How to make tedious but necessary repetition of vocabulary more efficient, creative and fun?
Answer: invoking a pillowcase.
Students were assigned to write a strong verb list, German song lyrics, important phrases (or
whatever needs to be learned) on one side of a pillowcase. They were given a pillowcase, puff
paints and fabric markers.
At face value the task appears primitive, however, it is backed by research.* “Studying at your
most tired time can help your brain retain higher concentrations of new skills, such as speaking
a foreign language…during slow-wave sleep, the memory-consolidation does its best work…”
In short, prime time to study a world language is right before you fall asleep on the pillowcase,
conveniently loaded with all things German.
How did this project spread world-wide? A professional article on this home-grown project
published years ago by Waterhouse with the American Association of Teachers of German
was recently picked up by an online service that connects educators to innovative teaching
Since November 2021, the pillowcase assignment has been picked up by educators in South
Korea, Australia, South Africa, France, Belgium, Canada, Nigeria, Estonia, United Kingdom,
Greece, Pakistan, Italy, India, Mexico, Turkey, Israel, Brazil, Russia, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and
“We spend about one third of our lives sleeping, so why not do something productive with it,”
commented Hermantown German 4 student Christian Carlson.
Frau Waterhouse noted that: “Even with the evolution of amazing technology in the classroom,
at the end of the day, we all still sleep on a pillowcase. I am proud our Hermantown German
students took to the idea, and apparently, others around the globe.”