In order to promote (fictional) reading, especially in a foreign language, our students have to read a novel or at least a series of short stories every year.

The English book we use in grade 8 deals with the USA and tries to give some insights into the American way of life in different states, times and also among different ethnic groups.

Book cover north by night

Photo credit: PenguinRandomHouse

The last chapter is about Atlanta, Georgia and in general about the American South. That’s why I wanted to continue with that part of American history and culture and went for the novel North by Night: A Story of the Underground Railroad by Katherine Ayres. It’s about a 16-year old girl named Lucinda who helps escaped slaves from the South getting to the North and then to Canada to live in freedom (for further information click here).


I divided the project into three big parts:

  1. PRE-READING: the American South (history, culture, music), slavery, the underground railroad
  2. WHILE-READING: Lucinda’s diary entries and letters, the role of the Bible and religion, spiritual and work songs, the role of women in the middle of the 19th century
  3. POST-READING: American Civil War, the abolitionist movement, segregation, the civil rights movement

This seems huge, even when looking at it now, but so far the students seem interested and really engaged. I think it’s also due to the frequent use of digital media in our English class so that the students can experience “traditional” content like historical facts and figures in a modern and new way. Here are some examples of tools I want to use:

  • most important: the ebook-version of the novel in the (relatively new) kindle app by amazon
  • Titanpad
  • Twitter (one account for the whole class)
  • Letter Generator
  • Google Drive (one account for the whole class)
  • Snapchat

Since I this as PBL, I also thought that the traditional way of testing their knowledge in terms of a regular class test at the end is out of the question. So I talked to the principal and got his OK to substitute that traditional class test with an (e)Portfolio.

So, if you are interested in finding out more, stay tuned: Weekly, I will upload my lesson plans and the (digital) tools I used including my comments what went well and what I would change the next time.

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