Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
I was just talking to friend here in Thessaloniki who is also a language teacher. Unfortunately, she has recently lost her father to cancer. As you can imagine this has come as a devastating blow to her and her family. To add to her distress, not to mention anxiety she has been told that she ill have to make up the lessons she has missed organising and attending her father's funeral over the coming Easter holidays, otherwise she will not be paid. As she is married and has a family this is money she can ill afford to miss, especially considering the expenses she has incurred.
Words can not describe the anger I feel over this. Yet this kind of incident is not isolated, but rather indicative of the attitude of many, if not most school owners here in Greece. They feel that their staff are utterly disposable and hardly worth the effort of addressing civilly, let alone treating with respect. High unemployment combined with an endless stream of possible replacements means that language teachers have as much job security as your average fast food employee.
One can't help but wonder if one of the reasons why Greece does so badly in international EFL?ESL exams (click here to see the statistics) is because of such attitudes.
You divide the class into teams. One person from each team has to look at some design you've drawn and tell the others how to reproduce it. There are only two rules;
1) Only English - otherwise you have to stop for 20 seconds.
2)The person describing has to put their hands behind their back.
The first team to draw the design correctly wins. You can also do this using lego bricks.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
This got me thinking. Given the richness of the images and the lack of information this would make for a wonderful writing exercise. The basic idea is that students look at the Flickr page and create a biography of the person who took them.
I don't think that the guy had money to buy anything from the cart. A pistachio fall to the ground and he struggled to pick it up.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
I've been reading about this guy over the last week or so. Justin TV is a guy who walks around 24/7 with a webcam strapped to his his head which is streamed live onto the internet. Think of it as his own reality TV.
Thanks to Fetching (an awesome photographer) and Laughing Squid (one of the best designed I blogs I've come across) for putting me on to this.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
"Non-defining relative clauses provide interesting additional information which is not essential to understanding the meaning of the sentence. Correct punctuation is essential in non-defining relative clauses. If the non-defining relative clause occurs in the middle of a sentence, a comma is put before the relative pronoun and at the end of the clause. If the non-defining relative clause occurs at the end of a sentence, a comma is put before the relative pronoun."
Frankly, I might as well be teaching the Theory of Relativity to my students in Latin for all the sense it makes to them. The vast majority do not understand such cumbersome explanations and to tell you the truth I had to sit down for hours the first time I taught this in order to get the ideas straight in my head.
So here is a way to help students practice without such obtuse descriptions.
1 Pin a picture on the board, or alternatively choose one from Flickr
2 Describe it in a simple sentence. For example;
e.g. add adjectives, adverbs, relative clauses
or get them to give you practical examples.
The bright young couple went quickly to the party which was in the centre.
(This could be a good time to go through the major points of relative clauses giving examples rather than explanation.)
4 Ask students that the have five minutes to write down the longest sentence possible. If you have students whose grammar is weak get them to do this in pairs or groups. The person/pair/group that writes the longest sentence is the winner.
The only rule is that the sentence has to be grammatically correct. Any mistake will be deducted from the final word tally.
The final answer should, hopefully look something like this;
The bright couple who had just graduated from university in London went as quickly as they could to their friend's birthday party which was in an tired, old house near the train station in the centre of the big industrial city that they called home at that period in their lives.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
One Person's Dumpster Is Another's Diner
I thought that it would make for an interesting lesson. As the article is quite long and complex this would be best done by advanced students.
1 Write the word freegan on the board and ask students to come up with a definition. make sure they understand that any definition is acceptable and there are no wrong answers.
E.g A freegan is a person who rides a bus without paying.
Freegan is a organic compound found in inactive volcanos.
2 Students share their answers with each other.
3 Now write the headline on the board (and explain what a dumpster/diner is)
5 Hand out the article and ask students to answer the following questions;
a What is a freegan?
b Why do some people do this? (support your answer with examples from the text).
c What is the writer's opinion of freeganism?
d Would you ever try freeganism? Why/why not?
6 Students first find the answers on their own and then get into groups of three/four to discuss their answers.
7 Elicit answers from the class.
8 Would freeganism ever become acceptable in Greece? Why/why not?
9 Ask students to watch this video on freegan eating and if it changes their mind.
10 Students post the video along with a response (in written or video form on their blog). Alternatively, they could post a response on the original YouTube video.
Denis Diderot once wrote:
“In the space of a few hours I had been through a host of situations which the longest life can scarcely provide in its whole course. I had heard the genuine language of the passions; I had seen the secret springs of self-interest and self-love operating in a hundred different ways: I had become privy to a multitude of incidents and I felt I had gained in experience.”
Although he was describing an eighteenth century epistolary novel, he could have just as well be talking about blogging.
Apparently, yesterday was World Storytelling Day and so BBC Five Live asked listeners to send in emails, text messages etc describing what they were doing at midday on Tuesday 20th March. If you click here you can what kind of responses they got.
This sounds like a great idea for a lesson, i.e. ask your students what they were doing/thinking about at a particular time on the day of the lesson. Their answers can be posted on their blog(s) as text or in the form of a YouTube video.
Alternatively, you could ask them to take a picture at say 3.00 pm Thursday 22nd March and post it on their Flickr page along with a suitable title and description. See here for Five Live's photo set.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
So check out Lydia's latest blog here.
I'm happy to report it is easier to teach the fundamentals of blogging and vlogging to seven year olds than it is seventeen year olds. I guess she hasn't learnt to be afraid of trying something new or making mistakes yet.
The problem with the education system here is that it does not tolerate error. Students are expected to master their subjects and make as few mistakes as possible. That sounds great in theory, however, the upshot of this approach is that creativity, experimentation and the like are penalised. Better the student recite five pages of his/her history book perfectly, than go off and produce some interesting project about the subject. Who cares if a week later they can't remember anything; the important thing is they got a good grade from the teacher.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
This is a good warm up exercise to get students thinking in English at the beginning of a lesson.
1 Write up seven words on the board that give a taste of what your week was like.
2 Now ask students to speculate on what you did during the week.
3 Ask them to write down questions using the question words;
E.g. What did you pass?
Why did you see Borat?
4 Now answer their questions.
5 Now students follow the same procedure in pairs.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
1 Think of a piece of advice that would you give somebody who is going to finish school.
2 Students swap advice and comment on how useful it would be.
3 Explain that the students the song contains pieces of advice to people finishing school/college.
4 Play the song and ask students to write down as many pieces of advice as they can.
5 Students get together and compare answers.
6 Hand out the lyrics. Play the song again.
7 Student compare their advice list with the lyrics.
8 Students choose their top five most useful tips and then compare their choice with one another.
Everybody's Free - Lee Perry & Quindon Tarver
Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '97,
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists,
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own
I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh never mind, you will
never understand the power and the beauty of your youth until they've
faded. But trust me, in twenty years, you will look back at photos
of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now, how much
possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.
You are not as fat as you imagine.
Don't worry about the future or worry that know that worrying is
as affective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble
gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never
crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 PM on
some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don't be reckless with other peoples' hearts; don't put up with people
who are reckless with yours.
Don't waste your time on jealousy, sometimes you're ahead, sometimes
The race is long and in the end, it's only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults.
If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters; throw away your old bank statements.
Don't feel guilty if you don't know what to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted
to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I
know still don't.
Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to knees, you'll miss them when they're
Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't.
Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't.
Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the 'Funky Chicken'
on your 75th wedding anniversary.
Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's.
Enjoy your body.
Use it every way you can, don't be afraid of it or what other people
think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room.
Read the directions even if you don't follow them.
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents.
You never know when they'll be gone for good.
Be nice to your siblings.
They are your best link to your past and the people most likely to
stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go.
But a precious few, who should hold on.
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, for as the
older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old and when you do, you'll fanaticise
that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don't expect anyone else to support you.
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse but
you'll never know when either one will run out.
Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're forty, it
will look eighty-five.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply
it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing
the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly
parts and recycling for more than it's worth.
But trust me on the sunscreen."
Sometimes this city can be a really harsh place, a cruel mix of indifference and smugness. I was walking through the centre, down Gounari St when I saw a guy sitting down on the ledge above the Ancient Roman ruins, gently lean back, oblivious to everything but his latest fix. The problem was that where he had decided to crash out meant that at any moment he was in danger of falling back two metres onto the concrete surface below.I guess at least 50 people passed him by as he precariously balanced, unconscious but no one did a thing, not even the passing cop who tried his best to pretend he couldn't see what was happening until a little old lady pointed it out. Even then he just shrugged his shoulders and sauntered on, not as if it had anything to do with him now, is it?
Disgusted at them and more at myself for not helping I went back, tapped the guy on the shoulder and woke him up, he was incoherent and mumbled something about money which I couldn't understand. But at least he wasn't going to topple over and crack open his skull.
It's been a tough week and I'm sick of seeing the poverty and meaness of this place; the accident victims laying in the roads, the poor Rom kids being bathed in the open air on a cold Spring day and the police in shades swaggering around like they were extras in some crime feature.
Monday, March 12, 2007
1 This is optional. If you can find the film Soylent Green on DVD/VHS.
2 Tell students that they're going to see part of a film that talks about the future and that they should say what they think is the meaning of the sequence. Play the first three minutes. (Basically, it's a photo-montage that shows how the pace of industrial life has quickened and the effects that is having on the planet).
3 Students discuss their answers in pairs and then report back to the teacher.
4 Give out the photocopy (see below).
5 Do the warm up questions from the photocopy. Students write down their answers then form groups to discuss them.
6 Elicit answers from the groups.
7 Go through the handout, deal with any problems with vocabulary.
8 Divide the class into five groups, one for each lobby and another group who will be judges.
9 Explain to students that each lobby has to talk for two minutes, presenting their opinions on why the mill should or should not be built. The judges think of questions to ask each group.
10 Then conduct a class debate; You could use the following format, if you wish.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Pendulum - Hold Your Colours
Above and Beyond - Alone tonight
How would U Feel - David Morales with Lea Lorien
Queen Bitch - David Bowie
Pendulum - Fasten Your Seatbelt
Mish Mash featuring Lois - Speechless
Matt Darey featuring Izzy - Eternity
Blondie - Call me
Need for Speed - Asian Dub
Paul Oakenfield - Faster Kill Pussycat
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Last week I came across a British TV series called Life on Mars. The basic premise is that a youngish police officer is involved in an traffic accident in 2006 and wakes up in 1973. For some unknown reason everyone then assumes that he is also a police officer. The fascinating thing is seeing the 70's that I grew upon in recreated on the TV screen in all its mordant glory. It got me thinking about what I remember from the decade so here is my list.
The Seventies for me meant
1 Wearing hand - me down donkey jackets and chocolate brown flairs.
2 Eating chicken with rice and peas on Sunday. As a change from the usual meat and two veg of English tradition my mother would cook Caribbean jerked chicken using a recipe our Jamaican neighbours gave us.
3 Scrambling around in the darkness looking for 50 pence pieces to feed the electricity meter.
4 Making Airfix models which I saved up for with my pocket money. The local shop must have thought I had a glue sniffing habit considering the number of tubes I went through.
5 Calling all our neighbours and my parents' friends "uncle" and "aunty".
6 Sitting in the car park of pubs drinking shandy and eating crisps whilst my dad was inside with "uncle" John and "aunty" Joan.
7 Being mad about Star Wars and madly in love with Princess Leia. Alas, I never did get taken off world by a rebel alliance to save the galaxy from the Dark Side. This wasn't for lack of wishing I must add.
8 Reel to reel tapes through which we heard the latest news from our uncle in America. We would play the tapes then record our replies and send it to back to the States.
9 Being asked if I was a punk or a mod. Since I knew virtually nothing about either, besides the fact that one lot stuck pins through their nose and the others wore nice suits, I would always answer mods.
10 Interminable car journeys with my two younger brothers. Most summers we would drive from Bristol to Thurles in Ireland to stay with our grandmother. Twenty hours stuck in the back of a tiny car with two fractious siblings is enough to make you think that Satre had a similar experience in mind when he said, "Hell is other people."
Friday, March 09, 2007
This a new group I've just started teaching. For most of them English is their third language, not to mention third writing system.