miércoles, 19 de junio de 2013

Welcome A Board

Have you got mini-whiteboards for classroom use? If you haven't, or haven't ever seen them, this post will be in part a warm recommendation of them. But let us begin at the beginning....

I started my EFL career in a Berlitz outpost somewhere on the smoggy outskirts of Milan, where I was thrown into the deep end teaching low-level adults using Berlitz' own method & materials (basically audio-lingualism).

And now two decades later, I'm full circle! Two builders and a sailor have decided to pick up some English. The three lads are all late thirties, of rudimentary education.

And it's been great fun so far. Many years ago in Poland, I was surprised when my boss Tim Hazell remarked how much he enjoyed teaching absolute beginners. It was not school policy for a NEST to get lower level classes there, and I had got used to the comparative luxury of teaching classes who could understand you to an extent, and with whom you could plan less and have fewer materials. His point was that any advance is a huge step forward if you're a beginner, and if you can work that angle, beginners can engage enormously.

Another nice thing is that my lads are tabulae rasae - they haven't picked up any bad habits yet. No obsession with doing exercises, or language-equals-grammar. So they are still quite keen to do "kids' games" and open to pronunciation work. Right from lesson one, I've been boarding phonemic transcriptions and asking them to copy them and refer back to them.

So what do we do?

Plenty of drilling - thank you, Mr Berlitz!

Plenty of pronunciation and IPA.

Mind maps - one per subject, one per double page. And we revisit them frequently, either for revision or to add new vocab.

Plenty of Pelmanism and card games.

And the mini-whiteboards of course. The lads got the minimum of whatever basic state education was going in 1970's Galicia. They are functionally literate, but by no means comfortable writing beyond shopping lists. I 've noticed that they tend to mix upper- and lower-case letters, having one favourite version for each letter. That's something I noticed with my A2/B1 learners in Libya.

We frequently practice lightning dictations with individual words and short chunks just for simple listening+writing practice. I think the board is more useful than just a notebook. For one thing, I can encourage them to write larger. And for another, the erasability and transience of the writing is comforting for experimenting and making mistakes. And rhirdly, they are great for doodling and sketching on.

If you can get hold of a class set of miniboards, or better still persuade your DoS to fork out for them, you may find them very useful. To give you a guideline, I can get hold of them in a large supermarket nearby for EU6 apiece.

By the way, Tim Hazell is now doing this http://www.myspace.com/djtimhaze

PS I've been taking paternity leave off the blogging for a while, so thanks for being patient. And young Emma is doing wonderfully, BTW!

lunes, 1 de abril de 2013

Reader's Digest

The vultures are circling round Google Reader. Those two nice men at Google are pulling the plug on it in July.

So I took the opportunity to jump before I was pushed, and I had a look at what the Linux community has for blog readers. I tried out four different readers from the standard Ubuntu repositories. All of them were either stand-alone apps or extensions of mail clients, by the way.

My standard home-office machine is an ageing Gateway with 512 MB RAM. I'm currently running Lubuntu 11.04. And what runs on Ubuntu doesn't necessarily run on Lubuntu, which is a much more Spartan desktop environment. So I wasn't making it easy for the candidates ;)

And behold the white smoke over St Peter's - we have a reader.

yarssr is popular, but got stuck starting up on my antediluvian machine.

There are extensions for the Thunderbird and Evolution email clients, but I had never used either. I tried both and had trouble setting up the main apps on which the extensions depend.

(By the way, I've heard good things about the Firefox extension for RSS, but I don't use Firefox at the moment, so I didn't try.)

Blam installed and worked fine, with one big but. I was able to import my subscriptions, but simply as a list, and I'll be buggered if I'm going to spend 20 minutes putting them all back in their categories.

And the winner is Liferea.

If you need to do lots of fancy things, read the specs and reviews first. However I just need a pretty simple application. And liferea seems to do the simple stuff fine. It has the same three-pane view as Google and most other readers, so no surprises there. It's not as fast as Google, but I only noticed the lag when marking-as-read all the hundreds of old posts.

And importing my subscriptions in the right folders was pretty simple. You download a file called OPML from GR and import it to the new reader. Google it.

If you hear of more, let me know.

Till then, byeeee.

PS While writing this on Google Blogger, I noticed that the autocorrect doesn't recognise the word "blog". Tee hee.

miércoles, 27 de marzo de 2013

A Touring Exhibition

Q: What do the following all have in common:

two dead birds
a scrubbing brush
carrots, oranges and onions
a double-sided comb
a doll's leg
a nylon net
injectable saline solution
pink rubber gloves
a wooden frame
millions of transparent organic thingies?

[Do decide your answer before scrolling down.]



They form part of a touring exhibition called "Beach After Storm" which I was lucky enough to be invited to earlier this week.

Aren't they just lovely?

Here's another unsigned work by the same artist:

Have you ANY IDEA what the third one might be? Here's a closer look:

PS Yes I know this is supposed to be an EFL blog, but I am on holiday at the moment :)

All the best,

Le Garçon de la Plage

sábado, 9 de febrero de 2013

And then there were four

Just a short explanatory note. This young lady is to blame for the shocking drop in activity on this blog over the last few months. Emma joined us two weeks ago. (And this is the first moment I've had to blog!)

Anyway, I'd be obliged if you kept me on your subscriptions list; I will be back here as soon as circumstances allow.

Oh and the earrings - I know. It's the done thing here and I got outvoted. ;)