Immigration Webquest

November 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

The USA is, of course, a nation of immigrants. The great immigration waves of the past have left their mark on the country and its people, and even though there are signs that the American Dream might be losing its attractiveness, immigrants keep coming to what they see as the Promised Land. Your task today is to make use of the fantastic resources available online to find out more about why people came to America in different times.

Use today’s lesson to complete at least two of the following tasks in the given order. The best way to do this is to keep a Word window open and type your findings into it. With out large new screens you can comfortably open two applications next to each other! Use your own words and do not copy and paste.

Then send yourself your own document and continue working on this task at home. You will have some more time to finish the tasks, print out and hand in your answers on Thursday.

Task 1: Basics

Browse through this timeline about The Peopling of America to get an overview of what ethnic groups arrived when and why. For each period, please note down what particular information surprised you most.

Then find out what exactly Ellis Island is. Can you find your family’s name in the database?

Task 2: The Immigration Explorer

The New York Times published a fascinating tool, the Immigration Explorer. Play around with it a little, then answer the following questions:

  • What exactly can the Immigration Explorer show you?
  • At what point was the All Countries Map the most colourful? Do you have an explanation for this?

Task 3: Immigration by Force – the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Using the maps here and here and the resources here and here, find out

  • where slaves originally came from and who sold them
  • how many Africans were transported into what is now the United States (and where the others ended up)
  • what it was like to be kidnapped, sold and taken across the Ocean

Task 4: German Immigration to the USA

Read through this chronology of German immigration and note down

  • the main reasons that drove German emigrants to come to America
  • five important cultural achievements the German immigrants brought to the country

Special Task for the Quick and/or the Tech-Savvy:

Social Explorer provides more detailed information. See if you can work out how to produce a meaningful demographic slideshow for New York.

Special Task for the Adventurous Listener:

In 2004, the New York Times ran a series on recent immigrants. Here‘s the main site. I recommend the interactive feature with many voices telling their stories and very evocative pictures for practising listening.

Hunger Games Official Magazine

May 12, 2011 § 10 Comments

Please read through the instructions below and choose a topic, then tell me in the comments section or via e-mail which one you’d like to do. Of course you’re welcome to propose ideas for other articles as well.

Your task: write an article for a magazine that appears on the first day of the Hunger Games. Everybody knows who the tributes are and has seen the opening ceremonies and the interviews with the tributes.

Your articles should not contradict the book, but you are welcome to make up information. Please provide photographs or original artwork.

Hand in your articles in a raw format for me to correct them (so make sure you haven’t got your artwork only once)

Articles that should be written by two people:

  • interview with the Gamemakers on their plans (don’t give too much away!)
  • look back on previous Hunger Games (good for people who’ve read the sequels)
  • Katniss-Peeta lovestory
  • overview over the Training Center and the things you can learn there
  • big article on Cinna, his creative ideas and his team

Articles that should be written by one person:

  • profile of District 11
  • profile of District 12
  • profile of Marvel and Glimmer
  • profile of Clove and Cato
  • profile of Caesar Flickerman
  • article about artificial wildlife (i.e. “muttations”)
  • interview with the oldest living tribute (make him or her up!)
  • article explaining the sponsorship system
  • statistical map of Panem, showing which districts have done well in the pas

Advertisements for various beauty products, surgical procedures, TV snacks…

You are welcome to take pictures from the Internet, but please don’t take texts from fan sites or forums.

To be learned by heart, 2011 edition

February 14, 2011 § 12 Comments

One of this term’s assignments will be learning a poem by heart. It’s going to work like this: by March 1st, you’ll be expected to have learned one of the following poems. I’ll ask you to recite them individually, so there’s no embarrassment, but I will also expect you to be able to say a few things about the poem afterwards. Please choose a poem not just for its length, but for the appeal it has for you – there’s no use in learning something that your mind won’t care to remember.

Note: Some poems are for limited numbers of students only, so sign up for them quickly.

Note for readers who are not my students: The poems here were selected because almost all of them are quoted in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, the play we are reading right now.

While I expect you to work out as much as you possibly can by yourselves about these poems, I will be happy to help if there’s something you really don’t understand.

  • William Shakespeare, That time of year thou mayst in me behold. Very beautiful sonnet that goes with the dissolution of the monasteries and, as an added benefit, has the word “twilight” in it. Look at a modern English transcription here (but learn the original, of course)
  • Thomas Hardy, Drummer Hodge. Wow.
  • W.H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts. And because it is about an Old Master, you should have a look at the painting it is about.
  • W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues, has nothing to do with the play, but ever since Four Weddings and a Funeral, this has become perhaps the most famous of his poems. By the way, I am sure it’s easy to find other poems on video. Three two one more person may recite this.
  • Maybe you’ve had Auden’s Lullaby ruined forever now, but think twice: it contains lines as beautiful as this: “Beauty, midnight, vision dies”.
  • A.E. Housman, Loveliest of Trees the Cherry Now. Respond quickly if that’s the one you want to learn, because I don’t want to hear it more than three two times once. Not that it’s not beautiful, of course, but very short.
  • A.E. Housman, On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble. This is a really wonderful poem. Perhaps you want to see Eagle of the Ninth afterwards?
  • Stevie Smith, Not Waving But Drowning. Again, only three two people can recite it, so be quick. You can hear Stevie Smith talk about the poem and recite it here.
  • Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth. It was used by Benjamin Britten for the opening piece of his War Requiem, by the way.
  • Philip Larkin, MCMXIV.
  • I will throw in Larkin’s perhaps best-known poem for good measure, but you have to sign up very quickly because I only want to hear it twiceThis Be The Verse.
  • I really don’t understand T.S. Eliot’s Mr Eliot’s Sunday Morning Servicemyself, but perhaps someone would like to have a go. Some explanations are here, Piero’s painting here.

This year, I am adding two extra poems that I believe go well with the topic.

  • Lisel Mueller, who emigrated to the US from Hamburg as a child, wrote her Curriculum Vitae.
  • Another Lisel Mueller poem, the Possessive Case (scroll down a little to get to the poem), is a brief, gobbet-like, playful introduction to Western Civilization. You’d have to work out the allusions, of course, but it will be so worth it.

Finally, here’s a very short bonus poem about unrequited love, which is very very beautiful.

And of course, if there’s another poem you love, I’m open to suggestions.


December 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

To prepare for our debate on private vs public (in the non-British sense of the word) schools next week, I highly recommend you listen to a debate held by Intelligence Squared: Public schools are a blight on British society. From a bunch of British debaters, you can expect a lot of insightful wit, of course – occasionally, people also burst into song. It’s also a fantastic example of this kind of debate.

You have to download the mp3 from iTunes, but it’s all free. If you are pressed for time and/or would like to see who the speakers are, you can also look at a few teaser videos on the IQ2 page.

Another debate held by the same organisation that you might enjoy is: Apart from chavs, the British have no class. Obviously, this is not really a serious topic, so the speeches were hilariously funny.

Should parents limit the screen time of their teenaged children?

December 2, 2010 § 3 Comments

After the interesting talk we heard in class today about the New York Times article about the digital habits of teenagers and how technology is affecting their lives, I’m very interested to hear your opinions on whether parents can help their children to develop sensible digital habits by limiting screen time.

Have your parents ever done that? If so, how did you feel about it at the time? How do you feel about it in retrospect?

You may want to have another look at the original article, which comes with a lot of extra material (video, audio, images) to entice the digital generation.

The wonderful world of podcasts

October 25, 2010 § 5 Comments

To be honest, no one I’ve ever talked to in real life admits to listening to podcasts. Still, I really don’t see why – a good radio show on the mobile listening device can transform a dreary wait at a bus stop into a magical experience. And it’s all for free!

Of course I only listen to things that interest me, but maybe some of the choices listed below seem enticing to you. Podcasts can be downloaded directly from the webpages of radio stations, or subscribed to on iTunes or downloaded straight onto our mobile listening device via iTunes – which is the way I do it, most of the time. The files are usually quite large, so they will inevitably clutter up the hard drive of your computer.

What I suggest doing is putting a number of podcasts on your mobile listening device and give one of them a try the next time you have to wait for the bus. Or at night, when you think you ought to go to bed but aren’t quite tired enough. Let me know what you think.

Podcasts I listen to include:

  • NPR Most E-mailed Stories – a mixed bunch of the day’s radio stories from the great US public radio network
  • The Moth Podcast – featuring stories told without notes before live audiences. These are often extremely funny and/or touching.
  • BBC History of the World in 100 Objects – right now, the podcasts are still all available for download, even thought the show came to an end last week. I am in severe withdrawal.
  • Planet Money from NPR – a great show on economics with a hands-on approach. If you have the slightest interest in economics, give it a go.
  • Radio Lab – another NPR show that’s very unusual in its treatment of science as FUN! I may be a little in love with Jad Abumrad, one of the presenters.
  • This American Life – a truly unique show that always devotes one hour to one topic. Brilliant.
  • Six Minute English – if the above podcasts seem a bit intimidating, here’s a great short weekly show made for upper-intermediate learners of English. The topics are frequently quite interesting.

You can read more about listening and about podcasts here.

Your Thesis: Citing

April 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Everyone is no doubt hard at work compiling material for their thesis right now, so you need to know how to cite your sources. Here’s a simple guide for the most common cases – if you have questions about more complicated ones, please ask.

Note: there are many different standards for citing sources, and of course the most important thing is consistency. I’ve chosen a system that seems to me to be easy to learn and I’d like to ask you to stick to it. Once you go on to study at university, you will probably be asked to use one of the other systems, but that’s academic life.

You will need to cite your sources in two places: in your footnotes and in the List of Works Cited (Literaturverzeichnis) at the end of your thesis. It makes sense to start assembling that list right now!

How to cite a book:

David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, Mass., 2001)

Allen G. Guelzo, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (New York, 2004)

How to cite a collection of articles edited by one person:

Paul Finkelman, ed., Lynching, Racial Violence and Law (New York, 1992)

How to cite an article from a magazine or newspaper:

David Brion Davis, “At the Heart of Slavery,” New York Review of Books, October 17, 1996, pp. 51-54

How to cite an article from a book:

Hilary McD. Beckles, “Emancipation by Law or War? Wilberforce and the 1816 Barbados Slave Rebellion,” in Abolition and its Aftermath: The Historical Context, 1799-1916, ed. David Richardson (London, 1985)

How to cite an online article:

David Greenberg, “Sambo Returns”, Slate, Nov 26, 1998. Availabe from: [retrieved April 9, 2010]

How to cite a web page:

Richard Wormser, “Booker T. Washington”, PBS: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, 2002. Available from: [retrieved April 9, 2010]

Citing web pages is difficult, as they really don’t adhere to standards very much. Besides, many are not really suitable as sources for academic work; it’s probably best to check with me if a particular site can be used.

For the purposes of this seminar, I’ll let you use Wikipedia here and there (with an emphasis on here and there!). They have a good article on Citing Wikipedia; the style that’s closest to the one we’re using here is Turabian style, so a Wiki cite should look like this:

“Harriet Ann Jacobs,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Updated March 12, 2010 18:08 UTC. [retrieved April 9, 2010]


That’s it for today. More on quoting coming up soon.

By the way, I am currently reading David Brion Davis, Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (Oxford/New York 2006). It’s very fascinating. If you are one of the people with a slavery topic, I’ll be happy to let you borrow it.


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