I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while; as usual, however, life got in the way and it was delayed. I’ve now done this team-building activity with two different classes, and it proved to be a lot of fun. The Marshmallow Challenge was created by Tom Wujec, and he describes the activity in a TED2010 Talk [click photo above to view video]. The object of the activity is to enhance group and cooperative learning skills through creativity, planning, trial & error, and problem-solving as a part of a team. It involves building a tower using dry spaghetti, tape, string, and marshmallows. As a bonus, the extra marshmallows provided snacks for instant energy. Here are some of the photos from my English for Academic Purposes class as they constructed their towers. As it turned out, the students fell in love with the red clothesline string I provided, and used way too much of it. Oh well, I’m not one for strictly following instructions anyway. A few of the students also chose to snack on the spaghetti (uncooked) afterwards, which I didn’t recommend. After the towers were completed, a committee of judges used a tape measure to determine which one was tallest. Prizes were awarded for height and creativity – one tower was shaped like the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. During the activity I played a mixture of pop, disco, and 70s R&B music for inspiration. If you try this
Students in my class concentrate on their study book activity, identifying and sharing their personal skills. We’re now in the sixth week of the new semester, and what a ride it’s been. I’m performing a juggling act between my regular job of teaching 16 class periods a week, and being an IELTS examiner three weekends a month. I work pretty much all the time; in February I had a total of two days off. I barely had time for a healing massage, a trip to the grocery story, and a couple of trips to the gym. Another challenge is teaching two new programs: reading class for the Singapore study abroad program, and English for Academic Purposes for the Victoria University program in Australia. The Singapore class is reading Madame Doubtfire; this provides some opportunities for levity, as when we role-played a talk show and I was Madame Doubtfire, the cross-dressing housekeeper (no, I didn’t dress the part). I had to respond to a question about which toilet I would use, men’s or women’s, and I said “Well, dear, I’m not exactly sure.” I’m slowly trying to build my students’ confidence to give dramatic readings, a challenge in a foreign language. Reading shouldn’t be just another boring class. The EAP class is full of creative students, even if a few of them seem only to find creative ways to sleep in class. I’m teaching study skills, which consists mostly of student-directed group activities, such as exploring your personal skills and
My favorite GIF animation this week: Thanks to one of my favorite blogs, Black and White Cat, for publishing this image. Thanks also to its author for a great line for an insult: Glenn Beck is very, very low-hanging fruit. We should all just ignore him and hope he goes away. I’m battling a bad allergy attack and a horrendous cough. There’s no relief in sight, but fortunately I’m giving speaking exams this week, so all I do is sit there and listen to students talk (while I cough). It’s been rather eventful, nonetheless. My presentation Tibet-Nepal-India part 1 made the front page of slideshare.net, getting the most tweets [on Twitter] of any presentation. Slideshare.net is a site for sharing PowerPoint presentations, documents, videos, and e-books, and it’s a great source of information as well as teaching material. As of today the presentation has had over 800 views! I’m “featured” on the front page of slideshare.net! New pages on my blog: Teaching – lesson plans, downloadable documents, and links to PowerPoint presentations. It includes a link to my Culture Shock presentation I gave last week. Also visit me at: Visit my page at slideshare.net [chinateacher1].
A peaceful oasis in the midst of the traffic, noise, and rapidly-rising skyscrapers of the center city: a small park that I found by accident, and a much-needed place for some contemplation. Eating and talking at the same time The great thing about teaching is that you are continually learning new things. For example, as a Chinese learner I’m continually reminded of the difficulties that my own students face in their process of learning English. I was eating lunch today – stir-fried rice with shredded pork and green pepper – after a much-needed massage to relieve some of the pain in my upper back and neck. A lady joined me at my table, as the place was full, and proceeded to chat with me. I realized later that I probably knew about 20 – 30% of the Chinese words she used – enough to catch the general meaning – but that I was used to seeing them in a textbook, or hearing them come out of my teacher’s mouth, and not a stranger’s. I “knew” the words, but hadn’t transferred them into the frontal whatchamacallit of my brain, the place where easily-accessible and ready-to-use words and expressions are stored. Yes, there’s “deep” storage and “right now” storage for language. Plus, my affect was in the way: that’s your resistance or discomfort or just plain panic at being talked to by a stranger. My initial reaction is “I’m not ready for this; it’s too real!” I survived. Get over yourself!
Old tree, 水井坊 Shuijingfang area, Chengdu “Life isn’t some vertical or horizontal line. You have your own interior world, and it’s not neat. Therefore the importance and the beauty of music, sound, noise. When you go outside and you’re hearing…hundreds of different sounds…all of these things are potentially beautiful.” Patti Smith, in A Dream of Life It’s been while since I posted anything. It isn’t just being busy – I am, with my schedule so spread-out that I have classes six days a week – but I’ve felt that I had nothing to say. Other people seem to have quite a lot to say; I’ve spent some time reading a few excellent teaching blogs, and some well-written and perceptive film blogs. The past couple of weeks have produced some indelible images. First, there was the horrifying footage of the tsunami that devastated Japan’s coastal areas and swept away entire communities. The online videos of buildings, cars, and people’s lives being carried away by surging waters left me dumbstruck. Then, there were the continuing images of damaged nuclear power plants, unleashing a manmade, not natural, devastation upon the world. I was tremendously encouraged by the images of the pro-worker uprising in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Increasingly marginalized by totalitarian corporate rulers, people are finally responding with a mass, democratic movement. In spite of our government’s double-speak of “spreading democracy” via warfare and state-sponsored terror, the people taking to the streets are showing what democracy is really about. In a quieter, more contemplative vein, I’ve watched