Thursday, August 30, 2007

Being choosy, fussy, picky etc

Hello again

Yesterday we talked a bit about reading. I emphasized the need for being selective with what you read. I recommended that you look at up to 100 books before reading one. The books you choose to read must be interesting to you, and they should be at the correct level. I believe that you should know 98% that is on any page.

If a person is going be that choosy, how does he or she find enough material to read? Here are some suggestions: browse books on an interesting topic (non-fiction books are grouped in a library) or explore a genre. Look for more books by an author that you enjoyed. Tell a librarian the kind of material you are looking for and they will be happy to make suggestions (it's their job). Take a look at books recommended by others. Hunt up some of the books mentioned in the bibliography of a book you enjoyed.

I'm reading Beyond Civilisation by Daniel Quinn. How did I find it? Well, I read another of his books, Ishmael, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read another. How did I find Ishmael? Mami recommended it to me. How did she find it? It was mentioned in another book, Culture Clash, that she had read. It was a book that I had recommended to her. . .

Some books have whole websites devoted to them , and Ishmael is one of them Here is a list of listening excerpts from the book Beyond Civilisation. You might start by listening to page 6.

The dictation today will come from some of your work - I must remember to return it.

I have a story for error correction. There are 33 sentences with one mistake each:

Veronica was a only child. Even as a child, she decide that she was going to be a doctor. All her dolls became her patient. All her dollhouses becomes hospitals for her patients. Hhe spent her early childhood treating her patients for all kinds of diseases and injuries. She saved all them and billed none of them.

Veronica got straight A’s on high school and college, because she knew that good grades would help her get into a good medical school. She graduated medical school near the top of her class. She became paediatrician. She got married, had two kids, one boy and one girl. Veronica husband David was an architect and a great cook. Her children did they homework without being told. They have got straight A’s in school. They ate all their vegetables with out complaining. They were perfect little childrens.

Veronica get home at 4:30 p.m. today. David gave her a big kissing and a hug. Then her kids gave she a kiss and a hug. She went upstair and changed into shorts and a T-shirt. When she returned, the kids were waiting for her in the living room to talking about their day in school.

Marvin, 10, said what today his biology teacher helped them cut up dead frogs. They smelled badly, but he enjoyed seeing their little body parts, like their lungs and heart. “I am like biology,” Marvin said. “I want to be a biologist, an animal doctor, and an inventor I grow up. I’m going to be invent a pill so that animals all learn to live together without eating each other all the time.”

“Your crazy!” exclaimed Rebecca. “What are the animals going to eat if they don’t eat each other.”

“Okay, here’s how’s I’ll keep the animals from eating each other. I already thought of that, off course. The solution are a pill that will make all animals like to eat grass, like the cows and sheep do. That way not more animals will eat each other, and kids won’t have to mow the lawn any more. So, that will killing two birds with one stone.”

“Well, that’s too clever,” Veronica told Marvin.

On the reverse of that sheet there are a couple of more academic texts.

One of them, from the Toastmasters article, talks about Guidance and Support for learning English. I shall get you to summarize that information, the same as yesterday, either in groups or individually (your choice).

The other article is from today's newspaper. It seems like a grown up version about the narrative above. I wonder what your opinion about this issue is. Perhaps you could write and tell me. Here is another article about the same person.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why read?

I have a few items for you to read today. Let's start with one that I got from Monday's newspaper. It is about a reading survey that was conducted in the USA recently.

To start (after the dictation - factual and delayed - from the book Why can't you tickle yourself?) form groups of no more than four. I'll help you to mix randomly. Predict answers to these questions:

  1. What fraction of people read zero books all year?
  2. What was the average number of books read in a year?
  3. What type of book is more popular: religious politics or romance?
  4. Who reads the most - woman or men, younger people or older people?
  5. What is the largest number of books someone mentioned in the article read?
I have two links for you to look at about today's other topic: Wedding Anniversaries. Take a look at them during the interval break and tell me which you prefer.
Your homework for the next two weeks is to make a list of everything you read in English (of at least a page).

Finally some writing. Please rewrite with simpler language as a list of points the information about Immersion and Reading that the Toastmasters article provides.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

William's Delicious bookmarks

Apropos of yesterday, here are my delicious bookmarks (all kinds of topics!)

Or if you like, you can type them in:

Speak up, speak well

On Tuesdays we have conversation hour, as you know. As teachers we all value our volunteer assistants, and every class has an hour or two a week of conversation.

Some of you could improve your conversation more than others. But everyone can benefit.

When you are at a beginner level, all kinds of conversation are good - even just listening to an assistant. But as you progress, you will want to improve your range of skills. At that stage, you would be wasting your time to some extent if you don't actively practise those skills or stay on task.

Here's today's plan:

  1. Dictation (the sentences come from this story)
  2. Grammar correction in a narrative (this is the story without a resolution or evaluation that I used)
  3. Advice from a magazine (Toastmasters)
  4. Listening to a narrative on a video (see the picture above for clues)
  5. Conversation hour

Monday, August 27, 2007

Set you up for good

Farewell to Sam and his family. I hope you do well in Taiwan, and please visit this blog. You can still work on your English. Thank you all of you for that wonderful meal at The Great Taste. Perhaps we can make it there more often . . .

Today is the day that I want to set you up for good. By now you have been exposed to many resources in my class and through this blog. By now you should have a good idea what skills you need to work on to make the most progress with your English. Putting the two together, I want all of you to select a site or tool to concentrate on. This is important. You need to work regularly in your own time in you own area(s) of need.

I shall take you on a tour in the computer suite. Please be there everyone - no excuses today for cold weather!

Before that, my dictation comes from the book: Out of Gas by David Goodstein. It comes from the Dunedin Public Library (333.79 GOO). I highly recommend it for your writing. The sentences are very well controlled, not too long, and very highly crafted. You can learn a lot about how to write, and also about the topic. You can leave out the middle chapters as they are fairly dry and technical, but the beginning and the end should be compulsory reading.

Next, I have a story for you to work on. It comes from the site of 100 stories I told you about earlier. However, I see that not all of those stories are complete narratives. Some of them are more like newspaper stories - not the same thing at all.

I shall give you one such story. It does not have a good orientation, and the resolution is also too short. I have left room on the sheet for you to improve it.

I would like to discuss the following in small groups. The topic, Japanese public baths, was the next on your list. Good luck with the listening link!

  • three aspects of your culture that may require foreigners to get used to
  • an experience in visiting a foreign country where you had difficulty with the language or culture.

Finally, if you would like something more to read, here is an account of my visit to a bath house in Japan in 2005 during our travels:

Getting back to the story . . . After having walked thirty-seven kilometres, and in spite of the two dips I’ve had in the sea, I think that Mami’s suggestion to visit an onsen is a great idea. However, as we approach its imposing exterior, I feel myself growing nervous. I’m unfamiliar with the set-up, I’m uncomfortable with the decor, and I’m put off by the range of over-fancy omiyage.

The staff stand about regally in uniforms. Apparently they don’t do menial tasks. At the counter you obtain your own tickets from a machine. You take your outside shoes off here – what do I do? – and the slippers you replace them with have, in turn, to be removed a little further. It’s all too confusing for me.

Mami breezes through as if it is all old hat to her – of course it is – but when she ducks under the women’s curtain waving me towards men’s, I’m at a loss. Where do I go? Where do I put things? How do I keep my valuables safe? The soap clean? My towel dry? What are the baskets for? Is there a toilet inside, or do I need to go back under the curtain?

Suddenly it all becomes too much. I manage to take a shower in a cubicle just inside the door, but then I rush back outside. I stay away from the bath itself. I refuse to take a look at those facilities. I want nothing to do with those dark, unsmiling, naked men.

When I saw and smelled that onsen, I was in Nirvana. My light-headedness must have distorted my perceptions: to me your pale, panicky face seemed happy, if a little tired. I was shocked afterwards to hear of your traumatic experience, and felt very sorry. I almost wanted to slap myself in the face.

(Slap your face? It was me that needed a kick in the pants. I can’t believe how completely I fell to pieces!)

In the tatami waiting area, I vow never again to use an onsen. I’m happy for Mami to go, but I prefer just a shower or to wash at a sink. The price of an onsen is simply wasted on me – to me hot water is nothing special, nothing to get excited about or rhapsodise over.

But of course I get over the experience. In hindsight, my panic attack occurred not just because of unfamiliarity with procedure, protocol, tradition and habit. It was probably the result of an accumulation of stresses: travelling to Japan and meeting Mami after such a long separation, fitting in with her family, putting on a brave an optimistic face before the camera, plus the prospect of walking 40 km per day barefoot, and several kilograms heavier than I should have been. When we eventually exit, to camp at a public park, I glance back at the name – ‘Happy You Onsen’!

Never mind, you quickly recovered from that nightmarish experience and became quite adept at adapting to onsen. You even enjoyed certain bath house facilities that I’ve never dared. Well done you!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

BBC Learning English | China dolphin extinction

BBC Learning English | China dolphin extinction

Seventy to eighty percent

Talk to Chiho in AM3. She talked with Mami, my wife, who told her that in her experience 70-80 % of a student's improvement in English (or in any subject) depends on what the student does outside the class. I would agree with here there.

As a teacher I try and stimulate my students to want to learn. I provide opportunities, advice, feedback and resources. But unless the student follows up that advice and makes use of what I try to provide, he or she will not make much progress.

Okay, enough philosophy. What are we doing today? I've made a list:

  • 'grammar' dictation from a follow-up article (you don't need to get all the words and in the correct order, but your finished sentence should make grammatical sense)
  • group answers to questions 11-20 from yesterday
  • Star newspaper article (did you know that you can access it online?)
  • lucky-dip conversation mini-skill (if we have time)Narrative text - I will give you a model with one section missing for you to complete.
  • 11-12 self-directed learning

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Follow up

Thanks to Carol for her extra-strong Kimchi, and Hannah for her apple-licorice drink, I'm feeling well today. I hope you are too.

Today we have four things to do: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. All of those activities follow on from yesterday, which is why I've titled this post 'Follow-up'. Don't you agree that it's important to continue with a task, rather than starting something new each day?

Now then, it may not be for everyone, but yesterday I gave you a reading about an unusual topic. I will prepare 20 questions about it - 10 easy and ten more difficult.

I shall follow on from the listening about cell phones yesterday. Today's listening is about dolphins in China. I obtained it from this page.
You will study some vocabulary before listening.

Next, how well did you do with your task, changing the topic, yesterday. I shall ask you.
I shall also ask which thing you find hardest to do in conversation. Maybe we can model and practice one or two micro-skills.

Finally, I shall return the writing that many of you gave me yesterday. Remember to make a record of your valuable errors. I shall give you another 15 minutes to improve you narratives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Neglected matters

I should apologize for two things: We have not had writing for the past two classes. We have not covered the next topic on the list you chose. Before conversation hour, therefore, I shall rectify that.

Please spend the first 15 minutes on your story. Refer to yesterday's post to what that involves. After that, I'd like you to listen to this item about cell phones. Try this worksheet after listening.

While you are waiting, or after, I have a reading on an unusual to for you to read also. I shall give it you each individually when you have completed the above.

And finally, let's prepare for conversation hour (you will be speaking about health issues) by looking at a second skill from Conversation Gambits.

Monday, August 20, 2007

On the mend, on the go, on the up and up

Hi all

Are you hanging on in there? I was ill during the weekend, but I think that I'm on the mend now.

Poor Gylchella isn't. We hope that you get better soon.

Today the photo is of Gary. You are going to learn about Gary today. To begin, I will give you an article he wrote. It was published in a magazine.

Later, in the computer suite, I suggest that you browse his website.

Do you remember on Thursday when I asked you to work in pairs and complete 7 tasks. Well, no one did. You did not show that you are independent and can work on your own. I was surprised.

For example, not one of you commented on my post. Neither did anyone ask me what to do (if that was the reason that you didn't). Hmmm . . .

And I only received two suggestions for sections from the textbook: Conversation Gambits. Thanks to Im, Air and Rasmey I have two sections that we will be doing soon in class. The first is section 14: Changing the subject.

By now you should have a story that you are working on for the upcoming assessment: Can write a narrative text. You are gambling on preparing a generic story that you can adapt according to the assessment topic. Ask me if you don't know what I mean by that.

Just looking for things for you to listen to. I did a Google search for 'listening to story podcast' and discovered this site about immigrant stories. Let me know if you think it is useful.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

How much can you do?

It was as much as I could do to drag myself here this morning. I don't know why, but my cold has come back with a vengeance. I cannot do much stand-in-front-of-the-class teaching, so I've prepared a self-directed learning package.

I shall be here. I shall sit in an armchair. I'll be
available for asking questions (if you want to risk my germs). But for the most part I'd like you to work in pairs. The first thing to do, therefore is find someone you don't usually sit with who has a different first language. You may need to negotiate and shuffle to do this.

Second, spend some time on as many of the tasks below as you can. Work steadily and smoothly, and don't get bogged down on any task.
Don't all start with the first thing on the list; it will create a bottleneck or a logjam.

  • copy the enlarged words of this page in your vocabulary notebook and find the meanings
  • from any book dictate 5 easy sentences of less than 10 words long to your partner
  • make a comment on this post
  • help each other complete the narrative writing that I asked you to do for homework, and give them to me
  • put some books from inside the cupboard onto our new bookshelf and select one each
  • spend no more than 15 minutes completing some grammar exercises
  • look through the book Conversation Gambits and select two pages to do in the future

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Class excursion

Today from 11 until 12, we shall be going on an excursion. Let me keep the location a secret for now.

After our regular dictation, I shall let you listen to some of Dr Albert Bartlett's lecture that I introduced you to yesterday. I have it on a DVD, so it should be easy to access.

That will bring us to a discussion that I would like you to have. The topic is: What do you see as humanity's main problems. Perhaps we will think about how to start solving one.

We ought to do some writing after that (I forgot to set you some yesterday). Write about any out-of-the-ordinary thing that you have experienced recently (it may be made up).

Then, I have an example of a human problem at this breaking news site, and I have prepared a worksheet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Keeping a record

Hi everyone. Are you ready for a good day?

Yesterday I realised that I haven't been checking. We have done a lot of writing, but I need you to keep all your writing together. Also, you need to keep a record of your mistakes, a collection, so that you learn from them.

I shall give you yesterday's 100-word description back. All of you scored between 80 and 100%. Well done. But now you need to learn from the mistakes that you made.

I shall give you part of a talk made by Dr. Albert Bartlett. He talks about the concept of doubling grains of rice. I have added errors for you to correct and to list.

We shall speak briefly about the next assessment: Can write a narrative text.

You shall select a task to practise during conversation hour.

During that time I shall let you know about your previous assessment results.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tuesdays with Morrie

Be prepared this week to do work on some topics, in and out of class, that are not usual subjects studied in English class.

Today, I'm going to use a DVD. The people in charge of equipment have given us sound, so we will use it!

Our dictation comes from a movie, Tuesdays with Morrie (scroll down to see the quotes). You can borrow it for three days at a time from the Bill Robertson library across the road. You can see it on Youtube starting here. I own a personal copy of the book that this movie was made from, so you will be able to borrow it from me. I highly recommend it!

I'm going to work on your speed reading. I shall use a related story from the Otago Daily Times last week. Too many of you are using slow, inefficient, painstaking techniques, so I'm going to try and break that habit!

A good habit that I want to instil is correct basic grammar. Last Thursday I asked you to underline 10 sentences in your writing that you were sure were 100% correct. Well, you did not do this 100% correctly.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Recognizing obvious errors

Hi and good luck for the assessment today.

After morning tea I shall ask for the writing you did for me yesterday. I will ask you to underline ten of your sentences that you are sure of. I will look at only those and give you a score out of ten.

To practice this, read the following story and list the letters of the sentences that have no ovious mistakes.

A)The owner of a missing cat asking for help. B)“My baby has been missing for over a month now, and I want him back so badly,” said Mrs. Brown, a 56-years-old woman. C)Mrs. Brown lives by herself in a trailer park near Clovis. D)She said that Clyde, her 7-year-old cat, didn’t came home for dinner more than a month ago. E)The next morning he didn’t appear for breakfast either. F)After Clyde missed a extra-special lunch, she called the police.

G)When the policeman asked her to describe Clyde, she told him that Clyde had beautiful green eyes, had all his teeth but was missing half of his left ear, and was seven years old and completely white. H)She than told the officer that Clyde was about a foot high.

I)A bell wen’t off. J)“Is Clyde you child or you pet?” the officer suspiciously asked. K)“Well, he’s my cats, of course,” Mrs. Brown replied. L)“Lady, you’re supposed to report missing PERSONS, not missing CATS,” said the irritated policeman. M)“Well, who can I report this too?” she asked. N)“You be can’t. O)You have to ask around your neighbourhood or put up flyers,” replies the officer.

P)Mrs. Brown figured that a billboard would work a lot better than an 8”x11” piece of paper in a telephone pole. Q)There was an empty billboard at end of her street just off the interstate highway. R)The billboard had a phone number on it. S)She called that number, and they told her they could blow up a picture of Clyde (from Mrs. Brown’s family album) and put it on the billboard for all to see.

T)“But how can people see it when they whiz by on the interstate?” she asked. U)“Oh, don’t worry, ma’am, they only whiz by during 2 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. V)The rest of the day, the interstate are so full of commuters that no one moves.” W)They told her it would cost only $3,000 a month. X)So, she took many of the money out of her savings account and rented the billboard for a month.

Y)The month has passed, but Clyde has not appeared. Z)Because she has almost not money in savings, Mrs. Brown called the local newspaper to see if anyone could help her rent the billboard for just one more month. @)She is waiting but, so far, no one has stepped forward.

Write the letters of the 10 sentences that have no obvious mistakes.

(Scroll below for answers)


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lots of bedtime reading for you

Because this is the final day before your assessment, M1: Can read a narrative text, I shall concentrate on that today. I shall give you a short story to read, I selected from a useful website of narrative texts. If you want more practice before the assessment, or if you need to repeat the assessment, or even if you just like reading, please make use of this site of 100 stories.

I chose the particular story that I am giving you because one of you found herself in the same predicament yesterday as Jack.

The second thing I would like to do is work more on your conversation. I gave you each three conversational tasks yesterday, but I wonder how many of you remembered to try them? I saw that Lance did his best to remind you. I will remind you today, in groups of six.

Finally, the third thing that I am asking you to do is . . . some more writing. I would like you to use your own words to tell the story about the grains of rice that I told you yesterday.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Saying your piece

Hi guys, I'm back!

I'm okay, though not quite 100%. Never mind, as long as I can cope. I know that some of you are not firing on all cylinders either.

Today we need to play catch-up. I will want to see what you got up to yesterday. After that there are two main things that we should do: prepare for Thursday's assessment, and prepare to make greater use of our conversation hour.

Here is what I see as today's programme:

  1. Dictation (I'll use some conversation tasks)
  2. Saying one's piece. You may read your impassioned writing you wrote yesterday, and everyone will practise showing agreement and support.
  3. Narrative reading (I'll use the yesterday's story about rice)
  4. Conversation Gambits game (a book, and my idea for a game - see below) Here is another link
  5. Conversation with our assistants

Tasks to try during conversation

  1. Ask someone for their opinion
  2. Ask someone for more details
  3. Tell about something you are reminded of.
  4. Change the topic
  5. Interrupt someone
  6. Return to the previous topic
  7. Agree with what someone is saying
  8. Disagree (gently) with what someone is saying
  9. Make a joke
  10. Give some non-verbal feedback
  11. Tell an anecdote
  12. Give a one-word prompt
  13. Paraphrase another’s remarks
  14. Ask a related question
  15. Give an opinion
  16. Make an observation
  17. Comment on what someone has said
  18. Introduce an interesting fact
  19. Make a statement
  20. Make a generalisation
  21. Challenge (gently) what another person says
  22. Relate the topic to yourself
  23. Relate the topic to a recent happening
  24. Ask for clarification
  25. Ask for repetition
  26. Ask someone to slow down
  27. Ask to have something said more simply
  28. Indicate that you have understood
  29. Indicate that you haven’t understood
  30. Give a third person’s opinion
  31. Repeat what someone else has said
  32. Ask a rhetorical question
  33. Ask a question to the whole group
  34. Show interest
  35. Respond positively
  36. Respond hesitantly
  37. Consider what someone else has said
  38. Respond dubiously
  39. Talk to yourself
  40. Invite input
  41. Survey everyone in the group
  42. Call for a vote
  43. Use a question tag
  44. Ask an open question
  45. Deliberately pause before replying
  46. Deliberately stress key words
  47. Express emotion in your tone

Monday, August 06, 2007

I've caught Carol's cold

Hi all
I shan't be coming in today. I'm ill with that cold I had earlier (no, I don't think I caught it from Carol). Today you will need to work on your own. Let me tell you here what I'd like you to do.

The topic today is skinny models. Please visit this page and read/listen to the story.

There are many issues around this topic: health, fashion, self-image, diet, peer-pressure, media, animal rights, vegetarianism, beauty . . .

I would like you to write about something concerning this topic that you feel passionately about. Write strongly about how you feel.

In the computer suite between 11 and 12 (I have asked IT to open up the room for you) search for an interesting site on that same topic.

You may wish to calculate your body mass index.

Finally, there are two Reader's Digest articles you may like to read. In the March 1996 issue on page 43 (One Billion Rice Bowls to Fill), and in the July 1996 issue on page 30 (Calcium: That 'Miracle' Mineral).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Taste of the Taj

Nice day outside once again, isn't it?

Anyway, today we'll break from routine once more. In fact, I think that from now on, this will be our new routine. What I mean is that I will not hesitate to change our routine if something interesting and relevant for us crops up.

For example, over the past two evenings, Mami and I have watched two Indian movies: Apne, and The Namesake. One was pure Bollywood - glitzy and glossy. It uses clich├ęs from the Rocky movies.

The second movie, however, was very very classy. I would really recommend it. In fact, you can hire the two on one DVD from the dairy on the corner near to our old school. The new owners are Indian - possibly from Fiji - and they hire out Indian movies.

Today in class I'm going to show you parts from both. We shall use them for our English. Here's what we'll be doing in class today:

  1. Dictation (from me, from this news story)
  2. Narrative text reading practice
  3. Writing feedback (I believe that by the end of the semester everyone will improve a lot)
  4. Grammar correction (the subtitles of the first movie)
  5. Writing
  6. Visiting the Taj Mahal

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

7 Wonders of the world

Back to our topic list today . . .

We'll be looking at the new list of seven wonders of the world this morning.

We'll start with a short dictation, of only single words or short phrases. You will listen to them over our 'loud' computer. These are the key vocabulary in today's reading. We'll look at their meaning and usage.

I shall get you to do a pyramid discussion after that. One person's opinions will be merged with another's through negotiation. Then two pairs will merge into a group, and so on until the whole class takes part.

While we're fresh, let's do a practice task for reading a narrative text. We'll plunge right in and see how we go. The story you will read is called 'The Holiday that wasn't'.

After that would you do some writing for me. I would like you to choose any country in the world and select its best three wonders. Write why, in your opinion, they are the best. Today I shall be looking at the construction of your sentences. (Yesterday I read through your writing about your speaking skills, looking at the ideas you presented. I want to say that you do this aspect very well. There is nothing wrong with your thinking!

Finally, I'm going to put some worksheets on the wall. You will need to walk around the room to do them, and you will need to read this article on the computer (I have already printed two sheets of paper per person today).

For those of you who need pronunciation practice, it would be a good idea to listen to this article spoken. Listen where the woman stresses, pauses, raises and lowers her voice, speeds up or slows down. If you could imitate her style, then you will develop more variety in the way that you speak.

You might also take a look at the official website
and see these pictures
and you might wish to make a comment about the outcome.