14 October 2013

Material Development for Teaching English

I.  Language is complex—in our world, language is speaking, hearing, reading, and culturally imbedded/intertwined.
So, we have to teach ALL aspects.  (A conversation class may avoid the written/reading aspect, but that is only one of four!)

II. Keep in mind that people have different learning styles:
So, activities need to engage ALL learning styles whenever possible.  (Because some people are visual, even in a conversation class, you will have students who want to SEE the words.)

III. Deciding on Materials
·        English textbooks should have correct, natural, recent, and standard English…that is, the ENGLISH that you want to speak/write (American, British, etc.)

·        The cultural information included in English-language textbooks should be correct and recent. It should not be biased and should reflect background cultures of English. It should include visual aids etc., to help students understand cultural information.

·        Content: English textbooks should be useful, meaningful and interesting for students. While no single subject will be of interest to all students, materials should be chosen based, in part, on what students, in general, are likely to find interesting and motivating.

IV. Sources - Resources
·        So much available on-line

·        Publishers everywhere—English is the most sought-after second language in the world.


Online Resources:
http://www.usingenglish.com/teachers/lesson-plans/ (be careful here—some are good, some are useless)

Methodology for Teaching Speaking

“You’re going to make 1,000,000 mistakes...
     …so start making them today!”

How to teach ‘speaking’ in the ESL classroom—
·        Activities may include:
o   imitating (repeating),
o   answering verbal cues,
o   interactive conversation,
o   an oral presentation

·        Speaking activities inherently engage the practice of listening skills as well

IMPORTANT: Imitation.
Provide audio/visual opportunities for students to hear native speakers: speeches, videos, movie clips, songs, television, etc.
Have “Mimic Competitions” – challenge students to try to sound like the people in the above mentioned settings.

Read everything you can aloud – hear yourself, let others hear you, strengthen the face/mouth muscles for specific non-native (to you) sounds in the target language.

MUSIC – fluidity, pronunciation, auditory training (NOT grammar! L )

Conversation Tips
  • Speak about location: Americans love to talk about location. When speaking to a stranger, ask them where they are from and then make a connection with that place. For example: "Oh, I have a friend who studied in Los Angeles. He says it's a beautiful place to live." Most Americans will then willingly talk about their experiences living or visiting that particular city or area.
  • Talk about work: Americans commonly ask "What do you do?". It's not considered impolite (as in some countries) and is a popular topic of discussion between strangers.
  • Talk about sports: Americans love sports! However, they love American sports. When speaking about football, most Americans understand "American Football", not soccer.
  • Be careful when expressing ideas about race, religion or other sensitive topics: The United States is a multi-cultural society. Especially in the last few years, Americans are trying very hard to be sensitive to other cultures and ideas. Talking about sensitive topics, like religion or beliefs, is often avoided in order to be sure not to offend someone of a different belief system. This is often referred to as being "politically correct".

Addressing People
  • Use last names with people you do not know: Address people using their title (Mr, Ms, Dr) and their last names.
  • Always use "Ms" when addressing women: It is important to use "Ms" when addressing a woman. Only use "Mrs" when the woman has asked you to do so!
  • Many Americans prefer first names: Americans often prefer using first names, even when dealing with people in very different positions. Americans will generally say, "Call me Tom." and then expect you to remain on a first name basis.
  • Americans prefer informal: In general, Americans prefer informal greetings and using first names or nicknames when speaking with colleagues and acquaintances.

Public Behavior
  • Always shake hands: Americans shake hands when greeting each other. This is true for both men and women. Other forms of greeting, such as kissing on the cheeks, etc., are generally not appreciated.
  • Look your partner in the eye: Americans look each other in the eyes when they are speaking as a way of showing that they are sincere.

Good Links:

24 April 2013

Are we Born Good or Bad?

Often times in my classes, we begin to discuss those questions that deal with ‘worldview’ and ‘ultimate reality.’  The questions usually begin to surface when I suggest that our perspectives and understandings of the world are built on the foundation of our ‘presuppositions’—those underlying beliefs that we bring to every situation or question.  For instance, we have all have presuppositions about humanity.  I ask my students, “Are people, humans, basically good or basically bad?”

How we answer this question will inform how we deal with others, what we expect of people, how we raise our children, etc.  If I presume humanity to be basically good, then I’m horrified at the Columbines, Auroras, Newtowns and city buses of New Delhi; if I presume humanity to be basically bad, then I’m not terribly surprised by the horrors of humanity (or at least I shouldn’t be!)

But, is there another option?  After we have debated and fleshed out the good or bad perspectives in my classes, I raise a third perspective (presupposition)—humanity is not good or bad; people are born selfish, self-centered.

Anyone who has ever had children will recognize it in a moment.  Children really aren’t morally good or bad until they are old enough to make conscious decisions regarding themselves in relation to others.  BUT, from the moment they are born, they are absolutely self-absorbed, self-centered, selfish.  They want milk…and they want it now.  Then, they want attention.  They want praise.  They want…want…want.  The children don’t just ‘grow out of it’ – just take a three-year-0ld up and down aisles of Toys-R-Us or even just a local grocery stores and you’ll hear it—“But I want….!  Waaaaaaaa!”  I even hear it from teenagers…and, lamentably, from adults as well….

If we were born bad, that would explain some of the horror we see in the world…but not the good we see.  If we were born good,…then the world should certainly be a much better place than it is!  But, if we are born selfish…then, well, that would explain a lot about the world…the good and the bad.

If individuals are selfish, then groups of individuals would develop a “group selfishness”…and we see that as corporations seek market control, political parties push for their party line, as governments push for patriotism and nationalism.  In fact, if we look at many of the problems today—from the small and local to the big and national, we can trace the origins of the problems back to good, old-fashioned selfishness and egoism.

I believe that the Christian Scriptures recognize self-worship and self-importance as the greatest problem with humanity…and call for self-emptying as the highest act of faith.  Jesus taught his followers, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (TNIV).  The very greatest love one can have is to commit a selfless act. Jesus even 'walked the talk'...right up to an agonizing death on the Cross.  If that is the greatest love, then the opposite—the worst thing one can do—is to pursue selfishness.

So, if we ‘buy’ this idea—humanity is first and foremost selfish—what does that mean for us?  It means that before or as we teach our children to be ‘good,’ we have to teach them to think of others, to act on behalf of others, to live for the benefit of others…and not just unto themselves.  It means that as adults we must be willing to set aside the pursuit of our personal gain and recognize that we must help others to achieve and gain as well.  It means that our institutions, companies and corporations must look beyond themselves and the bottom-line profits.  It means that our nation and all the other nations must do more than help themselves.

Are people basically good or basically bad?  No…we are basically selfish, and the great human task is to train the coming generation—and move ourselves—to look beyond ourselves, to think of others.  I suppose Jesus is the one who shows us best how to get there....

01 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all!  I hope that you are as happy to see this year beginning as I am.  2012 was a pretty good year…but this year will be even better!

I wish you and yours the very best in the days, weeks, and months to come.  May we live well, live to the full, and live lives that impact others.

More to come…!

Feliz año!!  Espero que también estás muy contento ver el inicio de este año como yo.  El año 2012 fue bueno…pero este año será aun mejor!

Les deseo lo mejor por los días, semanas y meses por venir.  Que vivemos bien, que vivemos con abundancia, y que vivemos en una manera para impactar las vidas de la gente alrededor.

Hasta pronto…!

03 October 2012

Translation and Language Learning

"Every sensible and rigorous theory of language shows that a perfect translation is an impossible dream." (Umberto Eco in _Experiences in Translation_, 2001)

To communicate exactly what another has said, I would need not only to use the same words, but also the same cadence, inflections, stances and facial expressions because all of these influence and are part of the message communicated. And, this is just what is necessary within a common language context; imagine 'translating' the message into another language that does not share the same idioms, metaphors, contexts, etc...!

Those who think that translation is simply knowing "equivalent" vocabulary do not understand the complexity of human language and human communication.

Because of this complexity, language learning in a classroom setting has obvious and great deficiencies.  However...what is gained in the classroom are the very important building blocks for real language learning.  On those building blocks of basic vocabulary and 'canned' conversations second language students must integrate 'real language' experience that comes through television news-casts from the country (countries?) that speak the target language (to provide contexts, connections, etc.), books--novels and texts--in the target language (to provide structure, vocabulary and cadence), movies and TV shows in the target language (to learn idioms, metaphors, common expressions), and popular music in the target language (to learn flow and cadence).  In addition to all these, the best elements of language learning would be friendships with native speakers and experiences on the ground in a country that speaks the target language.

Even after years of classroom training, reading, writing and listening to the language, and time spent 'in country,' one will always find gaps, spaces and questions regarding the second language, but one will be ever closer to the real ability to translate, to move between languages with confidence and grace.

Now...try to translate this entry into your native language...and send me a copy! 


27 September 2012

Soñar y Creer (Dreaming and Believing)

(English below....)

El sueño inicia con un maestro que crea en ti—que te empuje y jale al próximo altiplano, a veces hurgándose con un palito afilado que se llama “la verdad.”
~Dan Rather

Sí, los sueños muchas veces son nacidos del trabajo y de los labores de un buen maestro.  Y, ¿son importantes los sueños?  ¡SÍ!  De los sueños vienen edificios nuevos, ideas para negocios, descubrimientos científicos, novelas, canciones, poemas y cualquier otra cosa creado por la humanidad.  Alguien experimenta un sueño, una visión…algo que crece de su imaginación.  Y, poco a poco—por estudios y trabajo duro—la idea se convierte en realidad.

Esta ‘imaginación’ es alimentada o es hecho morir de hambre por los maestros.  Los maestros que interactúan con sus alumnos contando historias, leyendo libros, haciendo conexiones—estos son los maestros que alimentan las imaginaciones de sus estudiantes permitiéndoles  soñar sueños y tener visiones.  Los maestros que queda simplemente y solamente con el currículo oficial, que lean solamente los libros de textos, que quedan solamente con los hechos—estos maestros hacen morir por hambre sus alumnos y los dejan en aun peor condición de cómo llegaron al salón.

La diferencia entre estos dos tipos de maestros puede salir de ese otro elemento—el maestro que crea en sus estudiantes.  Los maestros que crean en sus alumnos saben que cada mente joven está lista para formación, que el suelo de sus mentes es preparado para recibir las semillas de entendimiento y sabiduría y dirección.  Los maestros que crean en sus estudiantes saben que ellos—los maestros—tienen que hacer todo que puedan para impactar las vidas de estos niños y adolescentes.  Los maestros que crean en sus alumnos saben que estos jóvenes muchas veces están enfrentando dificultades casi insuperables en las formas de familias disfuncionales, relaciones dañosas y un ‘bombardeo’ de mensajes negativas que les dejan sin esperanza.  El maestro que crea en sus estudiantes haría todo lo que puede para proveer estructura, para modelar relaciones saludables, y para ser una fuente de positivismo y esperanza.

¿Qué tipo de maestro quisieras tú?  ¿Qué tipo de maestro quieres ser?  Como maestros y educadores, empujamos a nuestros estudiantes hacía el próximo altiplano por sonar…por animarles más allá.  Pero, tengo un sentimiento que ¡no podemos hacer nada de esto si nosotros mismos no tenemos nuestros propios sueños!  ¿Tienes un sueño?  ¿Te ayudó en el camino un maestro…alguien que te ayudó descubrir y nutrir sus sueños?  Encuentre tu sueño…y puedes ayudar a otros encontrar suyos.  Así puedes ser un maestro impactante, formando y cambiando vidas. 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’”      
~Dan Rather

Yes, the dreams are often born of the work of a good teacher.  And, are dreams important??  YES!  From dreams come new buildings, ideas for businesses, scientific breakthroughs, novels, songs, poems and anything else that is created by humankind.  Someone has a dream, a vision…something that grows out of his or her imagination.  Then, that idea slowly—with study and hard work—becomes reality.

That ‘imagination’ is either fed or starved by teachers.  Those teachers who interact with their students by telling stories, reading books, making connections—these are the teachers who feed their students’ imaginations allowing them to dream dreams and have visions.  Those teachers who stick to the curriculum, who read only textbooks to their students, who stick to just the facts—these teachers starve their students and leave them in worse condition than they find them.

The difference in these two types of teachers may come from that other element—the teacher who believes in his or her students.  The teachers who believe in their students know that each young mind is ripe for formation, that the soil of their minds is prepared to receive the seeds of understanding and wisdom and guidance.  The teachers who believe in their students know that they—the teachers—must do all they can to impact the lives of these children.  The teachers who believe in their students know that those children and young people are often facing seemingly insurmountable odds in the way of dysfunctional families, damaging relationships, and a bombardment of negative messages that leave them hopeless.  The teacher who believes in the students will do all he or she can to provide structure, to model healthy relationships, and to be a fountain of positivism and hope.

What kind of teacher would you want to have?  What kind of teacher do you hope to be?  As teachers, educators, let us prod our students to the next plateau by helping them dream…by pushing and encouraging them on to the next plateau.  But, I have a feeling that we cannot do any of this if we ourselves don’t have a dream!  Do you have a dream?  Did some teacher along the way help you find and nurture your dreams?  Find your dream…and then you can help others find theirs.  Then you can be an impactful teacher, forming and changing lives.

14 August 2012

Salud Total - El "Health Break"

En esta serie de artículos, tengo en mente mis compañeros de trabajo—maestros, administradores, maestros-estudiantes y cualquieras otros obreros en la gran obra de educación.  Nuestra salud total involucra el cuerpo, la mente y el espíritu.  Cuando aplicamos ‘ejercicio’ a las tres áreas de nuestras vidas, podemos maximizar nuestro disfrute y  nuestra productividad.  Esto es la primera de muchas sugerencias y pensamientos relacionados a la SALUD TOTAL.

He visto que hay gente aquí en mi oficina que salen cada un rato para tomar un cigarrillo.  Interesante.  La administración no dice nada a ellos indicando que no hay ninguno problema en salir de su oficina para dañarse en esta manera.  Si la administración está de acuerdo dar les a ellos esto tiempo para dañarse, y está de acuerdo pagarles en este ‘smoke break’ (descanso o receso para fumar), ¿por qué no puedo tomar un ‘health break’ (descanso/receso de salud)?  Si ellos pueden tomar 10 minutos para fumar, ¿por qué no puedo tomar 5-10 minutos para mejorar mi salud?  Después de todo, mi ‘health break’ va a mejorar mi productividad, mi sentido de bienestar y mi salud.

En mi propia oficina, cada hora y cuarenta minutos, tomo un ‘health break.’  Tengo una rutina muy sencilla que sigo diario…y me renueva cada vez.  Uso los despertadores en mi celular.  Cuando sueña mi alarma, termino lo que estoy haciendo, me pongo en pie…y comienza mi ‘health break.’

Primero, respiro profundamente.  Inspiro lento y profundo y lo sostengo por una cuenta de cinco ‘segundos’ largos.  Y expiro lentamente.  Comienzo la inspiración levantando mis manos hacía el techo.  Sostengo mis brazos extendido hacía el techo mientras conto al cinco.  Durante la expiración, bajo mis brazos…y reinicio el proceso de nuevo.  Lo hago cinco veces.

Después, es tiempo circular mi cuello.  Todos de estos ejercicios son hechos lentamente, usualmente por una cuenta de cinco ‘segundos’…y cinco veces hecho.  Entonces, circulo mi cuello según las agujas del reloj cinco veces lentamente…y contra el reloj cinco veces—lentamente.  No trato extender o forzar los músculos de mi cuello—la idea es simplemente mover y activar la nuca del cuello.

El próximo ejercicio es la rotación de los hombros.  Cinco veces hacía el frente y cinco rotaciones hacías atrás, lentamente…y ya!  Trato respirar lentamente durante los ejercicios.

Ahora, es tiempo para doblarse.  Otra vez, no queremos dañarnos, entonces la meta NO es extender o sobre-extender los músculos.  Lo que pasa cuando estamos trabajando—no importa si estamos sentados o en pie—es que los músculos no usados en nuestro trabajo comienzan a hacerse más rígido.  Este afecta la circulación de nuestra sangre…y este afecta como sentimos.  Entonces, un propósito de estos ‘health breaks’ es para estimular nuestros sistemas de circulación.

Finalmente, vamos a simplemente doblarnos…mejor, permitir nuestro cuerpo doblarse en la cintura, doblando hacía el piso.  NO ES NECESARIO TOCAR EL PISO.  La meta aquí es doble (ja,ja)—este ejercicio extiende los músculos de la espalda y abra las vértebras, Y ponga mucha sangre en nuestras cabezas…proveyendo mucho oxígeno fresco para nuestros cerebros.  No es necesario regresar a la postura erecta después de contar…solo elevarse un momento para relajar los músculos.  Lo hago cinco veces…y después me paré con mi cabeza abajo por otra cuenta de cinco para inundar mi cerebro con sangre.

Estos ejercicios son suficientes para despertarnos, mover los músculos y darnos un ‘break’ durante los días largos.  Pareces muy sencilla, ciertamente, pero en hacer estos ejercicios, podemos renovar nuestras vidas poco a poco.  Pruébalo...y le prometo que va a encontrar algo bueno.

Yo no me paro con los cuatro ejercicios anteriores, y si tiene el tiempo, puede hacer más también. A mí me gusta terminar mi ‘health break’ con una rutina de flexiones de brazos en el suelo.  Por mi edad, es muy importante el desarrollo/mantenimiento de la fuerza muscular…y este es una manera que puedo mejorarme en esta área de mi vida.  Cada persona debe buscar lo que necesita incorporar en su propia rutina.  Comencé hacía unas semanas haciendo dos o tres flexiones en cada ‘health break,’ y ya puedo hacer cinco ahora sin dificultad.  Mi meta es cumplir 20 flexiones de brazos en el suelo en cada ‘break’…y, sí, voy a lograrlo en 15 semanas más!  (Estoy agregando una cada semana….)

Bueno, es muy importante que mantengamos nuestra salud como maestros.  Si queremos influenciar e impactar las vidas de nuestros estudiantes, si queremos ser los mejores trabajadores en nuestras instituciones, necesitamos mantener y mejorar nuestra salud.  Como maestros, podemos involucrar nuestros estudiantes en este rutina (solo dura cinco minutos!)  En la oficina, podemos animar uno al otro en tomar un ‘health break’ cada hora y media o cada dos horas.  Vamos a sentir mejor, trabajar mejor, pensar mejor…y vamos a proveer un buen ejemplo para los demás.