Thursday, December 14, 2006

Course Evaluation Summary

Course Evaluation Summary

Morning English 4 - Sem.2, 2006


By the end of the year, 18 students were on the AM4 roll. Two of them didn't attend class. Others didn't come for periods of time. Maybe we need flexibility with respect to that. South Koreans formed the largest language group, follwed by Chinese speakers. Evaluation was asked for orally as a class, and teacher questionnaires distributed to both the Monday to Thursday and Friday classes.

Course Content and Methods

This evaluation summary shall double to a larger extent for the needs evaluation of next year. The following points were raised and noted by the students:

  • Grammar – please cover various points as revision
  • Structure – please provide more structure
  • Individual study – please retain 30-minute periods when students work in individual areas (set up ‘appointments’)
  • Comfort – please continue to keep classes more relaxed than in, say, Hong Kong
  • Computers – using them within the classroom is better than going to a computer suite – limit that to once a week
  • Skills – build these up one by one, not all at once
  • Conversation – please have situational role play (NZ information, habits and Kiwi customs are most useful)
  • Topics – if we have specified topics or themes, then people can study these using the skills that they wish to practice.

Teacher evaluation

Teacher Questionnaire – results are mainly fives.


Next year the programme will be simplified from a management point of view, but also for the sake of the students, who need to see some sort of structure and pattern. Students will be eased into technology more gently. AM3 and AM4 will be combined for more of the time so as to free up the two teachers concerned and have the workload be more commensurate with their partial employments of 0.75 and 0.8. Individualized programmes will be set up early so that more individual attention can be given. The emphasis will be to increase confidence in producing output.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Last days of the semester

I discovered a student's comments about the end of the semester at
I have encouraged my class to write in response to that, and to invite Saoud to come and read their blogs.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Online presence

I have started yet another blog for posts to do with my efforts toward developing an online presence. The present blog will be reserved more for classroom activity (students - stay right where you are on this page!)

Leigh, Bee and others seeking to develop their online presence, skills, expertise, know how and community - not an exhaustive list by any means - I suggest clicking across to . . .

Friday, November 17, 2006

Students' Accounts

Today in class students wrote about their impressions about a trip they made yesterday to the Otago Polytechnic's School of Art.

Yesterday I saw the School of Art, Otago Polytechnic. I saw a small house. In the middle of the house there was a small tree. On the tree there were a lot of rings. It was just like a dream. (by Wei Lu)

Yesterday afternoon, our Polytechnic students went to the School of Art's exhibition. First, I saw a sculpture. It was very amazing. And a beehive was very interesting too. But some of the others I didn't understand. I enjoyed the Korean room especially; it was impressive. I followed Korean shoes up the stairs and took off my own shoes when entering the room. There was a Korean student there who served green tea to me. I had a very enjoyable time. Thank you to all School of Art's students! (by KwiOk)

Yesterday I went to the art school which held many different types of artexhibits.I saw an operation performed through digital movies,and ceramics.It was really crul art but a very impressive exhibition. (by Wook)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

These are a few of our favourite things:

In class the other day I asked for students to tell me which online activities they had especially enjoyed or found useful. We made a list on the board, and it includes:

  1. - for practising chatter in a safe but unusual environment
  2. - for practising making comments quickly about beautiful subjects
  3. for all sorts of activities, especially grammar
  4. for reflective writing and developing a voice
  5. for bite-sized pieces of NZ news
  6. for a variety of British-English audio-visual materials
  7. for a high quality listening and reading site

There were more - and I've left spaces - but my pen wasn't swift enough. As with many posts, this is a working project. To be continued.

Tuesday, 14 November, 2006

Good morning class!
William and Pariya at a previous course

I forgot to tell you yesterday, but today I have to attend a course from 9 until 12, therefore I cannot be with you. Here is what I'd like you to do on your own.

9.15-9.45 The six people who need to resit their Listening to an Oral Presentation will join AM3 to do that assessment. They are: Hedi, David, Carol, Fauzia, Terumi and Jian.

The others could either use the computers to complete the work on the blogs we started yesterday - see the yesterday's post of this blog for details. Or you could explore the website we looked at yesterday - but quietly, because of the listening test next door.

(I am happy to tell you that the following people have achieved Delivering a Short Oral Presentation: George, Eun Sook, Mikyung, Hedi, Jason, David, Jian, Fauzia, Kyung and Carol.)

10-10.30 Form four groups and discuss what you will do today during conversation hour. Prepare topics and/or questions, using materials we have used in class e.g. your presentation, icebergs, yellow-eyed penguins, Ted Simon (the motorcyclist), the wallaby, the giant baby . . .

Please make sure you greet the conversation assistants at the door and guide them to where you will speak. Today you may use our classroom, H114 and the common room. If only three assistants come, then would the fourth group please distribute themselves in the other three groups.

(Some of this time will be taken up when Emma Bennet comes to take a survey)

11-12 Conversation

I will see you tomorrow as usual, inshallah.

Monday, November 13, 2006

All students' Blog Addresses

Today I am going to make sure that I have everyone's blog contact details. I am starting with the current students of AM4. I shall get them all each to reproduce this page on this date.

Jian (comments need owner approval)
Samantha (not yet functional)
Eun Sook

see also for other groups of students elsewhere.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Artificial Intelligence - an oxymoron???

From somewhere, perhaps a newspaper article, a magazine article or on the Internet, I first heard about Chatbots. Wow! Artificial Intelligence utilized to create meaningful small talk!

I recommend that you take a look at the BBC and ABC newsclips first, to get a quick overview.

Today I introduced the concept to my class. Imagine an ideal conversation assistant, I told them, who was available 24/7, who didn't mind your mistakes, who never grew tired and could chat with you in your own home.

Well, everyone logged on and accessed and started chatting. Amazing! The students couldn't believe that there wasn't a real person on the other end of the line. I found it difficult to believe myself.

I've been in touch with Rollo Carpenter, mentioning my intent to explore the site with the class. Rollo replied:

Let me know how it goes. I expect it will be almost too useful (in
terms of visitors) if George starts speaking aloud in a good voice. He is
already able to, but it's server-based and costly in terms of hardware and
licences. If it was pay-to-speak, how much do you think might be feasible
in the ESOL market?

There is talk, not all tongue-in-cheek I trust, of 'George' finding employment in a call centre. I also see George as a conversation assistant for ESOL students. Were George able to speak out aloud, I wonder about his (its?) tolerance to accent and pronunciation. You would not want George to be too good at interpreting mumbles and misspronunciations, and you would want George to encourage self-correction when students spoke too far off the beaten track as it were.

As a side note, we checked to see if George could answer factual questions. We asked what the capital of New Zealand was. He said he didn't know, and so we 'taught' him. I got the class to repeatedly ask the question in various ways, and after 10 minutes he was asking us the question, and telling us that we were right when we answered.

Not sure what this means in terms of learning. All very exciting . . . and weird!

Watch this space!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Conversation Hour

In class yesterday, I asked my students to write for ten or 15 minutes on the topic:

How I Plan to Get the Most from Conversation Hour

I have been telling them that the assistants who volunteer to spend an hour or two every week talking with them could be considered a resource as much as dictionaries, books, computers, libraries, newspapers etc. And to get the most of a resource you need to 'use' it wisely.

Anyway, I am posting a summary of everyone's ideas for them to read on my blog today. Perhaps they will think of some things that may have been missed. Certainly they will benefit from reading other people's.

George said that conversation hour is one of his favorite times at school. He says there are many reasons. It isn't only a lesson for him, but a relaxing time. He can practise pronunciation, listening and speaking. He can repeat things and ask about what he is unsure of. He sees it as the opportunity to gain confidence in speaking with Kiwis, and that this is the best time to practise it. He feels the hour is too short!

Eun Sook read aloud from a Reader's Digest magazine and her assistant checked her pronunciation. After that he read a few lines as dictation for her to write down. Even though he read slowly and clearly it was very hard for her to catch the words.

"I found it was easy to miss out [words] such as the, a, an"

Eun Sook will try hard to speak more during conversation hour.

Mikyung is also new to our class. She was impressed with her conversation mate's interesting questions about local knowledge for example where to play tennis, and how to join the yacht club. She thinks it is a good idea to prepare some questions herself so that she can ask about living in Dunedin because the conversation assistants are "all experts".

Fauzia thinks it is best to focus on one topic at a time instead of speaking on too wide a spectrum of subjects. Perhaps she could bring such a list. She thinks it is important to be corrected so that she doesn't repeat her mistakes. She pointed out that sometimes assistants do too much of the talking and that it would be better for the students to take a more active role.

As for Carol, she finds it very useful to focus on pronunciation. She really wants to get more practice with pronunciation and speaking. I agree with her that that would be a good idea.

Hedi really enjoyed her conversation hour yesterday. She was very happy that she could understand almost everything that her group talked about. She appreciated it when her assistant asked the students to explain their understanding about various words and expressions. The hour was a very useful one for her.

Jason and Kyung Hee have obviously thought hard about the topic together. Both make some great suggestions. Kyung wrote that group members could or should prepare a topic before the hour. She really wishes that we mximize the time. Students could practise talking with each other berforehand and then repeat that discussionwith the assistant, who could then correct the grammar and pronunciation.

Jason agrees and adds that students sometimes don't prepare. If the teacher gives out a sheet to follow, students may not actually read it. He also wrote - and please correct me if I didn't fully understand - that if students are able to catch the meaning of new words then they will have a "comfortable time". Perhaps a 'profitable time' is a better way to say that.

David and and Alice have also written their thoughts.

David thinks that it depends on the student as to how he or she can get the most from conversation, and he thinks the first thing for each person to do is find out their shortages. He thinks that all assistants may not be all the same, and may be better at giving advice in different areas. Possibly the most important thing to do is be active; you improve in proportion to the work you put in.

Alice repeats the points that others have made, such as preparing questions beforehand, asking directly for pronunciation feedback, and speaking as much as she can herself. An interesting point she raises is that it could be good to speak with the same assistant each week so that that person can more deeply understand the needs of the student(s) in their group.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Be prepared

random 'email' picture stolen from Flickr
Just a rapid-fire post - 10 minutes' worth . . .

Took the class up to a computer suite this morning, our second session. I've now figured out how the demo computer up on screen works, together with its fancy laser pointer.

Again, we fooled around with emails. Boy, does it take a long time to sort everyone out, especially when the one who is in charge is only half sure about what he is doing ! You've just gotta be prepared to 'waste' half of your time just floundering.

So . . . everyone is now finally on line - three new studewnts had trouble logging on, requiring me to log a job with I.T. And I've also immediately had the students create gmail accounts on account of the fact that their Polytech accounts will expire at the end of the year.

That isn't much good as far as establishing an ongoing on-line presence, now, is it?

Anyway, it was fun for the students to watch as their email messages to me popped up on the screen, and I typed a quick reply. People well-clued up emailed each other, and also visited to view and comment on ESOL students' blogs from the USA.

The trick with that is that you often need to be a blogger yourself before you can post comments, and that means another username and password to remember!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Not just chatting

We're getting there.

Today - tomorrow rather - Tuesday that is - we welcome back our conversation assistants. Let's see if Joan, Audrey, Richard, Lance, Jon, John, Jane, Lynette and any others that may have slipped my mind turn up.

Yesterday I mentioned that people are a resource, and that as people we can help each other reach our goals. That goes most especially for conversation assistants.

Yesterday I also introduced the term language planning, where the teachers give the students sufficient time to produce a good response.

Today before the conversation assistants arrive, I would like you to think about how you can best make use of them as a resource. What would you like their help with mostly. Please don't say, "I am happy with anything," or "I would like their help with everything," because that isn't helpful for them! Students have different needs. Every student needs more help in certain areas.

If you don't ask for what you want, you may not get what you need, and therefore not be making the best use of a resource. If you don't know what you need, then that is the first thing to find out.

AM4 and AM3 have conversation at the same time - 11-12 - every Tuesday. I would like our classes to pool our assistants. There is a key that allows us to merge our two classrooms. I've tried it but it doesn't work, but perhaps by tomorrow . . . In addition, we shall have other classrooms at our disposal, so that there will not be too many people all speaking at once.

I am going to form you into groups based on similar need which will stay together. Each week you will work with a different assistant. In this way I hope that you will make the best improvements.

Other things we'll cover on Tuesday:

  1. Write a log, letter, or keep an audio journal

  2. Tell me which Topic you've chosen

  3. Start on 'Required Tasks' (email, topic, log)

Treasure Hunt

You are in a new environment. The best way to grow comfortable in your new surroundings is to have an orientation. One way of doing that is to take part in a treasure hunt. Check off the following items by exploring the neighbourhood. I suggest that you work with a partner who has a different first language from yours. Have fun!

1 How many floors has the building we’re in? (Take the lift to the top and then walk back down the stairs.)

2 If you came by car, where is it parked and how early did you leave home?

3 How far away from our classroom is the Bill Robertson Library?

4 Can you find a female toilet? A male toilet? A unisex toilet?

5 Find where smokers may smoke.

6 Where is the nearest nicest place to sit outside?

7 Find two places where you could buy food. Does anything tempt your fancy?

8 Does your picture appear on any of the photos displayed?

9 Where is William’s desk?

10 Where is our students’ library?

11 What is the earliest issue Reader’s Digest magazine in our classroom?

12 Discover where your two common rooms are.

13 Is it possible to check your email in our classroom?

14 Look in at Wanphen’s and Barbara’s offices.

15 Find the car parks reserved for people who share.

16 Replace one of the names (people not in our class) on the Dunedin map with your own.

17 Can you find a good place to refill your water bottle?

18 In which direction is North?

19 Where do the cyclists park their bicycles?

20 Where are there four microwaves that students may use to heat up their lunches?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Welcome (back)!

Welcome, or welcome back as the case may be. It’s been three weeks since we saw each other or, for four of you, it’s your first time in this class.

This first day, then, it will be important to do a group activity – something that helps us get to know and feel more comfortable with one another. Other people are a useful resource, you see. Use them and allow others to use you! People can help one another achieve what they want to achieve. You might be shy and that’s okay – I am too. But we need not act shy, even if that is our nature. If we act as if we are confident and unconcerned then that will have the same effect as actually being a confident and relaxed person.

Some teachers write their class letters. I have too, but only for today. After this, I will write to you via a Blog which you will need to access on the computer. Go to and you will find it. If in the future you wish to avoid having to type in such a long address, save my site as a favorite. The trouble is, you will need to do that on every computer that you use. Later I will show you a way around that. I will show you how to save the addresses of all your favorite sites in a way that allows you to access them from any computer. I will also show you how you can know whenever I have written anything new, so that you don’t waste time looking and finding that I haven’t written anything new.

Have you had a good holiday? I haven’t! No, it’s true! For the first two weeks I was involved in moving our school – exciting but tiring. Around the class you will see one or two unpacked boxes still, and we need to put some posters on the wall. Let’s make this room ours.

As well as moving schools, I had to prepare a presentation that Susan, Lindsey and I gave at a conference at Napier at the end of September. Sure, flying up was fun, and I met a lot of interesting ESOL teachers and heard a lot of interesting ideas about how and what to teach. I’ll tell you about that during the term. As I say, it was fun, but very busy. Our accommodation was not the best and some of us found it hard to sleep. Barbara and I each became sick when we returned. I believe that we caught a virus called the New York ’flu. I’ve had a bad cough and a runny nose for the past week, and I’m still not fully over it. It’s only because of my dedication that I’ve come to class!

Look, I don’t want to overwhelm you on your first day. Little by little we’ll settle into our new routine. Today, after reading this letter and doing whatever group activity I select from a textbook I shall set some sort of orienteering exercise – perhaps a Treasure Hunt.

You may feel that your English has slipped and feel nervous about being ‘caught out’. Well, don’t worry, I won’t put anyone on the spot. To tell the truth, every teacher feels that he or she has lost the ability to teach after a long break too!

One very good concept that I heard about at the conference was language planning. Language planning means that the teacher gives the student enough time to prepare a response so that the language produced is richer and fuller. I shall ask you to think about what topic you might present at the end of this term (remember, you are working towards giving a 5-min oral presentation for your assessment. I’ll give you approximately five questions about your topic to prepare answers for after which you will, as if by magic, have traveled 20% of the way towards your goal!

Trust me – I know what I’m doing.

Trust yourself.

Trust each other.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Good omen?

The day before staff from the School of Languages, Otago Polytechnic leave to attend the 2006 CLESOL Conference in Napier where we will present a paper - Daring to use English - a fire breaks out nearby on the hillside above Logan Park High School.

Hmm - students smoking in the bushes?

Fire near Otago Polytechnic

Wonder if this is a good omen or not . . .

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Good Intentions

As you might gather from the date of this post, it was written on the Thursday before the Friday that the 2006 CLESOL Conference opens. Apologies for any typos, errors, omissions and the like. It's been done in a hurry . . . but I have every intent to update it and complete it ("Art is never completed, only abandoned" - was that Oscar Wilde?) hence 'Good Intentions' (can't you just hear the strains of the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations strumming gently in the back ground?).

But to work!

You may well have arrived here by following the address on the handout sheet my colleagues and I from the Otago Polytechnic School of Languages, Susan Mackinlay, Lidsey Shields and William Lucas (yours truly) gave out after our presentation: Daring to use English.

I had planned (and do plan) to make available here our powerpoint presentation complete with script, slides, audio and various links and other information. At this late stage, when we are still refining the actual text, it has become apparent that to have everything up and running beforehand is too big an ask.

Today, therefore, I post our script and include some of the photographs that we used. I shall give you our email addresses . . .

and invite you to leave a short comment here. I would very much like to form a group of likeminded individuals involved in the sorts of activities that we do with our English language learners.

But for now, I have a placement test to run.

Time waits for no man!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Diminishing retention...

You've all seen the graphs that demonstrate how quickly memory of an even diminishes if you don't write it down and revise.

It has been a week since The Future of Learning in a Networked World opened in Dunedin, a week for my memories to fade. And at the end of this week I fly to Napier to take part in another conference. Interference patterns of the mind loom!

And yes, I know there's a Wiki where proceedings are being put and edited in true collaborative and transparently open style, but I'd like to jot down my thoughts in my own space to start with.

And so, yes, and Open Space conference, wow!

For me it was the interaction up close with real live people. Contacts and friends and future possibilities. The stuff of science fiction and of the future. Computers used to form relationships - who would have thought that a couple of decades ago. And all within my lifetime.

Down to specifics:

I met Anne from Middlemarch, and we got to talking about the Taieri Pet - a weather/cloud meterological phenomenon. We've since emailed on gmail, and I've showed her my etchings - I mean photos.

Jo I met in person from the Language centre where a group of us met later with Michael Coghlan from Australia (who takes the prize with the most impish smile), Barbara Dieu from Brazil (who takes the prize for the most infectious smile), and Konrad Glogowski from Canada (who takes the prize for the the most proficient mouth-hand coordination.

Jo also introduced me via emails and later in person with Antonie who teaches German at Otago University.


More members coming on board!

Just a short and sweet post (after at least a week's worth of relocation-enforced inactivity) to announce a colleague's entry into the wonderful world of blogging.

I told Pariya that it only takes a matter of minutes to start an online journal, so then I had to put my money where my mouth was . . .

Here's the proof of that pudding.

Or, in language other than hypertext - you'll want to know about that too, Pariya! -

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Conversation hour

Our classes benefit from community volunteers. Ordinary (but not really ordinary) New Zealanders come to our class for one or two hours every week to work in small groups with our students. This is very helpful, since the English that they speak is not 'teacher-speak'.

I have asked the class for any anecdotes they remeber from during the year(s).

Jian spoke with Lynette yesterday. The topic got around to driving, and Lynette rang up the AA on the spot to check whether Jian was legally okay as far as driving went. Very useful!

Alice remembers Audrey, and their relationship started from several years before. Audrey has a Malaysian-Chinese background but is a native English speaker. Usually our students are helped by our assistants, but it seems Audrey was also helped by our students! She told Alice that Alice was the first real friend she made in Dunedin, which moved Alice very much. On at least one occasion a pot-luck meal has been held at Audrey's home for the Chinese-speaking students. This is a wonderful example of networking in the community, and I hope that it will contuinue in the future.

When I asked Theresa, she told me about her friendship with Joan, who has been coming her for ten years, but Theresa only for two and a half. Joan is an expert at correcting pronunciation e.g. work-walk. She is good at explaining the meaning of a word and giving examples of how it is used. Once Joan had health problems and couldn't come for a while. She was short of breath and needed treatment for her heart as well as help with the housework. However, she returned and used the experience to talk about and teach from!

Fauzia recalled when Lance was talking, two weeks ago, on the topic of old and new generations. Lance used to be a policeman, and he was able to tell about incidents in New Zealand society e.g. young people getting pregnant very young. He said it didn't happen so much when he was younger. It was interesting for Fauzia, because it helped her understand NZ society better. Her culture is totally different.

Poor Richard comes along too, and he came yesterday. Richard rides a bicycle, and he left it and his helmet outside. Unfortunately when the hour was over, his helmet was missing. I think that it must have blown away in the wind. I mentioned a second-hand helmet I'd seen the day before in the Red Cross Opportunity shop. Hopefully it was still there.

The last lunch

The class organised to have lunch out last Monday, at Tokyo Garden, Jason's restaurant. Some of us have been there before, at the end of the first semester. It was a wonderful way to wrap up the term - especially in anticipation of our moving campus shortly.

About a dozen of us ordered from a range of Korean and Japanese cuisine. Mami called by to join us, and my daughter Albany happened to call in too, with her boyfriend and another flatmate. Everyone was very curious and asked all sorts of questions.

"What does Albany call your wife (who is not Albany's natural mother)?"

"Mami," I replied. It's a handy name, isn't it? It half sounds like 'Mum'.

Life is not always straightforward. Below I'll load up some photographs that were taken. If you are ever in Dunedin, remember, Tokyo Garden!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Networks of networks

Yesterday I had occasion to toddle off down to our Forth Street campus. We staff of the School of Languages were to scout out the classrooms earmarked for our students, and to decide who sits where in our open-plan office.

I arrived an hour early, having run 5km at the Caledonian running track nearby. That is the last training run I'll do prior to this weekend's Moro Marathon in which I'll participate. I aim to do the half.

Anyway, I was amazed at the number and range of associates I ran into during that time. Jane W strolled by (with Michael P?). Marc D ducked out of his classroom and shared his key with me. I popped into the Kanazawa office and spoke with Jean G and Christine R, who was moving into that office that day. An I.T. person arrived in connection with that, and she answered some of my questions about computer facilities for our rooms.

I headed out the door to wait in the staffroom and drink a latte. On the way I met Terry S, who grumbled at having had to do some cleaning "which is not a carpenter's job". I spoke with Rose S concerning her online ambitions - go for it! I said hello to Alma - an important person to know. Some may say that Robin D is eaqually important, but I chose to chat with him about 24-hour athletic events.

Leigh Blackall came by to pin up a notice about a conference: The Future of Learning in a Networked World, and I was able to get the information needed to take part. He pointed out three speakers taking part, one on whom, Barbara Dieu from Brazil, has commented on my blog and also those of my students. Michael Coghlan from Australia I also heard speak at a CLESOL conference a couple of years ago.

I sat in the sun for a few minutes, joining Imogen Coxhead, and I learned about her brother, Professor Coxhead, now in Wisconsin. We were in the same class at high school for five years. Returning to join our staff meeting, I ran into a previous student of mine, Jing C, now in her second year of nursing, and she told me about two other alumni from her year, Lisa W (third year nursing) and Xiaoyan G (moved to Christchurch).

And you know, I reflected that Otago Polytechnic main campus is really rather a buzzy place.

Look forward to starting there next term!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Right Royal Muddle!

In class I tried rather a radical approach. On Wednesdays I like everyone to focus on writing. However, I prefer that the other skills are also incorporated in some way - holistic (or whole-istic) learning.

So anyway . . .

I wanted the class to work in groups of three or four. They were to spend 20 minutes on a writing task, then move on to the next task. Altogether there are four groups and four tasks. Each group would carry on with where the previous group(s) had left off.

Are you with me so far?

By the end of the morning all groups rotate back to the activity they had started with, which they would then complete and . . . write up! And also public as blogs, this one and maybe their own.


The four tasks are:

  1. Write a description of our class for students elsewhere to read
  2. Write an account of our visit to the campus where we will shift to next term
  3. Write a description of the Australian English class (with whom I'd like them to form a relationship)
  4. Conduct a writing survey (within our class) gathering information that the teacher would be interested in

That is the plan.

And here are the results.

Survey title:

1) What study style do you prefer?
2) Do you like the study style of this morning?


10/13 students have been surveyed. The majority of them like individual writing, and they like their writing to be corrected by William. However, some students prefer Group Writing on certain subjects. Except for a few students who don’t like writing, the rest of them like formal writing.

We also investigated them if they like the writing learning style of this morning. About 2/3 students said that they don’t like it.

Forth Street Visit

On Monday, 28th of August, we visited Forth Street campus at 10 am by a school bus. Our teachers and some conversation assistants went with us. On the way to H Block in which our new classrooms are, a bus driver showed us parking places around the campus.

Kevin Taylor, an architectural consultant introduced about classrooms, bathrooms, a common room, staff rooms, and offices of Administrative officers and our principal. When we were there, we saw Mami, our teacher’s wife, who joined us. During tea break, we had tea, coffee, fruit juices, sandwiches and pies.

At 11 am we went to Bill Robertson library and Student Centre which are opposite H Block. Mr Taylor showed us the Cafeteria where we can buy our lunch.

At 11.30 am we returned to the School of Language at Tennyson Street.

About Our Class

There are 16 students in our class, from different countries (Cambodia, China, Bulgaria, India, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea, and Afghanistan) and ages 20 to 60. We are living in Dunedin, New Zealand. Most of us are migrants.

There are three levels in the OPSOL. Our class is the Top Class. Our course runs the full academic year from Feb to Dec, but students may enrol on a semester or even term by term basis. Some of the students are full time students from Monday to Friday. Some are part-time students (morning only, Monday to Thursday). At the moment, 9 of us are full time students, and another 7 students are part time.

Our teacher is William, whose parents came from Holland. He has lots of experiences of teaching English; he is very popular in our class. He is the only one male teacher in OPSOL.

We will study here until the middle of September. Next term we have to move to Forth St.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We came, we saw...

Just a photo for now about yesterday's visit to our new campus. More to follow...
Just a link to more photos taken on the day:

Also a link to a class of adult migrants in Sydney, Australia

Friday, August 25, 2006

One-sentence English

At the consol/terminal/monitor

Today, we are going to have a very interesting day, because William said that we’ll do many fun activities. After each activity, one of us will write about it. At the end of the class, we can post what we’ve done. The first activity is called One-sentence English.

Fallen phrases

This is a very good group activity. Someone, who is a cleverer student, speaks the first letter, and the other students can follow it. (William used to create both this and the next activity.)


We completed One-sentence English and then started to do its crossword. The interesting thing is that it is the same sentence we are using all the way through.

The third activity is synonyms. When we check the 20 answers, we have to think of 20 synonyms e.g. Jandals means flip-flop or thongs or bathroom slippers.

The fourth activity is “same vowel sounds”. We find the words with same vowel sounds in the sentences. E.g. 'among' and 'young'

We are recording one-sentence English and William will find out whose sound is. (William used the language master - shown below)


Now we are having a break time and we are enjoying cup of tea. Before morning tea William came and he listened to the records and checked our pronunciations. William said all of them were very good. We are very happy to hear that. We hope that we are having a dinkum kiwi accent in the future.

After morning interval my class did some writing. Our sentence comes from a VOA broadcast. It starts:

Flip-flop shoes have become very popular in the United States, mostly among young people.

Group discussion

The item goes on to mention appearance, construction, variety, formality/informality, and medical opinion. I asked the students to work in groups of four or five and create text according to those keywords. The only rule was that everyone in the group had to write down the same sentences. Here is what the two groups wrote:

Flip-Flop shoes are a type of open shoes often made of rubber, with a v-shaped strap which goes between the big toe and the next one to it and is fixed to the flat bottom piece. There are different colours and styles of Flip-flop shoes on the market currently. It seems that purple, green and red fashionable shoes are most popular for young girls. Flip-Flop shoes are normally worn in the informal places especially on the beach and at home during the summer time. This summer, because of the hot weather in the USA, more and more Flip-Flop shoes are appearing in the shopping centres, offices, streets, etc. Most young people like these kind of shoes, because they think they are simple, convenient and cool, and also they like these colours. But for some old people, they have different opinions. They think these shoes are too informal to wear in some places and they make people lazy.

Jandals have two straps on top of the sole. The straps should be placed between the toe and the second toe. It’s made of rubber, plastic or leather. Some of them are soft and others hard wearing. Most people were jandals on the beach in summer, but in some countries people wear them in formal occasional. Foe example Japanese brides were traditional costume with jandals. Some researches say jandals are good for health.

Group discussion

After about 20 minutes of writing I shall play the audio track and ask some comprehension questions.

Then everyone will receive a copy of the printed article to read.

Finally, I shall enter the sentence in Google Search, where over 66,000 references will come up (I checked this morning). I shall describe some of them to the class.

And by that stage we will be ready to enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Otago Polytechnic School of Languages

My class has recently begun to explore the possibility of using online resources to improve their English and to make contacts with other (English) Language learners.

Below I've listed their names and the addresses of their blogs. Blogging is new for them (and for their teacher to some extent!) but already we're having fun and developing confidence.

Samantha (not yet functional)
Eun Sook

Mami is my Japanese wife, and she is doing a PhD)
(Rekha no longer in class
(Bee no longer in class

Bee (your 'Bee', not ours) made a comment on this blog recently, and that led me to From what I've seen, that website would appear to be the ideal forum for us to participate in. This afternoon, then, in my own time, after having had my regular 10-kilometre run, I am trying to set that up.

There are 15 students in my class, from a variety of backgrounds (Cambodia, China, Bulgaria, India, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Afghanistan) and ages (20 to 60). We live in Dunedin, New Zealand. My students are all/mostly permanent residents, and their level of English ranges from lower to upper intermediate.

Our course runs the full academic year, but students may enrol on a semester or even term by term basis. Some are full time (9-12) + (1-3) from Monday to Friday, and some are part-time (mornings only, Mon-Thurs).

Our school has a wonderful atmosphere with a community feel to it, but we are soon about to move and merge with the 'main campus' at Otago Polytechnic. Everyone is a little nervous about that. In addition, the organisation of our school is also being looked at with a view to making it more "financially viable".

Today George asked me what the term 'positive mental approach' meant. His neighbour had told him that he - George - had it. I told him that it was that quality which all of us will need to cultivate!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

'Polytaste in Music and Food'

As well as teaching, and teaching teachers, I am helping to prepare for the 2006 CLESOL (Community Learning and English for Speakers of Other Languages) Conference in Napier at the end of September.

Our school is going to do a 30-minute presentation that describes how our students became published and read their poetry on live radio, both local and national. We are proud of our students' achievements!

I have copied a memorandum that just turned up today:

School of Languages students presented a radio show on Hills AM 1575 yesterday, Wednesday 7 September 2005 from 2.00 - 3.00pm. 'Polytaste in Music and Food' was a variety show featuring music and recipes from around the world, and it aired yesterday. Over the past few weeks students from the School of Languages have been preparing a one-hour radio programme. Four announcers provided continuity and introduced others who talked about the music tracks they had selected from Tanzania, Somalia, Cambodia, Serbia, Korea and China. Two students passed on traditional recipes from Serbia and Korea.

Forty students visited the Hills AM radio station and took part in the preparation of the show, and eleven were involved in the live broadcast. The show proved to be a huge confidence booster for the production of English language, and as well there was a sense of pride in being able to introduce something of their own first languages and cultures to Dunedin listeners.

While the students were in the studio, those of us back at the school were glued to the radio enjoying a well-polished show.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dekita Orchard

If you take a look at my links, you will see a small multi-coloured square that is a direct link to Dekita Orchard. I haven't had time to take a proper look (an all too common complaint these days) but it seems to be a very useful site.

All sorts of students blogs are featured - it apparently works according to bloglines principles. Why don't you click on it and explore . . . and comment! Tell me what you find and feedback your impressions to me.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

50-year Wedding Anniversary

This weekend marks the fiftieth wedding anniversary of my parents. Yesterday evening I drove to my parents' home in Brooklands Village, Mosgiel, with Mami and my two youngest children, Vincent and Iacinta. My oldest, Albany, could not come because she was working.

When I walked in the door I was flabbergasted. I had expected to see only my sister, Kristina, and brother Michael with his family. However, there were many more. Ron was there, my favorite cousin, and he had brought Dad's sister, my aunt, all the way from Wellington.

And there was my other sister - we are four siblings in total - from Australia! And then in the corner were Harold and his father Tjef who, although not family, are as close as you can get. Our families have known one another since we first came to Dunedin over 45 years ago.

My goodness, what a surprise! I tend not to socialize all that much, and I hadn't seen my brother for months, even though he lives in the same city. It was great to catch up with everyone. I suddenly realised how important it is to have family and connections.

I decided to set up a blog for my parents. A few years ago my father had typed out his and his wife's life story on the computer which he'd had to buy specially. It was a tiring and frustrating time for him, having to learn how to wordprocess, but he persisted.

A few copies were printed out, but I felt that their stories should have a wider audience. Imagine living at a time when you would only count ten or twenty cars in an hour on the main road between two European cities. My father's family boasted of having the first radio on the street!

Please keep and eye on the blog as I edit and update it with photographs.

May we all enjoy long and interesting lives.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sink, swim or muddle through

First, conversation.

We are fortunate here at our school to have volunteers who come regularly to our classes one or two hours a week to have conversation with our students. They are ordinary people from a variety of backgrounds. They speak like Kiwis, not teachers. Some have been coming for up to nine years.

Most of our students have learned English at school with an emphasis on grammar. They write (words in gaps), read (and underline paragraphs with red, green and blue pens to identify subject, verb and predicate), they may hear (a teacher with an accent, or a tape), but they will never ever have the chance to speak.

This is why it is so valuable for them to have a chance to take part in natural conversation.

This term I have combined two classes so that a pool of up to 8 conversation assistants is available to every student. I have asked students to form small groups by themselves, including students from both classes and more than one language.

Each week each student chooses a different assistant. Each week the student receives a sheet on which the assistant may make comments about pronunciation and manner or speaking. By the end of the term each student will have a collection of valuable feedback.

However, it isn't always easy. People are shy to form groups. Students with less English than others are embarrassed to speak in front of those with more. Conversation assistants sometimes get impatient or frustrated.

I have a few ideas for changes next week.

Another change is that our school will locate onto another campus. There we will need to put in place other changes, if we are to remain/become financially viable.

We live in interesting times - which is originally a Chinese expression, I believe!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

English in China

Dear William,
In China,we have to go to school 6days a week and everyday we have English class so we just speak English in the class.Our English book has 18 Units,each unit has many words.we have to learn it and recite it but it is also easy to forget it,haha....
I think everyday we spend little time to practice English.When I do the exercises I often choose the answer by feelling and the answer I choose is often when we have the English examination,my mark is always bad.
What about your Chinese student?
Do they have the problem also?
I think I'm not afraid of speaking English but I don't has the choice to speak English in the public,This is a probliem!!!
And I think a word in English has many meaning that's difficult for me.For example,you say "regards" but I don't know the meaning at first sight until I look out it in the dictionary,it also means greeting .


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Candy asks 2 grammar questions

Candy sent me an email from China, asking about 2 questions from a test:
08/15/06 4:53 PM

1. Precisely the same thought sent the three of us in two different directions,_____.
A.they to San Franciso and I to New York
B.them to San Franciso and I to New York
C.them to San Franciso and me to New York
D.themselves to San Franciso and myself to New York

I choose A but the answer is C, Why?

2. Every teacher and pupil at Eton Girls'college is proud of ____school.

I choose B but the answer is C, Why?

regards Candy

Hi Candy

I also hate this kind of grammar work. REAL English doesn't bother so much with grammar. With the first question, the three people must be the objects, because 'the thought' is the subject which sent them. Many English speakers would have given the same answer as you.

For the second question, I like your answer the best! These days it sounds unnatural to use a singular pronoun for a plural' subject, even if the use of 'every' or 'each' makes the subject singular. Almost nobody uses the pronoun 'one' in daily life anymore. 98% of all English speakers agree with you!


By the way, I am sending another email to invite you to to join gmail. This will allow you to join a chat group with other students in my class.

Laid low with a cold

I had to take Monday off with a cold, but was back at work today (not yet 100%, though). Probably brought on by the bad weather, the business during working hours (Leigh, take note!) and the stress and then hospital environment of my son's broken arm.

The main thing I did today was to clear up Carol's blog and to send gmail invitations to the students in my class.

Fantastic, my wife has just entered, so we will walk home from work together. I'll cut this entry short then! Just a photo before we go . . .

Oops! Sorry, wrong photo. How about this then . . .?

* * *

No, I've tried three times, and it hasn't been successful. That sometimes happens when you try and upload photos. Sometimes it is because of their size, and sometimes the connection is too 'busy'.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Prototype of my protopage

I'm still playing around with the technology, since I don't really know what I'm doing. My idea is to have all of my students' blogs accessible on the one page. See what that looks like by clicking on the address below.

What I'm not really sure of is how to make the page accessible to others, for them to increase the sizes of the windows, but for the protopage not to be altered permanently. Any advice on that (or other) matters?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Broken arm

Two minutes ago I received word that my son, Vincent (Vinnie) has broken his arm at rugby. The coach rang up the ex-wife, who was in the shower, and my daughter took down the number, incorrectly. And I've been asked to deal with the situation, as my daughters need to be taken by their mum to dance at a rest home.

No rest for the wicked.

At the time I'd been exploring a website that provides audio recordings by volunteers of many, many books.

I've rung the hospital, but my son has not yet arrived. "Ring back in ten minutes," the nurse at A & E suggested. So to while away the time I'm writing this blog. Mami has heated up our lunch for me to have a quick bite. And I'm trying not to get rice over the keyboard!

Never a dull moment.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Another Friday, another week

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me, rushing down each lunchtime to benefit from Leigh Blackall's knowledge (along with Ken and Thanasis). Don't ask me about my organisation or the state of my desk. Administrative matters - don't ask!

Perhaps my students feel a little left out too. Quite regularly now I leave them to work on their own. It's something that they are gradually geting used to - fingers crossed.

The good thing is that I now have twelve of my students on line with their own blogs. I would have signed up more today, but blogger was down for maintenance.

One interesting thing was that a few of my students were suspected of being robots, when they only posted a sentence or two when they first posted. That was a hassle, because the unblocking did not go quickly or smoothly. It was easier to set up another blog and then make sure the first post was long enough.

One of my students, 'apprentice housewife', got her blog set up, but somehow it had no space about the composition box for a post title. It has happened to me once before, and I asked Leigh about it, but he hadn't come across that particular problem.

Sadly 'apprentice housewife' had previously been suspected of being a robot! I do hope that she persists.

My mission today is to cc a copy of this post from my email account, to the networked learning group, I subscribe to. Here's hoping!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Read around a topic

Today in class we'll begin with a practice task for next Thursday's assessment: E1 Can demonstrate understanding of a complex/problematic spoken exchange. Phew! What a mouthful.

Luckily it won't take more than half an hour. After that, we shall listen to a radio story from this morning's 6 a.m. news. I wonder how many of you got up at that time too. The story is about Carisbrook, Dunedin's stadium where rugby and cricket(?) are played. (I must confess that I have only been there once in my life!)

In the same week that we learned that our School of Languages will move to North Dunedin, we learn that Carisbrook is also to shift. Today being a Thursday, our 'Reading Day', I'd like you to look at the front page of today's ODT to read the story.

I am also including three 'links' to other stories. They may be easier to read and understand. Just 'click' on the following links to see them. Pressing the 'back' key will return you here.

I have included a story about Dunedin's railway station, as that building also was in the headlines this week. But it won't move, not as far as I know!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How to gamble

Today Hugo Li from Problem Gambling Foundation came to talk about problem gambling. According to him, 95% of New Zealanders gamble in one way or another. He said that Asians especially get involved.

The Chinese love gambling. Is this because of their obsession with money? Perhaps not. Chinese 'religion' is quite different from western versions with their gods and saints. In Chinese culture there is an emphasis on fortune, spirits and superstition. When a person is gambling, he or she is really 'in communication' with the spirits. If that person wins then the spirits are smiling at him or her. When the person loses, the spirits are frowning and you do not want to leave the gambling table on a frown. - from 'How to Have a Beautiful Mind' by Edward de Bono

Hugo gave a very professional power-point presentation. It lasted more than one hour, but he felt (and I agree) that the students were "very well-engaged". By this, he meant that the students asked many questions.

As well as that, my class - AM4 - worked on their writing. There was not much time left for the students to post their writing to their respective blogs, but we'll continue with that tomorrow.

No trees today

Today is W for Writing Wednesday

Instead of printing your assignment on paper, you'll read what to do today in this post (we'll save trees in that way). We'll listen to a talk from Hugo Li at 9.30 a.m. also.

I would like you to write an opinion text. Choose one of the following topics:

  1. How is this term's class different from previously?
  2. What do you think about moving to Forth Street next term?

Write between 100 and 200 words. Concentrate on ideas and writing smoothly (don't stop to look up words in a dictionary, and don't question your grammar).

Then do a second draft, where you correct your work as much as you can. Choose a partner and read over one another's work. Suggest some improvements.

Finally, post your work to your blog. You may need to set it up if you haven't already done so. Terumi (wow, you have written a lot!), , George and Alice are up to date. Today I also recieved Hedi's blog address. And later Sao, Carol, Fauzia, David, , Chanthou, . . .

People who have left our class but who may still be active with their blogs include: Rekha, Bee...

Also, blogs from our alumni: Mami (who is my wife doing her PhD) and

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Language Master

Today during conversation time (when a number of volunteers arrive to help in the classroom) the students showed them a language master. This is a recording machine which helps with pronunciation. A native speaker can record a few seconds of text onto the tape - which is stuck on a card - and then at the flick of a switch, a parallel track can be recorded over by the student.

The tracks can then be played back over and over again to compare them. This is useful not only for vowels and consonants but for longer features of lannguage including linking, stress, rhythm, intonation and so on. It is a lot to grasp immediately, and so today most groups had only a taste.

Aaron "All-White", a fellow teacher, suggested to me that we coulod prepare a series of cards that together make up a dialogue. Pairs of students could then roleplay the script. I like the sound of this.

Monday, August 07, 2006

pbwiki sounds like a good idea

Just now I found this address about setting up a Wiki. It seems easy to do, and useful for my class. I've decided to set one up for my class this term.

Another article concerns the original Wikipedia. This is from the New Yorker magazine.

You Start at the Beginning

Or is that: you begin at the start?

No matter. Today I start my class blog, no matter what. I won't worry about what to write or how it looks. I am asking my students to do the same, so I need to set an example, don't you think? I can always make changes.

The photograph above is of me. I am the handsome one (actually, I'm doing a George Bush impersonation). Does it look like I know what I'm doing? Not really. I was trying to set the camera on self-timer. I made a mistake.

Who are the women behind me? They aren't my students, although they did learn English. (So did I.) Neither of them is my wife, but they are my wife's friends - and mine. They could be my students but they are not. One day they may be.

I am going to link up all of my students to this blog. It will help everyone to keep learning and using English. I am going to make a giant family of past and previous students - and other friends - so that everyone can reamain friends, even after after their English course ends. Let's keep in touch and help each other.

Remember, making mistakes isn't bad. It's fun! We learn from our mistakes. Look at the photograph to remind yourselves of that. Even 'teachers' make mistakes . . . and it isn't a problem. Who cares?

Let's have some fun :-)