Listen and observe
November 12, 2010 § 12 Comments
“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed.
Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”
Cecilia and David found harmony together this week at Box of Chocolates. Willy literally found it with himself and his guitar at Authentic Teaching. On a different note, Ceri, in Close Up is searching for harmony in her classroom by integrating new technology with the “traditional” whiteboard and pen, which I am finding intriguing. There are many blogs where our learner’s voice is still resounding loud and clear, and for me one in particular shines through, Greta’s About a teacher, resplendent with stories where a learner’s voice can be heard only, we realise of course, after we first let ourselves love them. The stories have moved people to tears.
But it’s the windy weather that’s blown me towards this post. 60 mile an hour gusts, that’s 100km, if you need the conversion. The leaves were dancing all around yesterday morning, it made my mam (that’s the Welsh spelling) sing a song in the car:
“Come little leaves” said the wind one day.
“Come to the meadow with me and play.”
“Put on your dresses of red and gold
The summer is gone and the days are cold.”
It’s true. The landscape has been transformed in one almighty puff, and now the naked branches stand silhouetted against the red horizon, just like the one painted by our friendly scouser Kirsten in Kite Flying.
I personally find harmony in creating language plants. It’s when time stands still, as they say. And if, like Mike Harrison and Kirsten, who seems to have caught the bug, and her teenage learners too, if you fancy having a go, well, go outside and stare at a bare wintry tree, or find one from your window like I’m doing now standing proudly behind the garden fence and observe, there are no straight lines in nature, not when the trunk turns into boughs, or when the boughs become branches, or the branches break up into twigs.
Mike’s posted another activity. Don’t worry, I’ve asked his permission, and he’s happy to see his linear post metamorphose into something more organic.
The activity he describes gets learners to use more descriptive vocabulary. It’s a problem he’s encountered throughout his career, and me, and it is something I hear primary teachers pleading for too. Mike’s written a letter splattered throughout with the word “nice”. Everything is nice.
How unappealing. So:
Write “nice”. Write it big, like a trunk of a tree. Branch these other words off from it. Spread your fingers wide and see how they point out at different angles.
But let’s increase our learners vocabulary:
Write “meal”. Write it big. We’re going to attach different adjectives to it. Look at your palm again. It’s so much bigger than your fingers. It has to be, so they can all fit on. What’s your favourite meal? Ummm, delicious! Very tasty. Can you cook it for me? Oh, well can your mum? I know, next lesson, get you mum to cook it for me and you can bring it in. Will you do that? Will you ask her? What do you mean 20 euros!
We’ll attach these adjectives onto “meal”. Oh yes, you’ll have to quickly calculate how much room you’ll need. I bet you’ve laughed too when you’ve seen a shop sign start off boldly and brazenly and then, uh-oh, not enough room, the final letters are sheepishly squeezed and squashed in. Give the learners the pen. The Wandrous Whiteboard Challenge is about giving learners a written voice.
You can use colour too. Do you remember Mike did in the last post? He used it systematically, there was thinking behind it. Personally, I love using colour, and encourage my learners to beautify their books. Have you ever done that? It touches many, and I’m sure you can imagine how much nicer their notebooks look. I think scientists say our brains produce lovely smooth beta waves when we do it, a relaxing calming effect. I will hopefully never forget two little girls, like the two in the picture I have for the language plant “Walk beside me”, who came hand-in-hand in delegation to me after a lesson I had given with language plants to offer me their conclusion. “We like the colours” they quietly affirmed, and I just had to agree. Pride in their work, revision and recycling, a visual voice, if I may resort to synaesthesia. These are strong beliefs I hold.
As Kirsten’s learners said: “Cool”, and “This lesson was funny”. When I listen to my learner’s voice, these are the kind of words I want to hear.