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Getting there


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

oof home at last, lots of niggly piggly things to be done after class, like applying for the uni account, applying for the terra account, applying for an internet link-up in the room, (all this gets deleted automatically every half year for part-time staff, no wonder I lose steam...) not to mention declaring this will be my only (and pitiful) income this year,,, asking for a teeny room to be changed to a bigger room for Thursday, and negotiating a grade of a last year's student who has been to another course mistakenly thinking it was mine....all in different rooms here and there in the new and very shiny but terribly pongy high-rise building, so finding them was another prob...

I want to start by praising myself, because I think I have a tendency to get negative when I get burned out...Well, I did my best! I prepared nicely, got there on time, and generally sort of did my thing...with some surprises in terms of how I no longer have this wonderful group of students who all know me and I know them and they know they have to work and how on earth did I get there last year I wonder?!

Funny how the serious students get there early and all sit by the window, the next swoosh sit by the wall, and the middle is all left for latecomers, which disturbs the class even more as they waltz in. (If they'd fill up the front, then people could sort of sneak in the back...)

Now then, let me think, what happened? I remember writing up my name and the name of the course on the board, asking students to make sure they were in the right course ( just had the shock of a student in the wrong course all term and not noticing...), and then saying I'd like to begin by discussing the rules, and handing out my print. In order to facilitate verbalizing I worked on the words, self-evident and desirable seemed to be new, translating after a little bit of examples, and writing up the sitepal text to speech link for students to check pronunciations themselves in the privacy of their homes/labs, since they proved themselves unwilling to practice pronunciation in chorus in class. (Not that I had seriously expected it!) Then asked them to take ten minutes to read the rules and think of/note down which one was most important etc and why in order to talk about it.

Next I asked them to discuss with a partner and negotiate a "we think" statement, and then after a further three minutes, to negotiate with a bigger group, and so on til I had five groups. They seemed to be (sort of?) used to this technique, I heard one ah of recognition, but as I went round to hear how they negotiated I could hear most groups were just listening in to what I was doing with other people, rather than actively pursuing their own strategy...Finally I asked for group opinions: It seems three groups found the rule " don't be afraid to make mistakes" most important, with one group in favor of "bringing study materials and switching cell phones to manner mode", and one in favor of "making things real and useful".

This linked up nicely to my question, please write a simple yes or no on the back of your name card to the question: "Do you think it's okay for a world leader to make mistakes in English?", and then I handed out Bushisms. Some of these seemed to be too hard for the students, I'm thinking I'll have to edit, perhaps put the places that are weird in italics for Thursday as a hint, and cut some of the more difficult ones, like "Justice ought to be fair", which requires quite a good knowledge of what ought to means. (Weeping as I chop,,,) Perhaps also group into areas like content mistakes, vocabulary mistakes and grammar mistakes, again to help orient students. I didn't take the time to do any particular game with this activity, just took over explaining with some Japanese so that they'd kind of get the point before the break, and then asked if they'd changed their mind about it being ok for world leaders to make mistakes.

I got 10 students saying it was ok to make mistakes one wrote:" Yes, because of interpreter. It seems mistakes are not serious" Four of the ten had changed their minds after the Bush activity, one writing: " I think it's is NO, because English is a means to communicate people in the world. /I change my mind. I think it is important to try to state own opinion."

22 students thought making mistakes was not ok, 7 changing their minds from Yes, it's ok to No, after reading Bushisms, and 15 remaining on a flat no, with one student writing "Never. One word of world leaders makes so terrific accident". Hmmm, thinking about how China is reacting to Japan right now, this comment carries weight.

I personally thought the Bushisms would show it's okay to make mistakes, because I think it's clear what he's trying to say, and I'm not bothered about the surface stuff, the message still comes across fine in my opinion, whether you agree with the politics behind it or not is another matter. So the student response is interesting.

Anyway I counted up results during the break and wrote them up, and after the break I explained the grading system and handed out the vocab sheet. This year I had a sample sheet from a previous student, and role-played how we would be checking each other with a student at the front to make things even more clear. Some students were shocked they would be doing that much work each week for a mere 40% of their grade, and when I mentioned review tests a guy in the middle section began to voice concern...some also mentioned they'd be happy with 60% and a D, and when I mentioned about consistent A students not having to sit the exam, one student said that was inconsistent, and I said, yes, it's a special system designed by our head of deparment, Professor Downey, at which there were audible groans. But I have tried this system and I think it's good, even though it is a lot of marking for me.

At any rate I explained about the four sections, and the synonyms section, reviewing the words for rules from the Classroom rules paper, and then we moved into writing messages on the cell phone. I was kind of sad this didn't seem to go so well as I thought, perhaps because I have less rapport with the class than when I did it last year, so that the whole concept of collocation didn't come across as clearly as I might hope, and then when I handed out a and b trough papers I noticed as I went round double checking that students didn't have much knowledge of how to look for the collocations...they merely circle the word...so finally after the A, B exchange, which I was scaffolding, I did a quick recap of the two different uses of trough with colored chalk. I think I'm going to make some more every week, so that they get used to the idea of seeing words in context, rather than as isolated things. Perhaps this term I'll have the extra oomph because I have a lot of prints and things from last term to fall back on, and student examples to illlustrate what i'm after.

Students then negotiated (hm, this verbal guy in the middle, but when I put it to the class it got seconded) to have the homework cell phone/kettle comparison as an alternative to doing a mini-test, which is fine by me, I had already set up a marking box and with ten questions that makes six points each. It also means they're going to get familiar with the concepts and vocabulary for the three sectors of the economy and thinking of how things are all linked up.