October 31, 2011 § 14 Comments

“What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9

Scott’s recent post was about ideas and whence they came. There are some very interesting comments, and Sharon at English learning in Our World takes up the mantle in her blog too.

Have you ever done a crossword, or got your learners to make one in class? They get easier, the more answers you get, don’t they, as each new word provides a bit more help for the next, what with sharing letters as they do.

Make a bendy crossword here!

Word searches are the same, but have been stuffed full of distracters.

Have you ever used ditto marks? Boy, they can save time, can’t they? If only my teachers at school had allowed them when I was given lines. That would have knocked a couple of hours off.

Never use ditto marks again!

Have you ever seen those pictures children make with words, like a snail’s shell with words curled round and round and a thin slither sticking out for its body? What are their names again?

Make a snail picture here!

Grammar boxes. You know them, don’t you, they’re in your coursebook, at the back, in no man’s land. It seems publishers can’t bring themselves to leave them out but equally feel they’re too grammary for the main section. If only there were something less rigid, less formal, more flexible and fun.

Collocation boxes are the same, just not so big. Collocation. What a word! I advise teachers when I demonstrate Language Garden, if there’s one word to have in mind when you’re teaching, this is the one. You’ll never be stuck again. Lessons will fly by. Don’t just let your learners compile lists of unrelated words. Get them to use them in context, with co-text.

Make your own collocation box here!

Then there’s Wordle and its spin-off, Tagxedo, which many of us seem to like. They’re great :-). The computer does all the work for you. They’re bad :-(. The computer does all the work for you.

I want to put the words where I want!

Have you ever made a Mind Map ©? It’s a trademarked term, by Tony Buzan. I think I’m right in saying you can call these types of materials mental maps or concept maps, spider maps or word webs. Some say they’re all different. I’m looking over my shoulder as I write and answering the door to no-one.

Make a mind map here!

As it happens, to find out whether a language plant was legally different from a Mind Map ©, I corresponded with the Mind Map people when I came up with the idea of language plants. It is. I say “came up with”. I just drew a mind map without the lines, and then started sharing letters like crosswords, and bent the words like snail pictures, so they all fitted together neatly like a tree, rather than a series of planks, or like the boxes that are put round words and hidden at the back of coursebooks.

After all, don’t they say, think outside the box? Fiona at fionaljblog has!

Do what Fiona’s done here (if she’ll allow you)

Strolling round the Gallery

October 23, 2011 § 13 Comments

Welcome to this collection!
Talented, up and coming language gardeners have kindly lent us their works of art. The original masterpieces can be found in their own galleries.
If you want to join in, click here: Can I have a go, please?! Of course you can.

Magpie Moments‘s Anna was first to fly the nest, and this is what she brought back from her class of adult learners about their city, Bradford. Notice the lovely green and blue adjective – noun collocations.

At Reflections of…, Dave created this plant with his group of young learners. The unplugged lesson, comparing two different drinks, uncovered this language, which they then used in an active, get-up-and-move-around activity.

During working hours, Mike focused on “there is/are”. Here we get a glimpse into his hippy record collection, a folk song that hit the charts numerous times in the 1960s, “If I had a hammer”. This does sound like the Mantras of a Madman.

In romantic Verona, at English Learning in Our World, Sharon brought to life her poem about collocations with “held”. We can’t hold a candle to her work here.

Over in Abruzzo, look at how, in this collection, Janet shows the evolution of her thinking, She wanted to express some of the things she loves about this beautiful region in central Italy.

This second design has the same words, but a totally different feel. Free-flowing waves have been replaced by a tighter structure. “Which do you prefer?” she may ask you.

“It’s all about tones”, Oli from An Experiment in Dogme explains. “Cantonese is a tonal language, and I’ve used word shape to show this. “The little “ah” at the end of the sentences makes it a question”, he helpfully adds about this work from his private collection.

Plugging the Unplugged is one of Chiew’s blogs. Here he combined two challenges, celebrating ELTpics‘s birthday by creatively overlaying the picture his learners discussed onto the language plant. We love this technique, and I’m sure others will try it out too.

An Escocesa in Madrid, Cat Bethune took language from one of her recent lessons. She loves being on holiday! Don’t we all, Cat. It has a classic language plant shape, with words branching off neatly at different nodes. It really does look like a little tree (on its side ;-)).

Way over in the Philippines, Joy has started making plants for her young learners. Here’s one on her innermost thoughts. We love these sentiments, Joy, and the way you have expressed them!

Stepping back, Vicky Loras declared: “Looking at my plant now, “teacher” and “student” look like parts of links in a chain, which are connected with another link, “learn together”.” Beautiful.

Thank you, artists, for your generosity of time and spirit. It’s been inspirational putting your work in one gallery. I think I’ve displayed everyone; have a quiet word with the curator if not. And just to remind any members of the viewing public who would like to try their hand, just click here: Yep, I want to get my hands dirty too!!
I, and I’m sure many others, would love to see your work.

A Word Cloud Blog Challenge

October 11, 2011 § 21 Comments

If I was a sales rep for Language Garden, I swear I’d have fired myself. I’ve talked myself out of sales of the current resource I have as I’ve raved about a brave new world where everyone, teachers and learners alike, not just me, makes their own language plants, to suit their own needs, and share with friends and strangers – or as we like to call them, friends we’ve yet to meet 😉 .

Plants of the people, by the people, for the people.

Well, stage 1 is here, and I’d like to propose a blog challenge. It’s simple enough: make your own word art – a language plant, a mind map or word cloud using the new language plant maker.

Seeing as there seems to be a large dogme contingent, how about an activity from Teaching Unplugged, “The lesson that was”? You just have to record language highlights from a lesson or activity that has already happened, a post-plan. I’ve done it, it’s the word cloud at the start of this blog.

Click this link, the language plant maker. If you need to install Silverlight, please do so. Most of you should have it already.

Click on the screen and type in a word.
To change the angle, click and drag the first or last letter of the word.
To bend or resize the word, click and drag on the two circles.
To change the colour of the word, you’ve got to click on the Bend circle first.
(Yes, there are a few things that aren’t as intuitive as we’d like; we’ll fix those. And don’t worry about colouring the words grammatically either – more colours to come.)
Finally, if a word goes haywire, just press delete on your keyboard and start again.

When you’re ready, and not before because the screen clears afterwards, click “Save as…” and give it a name. That’s yours now, forever, and all subsequent ones you make. If you’re happy to share, and of course we all hope you are, please publish it on your blog. Any discourse, comments, feelings you have and such, these are optional but most welcome too.

The tool is designed for you and your learners to use – easy and intuitive – that’s our mantra, my developer and I, either before or after a lesson, or better still, actually in class. I’m imagining your young learners fainting with excitement when you tell them to make a word cloud for ten minutes in groups and then present it to the others. Or for homework.

It’s not perfect yet, not by a long chalk, but it’s useable. My developer, he works full-time for someone else and does my development in his free time, he’s now got a month’s break from Language Garden to recharge his batteries. He’s dreading coming back. He thinks you’ll have all given me loads of new ideas. I hope so.

Learn Welsh with Ceri

October 4, 2011 § 12 Comments

“I love Cadiz,
Cádiz reminds me of Wales;
I love the sea in Cádiz,
the sea reminds me of Wales;
I love the sunset in Cádiz,
I love the sunset over the sea in Cádiz,
the sunset reminds me of Wales;
I love the storms,
I love the storms in Cádiz,
I love the storms in the winter in Cádiz,
the storms remind me of Wales.”

They say what the son loses, the grandson seeks to regain. I’m ashamed to say I’ve learned more Welsh with Close Up Ceri in these last few days than in all the time I spent in my relatives’ farmhouses in the Land of my Fathers when I was too young to barely carry the lambs across the lush green grass for bottle feeding.

Welsh is a Celtic language, typically VSO, the red verbs come at the start of the sentence. “Dwi’n hoffi” means something in-between “I like”, “I love” and “I’m fond of”. “Mae” is a kind of third person verb tag of “to be”, both for singular and plural nouns, and here starts the sentences about reminding Ceri of Wales. Welsh is full of contractions and inflections, and the big grey “‘r” meaning “the” attaches itself to the red verbs. Despite being neighbours, English and Welsh it seems have substantially different grammars.

Ceri lives in Spain. Her poem, and with its strong repetition and parallelism I think it’s mesmeric, it must surely bring a tear to her eye, for growing up in beautiful Cádiz she knows what her children will have surely gained, but also what they will have surely lost.

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