Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Art of Conversation

This morning I decided not to use the next topic of our list. Instead, because today we have conversation from 11 until 12, I thought that we could focus on the art of conversation.

Here's what we'll do:

First, I shall dictate a few famous quotes about 'communication'. I found them on the Internet by Googling 'famous quotations', and then visiting the website at the top of the list. It gave me a subject list that I could look at in alphabetical order. The word 'conversation' was not under C, but the word 'communication' was. And luckily there were exactly 5 quotations on that topic.

I'll get you to work in pairs to check your dictation, and then to agree on the quotations that you like and dislike the most. (You'll need to do some talking to decide!)

Secondly, I shall let you look at the Student Self-analysis of Speaking that most of you completed for me in the first semester. (Others may complete it afresh.) Have your thoughts changed since then? Has your speaking improved? Why has - or hasn't - it?

After that, there are three things that you will do in three groups.

  • View this page on the computer and follow the link to look at the quotations site.
  • Write to me for 15 minutes about your conversation skills.
  • Read the page about communication that I read in this Teaching English blog.
Finally, if you have time today, please check your email and reply to me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Thanks to you

Yesterday I thanked Samantha. Today I'd like to thank Jack and Safaa. Safaa reminded me about an Oxford website, and Jack has prepared a list of many of the websites that we have looked at from time to time. I saw it in class on Thursday and asked to copy it. Today I'll distribute it to all of you. During our computer suite hour, you are invited to visit and/or bookmark these for yourselves.

If you do this on you gmail or other private account - or better yet, on Delicious - then you will be able to access these even after the end of the year, when you may no longer be a student at Otago Polytechnic.

Next, I am going to give you back your writing, and I will indicate up to five errors that I need you to make a note of. That is to say, I want you to write the error you made, the correction and the explanation of what you did. By doing this, you will be much less likely to repeat these particular mistakes.

By the way, today's topic is alternative-fuel cars. What do you think of this one which we are thinking of building at Otago Polytechnic? Below I've included a clip from Youtube. It is an interview with a slow-speaking Australian who speaks very well about Permaculture and Peak Oil which, while they are not about alternative-fuel vehicles, are about related issues.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hurricane season

Thanks to Samantha, I can now provide you with the list of topics we’ll be studying over the next couple of weeks. Now, this is not all that we’ll be doing. Soon, today in fact, from 11 until 12, you will work individually in your own areas, and you can choose what material to cover then.

There were 21 topics I let you choose from. They were not complied at random; I have good reading and listening resources for each. Here are the top twelve that we’ll be looking at:

The idea woman (done yesterday)

Hurry canes from warm weather

Alternating fuel vehicles

The news even wonders

Skinny motels

Sell phones

Japanese public bats

Wetting anniversary

Moscow, the world’s weariest city

Papyrus sects

Body tonation

World’s fallest man Mami's

I’m sorry . . . I have made deliberate mistakes in all the above. Would you care to correct them?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The ideal lesson

Yesterday, thanks to Samantha, who counted up your votes, I was able to plan which topics we will look at during the next two or three weeks. The most popular topic chosen was 'The Ideal Woman'.

So what do we do?

First, I'll read out a few sentences (4) from dictation. You will be listening to them within a short listening text.

The text is not long but it is really difficult. It would be really great training for you if you listen to it, over and over again, and gradually write down as many words of it as you can. Then you can try the text listening quiz.

The second thing we'll do is some speaking. In a small group, describe the "ideal" partner for you. Think in terms of personality, educational and family background, socioeconomic level, job, and personal values and beliefs. Listen to what others have to say, and refrain from disagreeing with them. During that time you can all listen to the text on the computer.

I'll get you to write next. What is your image of the ideal partner? Record your own opinion focusing on such factors as appearance, personality, character, and interests. Share your recording with another student and have them respond to your opinion.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Welcome to day two

Yesterday we made a start. I hope most things went smoothly for you all. If not, then try to relax and gradually find solutions to any problems you have. Let me know if there is anything that I can help you with. I see that you are all supportive of each other, and that is great!

I wrote yesterday that we would be having 4 computers - well, there are only three so far, but I'll work on that. However, we only have four connection points, so that may be our limit.

You did some writing for me on Monday. As I said, I shall ask you for that every day if I remember. I looked at your work and gave you a 6, 7, 8 or 9 out of 10.

I was looking at what I termed 'fluency' but what I should have termed 'preparedness to write'. I wanted to see how easy it is (or isn't) for you to put words on paper. If you got a 6 (or if you were too shy to hand anything in) then that shows that you need to loosen up. You are too self-conscious, perhaps, or maybe you worry too much, or maybe you can't think of anything to say (at least in English). If I gave you a 7 then that is okay, but you can certainly improve.

We can all improve, even the people I gave 8's and 9's. But for them, they don't have as great a writer's block as others. Other aspects of their English will be more important for them to improve.

Let's start today with some more dictation. I'll play some more of the tape I used, but you'll hear another speaker. This will lead into today's topic: Danger!

You looked for some topics in the Computer Suite yesterday, and I jotted down some of your addresses. Today I will get you to choose which topics you would like to work on in the next couple of weeks.

We have to be quick to complete our dictation, listening, speaking, reading and writing before conversation hour from 11 until 12. The writing I would like you to do is to do a second draft of Monday's writing. Write it all out again, but this time correct any grammar errors.

Finally, I will remind you (and myself) about the compulsory aspects of our class. I shall add to these as I assign you various activities. At the moment, please remember to:

  1. Read my class blog daily
  2. Hand in one piece of writing every day (keep it together in one place)
  3. Keep a separate notebook for new vocabulary, pronunciation problems, grammatical errors you make, and so on.
  4. Individual work (I will advise you about this later)
  5. Keep a reading log of everything you read outside of class
Are you still relaxed? I hope so! Don't do anything too dangerous!

If you do have a zest for danger, then you could take a look at this on-line ESOL activity:
Sharp objects allowed back on US planes

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Welcome back

Welcome back, everyone, for the second leg (the first leg for some new students).

This semester there have been some changes, as you can see. Our class - and Pariya and Afife's too - are in new rooms. As I write this on Wednesday 18 July, the furniture and fittings have not been set up, but I'm confident that they will. Otherwise I'll get you all to write a formal letter of complaint to the Polytechnic head (I'm joking!).

The good thing is that all our rooms are in a row. I think that our desks will be a larger size. We will only have four computers instead of five, but we'll get the afternoon sun. Oops, ours is a morning class, isn't it?

Okay then, I would like our English class this semester to be the best one I have taught. I shall try and use all of the best materials and ideas that I have accumulated during the ten or so years I've been teaching ESOL. You are in for a treat.

Let's start the semester slowly and simply. Initially our routine every day shall be the same. We'll work on one topic a day. We'll all be working on the same tasks, but not for long. Not always. On the first day I shall conduct a needs analysis, as we do at the start of every semester. If you were here in the first semester, and if you filled out and gave me the form, I'll let you see what you wrote them. Then, I'll get you to fill out a new sheet.

Within a few days I shall update myself about which skills you each individually need to work on. You don't all need the 'same' English. Soon there will be times during our classes that you are working on different skills. This will allow everyone to improve in their own areas of need.

As well as that, though, there are some areas where all of you need to work on and improve. Grammatical accuracy is one. The assessments for Module M, Narrative Writing Skills, is another. Everyone will be doing this work together.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Keep that English ticking over

Hello, all of my students. Are you still using your English during the break? I wonder if you ever think about checking this blog. If you do, please leave a comment. It would be good to know that some people remain active.

I would like to experiment a little here. I followed a link to a site that allows people to produce slide shows - maybe something for us to try ourselves. Anyway, this is a series of images you may be amused by: