This month of April marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and to mark the occasion and to commemorate his life and work a memorial is being created in Washington DC. Visit this site for more information: http://mlkmemorialnews.org/
Both my imagination and my memory fail me when I try to think of the perfect poem for the end of March. However, "This is just to say" by William Carlos Williams always seems appropriate. Why not write it on a post-it, stick it on your fridge and start every day with these lines?
In Sandvika upper secondary school we have so-called "subject days" where all the lessons of a subject during a week is taught in one day. For example, in English we have five English lessons a week, which means that on Tuesdays I have five English lessons in a row with one of my classes. This is in the afternoon and both my students and I tend to get a little bit tired towards the end of it. Therefore, I try to plan a varied day and include at least some assignments that will get my students (and preferably me) to move around a little bit. Yesterday I tried to combine the cooperative learning strategy "mix and mingle" with a look at the news. One of the competence aims for English in the first year in upper secondary is namely that students are to be able to "present and discuss international news and current events". Also, working with news seems to be something many students enjoy, but I have to admit that I don't get around to it often enough. However, yesterday I started out having my students individually search for a news story in a British online newspaper/ website. They were to pick a site from this web page and when they had chosen a news story, they were to read the article carefully and look up difficult words. After that they were to write a summary of the article of 3-5 sentences. So far this assignment was individual, quiet and not very active. As a next step, though, I asked them to mix and mingle. When I played music, they were supposed to just move around the classroom, and when the music stopped, they were supposed to pair up, greet each other politely and tell each other about the news story they had just read. After a few minutes, the music started playing again and they had to move on to eventually pair up with someone else. I had them pair up three times and while they were sharing their stories I moved around the room and listened in, and my impression was that they actually spoke English. Finally, I ended the assignment with a summing up-round where I walked around asking some of the students to tell me about the piece of news that the other person had just talked about. One advantage of this, if you do mix and mingle activities once in a while so that they get used to it, is that they learn that they have to listen very carefully to what the other person says. At the end of the assignment they are also supposed to have heard about at least three pieces of news and they will have spoken English with at least three other students. In the end, when I asked them if they found the activity useful, they were very positive, so I think I will do this again sometime. For students struggling with their English, cbbc newsround is be a good place to look for news.
February is almost over, but there is just enough time for me to share my poem of the month. In 2001 I studied English at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. One of my courses was a linguistics course led by professor Gerard Steen. I've always been a bit of a romantic and I think I picked the course because it had love stories in its title. However, it turned out to be very different from what I had expected. The course was mainly about rhetorical structure theory (RST) and all the students took part in a project where we applied this theory to love poetry. I was much more interested in love poetry than linguistics, but the project turned out to be very interesting. One of the poems I worked on was "Come. And be my baby" by Maya Angelou. Almost ten years later I have to admit that I have forgotten most of what I learnt about RST, but I still know this poem by heart:
The highway is full of big cars going nowhere fast And folks is smoking anything that'll burn Some people wrap their lives around a cocktail glass And you sit wondering where you're going to turn. I got it. Come. And be my baby.
Some prophets say the world is gonna end tomorrow But others say we've got a week or two The paper is full of every kind of blooming horror And you sit wondering what you're gonna do. I got it. Come. And be my baby.
It's been some busy weeks lately, but most of the time busy is good. One of the topics we have been working on in February is the UK and we decided that a good introduction to the country would be to have the students plan a trip to a British city. The students were divided into groups of three or four and they were each assigned a British city. You can see the instructions they were given here: Plan a vacation to the UK. I think the assignment worked quite well, but if we are going to do this again, I think I will ask them to use a more fun presentation tool than powerpoint. This photo is from flickr: Underground (night version).
Today I and one of my classes were fortunate to take part in a special celebration of MLK-day at the Nobel Peace Center here in Oslo. The students worked on group assignments where they were to interview people who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the 50s and 60s. These people were of course not actually present, but the students were introduced to their stories in the exhibition "From King to Obama". To prepare for the day, the students had read up on Martin Luther King jr and the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the resources we used for these preparations were this Video: Martin Luther King and this text about Martin Luther King Jr. After learning about the Civil Rights Movement, we listened to representatives from the Red Cross, Democrats abroad and the Anti Racist Center who all spoke about the importance of youth involvement and voluntarism as means of changing the world. Subsequently, the students were invited to take part in a discussion about voluntarism and what they themselves can do to make a change in their hometown, their school and even their world. All in all, I think we all learned new things today. The Nobel Peace Center was really worth the visit and I think my students were exemplary visitors. This photo is from flickr.
I think the first half of January is the hardest part of the schoolyear for most upper secondary school teachers in Norway. Within a week term grades for all students in all subjects must be ready and a lot of us still have quite a few papers to mark before we cross the finish line. Still, I had to take some time for one of my new year's blog resolutions. My plan is to share one poem every month here on my blog in 2010. January's poem is a very traditional choice, but there are good reasons why this particular poem is read again and again by English students all over the world. I think it is especially suitable right now since at the moment Norway is covered in beautiful snow. Please enjoy Robert Frost's "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening":
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound's the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
For information about the poem as well as a video of Frost reciting it, see here: Poetry everywhere
I am an English and Norwegian teacher and this blog is mainly a place where I can keep track of what I do or would like to do in my lessons, what resources I find online and what methods and resources we make use of in class. Occasionally I might just share an idea.