miércoles, 20 de abril de 2011

The Magnificent Seven

Get hold of a pen and paper. When you play the video below, you'll hear seven words. Try to write them down with the sequence number. With students I usually repeat each one, but you're not getting it that easy, my EFL chum ;)

Compare your list with the one at the end of this post. How did you get on?

But with my class I do the following:

1. Ask them in pairs to compare.  Leave them to discuss it.

2. Draw the class back together. Elicit and produce the correct list on the board. Check meaning, usage, pronunciation, whatever.

3. Tell them they're going to produce a coherent story of a paragraph including all the seven words. They will have three minutes.

4. Put them in pairs, and remind them you want a single cooperative effort per pair, not individual efforts. And please write legibly!

(I usually say three minutes but end up being a bit flexible. But the idea of having to do something fast helps them to focus, I find.)

5. Bring everybody back together and ask each pair to pass their story to the pair on their left. This may be the hardest bit to organise ;) Ask them to read and discuss the story they now have. Whether or not you want to settle for one round of peer-reading or do another one will depend mainly on your class size. Meanwhile, circulate and help if needed.

6. After the reading, it's a good idea to take a some time to clear up questions or errors. How much time? You'll know better than me. It might also be appropriate to choose some stories for the students to read to each other. (It's not something we do much, is it? Getting students to read to each other?)

Dun dun-da-dun, dun da-da-da-dun...

Other minimal septets? See if you can find seven English words with this:

/p~t/  e.g. "pit, pet"

or with

/st~l/ e.g. "steel"

PS It's both gratifying and annoying when you find somebody else has come up with a similar idea to yours. Gratifying because it means you may be on the right track, and annoying because you thought nobody else has good ideas ;) Here you can see Johanna Stirling demonstrating a related exercise, among other things.

My septet from the video was beat, bit, bet, bat, boat, boot, bite. And do submit your story or other minimal septets. The best story wins a plateful of my mother-in-law's excellent barbecue ribs.

jueves, 7 de abril de 2011

Too much too soon

I'm new to this blogging game - I must confess there's been a temptation as a newbie to write to impress - to report high moments, successes and victories. Having read one of Michelle's recent posts, I've realised it takes more cojones to report failures, flaws and disappointment. And this is a thing which I firmly believe to be more useful, both to self and colleagues.

I have been promising Guido @europeaantje, who blogs here that I would crack the problem of how to dub students' voices onto existing video, so this is what I tried with a small adult group earlier this week.

First of all, how to do the dubbing? My ever-supportive boss Anthony came up with a great simple solution - play the video muted but with subtitles, and record it as a screencast. Why didn't I think of that?

So we tried. We rehearsed a couple of small extracts of an episode of the Simpsons on DVD. So far so good.

But during recording, the wheels came off.

Firstly, natural speech is just too fast. My people were able to read with adequately good linking and intonation during rehearsal, but just couldn't keep up with native speaker speed. It seemed like all their hard work on pronunciation  disintegrated totally at L1 speed.

Secondly, a technical problem arose: During playback, we noticed a growing delay of audio with respect to video. It may have just been a combinations of my old laptop, heavy demands on the CPU, a bug in Ubuntu or whatever.

It clearly wasn't a total disaster - after all, we had done some perfectly good work on pronunciation and colloquial vocabulary. But I was hoping for a great finished product and something - I don't know - tighter.

I'm certainly not ruling out dubbing in class for ever, but I have learnt a couple of things:

1. As with all drama, to maintain interest, you have to be careful choosing scenes. The humour (or whatever the affective value is) has to come from the words. Cartoons rely more that live shows on visual and acoustic jokes, but those don't engage actor-students.

2. Choose something with a slow-to-moderate pace of dialogue.

3. Try out the video + screencast on a good long scene, say 3 minutes, beforehand, and check for delay.