a fun & challenging writing activity for your students.
Look at the following verse (!):
Misty morning class
Sleepwalking students waking
Half an hour too late
OK, a lot of tosh, I agree but count the
syllables in each line. There are 5 syllables in the first,
seven in the second & five in the last. This is called
a 'haiku' (hy-koo) - a Japanese verse that began in the 16th
century & developed into a refined medium of Buddhist
& Taoist symbolism, & traditionally about enlightening
According to those in the know the haiku
began & ended with Basho. Here's one of his most celebrated:
Now the swinging bridge
Is quieted with creepers
Like our tendrilled life
The best haikus tend to be about nature & present two
contrasting ideas, leaving it to the reader to bring them
together. Another from Basho:
How very noble!
One who finds no satori
in the lighting-flash
I like this one from Issa:
People working fields
From my deepest heart, I bow
Now a little nap.
A long hard journey,
Rain beating down the clover
Like a wanderer's feet
Along the roadside
Discarded duckweed blossoms
In the evening rain
So what about the classroom? Here's a procedure:
1. Give out a few examples with the initial
task of identifying the theme of each haiku.
2. Ask the students to identify the connection
between them - 5, 7 & 5 syllable lines.
3. Ask them in pairs to think of a theme
for their own haikus - you could link it to a current teaching
theme or let them think of their own, anything.
4. Stds write their haikus - go round &
help out, picking them up if they go over the syllable limit
& offer alternatives.
5. Put all of the haikus on the wall &
stds wander round reading them, voting for the best one.
6. For homework, stds write one individually.
In the February Monthly Newsletter to be sent out later this
week there are a few haikus about the euro. If you haven't
signed up to receive it & would like it sent, get along
to the site with your e-mail address.
to the contents
I try & get out for a run when
I can, which doesn't tend to be often enough. Here's an idea
to get your students running.
Divide the class into teams of four or five
students & assign a writer in each group. Put a text on
the wall on the other side of the room for each team. The
idea is that each member of the team takes it in turns to
run up to the text, memorise as much as possible, run back
to the writer, dictate it & then the next members do the
same, in turn, until the whole text has been dictated. The
new runner can only start off when the writer has finished
with the present runner's dictation. You'll need a bit of
space for this. This is known as a running dictation.
You could do this activity to simply introduce
a theme or some talking points - the students could discuss
the content of their finished texts. You could also provide
more of a purpose to the activity, other than the fun etc..
If you've got a text with four shortish paragraphs you could
divide the group into four teams, give each team a different
paragraph to get down in the way described above, & then
bring the students together for a jigsaw activity - they have
to describe their paragraphs & put them in order without
reading from their texts. Group the students so that in the
new groups of four there is a member from each of the original
groups i.e. they all have different information to exchange.
They might need to look at the finished texts before the re-grouping
& the info exchange.
Lots of fun.
Other dictation Tips:
normal dictation procedure & a shouting dictation
as a tool in classroom management
in placement testing
to the contents
A couple of student profiles
Some weeks ago we looked at the dominant
student type & ideas on coping with him/her.
This week it's the turn of the non-believer/doubter
& the writer.
This student is very sceptical
of your explanations & puts forward alternatives. S/he,
although usually male in my experience, has been learning
English for a while & has had several teachers in the
past. Perhaps you are new to the group & a rapport hasn't
yet been developed. S/he seems to have more faith in his/her
own intuition & knowledge than in you the teacher, possibly
as the previous teacher was more suited to him/her.
So what to do? Clearly you need to be well
prepared if you are teaching any language point. Research
it carefully & draw up a list of anticipated problems.
These could be sub-divided into problems of meaning, form,
appropriacy & phonology. If there are anticipated problems,
you need to think of possible solutions. This really needs
to be done for any lesson but more so here.
Have a grammar book & a dictionary on
hand for him/her to look up the answer if s/he doesn't believe
you. Possibly the student's native language is getting in
the way so translate the target language & see if you
get anywhere in that direction. At times you might have to
say that that is the way it is in English & ask him/her
to accept it.
Some students need to write new
language down on paper before it sinks in. Fair enough as
this is a strategy & each of us has our own ways of going
about learning. Notetaking is an important study skill &
clearly this type of student is keen & more preferable
to the student who doesn't come to class prepared with pen
& paper. Sometimes, though, it does get in the way. Some
students write everything down, as they are frightened of
missing anything. You might be in the middle of a presentation
& you know that some vital bit of information is going
to be missed.
So what to do? First of all, you need to
be clear in your lesson plan when you require everyone's attention
& give clears signals at the appropriate times. Explain
why you need their attention! Some students are more aware
than others of what are the important times to pay attention.
At the beginning of the lesson go through
what you're going to cover so that they know what's coming
up next & they can be mentally prepared. Always give a
clear written record of the new language, as this may be the
reason for the frantic notetaking. Be consistent each lesson
with this, using the same format.
A note on stereotypes - the above are just
that, stereotypes, so careful as each student is very different.
the Past Teaching Tips