“Every car tells a story; all you have to do is listen”
It’s become something of a cliché, but every teaching situation presents its own unique set of challenges. However, my challenge wasn’t all that unique – in fact, it was pretty well-worn itself. My students were falling asleep as I tried to guide them through science readings and lectures in preparation for the TOEFL.
What I’d like to offer you here is a brief review of a class project that seemed to catch my students’ interest and got them deeply involved with academic material. This one simple exercise opened a wide door into helping students interact with abstract material and getting them to build a set of experiential and critical thinking tools that they could call on later when trying to understand and appreciate other technical topics in English.
SkypeRead: Movie read-through for language learners
TESS: Do you know what your problem is?
DANNY: I only have one?
Ocean’s Eleven (Warner Bros., 2001)
The scene in Ocean’s Eleven where Danny confronts Tess, his ex-wife, in the restaurant of the Bellagio hotel and casino is a wonderful bit of cinema.
The emotions of the characters are highly complex. Danny — who has just been released from prison — still loves Tess and wants her back. Tess, on the other hand, hates Danny. But, deep down, she still loves him too. She’s also terrified, because her new husband — Terry Benedict, the ruthless owner of the Bellagio — is about to arrive at any moment. Things are complicated for Danny as well. He’s secretly planning to steal a hundred and fifty million dollars from Benedict.
My ten-year-old son Kai and his friends don’t have crazes in the same way that we did as kids. We had crazes for everything, becoming obsessed by roller-skating, paper planes, conkers, skipping, marbles, hopscotch, spinning tops, catapults and tiddlywinks just to name a few. There was even a craze for knitting one year. There were also crazes for collecting things; cards, stamps, figurines from cereal boxes, beer mats, stickers. You name it and it was probably a craze at some time or other. Battled over, swapped and just as soon dropped, these were the lifeblood of our playtime. I guess that three weeks was the average length of a craze but during those three weeks you couldn’t imagine that it wasn’t going to last forever. Some crazes were seasonal, while others cropped up randomly. We were all over them like locusts while they lasted. During a craze we ate, slept and breathed nothing else. In some ways I guess I haven’t changed.
I saw a really interesting article posted on Facebook, entitled ‘Photos of Children from around the World with Their Most Prized Possessions’. For those who haven’t seen it, the article shows images of children in their home settings, surrounded by a selection of their favourite toys, and there are comments left by viewers of the article generally saying what a lovely idea it is. Several users suggest that the collection would be a good idea for a children’s book and advocate that the images could be used to educate children about other countries and cultures.
On November 17th at the ETJ Kansai Expo in Osaka Daniel Olsson, author of ELF Learning’s new TRW Reader series, will be sharing his experience of the writing process. Here he gives a brief sneak preview of his tricks and techniques — some of which may be surprising.
Everybody has a passion. It’s not inevitable, however, that everyone will get a chance to indulge in that passion or have the opportunity to apply the related skills to something practical. When I was asked to write a reader to accompany ELF Learning’s Think Read Write phonics-based reading and writing workbook, however, that’s exactly what happened. I would be using my writing skills directly alongside my teaching skills and the kids I saw in my classroom on a daily basis personified my inspiration and my end goal. Here, I’d like to share some of the key elements of my creative process that resulted in a book that, I believe, has the young, first-time reader at its heart.
When I was a little girl, my father used to travel abroad often as a buyer of chemical materials. One evening before his departure I told him that I would miss him while he was away. Then he said to me, “Mari, look up at the sky if you feel lonely at night. I will be looking at the same moon.” I never imagined that I would co-author a moon-themed story back then.
I had the honor to co-author the picture book, Lily and the Moon (ELF Learning), with a renowned picture book author, Patricia Daly Oe. Like many other projects, this collaborative work turned out to be a nonlinear process which involves a lot of discussion, both casual and focused, and numerous decisions to be made during the process. In this short article, I will share the journey I took with my amazing coworkers for this project.
Stories from the Garden
In February, Malu wrote “Where do your stories come to life?” for Teaching Village. She shared her first story from her garden in May (The Little Girl and the Magic Words). I’m thrilled to share another original story from Malu’s garden. Barb
Among the many treasured trees in the little girl’s garden, the mulberry was her favorite. She loved climbing the tallest trees from which she had a view over the whole garden, and spending hours eating mulberries, talking to the tree, flowers, birds, bees, ants and all the varied insects she could see.
What a joy it was to come back, with her lips all red from the berries, contrasting with her pale skin and golden hair, and tell her dad she was full of blood, make up horror stories just to get kisses and hugs, and laugh together!
On the first day of school in Busan, South Korea, I stood at the front of my class five minutes before the bell rang waiting to greet my new middle school students. After seven minutes had passed, I was about to go and search for my class when I heard a loud rumble coming from the floor above. Suddenly, three dozen pairs of feet came running into the classroom attached to three dozen pairs of flailing arms and three dozen shouting mouths. Stupefied, I stood frozen and looked on, wide-eyed, as my classroom was ripped apart by thirty-six wild monkeys.
- Image: sizumaru
Teaching Villagers rock! I’ve shared two problem situations with you recently, and the advice has been superb. Both teachers really appreciated your shared wisdom. I have another teacher with another fairly common problem. I’m sure you’ll be able to provide some excellent ideas for this situation, too.
What do you do when you have a student who just doesn’t want to be in your class? Young learners don’t often choose to study English. They are in English class because their parents think it’s a good thing for them to do.
I have kids that just shout for no reason other than to be loud and annoy other kids. One kid broke all the lead in my mechanical pencil for no reason other than it was there. Then he (the pencil lead breaking kid) snuck upstairs after asking to go to the bathroom. (I teach at home.) I know he doesn’t want to be there. His mom is definitely sending her boys to English class to get them out of her hair (the younger brother is in kindy class and he doesn’t want to be there, but he’s not *too* disruptive or destructive). She has a 9-month old and a husband that doesn’t live at home right now. I don’t really want to tell anyone not to come (I need the money!) but … *sigh*. This is my elementary class–he is in 3rd grade. The class isn’t very demanding, we review what we’ve learned, we play games, and sing songs. It’s hard because the student doesn’t want or understand why he is in English class.
Can you help? Have you ever had a student who acted this way? What suggestions can you give this teacher?
We’ve all had them! That class when, for whatever reason, nothing seems to go right. A teacher friend of mine had a class like that today.
- Image: markheybo
It was worst… the lesson was worst… Kids were running around, laid themselves down on the floor, spoke Japanese a lot, didn’t listen to me and others from the song!!! But they were very nice to play with parachute.. One of their mothers told me, kids didn’t understand what I said during the lesson. So they felt the lesson was not so interesting. Have you ever had the lesson like that? What do you do for that?
This is a mixed ability class, where brand new beginners have joined an existing class. The beginners were the students who were most energetic (and a bit out of control). The mother offering her impression of the problem is the parent of one of the more experienced learners.
What advice can you share? What do you do with lessons go wrong? How do you integrate beginners in a continuing class?