The norm.

Welcome back to the ETC blog. Last week we considered my poem ‘The Millennium Dream’ which first appeared in blog 107, and I shared some of the insights into what I was trying to do. This week I want to finish it off.

 

Your ooz and arrz soon lost their vowels as you

dropped off again, on the sofa.

 

If you take away the vowel sounds /uː/ and /ɑː/ (often heard at firework displays) you are left with the voiced consonant sound /z/ a sound often used to show people are sleeping! In English, if you ‘drop off’ you go to sleep. ‘Dropped’ also rhymes with ‘propped’ in the previous verse and has the same /ɒ/ vowel sound, shorter and more energetic. ‘Sofa’ sounds cosier than ‘settee’, doesn’t it? The stress is on ‘ooz’, ‘arrz’, ‘lost’, ‘vowels’, ‘dropped’, ‘off’, ‘again’.

 

Sorry, we carried you upstairs and

popped you back into your own warm beds.

 

‘Sorry’, because we’d woken you up and now realised that it was a daft idea! ‘Popped’ you back into your warm beds; in English you also pop food into the oven to heat it up, or pop the kettle on to heat it. ‘Popped you back’ sounds much nicer than, ‘returned you’, and rhymes with ‘propped’ and ‘dropped’ in the previous verses, short sounds to reflect the movement of the action.

 

Later that century, over breakfast, we wondered

why we all felt so grizzly.

 

‘Later that day’, sounds OK, but ‘later that century’ sounds a bit unusual, hopefully amusing. We all felt grizzly from  lack of sleep, is implied by the repeated ‘zz’ in the middle of the word grizzly!

 

Hope you enjoyed this little departure from the norm. Next week I’ll tell you a little bit about myself.

Prop

Hi, welcome back to the ETC blog in the second week of a new school year.  I hope you enjoyed the poems last week. The idea of learning English though poetry is something I like and today I want to mention a few things I’ve used in the poem The Millennium Dream. I was lucky to not have poetry ruined for me by over analysis when I was at school, and I know I’m in danger of doing it with you now, but…as many of our blog readers are learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL), I feel justified. I’ll do half this week and half next.

 

So many years since we woke, and lured you

from your beds with the promise of something special.

 

I use the word ‘lure’ because, as parents, we knew you wouldn’t come without some enticement. You usually ‘lure’ an animal into a trap! J The promise of ‘something special’ probably intrigued them! I want you to pause after the word ‘you’, so I start a new line. The stress is on the words ‘so’, ‘years’, ‘woke’, ‘lured’, ‘beds’, ‘promise’, ‘something’, ‘special’. It’s a ‘sleepy’ sort of rhythm, using long vowel sounds and diphthongs, /əʊ/,  /ɪə/, /ʊə/, in the first line and shorter ‘awake’ sounds in the second.

 

So long since we propped you in front of the telly

to watch the big clocks tick and the world light up.

 

We used cushions to prop them. Prop is a nice word which implies they were too floppy to support themselves!J I use a repetition of hard /t/, /p/, and /k/ sounds, (unvoiced ‘plosives’) and the /ɒ/ vowel sound in ‘clock’ and ‘prop’ to sound like the clock ticking. To ‘light up the world’ can be interpreted either literally or metaphorically here!  The stress is on ‘long’, ‘propped’, ‘front’, ‘telly’, ‘watch’, ‘big clocks tick’, and ‘world light up’ (the rhythm changes to sound like the clock).

 

Next week I’ll finish it off.

Millennium Dream

Hope you had a blogorific, cracker of a festive season and HAPPY NEW YEAR from ETC International College, Bournemouth! Goodness me! Two thousand and twenty! I had to write it in words in order to really believe it. Here’s a poem I wrote in 2000, (can it really be twenty years ago!) We wanted the kids to have something to remember of the turn of the century.  it’s called Millennium Dream.

 

Millennium Dream

 

So many years since we woke, and lured you

from your beds with the promise of something special.

 

So long since we propped you in front of the telly

to watch the big clocks tick and the world light up.

 

Your ooz and arrz soon lost their vowels as you

dropped off again, on the sofa.

 

Sorry, we carried you upstairs and

popped you back into your own warm beds.

 

Later that century, over breakfast, we wondered

why we all felt so grizzly.

 

 

Nostalgia eh? Who’d ‘ave it?. Do they remember any of it? Not a thing!

If you want another nostalgia poem to see in the new ETC year, check out this one from Billy Collins the ex-poet laureate of the USA.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46703/nostalgia-56d226ac3a1dd

Goodbye 2019!

Welcome back to the last ETC International blog of 2019! This is our final week of term so I’ll begin by wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year! Christmas is such a great family occasion in the Kay household. I have to tell you that my sister, who lives in Stourbridge, sent me a lovely Christmas card this year.

If you understand from this that I only have one sister, then the communication has been successful. How do you know? Because of the comma. Did you know it was an example of a non-defining relative clause?  Possibly not. If you did, brilliant, if you didn’t, did it matter?

And my cousin who lives in France always sends a nice card too. If this clearly communicates that I have more than one cousin, but only one who lives in France, then the communication has been successful. How do you know?  Because there’s no comma.  You don’t really need to know that it’s called a ‘defining relative clause’ do you?

Would ‘explaining’ the difference help? Well, it might, and that’s traditionally the way it’s been done: start with the terminology and then go for meaning. However, here at ETC we prefer to say ‘stop explaining, start exploring’ language.  If necessary, we can check learners understand by asking: “How many sisters have I got? “ How do you know?  “How many cousins have I got? How do you know?” Cool eh?

So, I’ll leave you with this, cracking finish to another cracking year of the blog!

“I really love crackers which have interesting presents and good jokes in them.”

“I really love crackers, which have interesting presents and good jokes in them.”

 

Which one means I think all crackers have interesting presents and jokes in them?

Until 2020, Seasons greeting from all at ETC International College and Athena Teacher Training, Bournemouth, UK. Why not pay us a visit in 2020? http://www.etc-inter.net/  See you next year!

Present, Practice and Produce

Welcome back to the penultimate blog of the year. Last week I was musing on blogs gone by, as one tends to do at this time of the year, and I realised that my attitude to English and English teaching had probably been overly influenced by my ‘Initial Training Course’. This short, introductory course, although excellent, taught me classroom survival skills, rather than any deep understanding of language. How could it, in only four weeks? My colleagues and I were provided with a teaching formula, in the form of P.P.P. (Present, Practice and Produce) which we applied to every class we taught. Long and Kurzweil, 2002 refer to this form of instruction as ‘a craft model’ of training, which focuses on being able to ‘carry out teaching procedures correctly instead of how to focus on student learning.’.

Had I ‘thought’ more about how language was actually being used, rather than trying to learn classroom ‘survival skills’ and ‘the rules of English grammar’ early on, I may have saved myself some sleepless nights. However, I’m still doing this brilliant job, because where else do you get the opportunity to meet people from all over the world on a daily basis, become friends and learn so much? Now, as a teacher trainer conducting Initial Training Courses myself, through ETC/Athena Teacher Training, I try to make sure there is a balance of understanding why you’re doing things as well as how to do them. Next week, the final blog before the Christmas break, I’ll try to make it a cracker!

The right thing.

December again?!! Where has 2019 gone? In last week’s blog I told you that when I realised I didn’t really understand the terminology people were using to describe English, I lost confidence in my ability to teach it (and use it!) This in turn led me to feel I was some kind of an imposter. So, I did what I believed to be ‘the right thing’ and buried my head in a grammar book, trying to ‘learn’.  As I also said last week, after reading Leo van Lier’s book ‘Introducing Language Awareness’, I realised that this, although useful, hadn’t been the best way for me to do it.

If you’ve been following this blog since its launch over one hundred issues ago, you’ll be aware that here at ETC International College we encourage learners to think and use the language, rather than just learning ‘rules’ about it. There’s a reason for this. As I said way back in Blog #2, October 2nd, 2017, “Often, teachers and students become obsessed with whether a piece of language is ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’, depending on ‘rules’, rather than thinking about whether it (communication) has been successful. These ‘rules’ have often been written a long time ago and been based on a language which bears little resemblance to English. This idea of right or wrong is often not very helpful and wastes time.” So beware! I’ll leave you with a quote from Blog #1, posted September 26th 2017 This blog is intended to make you think about English, after all, what comes first, the language or the grammar?” Until next week.

Open Ears. Open Eyes. Open Mind.

Wecome back to the ETC International blog. As I said last week, when I was lacking in confidence in my early years of teaching, I decided to do something about it! Believing falsely that I was teaching a ‘subject’, English, I forced myself to learn ‘about’ it. In short, to learn about ‘grammar’. This is probably what most people do in this situation, possibly because we are conditioned to learn in this way from an early age. Of course, I started by looking at grammar books and trying to learn ‘rules’. Although I’m not ‘knocking’ it completely, I realised later that what I should have been doing as well, if not necessarily ‘instead of’, was actually ‘thinking’. Funnily enough, this was the theme I started with when I began the blog in September 2017! A lot of water has flowed under the bridge on our blog-journey of discovery since then, and we seem to have come full circle.

 

Thinking about language and how I used it, is what I should have been doing, not just trying to memorize what other ‘experts’ were telling me through their ‘grammar books’. Here is a quote I wish I’d found earlier in my career; it’s by Leo van Lier in his book ‘Introducing Language Awareness’:

 

“Language awareness does not mean sticking your nose into a grammar book or textbook in a more intense manner, rather, it means looking up and around, and pricking up your ears to hear and appreciate the language around you.” How true! If only someone had told me earlier! I then found another quote from Richard MacAndrew: “The three things we all need are ‘open ears’, ‘open eyes’, ‘open mind’, but the most important of these is ‘open mind’.

 

Had I followed this advice earlier, I believe I could have developed more quickly and would now recommend teachers and learners alike to take heed! More on this next week. J