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 :-)