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Friday, December 02, 2005

Day 8 Preparing for Presentation 3: Using an Article to explore environmental and socio-economics

I am posting this late because I have been SICK! I contemplated not going to class on Tuesday, spent half the night awake clutching my cell-phone agonizing over getting up at 5:30am for class and whether I would be able to, and then when I finally agreed in my mind to let hubs call up the university for me to cancel, and fell asleep, I woke up on time with just enough of a wisp of energy to go.

I hadn't had enough energy to prepare either, so I carried a big bag of back number Economists, having chosen my stash of environmental topics articles, but not been able to drag myself to the 7-11 to make photocopies. I feebly tottered to the photocopier outside the staffroom and veryyyy slowly made copies and 14 prints of each article so that two groups could choose the same topic:

  • An Imprecise Catastrophe: The Cost of AIDS (The Economist, May22, 2004) (same article as last year)
  • The Price of Success: The Amazon (The Economist, April 17, 2004) (same article as last year)
  • The Greening of China: Controlling Pollution ( The Economist, Oct. 22, 2005)
  • A drop of pure Gold: Economic benefits of Vaccination (The Economist, Oct.15, 2005)
  • Dealing at Source: Bird Flu (The Economist, Nov.12, 2005)
  • Be My Guest: Economic case for temporary migration( The Economist, Oct.8, 2005)
  • The Economics of sharing (The Economist, Feb. 5th, 2005)
  • Reliable Renewables Renewable Energy in the UK (Oxford Today, Hilary Issue 2005)

I also had a print on teamwork, lifted straight out of a textbook, too sick to revise the tasks for the economics context as I have been doing with delivery and other worksheets.

As I chalked up the article topics on the board I got all wobbly and let out a couple of unmentionables, and dashed for the loo to spend some time vomiting...got back to class to see most students had arrived, and then got side-tracked into a private conversation with a student who had emailed me (only i hadn't read it, being sick...). We spoke a little on the topic and I acknowledged that my procedures needed clarifying better in writing for next year, and that I was sorry if there had been cause for confusion. I re-explained the aims of the vocabulary sheet (to learn 5 synonyms or definitions for clarifying and varying discussion, and 5 collocations for use in writing and discussing over and above 10 translated words/phrases) and acknowledged that I was demanding a lot.

(As I explained, to me it seemed to be a case of students padding the sheet with similar terms, say bond and government bonds as two separate vocabulary entries, rather than adding alternatives to one entry, say bond (government bond) and learning one more new item, which is why the entries space on the sheet has room for three or four words. I have been consistently marking down for double entries of the same word in the first term, but it kinda cropped up a lot this time as students tried to cut corners ??? My student insisted it was a case of learning related terms in one field, and therefore acceptable. Something to note and clarify first thing in the new year! Only I hate to have so many addendums when you start out on a new term, you lose the momentum...). I do hand out a sample sheet as a model, which has no such padding.

By this time it was well past 9:15, almost 9:23, so I weakly greeted the class and asked them to check vocabulary as usual. I also worked to check a late student, who did quite well, and then asked students to do the mini-test, again explaining weakly that it was a fine-tuning tool for me to set grades, to see if they could go up or stay the same in cases of doubt. After collecting the test I explained that I would collect the article reports next week, and checked that two of the three students had had their work returned, thank heavens! I apologized, bowing deeply, for the mix-up, saying I had not forseen students not taking care of other people's work, and would have to be more stratified next year, making a list of who had taken what, or something. I repeated that for me taking care of someone else's work was the bottom line.

I didn't have the energy to designate groups, and since teamwork is the objective perhaps it's better to have groups of friends working together, since they will have to coordinate well before the presentation. So basically I explained the course again, then we had a break, and six groups aligned and chose an article after working lockstep thru the teamwork sheet under my flaky control, a very miserable kind of explanation happening ( i am embarrassed at my pathetic non-explanation of what to do, but everyone just let me be as it were) (the main aims are in the rubrics, and the worksheet is kinda self-explanatory, but nevertheless, the why and wherefore!...)

I had lovely diagrams to explain the course, like molluscs, starting with the core presentation skill of defining a topic, weighing pros and cons, and then presenting an evaluative opinion, followed by presentation 2 adding justification to the opinon through integrating graphs and surveys, followed by presentation 3 adding relevance to the topic/opinion by integrating articles and up-to-date sources, followed by presentation 4 adding appeal by integrating worst-case scenarios and problem solving models.

My other mollusc was related to the English focus of the course, starting with Financial English in Presentation 1, then again in Presentation 2, followed by Environmental and Socio-economic English in Presentation 3, and finally a round-up of the first semester Market Economics Basics, plus the Financial/Environmental/Socio-economics in an economic advisory capacity.

My third shell diagram showed how we build up the presentation skills, beginning with clear structure and visuals, adding delivery, then adding teamwork (to be facilitated by repetition of key terms, rhetorical questions, contrasting pairs, and resounding rhetorical groups of three, which, as I pointed out, was all necessary even if you are presenting alone), and finally in the appeal to a world leader, the enthusiasm, humor, and gestures.

So explaining that took me to the break, and then after the break groups handed me a sheet with their names and topic. I pointed out that the article was a diving board, you jump off it, not stay stuck hanging on to it or huddled repeating it. Everyone laughed at the idea. Finally I circulated, reminding students how to read an article by highlighting the topic sentences of each paragraph to glean the skeleton of the ideas first. Got into a mini-conversation in Japanese about what I thought about bird-flu, which matched one of the group members ideas, which was that it would solve the problem of ageing Japan in one fell swoop. How old would you like to die? they asked me...hmm, I think of taking poison at 75, I said, ..that's suicide, one gasped, true, true, I said, but then i bet when i get there and I'm full of go i'll change my mind. At any rate I've lived my life with so much richness, I don't mind if it stops tomorrow! (I note in retrospect as I write that I am careful to give myself the whole of today when I say this!) So much for empty bravado.

I checked back with the two groups I had not got round to assisting, but they seemed on top of things, and so i feebly tottered home, feeling a little warmer inside from my students energy, but heading straight for bed and acheing oblivion, so this blogging is late! (Still feel a bit wobbly!)

I'm glad i didn't cancel class, students prepare hard with the vocabulary and revising the ppts for the test, and they don't always want to get up so early to come to class themselves, it would feel like effort wasted.(I was informed by a peer in class that one of my students had been rushed to hospital yesterday after collapsing (with flu?)...