Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gone with a Friend?

In my reading and writing class, we are reading a novel Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls. It's a great story about Jeanette's grandma, Lily Casey, an awesome heroine who lived during the first half of the last century when the novel takes place. She broke horses, survived tornadoes and floods, taught school, ran ranches, sold liquor, flew airplanes and more; a fearless woman. Stories are a good way to cover topics college students need some knowledge of such as the two World Wars, and the Depression, Route 66.

They students have a quiz and this week, they had to remember which movie Lily went to see, the first color movie in American theatres: Gone with the Wind.
The answers I got are:
  • Gone with the Wind. A boy falls in love with a girl who has bad character.
  • Gone on the Wind. The woman in the movie is a mean woman, not a good woman.
  • Gone with Wind.
  • Disappear with the Wind.
  • Go with Friend. 
I laughed out loud grading these.
another funny: A student from China was giving a presentation on New York City, the Empire State Building. She kept talking about the "alligator" but meant "elevator." Even though I corrected her, she still couldn't get it right. In the next class, some defined the word "swamp". I said, "That is where the alligators are!"

I posted audio files of their presentations on places for them to listen to. They have to write word for word what they said to analyze their use of grammar in speaking.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Tutoring with Interviews

In St. Louis, we have a free monthly magazine called Alive. In the back of every issue is a cool interview with someone in St. Louis WHO IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE! YES! YOU HEARD ME! They aren't beautiful high school dropout celebrities but real people who do amazing things: teach underprivileged kids art, assist the homeless, manage an organization that gives grants to startups, design fashion, and so on. The same questions are asked each time. If you haven't taught indirect speech, it is tricky. "Do you like chocolate?" is "he was asked if he liked chocolate". 

I have my student read the bio and use indirect speech to answer the question, answer it himself, and open it up to me. For example, "She was asked what inspires her and she said her children do. As for me, books about real people inspire me. How about you?"

I had another private lesson and just picked up the Everyday section. It was awesome! We read the comics, Dear Abby, Ask Heloise, and their astrology forecast.

Next time you're tutoring in a café, just pick up material around you.

It's complicated!

Participial adjectives are tricky! Students confuse those -ed and -ing adjectives like "bored" and "boring" all the time. I explain that they are not past and present tenses but adjectives that come from verbs. Often these verbs, like "interest" are rarely used as verbs. Who says "history interests me"? The direct object takes the passive form and the subject uses the active form. I am interested in history because history is interesting to me. What complicates these even further is learning which prepositions to use. My favorite list is from Betty Azar's "Understanding and Using English Grammar", aka "Betty Blue", the Bible of ESL.

I once worked with a great guy named Irwin in Chicago who told me he explained that the "ing" is for the thing. Get it? "Thing" has "ing" , and people, who receive the feelings, use the -ed forms. The movie is exciting and the audience was excited. Of course people can be described with the active form. Sonny Bono once said, "My first wife (Cher) was interesting and my second wife was interested."

I draw a box on the board and say it's a movie. I make arrows go to a stick figure and tell my students that if the movie is the -ing, it makes the person feel the -ed (overwhelming/overwhelmed, boring/bored, etc.) Yesterday, however, I thought about something new. As I was explaining this, I told them that the -ed is typically a person. Then I was corrected. A student asked, "But people say their relationships are complicated." It is a status on Facebook. You're married, single or "it's complicated." And situations are complicated...

Teaching participial adjectives is complicated.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Non-verbal communication

In the Seminar for International Teaching Assistants, we have a great conversation at the beginning of the semester about non-verbal communication. It's related to teaching but we expand to everyday life.

 One topic is moving around, how in Asian cultures teachers stand in one area and don't move around the room. Moving around keeps students focused, though. I remember having a crush on my Economics professor in collage because he'd pace across the stage, moving his arms up and down to emphasize points. He was so passionate about such a boring subject. Once an older student from China came into the room and I was sitting or learning on the desk. I introduced myself by my first name, and he nearly out of his desk.

One thing I've learned lately that I didn't know was that in many Asian countries, crossing your legs is a no-no. But that's so ladylike here! Plus it is much more polite for both genders than leaning back with knees out. Apparently, this is considered arrogant in Japan. It's informal in Korea, so don't do it except with friends there. Be aware if interviewing for a job there!

Eye contact is a biggie. BIGGIE, as my mom would say. Asians hold it a shorter time and don't make it with strangers. Children in Asia, the Middle East and Africa can not look their parents in the eye when being scolded, the opposite of the U.S. Men sometimes defer eye contact out of respect. Europeans and North Americans would think they are hiding something. In France, people on the subway would just stare at me, and stare, and it was so unsettling. I think in a dangerous situation, it's good to make short eye contact to show you aren't afraid or weak. My international students from Asian avoid it on campus and thus don't often fit in.

What I didn't know, was that women in business often use social eye contact, looking around the nose area, and are considered flirty. They are taken more seriously if they look people around the forehead area.

So much misunderstanding occurs due to non-verbal behavior, which varies among genders and cultures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Arise and Rise: What's the difference?

Today I taught irregular verbs to group of intermediate grammar students, mostly from China. They have all been here a while but still have such trouble with grammar. The first chapter of the level 3 book skims over simple present and present progressive, like it's an easy review. Well, sure, it's an easy review, but understanding and using are quite different. The verb forms are so messy with "I going" and "I am goes" and sadly some are fossilized. One student went to middle and high school here and said no one ever taught her grammar! In my experience, the longer a student has been in the U.S., the more problems he or she has with grammar.

A student asked me the difference between "arise" and "rise". I looked it up - isn't Google search just wonderful in the classroom? "Rise" is to ascend but it's physical, literal. We had just gone over literal and figurative meanings, since they recognized "hang" in "hang out" and "hangover" more than they did the original meaning. "Arise" means the same thing but in non-tangible situations such as problems, situations, coups d'état, and so on. Who da thunk? I suppose I should warn them that Americans confuse past and past participles. I seen it. I should of did it. I'll let them figure that out later on.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Come up with something!

An American student asked a group of Japanese business students, "You need to come up with an idea. Did you come up with one?" We use so many phrasal verbs in English, those verb and preposition combinations with linking and stress on the prepositions. The next day, I showed them a site I'd copied onto Blackboard of the 25 most common phrasal verbs in English. Their writing teaching had them write (or come up with) dialogues, which they performed. After I taught "come up with", they all started using it. I also noticed that other native speakers used it with them all the time. Let me know if you can come up with other ways to teach phrasal verbs.

Teaching vocabulary strategies

The absolute best strategy you can teach your students is to recognize vocabulary from context. English speakers are so wordy, so redundant, and constantly adding paraphrases and examples that students can easily understand a speaker without understanding all the words.

A group of Japanese I am teaching went on a field trip to learn about business. This one was amazing. It's a business incubator in downtown St. Louis, called T-Rex. It rents space to start up businesses. Anyway, I took notes on the lectures and typed them up for students to analyze and guess the meanings of words in bold type. Here are three of them.
1. They need revenue, or money. 2. You have to farm out what you don't want to do, hire others to do this work. 3. It's important for your business to stand out, look different from your competitors. You'd think it would be easy for my students to figure out the meanings with such blatant paraphrases. Not necessarily. I had them do the exercises for homework and go over the answers in groups. Then, I called on them for answers. I find it very difficult to get Japanese students to speak aloud in class. Sometimes I offer mini candy bars to those who dare to ask questions and most won't. Anyway, if they recognize the explicitness in our language, this will help build their vocabulary and listening comprehension. There simply isn't time to rush to a dictionary. Also, next week, this group will be presenting ideas and paraphrasing will make their ideas clear to the audience. Any non-native who presents in the fashion that native speakers do, with topic sentences, transitions, and redundancy, will have little trouble communicating despite difficulties with pronunciation.

Monday, July 21, 2014

taste test

I've always loved the word "taste test". Yes, I love food and tasting it for a living would be a dream job. I had a student from India whose job it was to fly all over India - which has the best food in the world - and write about the food. AND SHE LEFT IT FOR A GUY! AND although she was this awesome journalist and of a higher caste, his mother didn't approve because - I'm not kidding here - she wasn't a doctor. There is an Indian improv player in Chicago at IO who has a routine because his family wanted him to be a doctor and he chose comedy. Well, probably any parent would disapprove of his career choice, but he sings this great song about how everyone in his family is a doctor even his cat! I love that. Where was I? I hope my dear readers don't mind my digressions...TASTE TEST! The reason I love this word is that it is a great minimal pair for my students, all of whom confuse /E/ and /ae/. Men/man, bed/bath, pen/pan. And the my student taught me something new, of course, because I learn something new every day teaching ESL. She talked about that food shows and asked whether they say "to the taste". No. They say "to taste" like adding salt and pepper to taste. She countered that they sometimes say "let's put it to the taste". AHA! They say" to the test". I explained the difference, how to put something to the test results in a win or lose.

Speaking of taste, I made an amazing gooey butter cake, a St. Louis specialty that is divine. She had never heard of it. It's so puzzling and sad how many immigrants don't know much about local culture. She tried it and begged for the recipe. I will be kind and share it with you.
Mix a cake mix- any flavor but yellow is most popular. Red velvet kicks butt too-with a stick of melted butter and two eggs. Spread this pasty gooey stuff in a cake pan. Then mix a package of Philly cream cheese that is softened with three eggs and powdered sugar. I only use a cup. If you like, you can add something you love like vanilla, chocolate chips, cinnamon - almost rhymes with synonym - nuts, or brown sugar. Pour this on top of the cake mixture.
Bake at 350 F for thirty to forty minutes until top browns. You can put a knife in the side to test it. I doubled the recipe yesterday in one pan (my kid didn't read the entire recipe and put all five eggs in the cake mix) and it took like an hour to bake. It may have been underdone and the cheese mixture went to the bottom of the cake. It was sinfully delicious.

looking for Mufasa

A student asked me for a word to describe a man who walks into a room (like he was walking aboard his yacht) and his combination of personality AND looks make you want to follow him. Like Mufasa from Lion King - her words! Words like "distinguished", "attractive", etc. are focused on appearance. "Magnetic", "charismatic", "commanding" are too focused on the personality. I looked up a word on, switched to, (the best reference to get students to build vocabulary yet most have no idea what a thesaurus is), and found "eminent". Close. OK, my followers, please add your suggestions.

Return, new book, fossilization, denonyms and Vermonters!

First of all, I apologize for neglecting my blog for four years! I think you know that we language teachers are very busy people. Very. During the semester, I feel I'm in a tornado. I get to work, spend a few minutes clearing my desk, and WHAM! 40 new emails, have to finish grading before class starts, have to get all the grades posted in Blackboard, forgot the quizzes, start putting grades in, student pops in with a question, I'm organizing materials, need to print a handout, have all the books, time to go, DIDN'T FINISH PUTTING QUIZ GRADES IN! Show up to class, no questions, begin lesson, student has a question, he pulls out his phone and says "You forgot to put in my 10 points for this homework assignment that I turned in late last month." ARGH!

ALSO, I edited a book of ESL writing activities. It's great so you must check it out. There are lessons for all levels and populations and subjects, from motivation to research, and options using technology. It's called "New Ways in Teaching Writing" by TESOL Publications. That kept me busy as well. Enough excuses...

This summer I have been off and I have missed teaching! Tonight I tutored a woman from Vietnam. She was my student last fall. She was very difficult to understand when I met her because her vowels were nasalized and consonants missing. She has lived here many years, many cases of such result in little effectiveness. This is called "fossilization", when someone's habits are so ingrained that they can't be undone. However, I am an optimist; otherwise, I wouldn't be teaching, would I? She overcame all odds. This requires monitoring and practice. I told her to monitor during small talk. If she can reach a high accuracy when relaxed, some should spill over when she is stressed, like interpreting in the ER. She makes some errors like deletes final "S" half the time but she sounds so good!

I'm getting off track...SO, I enjoyed our lesson and learned many new things! One new word for me was "Denonyms". Can you guess what it means? It's the name of how people are titled according to where they live. My student asked me about the word "Floridian". Do we use it? In a heated debate, she was told we just say "people in Florida." Yes, true, but I have used the word. St. Louis used to have a Floridian restaurant and I call obnoxious colors like sea foam green and the pink on pink flamingoes "Floridian". She then asked why we add "N" to most states (think Texan, St. Louisan, Iowan, get the point) but say "New Yorker". I guessed that states ending with vowels, which most do for some reason, add "N". But those like Massachusetts don't add "ER". Then I guessed that stops (p, b, t, d, k, g) add ER.  But then she asked about Vermont. Vermontian? I inquired on Google and sure enough, someone else asked whether they are called Vermontians or Vermonters. The answers were "tree huggers" or "hippies". The consensus on the Internet was Vermontians but this is WRONG! According to the government official denonym on Wikipedia, they are VERMONTERS! I WIN! Ha! My theory was right. Rhode Islanders also end in a stop and thereby are ERS!

If I ever am mistaken on my linguistic theories, please correct me... as long as you're nice about it. Or I'll call you something that ends in an ER and you won't like it.