satisfactory experience learning another language, and become enthusiastic about the journey upon learning how similar the structure, words and meanings are to English.
Charlie Wilson, a third-year student studying linguistics, sees learning German as a welcome challenge. “Having grown up speaking French and learning Spanish, I was excited to learn German because it wasn’t similar to the Romance languages.”
Wilson is part of a group of students who contributed a story to the project; their tale is about a mail-delivering astronaut who flies to different planets trying to deliver a package with no address — an idea the group thought would provide an interesting plot device for ongoing adventures in space.
Having worked at a German bilingual school library this past summer, she is excited at the prospect their story could be pulled from the shelves one day. “It’s really cool to think that the work that we created could help young students to learn German.”
“For undergraduate students, a project like this provides new ways to both explore and express themselves using the German language,” says Scott. “For many students, it asks them to remember what being a kindergarten to Grade 12 student was like — a reflective process that encourages them to write the kinds of stories that they would have enjoyed at that age.”
The By Learners for Learners: Level-Appropriate Children's Literature for Bilingual German Primary Education project is currently advertising for student illustrators and layout artists through elevate.ucalgary.ca. For more information, please contact Roswita Dressler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grants program
Funded by the Provost's Office, the University of Calgary Teaching and Learning Grants program is designed to support projects that enhance the student learning experiences through the integration of teaching, learning and research. Additionally, the program supports academic staff looking to develop their own educational leadership capacity.
Explore funding streams in Development and Innovation, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and Educational Leadership and learn more about eligibility and how to apply. Academic staff, staff and students are also encouraged to volunteer as program adjudicators.