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Hopeful haikus
Running around
A couple of student profiles

Hopeful haikus
Here's 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 topics.

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.

From Buson:

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.

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Running around
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:

A normal dictation procedure & a shouting dictation

Dictation as a tool in classroom management

Dictation in placement testing

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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.

The non-believer/doubter
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.

The writer
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.

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