domingo, 28 de noviembre de 2010

Something to say about: Short stories in the English class

Reading is a way to open doors. Imagination. Information. Enlightenment. He who does not read, is not complete. To many, it may sound harsh and a bit extreme, but the truth is that the written word transformed the world. The invention of the printing press revolutionized life, knowledge was no longer the realm of a few privileged ones. Nowadays, the electronic word travels thousands of kilometers and appears, as if by magic, in front of you on a screen. Who can deny the importance of reading? Nobody. In this scenario, we teachers have a huge responsibility: nurture the new generations of readers who will govern our world in the near future.
Using stories in our lessons now and then is very good practice. Not only do they give us a break from the usual textbook/ handout cycle, but it also brings us closer to art in a very accessible way.  This link will take to the Voice of America -VOA- and features a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorn (bio on Wikipedia), both on screen (printer friendly version available) and on audio (MP3 available). The story is “Dr. Hedigger´s experiment.”
I´m sure you´ll enjoy it.
Cesar Klauer

domingo, 21 de noviembre de 2010

Something to say about Sayings and proverbs

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.

Cesar Klauer

miércoles, 10 de noviembre de 2010

Something to say about: Power Point

Once, some time ago, the academic director of an institution I used to work in, invited a “specialist” company to give the teachers a talk on the good use of Power Point. Those were the days when data projectors were beginning to invade our classrooms, so the topic was attractive. The truth is that we had already started to use PPT before, and, personally, I had used it many times in my talks at conferences and workshops, so I had some experience in it.
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.
Cesar Klauer

domingo, 7 de noviembre de 2010

Something to say about: Reduced forms

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.

Cesar Klauer

miércoles, 3 de noviembre de 2010

Something to say about: Dirty language

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.”

I think it is good “food for thought.”
As always, comments are welcome.

Cesar Klauer