domingo, 19 de diciembre de 2010
As many of you may know, I combine my teaching life with the writing of short stories. So far, I had only written in Spanish, my native language, of course, but some time ago I, kind of experimenting, translated some of my shortest stories. These are written using a formula known as drabble, that is, a short story of exactly one hundred words, without counting the title. The formula was born in England, when science fiction writers, faithful to the theory that says that the shorter the story, the better, established one hundred words as the ideal length for a short narrative text. In translating them, a had to keep the number of words so that the story would work in both languages equally. It was not easy, but I think I made it.
Those of you familiar with how a short story is organised might feel that one hundred is way too short for a story to be told, but it is possible if you recur to the reader´s previous knowledge and avoid telling parts of your story because the reader knows what it is about. The resource is also useful in making a story that is basically written words to become more interactive, asking the reader, in a subtle way, to fill in the blanks of a storyline with what he/she knows, or thinks he/she knows, or simply wants to invent for himself. That is how a story makes sense.
I submitted my short stories to a bilingual literary magazine in Mexico and after so many months that I had forgotten about them, until on Friday I got an email annoucing the publication of both my drabbles -in Spanish and Enlish- in their online magazine called Uruz Arts Magazine. But that was not all. The magazine has also an internet radio station and they have selected both my drabbles to be read out in a literary programme, the date is still to be announced but be sure I´ll let you know.
My hope is that these stories can be used in class because of their length and the fact that they are open to many forms of interpretation, since not all the facts are told explicitly. At the moment, I have not finished translating the more than 50 drabbles I have written, so for the time being I can only offer, to begin with and while I convince a naive publisher to put them on ink and paper, the two Uruz Arts Magazine has published (you´ll have to scroll down the page to find them). I hope you like them and, if you want, use them in class.
As always, comments are welcome.
PD: Why is the illustration for this post a penguin? Well, you´ll have to read the stories.
domingo, 12 de diciembre de 2010
domingo, 5 de diciembre de 2010
domingo, 28 de noviembre de 2010
domingo, 21 de noviembre de 2010
We all know that “practice makes perfect,” don´t we, teachers? That´s why exploring the language that we teach is so important, specially because it is a mirror of the people who speak it, it reflects their approach to life, something we can not ignore when teaching a language.
Proverbs and sayings are an excellent example of how popular wisdom puts into words what they believe in, be that advice, warning, or simply a funny way to look at things.
The following link will take you to the Voice of America –VOA– site where you can listen to (MP3 available) and read (printer friendly version available) the story behind some popular sayings in English. You will notice, while reading it, that the Spanish counterparts are sometimes very different! How would you answer a student who asks you: “Teacher, how do you say “Dios los cría y ellos se juntan” in English?" The cartoon that accompanies this entry gives you a hint.
The VOA site features many more excellent programs in its section “Words and their stories,” a real treasure chest for us teachers.
miércoles, 10 de noviembre de 2010
The “experts” on PPT bored us to death. They did exactly everything there is so as not to make a presentation memorable –oh, wait, they did make it memorable… I am remembering it now! Well, the thing is, they were perfect examples of what we should not do to our poor students. However, after all these years, I can still see teachers making the same mistakes.
Happily, there is humour. Don Macmillan is an engineer who revamped himself and became a comedian. His stand-up comedy topics deal with the office. The video below (from YouTube, of course!) is about the use of Power Point. The title says it all: Life after death by Power Point.
Have a good laugh and follow his advice.
domingo, 7 de noviembre de 2010
Another common feature of spoken English is the use of contractions and reduced forms (for a useful short list click here and for an academic view, visit this link ). We, more often than not, find ourselves “attacked” by strange reductions that put us off. They are everywhere! Listen to a song… you´ll get them. Watch a TV show…there they are. Talk to a native English speaking friend… you betterkeep your ears wide open. And yet, we don´t have them in our textbooks (haven´t I said this before?), except for some heroic exceptions (the book I am using now has a lesson on three of these key features of spoken English: wanna, gonna and have to, pronounced /hafta/ -sorry about the “symbols”), reduced forms are literally reduced to zip.
Now, how many of these do you actually know and use? OK, OK, don´t you worry, this is not a test. On the contrary, I invite you to listen/ read this Voice of America –VOA program that I just found on the web. It´s an interview with Nina Weinstein, author of the book “Whaddaya say?” about… you got it! Reduced forms. The program features a printer friendly version and an MP3 audio file for your enjoyment.
Comments below, please.
miércoles, 3 de noviembre de 2010
I was a student back on those days, but I still remember a friend of mine who once, after the lesson had finished, approached the teacher and asked: “What´s fakinaso, teacher? The lady, an honorable matron in her 60s, turned her reddened face away saying, between clenched teeth: “I don´t know, I don´t know, ask Mr. Smith, go.” She flew out of the classroom before my friend could begin to explain what he already knew but wanted to “confirm.” She could not see his grin either, better for him, but not so good for us all who saw the scene wondering what everything was about.
Who hasn´t ever used swearing? It´s part of the language, but not part of the curriculum; however, that type of language is there, and will always be, for sure. Don´t take me wrong, I´m not proposing a change in syllabus design and asking for the inclusion of dirty language, no. I´m only saying that it exists and… well, what can we do about it? Surely, my old teacher shouldn´t have run away from the problem, hiding it doesn´t make I disappear, does it?
I found the following article in the Oxford University English Language Teaching Global Blog: “Dirty words in the language classroom.”
As always, comments are welcome.
domingo, 31 de octubre de 2010
Some posts ago, we talked about Stephen Krashen and the Natural Approach, video of Krashen included. Today, our post involves Noam Chomsky, the researcher and thinker who confronted B. F. Skinner´s book Verbal Behaviour where Skinner explained his theory of how languages were learned by stimulus-response-reinforcement.
Chomsky has been extremely influential in the study of language acquisition. Among his contributions, he posited the theory that all humans are born with the innate capacity for languages (Nativism) and that this born-skill works thanks to a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that we all possess. READ. The LAD is not an organ –like the heart or the stomach– that we can point out and study physically, but some kind of “wiring” that the brain has and explains, according to Chomsky, why humans (together with the physical characteristics of people) can pick up language from the environment and develop it creatively.
Another theory, credited to Ch
omsky but actually much older, is Universal Grammar. UG states that all grammar rules are already hard-wired in the pers
on´s brain at the moment of birth. For more information, read this article.
The video below (from YouTube, where else?) is a funny interview that the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Bruno) had with Chomsky for his TV show Da Ali G Show. Do not be shocked by the horrible and "soft" English Ali G speaks, that´s the character´s personality; on the contrary, enjoy the silly things he says, and watch Chomsky´s reactions. (BONUS: Watch this interview with David and Victoria Beckham for comic Relief –this one has nothing to do with ELT, by the way; it´s just a pointer for a good laugh).
Thanks for the comments and for reading this blog.
miércoles, 27 de octubre de 2010
Accents are such an adventure, and an important part of language and culture. In our last post, American and British English were dealt with, in kind of a light hearted manner (with the help of Dr. House himself), but we must not forget that the English language does not restrict to those two variations. Regional pronunciations are a delight, they show how different the language we teach can be “out there,” away from the stiff pages of a textbook, the RP of the BBC, or the silk voices of VOA. Experiencing them makes you feel so alive… and how much you still have to learn. At least that´s how I feel, but I guess the point is not to remain static but to grow from the experience, improve.
For those of you, curious enough to devote some time to exploration, I have these web sites that will blow your minds off. Visit Sounds familiar? and listen to UK regional accent samples. For other accent samples, including many American variations, Australian and Canadian, go to the Audio Archive
Thanks to Giovanni Gonzales and AmigoBryan for their notes on my post of Sunday 24th. All of you out there are welcome to comment, that makes me feel I am not posting up all these for nobody!
domingo, 24 de octubre de 2010
This entry today is not here to discuss the validity or superiority of regional variations, accents, or the like, but to invite you to watch the video I found on YouTube... about American - British English differences!!!!!
It´s not known for sure who said "America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language." Some say it was George Bernad Shaw who coined the phrase, others blame Oscar Wilde, and even a minority propose Winston Churchill as the author. You might recall also the catchy song that went "You say potato and I potatoe..." The thing is, the video is a good laugh. It features a well-known British actor who plays an American character on a popular TV show: Hugh Laurie. Who on the face of earth is Hugh Laurie? Well, you might better recognise him by the name of Dr. Gregory House. You didn´t know he was a Briton, did you? Why, yeah, he was, he still is. When he auditioned for this part, he demonstrated that he could mimick the American accent well, and got the job. House has become famous for his witty and cinical remarks like "Everybody lies." In fact, two books about his "philosophy" are on sale now (find them at the Book Fair at Kennedy Park).
Enough talk (???) now. Enjoy the video of Hugh Laurie answering questions about vocabulary in the Ellen Degeneres show. Just one final suggestion (on behalf of our suffering students): Do not for Heavens´sake put these words in your quizzes.
WATCH VIDEO ON YOUTUBE
miércoles, 20 de octubre de 2010
FCE stands for First Certificate in English and is part of a complete suite of exams designed to test and certify the candidates´ competence in this language. Below is a table indicating the correlation of each exam with the Common European Framework of Reference, the levels they represent and the numbers of study hours needed to attain each level.
Framework/ UCLES - Guided Learning Hours
A2/ KET: Elementary - approximately 180–200
B1/ PET: Intermediate - approximately 350–400
B2/ FCE: Upper Intermediate - approximately 500–600
C1/ CAE: Advanced - approximately 700–800
C2/ CPE: Near Native - approximately 1,000–1,200
But what can successful FCE candidates do in English?
•understand the main ideas of complex pieces of writing
•keep up a conversation on a fairly wide range of topics, expressing opinions and presenting arguments
•produce clear, detailed writing, expressing opinions and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of different points of view.
The link below will take you to a webinar titled: Questions and Answers on the FCE Exam. It is given by Roy Norris, an ELT author for Macmillan.
I am sure it will very helpful, not only for FCE teachers but for all of us.
Roy Norris : Q & A on the FCE exam webinar
lunes, 18 de octubre de 2010
Back in the 1970´s, Stephen Krashen formulated his famous hypothesis that led, together with Tracy Terrel, to the Natural Approach. In this very short article Krashen´s five hypothesis are revisited with the intention of making teachers think a little bit about what he proposed and what we can do in class with his ideas. There is also a 15-minute video of Stephen Krashen explaining his theory of language acquisition, who better than the man himself.
The five hypothesis
The Acquisition-Learning hypothesis. There is a difference between acquiring a language and learning it. When we acquire it, we do it unconsciously, in natural settings; when we learn it, we do it consciously, in artificial settings.
The Monitor hypothesis. We can self-correct our language production provided we have the linguistic information in our mind.
The Natural Order hypothesis. We all acquire language in the same way; and in a specific order.
The Input hypothesis. In order to acquire a language, the language input has to be comprehensible, that is, we must understand what is being transmitted to us in order to acquire language.
The Affective Filter hypothesis. To acquire a language, anxiety must be zero; in other words, if we are stressed our mind will erect “walls” that will prevent us from taking in the input.
The video below (downloaded from YouTube) features Dr. Krashen explaining his theory in a very clear and convincing way. However, as an eclectic teacher myself, I must say to you: Keep an open mind, not everything about language acquisition (and teaching a language, of course) has been said yet.
So you want to know more about Krashen´s theory? Visit these links:
Stephen Krashen´s official web site: http://www.sdkrashen.com/
Other Krashe related sites:
As always, comments are welcome.
miércoles, 13 de octubre de 2010
You will the original article below, and after that, a link to a short video giving a demostration of how to use games in your classes. The demo is not mine, I have linked it from YouTube (it can be useful sometimes) and comes from Bridge TEFL .
Using games in TEFL
· What is a game?
Let us take this situation: a little boy is kicking a ball in the house garden. Is this a game? The answer is no, what the boy is doing is play. Now, take this second situation: the little boy is now kicking the ball with the intention of putting it into a goal, his father has told him to use his feet only but never the hands. Is this a game? Yes, it is. What is the difference then? In the first example, the boy played without any given rule. In the second situation, the kicking was ordered by a set of clearly stated rules. Add more players, form teams and give points for successful achievement of the aim and you will have a competitive game.
A game is basically play governed by rules. A language game is exactly the same, but with clear linguistic rules to which all participants in the activity must conform.
· Characteristics of games
A game is governed by rules. Playing just to pass the time will not have the same effect. To make a simple activity into a game just give a couple of rules and that is all.
A game has objectives. One of the rules, and probably the main one, is the achievement of an objective. This objective can be something like making points for correctness or finishing an activity first.
A game is a closed activity. Games must have a beginning and an end. It must be easy for the players, or the teacher, to know who is about to reach the aim.
A game needs less supervision from the teacher. This must be understood as linguistic supervision. Sometimes the game is conducted by the teacher who acts as judge, scorer and/ or referee.
It is easier for students to keep going. Compared with pair or group work, a game has a ludic element that other interaction patterns do not have. This makes the activity more attractive.
· Types of games
Not all games are the same. More than one of the categories listed here may sometimes apply to a game.
Cooperative games. In this type of game, the main action is centred in trying to reach the aim in cooperation. This type of game is excellent to encourage the shy students, since it requires the participation of all the members of a team, group or pair. Some typical activities may include the completion of a drawing, putting things in order, grouping things, finding a pair or finding hidden things. Students are involved in the exchange of information to complete the task and in giving/ following instructions.
Competitive games. As the name indicates, in this type of game there is an overt competiton between teams, or sometimes of an individual against the rest of the class ( as in 20 Questions ). The competition may also be of individuals against other individuals. The object of this type of game is finishing or reaching the end before the other competetitors, making more points, surviving elimination, or avoiding penalties. The rules may require the players to produce correct language as part of the game and force students to draw conclussions more quickly.
Communication games. The main objective in this type of game is getting the message over to the other players and reacting appropriately to their messages. For example when giving instructions, the player giving them must be clear, and the player following them must do exactly what he is required to. The tasks are usually practical, like following instructions, drawing, persuading other players, etc. This means that players will concentrate on the task rather than on the language, besides, students can see the results of their use of language at once which will help to build students`confidence.
Code-control games. This type of game requires that students produce correct language: structures, spelling, pronunciation, etc. The production of correct language will make the players of the team win points.
· Patterns of interaction during games
During games a number of interaction patterns can be caused. Some of them are set up with a leader challenging a group, teams or individual members of the teams. In this pattern, the leader may be asked questions or he may ask questions to the team members. Also, the leader may give directions to perform actions, as in Simon Says. TPR activities are examples of this type of interaction pattern.
Other types of interaction involve pairs, either closed or variable ( as in Find Someone Who ), or groups working simultaneously. In this type of interaction the teacher does not normally participate actively in the game but acts as a consultant or encourager. The teacher must also note recurrent and common errors for delayed correction or remedial work.
· The teacher`s role in games
Depending on the type of interaction pattern caused by the game and the type of game played, the teacher`s roles are very different.
The teacher may be Master of Ceremonies and direct the game, or give that responsibility to a good student, in which case he will become the evaluator of the responses and occasionally the scorer of the game. Also the teacher might play the role of language consultant or informant. Other roles are those of monitor/ corrector and referee.
· Organising games in class
Before a game is played the teacher must make sure that he has all the necessary materials ready: Are worksheets necessary? Role cards? Boards? Dice? Pointers? Score cards?
The game rules must be made clear to the players, most of the times a demostration is the best thing to do. A round of questions about the rules is another good method to check that everything is clear. This is crucial for the success of the activity, so every effort should be made.
After rules are understood, the game itself is to be set up. In competitive games, the formation of the teams is extremely important. The teacher must try and put together groups where there are players with different abilities and levels of competence. In communication games, it is a good idea to write some useful phrases on the board to " signal " the target language.
During the game, the teacher must note down every recurrent mistake without interfering. A way to do this is by classifying the mistakes by vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and so on. It is also good to try and copy the exact words the student said. This information is to be used in two ways, either as the source for a delayed correction stage after the game is over or as the base for the planning of remedial work in the next lessons.
After the game finishes, a summary must be given. In this summary the teacher should be very careful to encourage students, highlight the good points that ocurred during the game and take the opportunity to motivate his students. Here the teacher might want to correct the mistakes he noted down during the game, but making sure no student is referred to directly as the " mistake maker ". Group corrections must refer only to identified mistakes in general giving corrections for the whole group and not for individuals. In this way all students will benefit from the correction.
Demo class on video
lunes, 11 de octubre de 2010
The organization, from the point of view of a guest speaker –one side of the story that is seldom known– was pristine. I had gotten my itinerary on the email, my air tickets had been all arranged, the hotel reservations had been made, the transport between hotel and venue had been programmed to the minute, I even had a reception committee waiting for my arrival at Prescott School. I then remembered that old joke and smiled, ¿was I in Peru? Well, yes, I was.
The premises at Prescott were home to an enthusiastic group of committed professionals from the south of our country who engaged in the workshops and plenaries with an avid attitude, always ready to learn, always ready to improve. I hope that we, local and “foreign” speakers, gave the measure. They deserve it.
I had taken my little but effective camera with me; not only did I want to photograph but also catch on video some of the activities in the event, but (all my fault, I must confess shamefully) I discovered to my horror that the battery was almost dead and I had left the charger in the hotel. Happily, luck was on our side, the energy still stored in the battery was enough to grasp some minutes. You will be able to watch those segments on line and know what the event was about, at least in part. Do share them with your colleagues, write your comment, express your views. Participate.
I left Arequipa charged with good vibes and convinced that the future of ELT in the south is bright. We all have to work hard, though, but it is possible.
Read his bio and abstract HERE.
Maria Esther Linares talked about classroom management.
Read her bio HERE.
Julio Valladares´s presentation was on teaching portfolios.
Read his bio HERE.
Sixto Ramos explained what debate is about.
Read his bio and abstract HERE.
Norma Bustamante gave a plenary on CLIL.
Read her bio and abstract HERE.
Cesar Klauer talked about technology and the teacher of English.
Read his bio and abstract HERE.
lunes, 4 de octubre de 2010
Now that we are close to the opening of the XII Prescott School ELT Conference in Arequipa (the most important convention for teachers of English out of Lima), I think it is time for us to ponder on how important it is to attend and/ or participate giving talks in these events.
Of course there are conferences and conferences. So it is always a good idea to check the quality of the speakers and organizers. Most events have a web page where you can read CVs and abstracts of workshops and talks. Another good idea is to ask around. Have your colleagues attended this event in past years? Will they recommend it? Usually, other teachers can tell us about the organization, timetabling, costs, and other etc´s we can´t see until we are “on the horse.”
Then, there is the question of usefulness, and that is a very personal issue. You´ll have to ask yourself if the event is really going to contribute to your professional development, if it is worth the effort not only paying a fee (normally affordable or free in the case of commercial talks) but also using your free time to be there. Academic meetings may not give us what we need, and commercial events might not be what we expect, since the bottom of them all is to try and sell their products: Are we ready to oversee this and attend anyway?
Finally, do we have anything to contribute, in other words, give a talk, present an experience, or disseminate some news? I must confess that I think that the ELT scene in Peru needs to refresh, new professionals have to come forward and share, take the relay, make the field progress and improve. That only depends on us all.
What do you think?