Let Your Love Grow…

February 11, 2011 § 10 Comments


Jeremy Harmer and Steve Bingham are performing their Touchable Dreams at the British Council next Tuesday. I’ve booked my place, and for my wife too. We’re looking forward to it, first spending time in London in the afternoon, then ambling over to what should be an inspirational workshop on how music and poetry can be used with all aspects of language learning. Mixing business and pleasure. My ideal trip.

Anyway, the invitation reminded me of a little language plant video I’d made last year when I had a bit of spare time on my hands. I dug it out, played it and smiled. I liked it.

You may find a place for this toe-tapping tune in one of your lessons. The simplest activity is to play the extract a couple of times, and then see if your learners can work out and write out the lyrics using the language plant, similar to Mike’s activity a few weeks ago about the Holocaust, but in reverse.

Singing and line dancing permitted, recommended even.

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“There’s a reason for the sunshine in the sky
There’s a reason why I’m feeling so high
Must be the season when that love light shines all around us

Just let your love flow like a mountain stream
And let your love grow with the smallest of dreams
And let your love show and you’ll know what I mean
It’s the season

Let your love fly like a bird on the wing
And let your love bind you to all living things
And let your love shine and you’ll what I mean
That’s the reason.”

Bellamy Brothers

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Don’t find fault…

February 7, 2011 § 6 Comments


“I would rather entertain and hope people learned something,
than educate people and hope they were entertained.”
Walt Disney

Cecilia’s post was about bad behaviour, and how (not) to deal with it. On the radio today, there was an interview with a politician about prisons. His belief, and mine, is that prisons don’t work for many young kids who have had it rough, and need support rather than more isolation and scorn. Preceding it was a programme about the Roma community, who all spoke with genuineness about their hopes and fears.

Before Christmas, I wrote about an assembly I did at a local school on the benefits of languages. Things are moving. Next week, there’s an International Language Day, and eight business people who regularly converse in a language other than English are all giving workshops. I’m one of them, not so much for the extrinsic motivation it is hoped to inspire in them, but the intrinsic, looking at activities that they can do in their Arabic and French classes.

They sound great individuals, these business people, and I’m looking forward to chatting with them over lunch, a photographer who takes part in Paris fashion shows, a radio presenter who spends time in Switzerland, a professional dancer who tours the world. The day has been organised to show it’s not only the doors of teaching and translating that are opened.

So I decided I’d visit one of the groups I’ll be working with to introduce myself and see them in action. It was an Arabic lesson, by a newly qualified teacher not from these shores. The lesson had sparkly little diamonds in it, like when she indulged us with a part of her life story, and when she invited one boy to write some Arabic on the board. When she laughed at a mistake she’d made, that was warm too.

But I left with the impression that crowd control was a major issue. The diamonds were encased in hard-edged rocks, which hurt. There was a group of girls who spent the entire lesson chatting away, ignoring and ignored. One got sent out for 10 minutes or so, and scuffed her way out and scuffed her way back. Soon, another one got ordered to the back of the class and crashed her chair down in disgust, facing the back wall, so that she was surprised, but not unnerved, when she sensed me approaching.

For another gem was towards the end of the lesson, a buzz of enthusiasm when we had to mingle, and ask and answer the questions on the board, a language awareness activity. I had decided to bite the bullet and make friends with this outcast.

She was actually very obliging. Question 1: Do you speak another language? Well, I can understand my mom, she speaks Pakistani, oh really, which language? Mirpuri, and I reply in English, and your dad? No, he speaks English to me, so what do your mom and dad speak? Mirpuri, we went to Pakistan, a long time ago, when I was little, I could understand a bit, but I can’t speak it, have you got any brothers or sisters? No, it’s just me, oh, like me, I haven’t got any either. Do you know that poem Presents from my aunt in Pakistan, yeah, I like that, we studied it in English, yeah, I like it too, I saw it in another class I observed, have you ever had presents from your relatives in Pakistan? Yeah, they send me stuff. But you prefer western clothes yeah? Yeah, jeans and stuff, and you don’t wear a head scarf, no, some of my friends do, but I don’t.

The other three had drifted over one by one by the end, and all joined in for a minute or two before the activity, and the lesson, was called to a halt. We never got to Question 2.

I’m glad I went. I’m looking forward to next week. I think it’ll be fun.

“Don’t find fault.
Find a remedy.”
Henry Ford


First they came…

February 1, 2011 § 8 Comments

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Martin Niemöller,
a German anti-Nazi theologian

As Martin Niemöller in this poem, which has been interpreted by Mike in the language plant above as part of his Holocaust Memorial Day lesson, as he coldly rationalises, freedom is not appreciated till it is withdrawn.

Mike’s lesson was imaginative, comprehensive, and greatly received. Good work, Mike 🙂

A common response to language plants are: “ooh, that’s nice, have you got any on Henry VIII, or The Highwayman (a poem that some primary schools study), or other such topics? Last week, I was at a secondary school EAL meeting where the presenter issued us with a science text incorporating the term “trumpet-shaped protozoan”. In groups, we worked with these, and other phrases, coming up with “creature”, “organism”, “single-celled” and the like, in an attempt to scaffold it for EAL learners. “Scaffolding” is always a buzz word in these meetings. Later, when it was my time to present, I recycled this work into the idea of language plants.

In EFL, this would be called CLIL, and I have followed the debate at Jeremy Harmer’s Blog closely.

Giving freedom to language learners is what I would consider of primary importance. Not just in the affective sense, which dogme principles amongst many approaches subscribe to, but in offering learners a choice of language.

That’s what the language plant above enabled learners to do, not just in Mike’s class, but in a few other teacher’s who commented. There is scaffolding – both of content and language – and freedom to choose. Whilst making my own version of the text below, I couldn’t help playing with the clause order, and inserted a little “w” at the start of “then”, to make “when”. I also added “them”. It opened the floodgates:

I wasn’t a communist,
and because I wasn’t,
I didn’t speak out
when they came for them.

Reading about the poem on Wikipedia, there apparently isn’t a fixed version of the poem, and that Martin may very well have changed it on different occasions, employing the freedom of expression which he could see being stripped from his fellow citizens.

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