Monday, February 18, 2013

Anyone remember that Verve Pipe song?

I'm in the process on writing a 'reflection' on a chapter in one of my texts on participatory language teaching. Participatory teaching (language or otherwise) involves a lot of power sharing between students and teachers - allowing students to take more of a role in deciding what and how they are going to learn. While there are many aspects of participatory teaching (language or otherwise) that I think can be incorporated into a classroom in a useful manner, I think the teacher/professor/instructor should always be careful not to hand too much power over to the student. The student is still the student for a reason. If he could teach himself, he wouldn't be taking the class. I don't say this because I'm a teacher and want to keep hold of the reins of power in the classroom (well, maybe to a certain extent...). My biggest problem with this concept dates back to some experiences I had in high school. I've been writing about it in my reflection, and I'm trying really hard not to reference the Verve Pipe, but...

Over the winter break spanning 1993-1994 (while I was in 9th grade), two of my teachers (English and Biology) attended a conference on participatory teaching which really inspired them. During the fall semester, our classes had been very normal and boring. My English teacher spent a lot of time drilling us on parts of speech (which was annoying, as my peers who studied with other teachers were reading Romeo and Juliet), and my biology teacher gave daily science lectures. Normal but boring. After Christmas break, both teachers came back, having attended said conference, full of new ideas on how they planned to completely reinvent our classrooms. In both classes, the teachers decided, would be run as “businesses.” We divided ourselves up into “departments,” and each “department” was supposed to be in charge of teaching part of our Language Arts or Biology textbook. One group was elected to be management, and their job was (ostensibly) to oversee the rest of us and make sure we were on-task. At the end of each grading period, we were supposed to meet with our group members and determine what grades we felt we deserved.

At the beginning of the process, we were all very excited. This was something new, something we’d never done in a class before. However, it was problematic from the get-go. The “popular” kids were all elected to management, and friends formed their own “departments.” The teachers insisted that we (the students) were in control, and that we were responsible for planning and executing all tasks. For the first few weeks, we struggled to do some work – but as our teachers had taken to giving us no guidance, English and Biology rapidly devolved into gossip hour and study hall for other classes. We had to turn in final projects by the end of each grading period, and of course we all scraped something together at the last minute… but as we were deciding our own grades, none of us put much effort into it (especially after the first grading period ended and we learned that our teachers really had been serious about letting us decide our own grades).

I can see some merit to the general way in which my English and Biology teachers attempted to run our classes that semester; however, it is obvious to me that these specific projects were a failure. I did not learn anything in either of those classes that semester, other than how to do the bare minimum to scrape by. We, as ninth graders, were not mature enough to handle the complete responsibility for our education that our teachers turned over to us – and being immature and irresponsible, we took advantage of this opportunity to goof off as much as possible. This is one of the dangers in taking participatory education too far – it expects a lot from students, and often expects more than the students are able or willing to give. In my high school English and Biology classes, things would have gone a lot better had “management” been the teacher, as opposed to the cheerleaders and the football stars. We needed someone to guide us, to show us what we needed to do and how we needed to do it – and to make sure we stayed on task. Instead, our teachers turned the classroom completely over to us, and we took advantage of it in the worst possible way. After all, we were only freshmen.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Themed Songs with Phrasal Verbs

Today was Valentine's Day, and my class (adults, advanced level) were still supposed to be working on phrasal verbs. I decided to spice up the lesson by using some songs with which they were all familiar, and which contained the phrasal verbs get back, come true, fog up, run out, settle down, bend over, hold back, look into, turn up, open up, and stay away. The songs I used were Someone Like You by Adele, and I'm Yours by Jason Mraz. In addition to discussions of the phrasal verbs in these songs (including whether or not they were separable or inseparable), we got to discuss words and phrases like out of the blue, time flies, the time of our lives, bittersweet, bend over backwards for someone, aim to do something, and fate.

Jason Mraz's grammar is a particularly annoying and often incorrect combination of cutsey and trashy, but my group was smart enough that we were able to go through and actually correct Mraz's grammar. And now if someone says to them something along the lines of 'I done ate that' (instead of 'I've already eaten that'), they'll know what that person is talking about. 

They also learned 'ain't' from Adele. (Only one of them had heard 'ain't' before.) While I love correct grammar and certainly don't want to be teaching my students to speak incorrectly, my goal is for them to be able to understand and communicate with the average person on the street... and with so many native English speakers using 'ain't' or other incorrect grammar forms on a regular basis, I'd like to make sure my students can understand such things when they encounter them. 

Anyway, the class really enjoyed the lesson, and they were all happily singing along with the songs, so I'd say this one was a success. Below are the lyrics to the songs with the phrasal verbs removed, if you'd like to snag 'em for your classes. (BTW, I'm Yours says 'damn' several times, and talks about nibbling on someone's ear, so definitely keep in mind the age/culture of your students!)

Someone Like You by Adele

I heard that you're __________________
That you found a girl and you're married now.
I heard that your dreams __________________.
Guess she gave you things I didn't give to you.

Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain't like you to __________________ or hide from the light.

I hate to __________________ out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't __________________, I couldn't fight it.
I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me it isn't over.

Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead,
Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead"

You know how the time flies
Only yesterday was the time of our lives
We were born and raised
In a summer haze
Bound by the surprise of our glory days

I hate to __________________ out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't __________________, I couldn't fight it.
I'd hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me it isn't over.

Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."

Nothing compares
No worries or cares
Regrets and mistakes
They are memories made.
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?

Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you
Don't forget me, I beg
I remember you said,
"Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."

I’m Yours by Jason Mraz

Well you done done me and you bet I felt it
I tried to be chill but you're so hot that I melted
I fell right through the cracks 
Now I'm trying to __________________
Before the cool done __________________
I'll be giving it my bestest
And nothing's going to stop me but divine intervention
I reckon it's again my turn to win some or learn some

But I won't hesitate no more, no more
It cannot wait, I'm yours

Well __________________ your mind and see like me
__________________ your plans and damn you're free
__________________ your heart and you'll find love love love love
Listen to the music of the moment people dance and sing

We’re just one big family
And it's our God-forsaken right to be loved love loved love loved

So I won't hesitate no more, no more
It cannot wait I'm sure
There's no need to complicate 
Our time is short
This is our fate, I'm yours

Dooo, dooo, dooooo

Scooch on over closer dear
And I will nibble your ear

I've been spending way too long checking my tongue in the mirror
And __________________ backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath __________________ the glass
And so I drew a new face and I laughed
I guess what I'll be saying is there ain't no better reason
To rid yourself of vanity and just go with the seasons
It's what we aim to do
Our name is our virtue

But I won't hesitate no more, no more 
It cannot wait I'm yours

Well __________________ your mind and see like me
__________________ your plans and damn you're free
__________________ your heart and you'll find that the sky is yours
So please don't, please don't, please don't
There's no need to complicate
Cause our time is short
This oh this oh this is our fate, I'm yours!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

here we go again. (UPDATED)

My mother has been doing animal rescue for years. Back when she and I were living in the same town (2009), I set up a website and facebook page for her animals, hoping that we could get more animals adopted and maybe even get some donations. We got few of either. What we did get were TONS of people calling and emailing, asking us to take their cats (and occasionally their dogs). We were rapidly maxed out, both space-wise, and money-wise. For the past year, I've had a huge banner across the top of her website, which states "We are currently FULL and CANNOT accept any more animals at this time" in huge red letters. Nonetheless, people have continued to call and email my mom, asking her to take their animals.

And it's usually THEIR animals.

Or a stray animal that they took in months or years ago, and have now decided that they can't keep.

Or the new boyfriend is allergic.

Or the wife is pregnant.

Or it has fleas. (Really. One of her coworkers tried to convince her to take his cats because he couldn't get rid of their fleas.)

Or they're moving. (Oh please. I brought mine home with me from KOREA. Don't even give me that.)

Or it has some medical problem and they can't afford to take care of it.

Or.... or.... or.... We've heard so many excuses.

Most people - despite having ignored the message about how she wasn't taking any more animals - when hearing that my mom was in her upper sixties, working full-time, and caring for roughly 40 animals all by herself, generally stop hassling her. Or they dump them at her gate.

Or they beg, plead, hassle, harangue, and bother my mother until she agrees to take the animal in question.

That's what happened yesterday. The woman couldn't even keep all of her excuses straight: she just lost her job and only had $70 to her name. But she had to be at work by such-and-such time. The cat had an injured eye and she couldn't afford treatment, but the vet said that with some eye ointment it would clear up. So on and so forth. Eventually my mom agreed to take it. The woman assured her that it had been tested for FeLV/FIV (the woman's vet said it hadn't been, but perhaps this was done at a mobile clinic?), that it didn't need eye surgery (the vet says the eye must be surgically removed), and that she would arrange with our vet to pay for its neutering (she didn't). Oh, and this woman is in her twenties and drives a Mustang.

 photo odie2_zps38d447d8.jpg

 photo odie1_zps31629256.jpg

Obviously, this cat will be far better off with my mom than with this woman. That being said, why can't people other than my mom take responsibility once in a while? In what world is it a good idea to unload your problem onto a 68 year old woman who teaches full time and who takes care of roughly forty animals all by herself so that you can continue driving your Mustang and talking on your smartphone?

UPDATE: So apparently when the woman told my mom that the cat had tested negative for FeLV, that was a lie. Not surprising. This was the email I got from my mom: "Had to have the poor boy euthanised.  He turned out to be FeLv+, and Wes (the vet) said it was a 'hot positive'.  Thought  surgery would be problematic, and I couldn't even put him in with Flame -- it would put her at risk.  It was so sad -- he purred right up to the last second." Good thing we didn't just take the woman at her word and let him loose in our house, as he was highly contagious with an often fatal disease. Arrrrgh. 

UPDATE 2: OMFG. The former owner of this cat (the woman who refused to take no for an answer when my mom tried to explain that she couldn't take him) called to say that she would pay to have him neutered. Mom informed the woman of everything I mentioned in my previous update. The woman said that she'd had the cat tested and that it was negative, and that she didn't understand how this could have happened. Then she called back today to bitch my mom out for killing her cat, swearing that she'd had the cat tested and it was negative, and why didn't my mom call her, yadda, yadda, yadda. Obviously, my mom didn't call her because the woman had refused to take responsibility for this animal, and totally relinquished all responsibility for the cat when she pressured my mom into taking it. So here's my mom, spending over a hundred dollars on this cat (for the exam, FeLV/FIV test, and eventual euthanasia), being the one making the tough decisions about what is best for this cat, and being the one holding it in her arms, comforting it as it died... and this woman who refused to take responsibility for her own pet is now blaming my mom? And chewing her out? People suck.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fun with Friends and Phrasal Verbs

I've started teaching a new class at the school where I teach part time. It's a class of adults, all advanced level, all students who are really only "studying" to keep their student visas. Even though I've only just started working with this group, I've heard them mention several time over the past few weeks that the school is a joke, and that as soon as they get their green cards, they'll be out of there. They're definitely jaded! 

I've only taught two classes to this advanced group so far - on the rather stultifying topic of phrasal verbs, with the equally stultifying Passages 2 textbook - but I've been trying to bring as much life to the topic as possible. Today, at the end of class, my students thanked me for a great lesson and said 'we actually learned something for once.' This says a lot about my place of employment. (It's a private language school.) 

Anyway,  in case you're curious about today's lesson, I modified one that I found here. Here's my version: After some boring Passages-based phrasal verb reviews, I reviewed the phrasal verbs wear in, hang on, run into, pick up, come over, drop off, and sit down - which I admit were easy for this group - and discussed whether each verb was separable or inseparable. Then we watched an excerpt from the Friends episode The One That Could Have Been Part 1, which featured the aforementioned phrasal verbs. The students in my class are definitely advanced enough to watch Friends without any problems. Then I gave them the script to the excerpt that we watched, with the phrasal verbs deleted:

Joey: Hey man, look sorry about that Archie thing. Do uh, do you need me to give you
some money?
Chandler: Hey, I may have no money, but I still have my pride.
Joey: Really?
Chandler: Ehh.
Monica: Maybe Joey doesn’t have to give you the money, TV stars have assistants right?
Joey: That’s an idea! Hey, if I hired an assistant, would-would you take money from her?
Monica: No Joey! Chandler could be your assistant! See, he could answer all of your fan mail and stuff!
Joey: That’s great! That would be great! Let’s do that!
Chandler: I could use the money; it could give me time to write.
Joey: Oh right great! Welcome aboard!
Chandler: Okay!
Joey: All right! Now hey, I need to use the bathroom. Since I don’t need any assistance in there, take a break!
Chandler: All right!
Phoebe: Hey!
Monica: Hey Phoebe! Guess what?
Phoebe: What?
Monica: Joey just hired Chandler to be his assistant!
Phoebe: Oh that’s so sweet! Oh! _________________! _________________! Go! No! No-no! I
said sell when it hits 50! 5-0, it’s a number! It comes after 4-9! No, it’s okay. It’s okay, you’re allowed one mistake. Just kidding, you are of course fired.
Ross: Hey Mon!
Monica: Hey!
Ross: Mon, look who I _________________!
Monica: Oh my God! Rachel!! You look terrific!
Rachel: Oh, so do you! Did you lose weight?
Monica: You are so sweet to notice! Yes, I lost three and a half pounds!
Ross: And, and uh, you-you remember my friend Chandler.
Chandler: Hey.
Rachel: Oh yeah.
Ross: And that’s Phoebe over there!
Phoebe: Hi!
Monica: Oh my God, _________________! _________________! How long as it been since we’ve seen each other?
Ross: 1987, the day after Christmas, at Sean McMahon’s party. I played you one of my songs, y’know Interplanetary Courtship Ritual.
Rachel: Oh yeah. Right. So now, are—do you, do you still do music?
Ross: Sometimes, you should come over sometime! I’ll play you one of my other…
Rachel: Oh my God! Joey Tribbiani from Days of Our Lives just walked in here!
Monica: Rach, he’s a friend of ours.
Rachel: You are friends with Dr. Drake Remoray?
Chandler: Oh, it’s kinda hard to be friends with Drake because of his busy schedule and the fact that he’s not real.
Ross: Hey, hey, or I could bring my keyboard here sometime…
Rachel: He’s _________________! He’s _________________!
Monica: Joey!
Joey: I know, here-here!!
Monica: Ohhh! No! This is my friend Rachel, we went to high school together.
Rachel: Hi!
Joey: Hi!
Rachel: Hi! I love you on that show! I watch you every day! I mean, when you took out your own kidney to save your ex-wife even though she tried to kill you…
Joey: Well, it’s always nice to meet the fans.
Rachel: Ah!
Joey: She’s not crazy is she?
Monica: No.
Joey: So uh, how you doin’?
Phoebe: __________________________________ . _________________ ! Go! Who is this? Oh, okay. You’re gonna like working for me. What’s your name? What kinda name is Brindy? I’m… whatever… stop talking! Alright. From – from now on your name is Joan. You can pick your own last name.
Joey: Hey, there you are.
Chandler: Uh-oh, it’s my boss.
Joey: All right, here’s a list of things for you to do today. Man, this going to be so great! Thank you so much! All right, I got to go to work I’m delivering twins today, but only one of them is mine!
Chandler: _________________my dry cleaning. _________________my vitamins. Teach me how to spell vitamins. _________________my new jeans.

We watched the clip again, and the students filled in the blanks with the phrasal verbs. Then - since it's a class of six - the students took the script and acted it out. They really got into it and had a great time. Anyway, my students loved it so much that I thought I'd share this with you. The only problems with this activity are: I couldn't find this episode online for free anywhere (I actually bought it so that I could do this lesson). Also, you have to cut off the video right after Chandler says "new jeans" or else you get Monica telling him (and your students) that he is Joey's bitch. 

Anyway, if you've got an advanced class that's starting Passages 2, this makes a great supplement. Enjoy!