Monday, 18 June 2012

So you think you know your stuff huh?

Let's see, without 'googling' who can tell me off the top of their head what an 'ergative' verb is, and how would you teach these to your students. Whilst you've got your thinking caps on, what's the 'middle voice'?

These are a couple of points I was supposed to teach off the top of my head the other day. I admit it, I had to look them up. What about you?

Who knows what a 'cranberry morpheme' is?

Answers in the comment box please.

Monday, 27 February 2012

A Short History of My Language Learning

Brad's Challenge

My earliest attempts at learning a foreign language came in primary school. My mother (someone more linguistically challenged than me) taught me how to count to ten in French in preperation for going to 'the big school'.

From these modest first steps, I would like to say that I've come on in leaps and bounds but that would be somewhat of an exaggeration. My A-level French teacher's greatest complement to me, was that I had a good accent. In secondary school I got an A in French GCSE and a C in German. I have fond memories of Madame Roberts bringing in Camembert and Brie to class acompanied by a French baguette. In those days a French Baguette was the height of chic.

I've always wanted to be one of those people who pick up languages easily. I can safely say without a doubt that I'm not. It took me three years to get to the point where I could converse in Spanish whilst living in the country and I've been with my German partner for thirteen years, that's right, thirteen years and I'm in a B1 class this year. You get the picture right, not exactly linguistically gifted. It's strange really, as from the age of 10 I wanted to travel the world. My first holiday abroad was when I was 10. My family and I went to Tenerife. I was amazed. The entertainers in the hotel spoke three or four languages each. I decided then and there that I was going to dedicate my life to keeping people with little imagination amused on holiday.

I gave up French after a year of psychological warfare inflicted on me by my A-level French teacher. She was without doubt one of the meanest, cruelist teachers, I've ever had the pleasure of being in class with, and believe me there were a fair few to choose from. Like many of them she seemed to enjoy making my life hell. Well, that's what it felt like when I was 16 going on 17. She had a particular way of teaching a grammar point and then going round the checking comprehension. At the time it felt more like 'torture'. I gave up French. I became a 'wreck' in her classes I just couldn't take it and I just didn't get the grammar. It was indeed like they were speaking a foreign language to me. The subjunctive mood was something that my brain could not even begin to fathom at that age.

My language learning abruptly stopped at age sixteen and a half. I got back on the 'horse' ten years later. I took up Spanish whilst I was living in the Canaries. I got myself a private teacher and after a hard slog three years in fact, I was able to have a conversation on most subjects and express myself. I met my German partner soon after I moved to Spain and have been grappling with that language ever since. I had a year in Thailand where I managed to pick up the basics. I learnt a handful of lexical chunks, useful snippets like ' go slow, I don't like it fast'  which I used with the motorbike taxi guy on the way home from school something like (cha cha mai aou lek lek) and ' very spicy please' (pek mak mak) which was very useful in foreigner friendly restaurants where food was a bit mild.

I'm enrolled in a German course as we speak and things are not going so well. It seems that I'm destined to speak a couple of languages badly for the rest of my days. Who knows maybe I'll give French a go again.

Thanks Brad for the challenge!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Please, Mr Crocodile

This is a game that kids can't seem to get enough of. I've been using it for a long, long time so the book I found it in, may well be out of print by now. I'm pretty sure, if my memory serves me well, that I did in fact get it from a book but for the life of me I can't remember which one.

It's a really simple game:
  • Draw a river on the floor
  • You choose one child to be Mr Crocodile
  • Mr Crocodile stands at the top of the river
  • The other children stand on one side of the river and shout PLEASE, MR CROCODILE
  • Mr Crocodile shouts out a colour or an article of clothing and if you are wearing that colour or article of clothing you can cross the river
  • Mr C counts to three and the remaining children have to make a dash across the river
  • If he catches you, you become the crocodile

You could give out flashcards and use it to recycle vocabulary.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

My German Class - Part One

Wo sind ihren Kollegan? That’s how my last Germany lesson started. A little voice inside me almost laughed, we are falling fast, like tourists on a cheap holiday package holiday. There were 18 of us signed up at the beginning. Only Six are still alive.
The teacher´s question was followed by a short dictation which we duly noted down. We spent a couple of minutes trying to analyze the new word of the day – knutschen - (on the whiteboard which was a change as my German teacher seems to have aversion to using one) After explaining something about some kind of verbs (trenbarre und untrenbarre) that I had no idea about and feeling that I was getting closer to the holy grail of understanding German grammar he skipped on and left me none the wiser. Things had been looking up, I felt like we were going to be getting to grips with a bit of German grammar.
Oh how wrong can one woman be? We spent the next hour talking about the feedback he`d received from his students. No names mentioned, he droned on with the negative aspects as he said the positive ones were of no significance. So, we spent the next hour talking in Spanish about our classes. It started off well, he asked us what we thought, but like always finished after a lot of TTT. He duly explained to us ignorant students about the communicative approach and how he couldn’t really stand at the front of the class teaching grammar as this was just not how things were done these days. Well excuse me for not noticing the communicative approach; I must have missed it in 15 years teaching. What’s that you say teacher? Communication is important. So, that’s why you keep telling me that grammar is my problem. Oh it’s all so much clearer now. DANKE

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Autumn Song and Game for VYLs

Before it's too late, here is a little song and game that I use with my very young learners. It's a song about autumn and you can use it in conjunction with Sue Heap's book "Wait and See". You sing it to the tune of "I'm a little Teapot" , it goes like this:

I'm a little squirrel, small and fast,
these are my hands and this is my tail,
when I'm very hungry,
I like eating nuts,
Give me one and I'll jump, jump, jump.

It's a TPR song so you need to do the little actions that acompany it, small and fast, these are my hands and this is my tail, hungry and eating nuts and jump, jump, jump.

Kids seem to love the song and the game even more.

Choose one student. Sit them in a chair at the front of the class, give them a picture of the nut, we sing the song together and then the squirrel is very tired and goes to sleep. When he's asleep choose a child to come and steal his nut. They take it back to their seat and sit on it. The squirrel wakes up sees that his nut is gone and then has to ask "Was it you?". Students answer "yes" or "no".