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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 3

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Nikolai Penner


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 507

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24777

Office Hours: Mondays, Wendesdays 6 p.m - 7 p.m.

Course Objectives:

This course is intended for students without previous knowledge of German and is designed to develop linguistic skills in an innovative, fun, and fun way without painful ‘learning by heart’, lengthy grammar explanations or completing countless worksheets. This course does not usegrammar drills or extensive homework typical to the mainstream language classrooms. Instead, we adopt the so-called 'Natural Approach' to language acquisition according to which learners learn a language by picking it up through understanding (listening and reading). The methodology used in this course - TRP (Total Physical Response) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling©. The only rule is to pay attention in class and read a lot in German outside of class!


At the end of the course, students should:

  • be able to fluently communicate in basic (not mistake-free) German on a variety of familiar topics;
  • be able to understand spoken German and read simple German texts;
  • be able to fluently write in German on familiar topics (100 words in 5 minutes);

Please note that teaching the facts about the German language, culture, or giving a thorough knowledge and understanding grammatical rules are not the primary objectives of this course.


The ultimate goals of this course are:

  • to teach the students the basics of communication in German;
  • to develop in the students the feeling of what 'sounds right' to a native speaker.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

You do not need to buy a textbook for this course as all the materials will be made available by the instructor. Instead, you will need to read 5 short books (readers) for learners of German.

To minimize your costs, I have put several copies of each book in the library on reserve.

The books will be read in the following order:

1) Arme Anna

2) Petra reist nach Kalifornien

3) Fast stirbt er

4) Die Reise seines Lebens

5) Sein eigenes Auto

Method of Assessment:


Instead of mechanical memorization, grammar & pronunciation drills, loads of homework and most other things typical to the standard language teaching approach, we are going to combine several most powerful methods and techniques of language teaching: 1) TPR (Total Physical Response; 2) TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling©); 3) Free Voluntary Reading; 4) For memorizing grammatical material, we are going to use mnemotechniques whenever possible.

My goal in this course is to teach the basic structures of German until students can use them with confidence and without hesitation. To accomplish this effectively, we will need to limit the vocabulary to about 1,000 most frequent German words which make about 80% of all everyday communication. Once this 'skeleton' of structures and basic vocabulary is established, it should be relatively easy for learners to learn the vocabulary from areas of their personal interest and to use it appropriately in the previously acquired syntactic structures.

The course will start out with a 3-class introductory period during which students will learn to understand and recognize in spoken language approximately 200 words. During this period we will use mostly the TPR method. By the end of the introductory period students will be able to combine the words they have learned in utterances they have never heard before and understand simple German texts.

Then, we will move into interactive Storytelling where the students will get a chance to use the previously learned words to create unique details of the stories we will collectively create in class.

Instead of a textbook, you will be required to read five short novellas for beginning students of German written specifically for the TPRS curriculum. You may also find a small-size German dictionary very useful after the TPR part of the course.

For the conceptual learners  who would like to know more about grammar rules and maybe do some drills, a collection of links to explanatory videos and other explanations of all grammar used in the course is provided on Avenue.

3. Evaluation Criteria:

Term 1





Quizzes (10x 1%)



Written tasks (8x1.25%)



Tests (4x5%)



Reading (5x5%)



Final project



Final exam



3.1. Quizzes:

As indicated in the course syllabus, at the beginning of most classes, there will be short quizzes, typically about 5 minutes long.  At the end of the term, I will drop one lowest mark you get or one ‘zero’ for a missed quiz. The exact number of quizzes will depend of the group’s progress but typically there are about 10 quizzes every semester.

3.2. Participation:

You can earn a maximum of 5 participation points by actively taking part in in-class activities. You have to look and act excited, interested and engaged. :-)In this course, these points are callled ‘the superstar points’. You earn them by taking part in 'superstar' activities in which you showcase your German. Usually you achieve this by telling or retelling a story we worked on in front of the class. You get 1 point for participating in each superstar activity and you can get maximum one superstar point per class.

Absences: Because most of the learning will take place in the classroom in this course, you are allowed to miss two classes per term without any penalties. Every further absence will reduce your participation mark by 1% up to the maximum of 5% (the participation mark). Of course, absences due to medical reasons with adequate documentation are excused.

I will do my absolute best to make sure that you acquire German during the class time by simply paying attention and participating in various activities. However, if you miss a class, you will have to learn the same information ‘the hard way’.


MISSED WORK: This course places a heavy emphasis on learning in class, therefore, absences cannot be excused. Unless you have a doctor's note or fill out an MSAF, no course-related work can be re-written or made-up for. If you decide to miss a class during which a graded activity took place, you will get a 'zero' for missing that activity.

3.3. Written tasks:

Throughout the semester, you will be assigned a number of short written tasks. Please note that I will only point out or correct a few mistakes you make in the written assignments. Opposite to what is generally believed, research in Second Language Acquisition proves that students do not learn better from explicit corrective written feedback. Moreover, correcting grammar mistakes in first-year classes is detrimental to language learning.

The only exception to this are a few extraordinarily gifted and motivated individuals who probably should become language-teachers themselves. 🙂 There are usually several such students in a class. If you think you are one of these people, please talk to me and I will be happy to discuss your mistakes with you for every writing you do.

3.4. Tests

We will write four small tests during the course. One test will take place after the initial TPR part, and the rest will be written after every three ‘stories’ (or chapters) we complete. The tests are cumulative and will include ALL information we have worked on in the course.

3.5. Reading

Starting in about the 3th week of the semester, you will be expected to start reading ‘for pleasure’ in German.  I have selected five short novellas that you will need to read during the course.  By the end of course, you should have read about 30,000 words in German. All of the novellas were written specifically for TPRS programs and have every single word translated into English at the back of the booklet.

For each of the novellas, you will be required to complete a ‘Lesetest’ (reading test) on the date specified in the course syllabus. Each test consists of 40 True/False statements in German. You will be allowed to use the book to verify the details but you will only have 10 minutes to complete each test. Therefore, you do need to know the books really well as you will not enough time if you look up every single answer.

A few copies of each book have been placed in the library on reserve.

WARNING!!! I know that these novellas are cheesy and that they are not very exciting reading. I realize that they have been written for American teenagers and are not very relevant for Canadian university students.  I understand that you will soon want to read about something else other than American teenagers going to Germany and vice versa. At the same time, these novellas are the best reading materials that exists for absolute beginners in German. I have considered many other readers by various publishers and I decided against them. The other readers cost 50% more, are much shorter, and do not have German-English glossaries at the back. Trust me, you will pick up A LOT of German just by reading these little books.

Final project:

At the end of the couse, you will need to prepare a short video together with 2 or 3 other students.  It can be a voiceover, a ppt presentation, a skit, or anything else you can think of! If should be in German, playable on a computer, and all participants should speak in it. It should be approximately 5 minutes long and use subtitles to make it easier for the class to understand. Type in 'German 1Z06' on youtube to see what the projects.

You must upload your video on youtube (you are not required to make your video public) and bring a copy of it on a USB stick as a backup. In the final several weeks of the course, all final projects will be shown to the class.

It is a good idea to use subtitles in German to make your video understandable to the class. If you use words and structures that other students don't know, you need to translate them and include the translation in the subtitles.

Final exam:                                                                                                                            

There will be a final examination at the end of the term.

The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. The university may change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances. If either type of modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

1) All the deadlines in the course are final and no extensions are given under normal circumstances.

2) Minor works, such as quizzes or writing assignments may not be re-written. In case of absense due to medical reasons, the mark will be carried over to the next comparable task.

3) Missed Tests and reading tests can be re-written during my offuce hour within one week from the initial date. A 10% penalty will apply. 


McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Integrity

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  • plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  • improper collaboration in group work.
  • copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Authenticity / Plagiarism Detection

Some courses may use a web-based service ( to reveal authenticity and ownership of student submitted work. For courses using such software, students will be expected to submit their work electronically either directly to or via Avenue to Learn (A2L) plagiarism detection (a service supported by so it can be checked for academic dishonesty.

Students who do not wish to submit their work through A2L and/or must still submit an electronic and/or hardcopy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to or A2L. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, other software, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

Courses with an On-Line Element

Some courses use on-line elements (e.g. e-mail, Avenue to Learn (A2L), LearnLink, web pages, capa, Moodle, ThinkingCap, etc.). Students should be aware that, when they access the electronic components of a course using these elements, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster e-mail accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in a course that uses on-line elements will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure please discuss this with the course instructor.

Online Proctoring

Some courses may use online proctoring software for tests and exams. This software may require students to turn on their video camera, present identification, monitor and record their computer activities, and/or lockdown their browser during tests or exams. This software may be required to be installed before the exam begins.

Conduct Expectations

As a McMaster student, you have the right to experience, and the responsibility to demonstrate, respectful and dignified interactions within all of our living, learning and working communities. These expectations are described in the Code of Student Rights & Responsibilities (the "Code"). All students share the responsibility of maintaining a positive environment for the academic and personal growth of all McMaster community members, whether in person or online.

It is essential that students be mindful of their interactions online, as the Code remains in effect in virtual learning environments. The Code applies to any interactions that adversely affect, disrupt, or interfere with reasonable participation in University activities. Student disruptions or behaviours that interfere with university functions on online platforms (e.g. use of Avenue 2 Learn, WebEx or Zoom for delivery), will be taken very seriously and will be investigated. Outcomes may include restriction or removal of the involved students' access to these platforms.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) at 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. For further information, consult McMaster University’s Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities policy.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

Request for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work
McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar "Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work".

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances (RISO)

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religious, indigenous or spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the RISO policy. Students should submit their request to their Faculty Office normally within 10 working days of the beginning of term in which they anticipate a need for accommodation or to the Registrar's Office prior to their examinations. Students should also contact their instructors as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for classes, assignments, and tests.

Copyright and Recording

Students are advised that lectures, demonstrations, performances, and any other course material provided by an instructor include copyright protected works. The Copyright Act and copyright law protect every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including lectures by University instructors.

The recording of lectures, tutorials, or other methods of instruction may occur during a course. Recording may be done by either the instructor for the purpose of authorized distribution, or by a student for the purpose of personal study. Students should be aware that their voice and/or image may be recorded by others during the class. Please speak with the instructor if this is a concern for you.

Extreme Circumstances

The University reserves the right to change the dates and deadlines for any or all courses in extreme circumstances (e.g., severe weather, labour disruptions, etc.). Changes will be communicated through regular McMaster communication channels, such as McMaster Daily News, A2L and/or McMaster email.