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Teaching Tips 62

Getting a perspective
Burns Night
Listening in

Getting a perspective
Question mark

Some students would like to sound like native speakers & I'm sure we all know some learners like this. And it would be lovely if all of our students could sound like native speaker but unfortunately for the majority this is hardly a reasonable expectation. So a degree of awareness on what level is required of individual levels can help to put this area into perspective. At the beginning of a course, or when beginning on a pronunciation strand, a discussion about this can be useful.

The following questions are designed to help you to think about the level of intelligibility you could aim for with your pronunciation.

1. Does it bother you if your pronunciation isn't very good? Would you prefer it to be better?

2. Would you like to retain your accent when speaking English?

3. Who will you be using English with in the future - native speakers of English or non-native speakers of English? Which might be the more tolerant conversation partner?

4. What kind of target situations might you be using your English in? E.g. on the phone, face-to-face business meetings, social eating & drinking?What different levels of pronunciation proficiency might be required in these different situations?

5. To what level do you want to get to with your pronunciation?

6. How could you develop your pronunciation outside of class?

Exposure to English is obviously very important for pronunciation development &, very probably, your students will be dealing with non-native speakers of English in English so it would seem sensible to use different non-native models in listenings in class. That's not to say we should discard the native model as it does give a catch-all level to aim for. A combination of the two would seem sensible.

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Burns Night
Robert Burns

In the eighteenth century, the French philosopher Voltaire said 'We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.' Round about now, those that still agree with him, & others, across the globe will be celebrating Scotland's most famous poet, Robert Burns, with Burns Night, a meal that includes eating traditional Scottish food - the haggis, drinking whisky & reading aloud some of Burns' poetry.

Among Burns' more famous poems are Tam O'Shanter, A Man's a man for a' that, O' My Luve is like a red, red rose, Holy Willie's Prayer, To a Mouse & Address to a Haggis. He also wrote Auld Lang Syne.So this is the perfect excuse to look at Scotland as a theme, focus on Burns & look at some poetry at the same time. This would ideally span a couple of  lessons at least; the first part being an introduction to Scotland - the geography, history & culture & the second about Burns & a poem.

There are some links to sites about Scotland & Burns at the end of the Tip where you can find plenty of material. If you do use material from a web site, don't forget to give full credit by writing on the address of where it originally came from.

We are going to focus on one of Burns' poems, 'John Barleycorn, a drinking ballad. Below is the original poem together with the modern english translation. A lot of people, students included, tend to be confused when presented with a poem, with barriers immediately going up as they feel they won't understand it. This poem does contain quite a bit of unknown vocabulary so a friendly approach is needed, explaining that the aim is not to understand everything but to get the general idea. It could be used at upper intermediate level but more comfortably with advanced students. Here are a few ideas for this poem that could be used with poetry in general..

  • after introducing Burns & looking at one of Scotland's greatest exports, whisky, introduce 'barleycorn' & elicit the process in the growing & harvesting. (This poem would obviously fit nicely into the theme of drink & alcohol, without going into Scotland...)
  • then tell the students the story that is in the poem - preview it - before giving them the poem to read.
  • the poem could be slightly mixed up & the task being to re-order it. You could give the beginning, middle & end two verses for each part with the task to insert the remaining nine verses, or however many you think they could cope with.
  • or ask the students to read the poem fairly quickly, not bothering with any vocab they don't know. They should be able to get the idea from the key words. Then on to a comprehension task - if needed?
  • the students could now put the poem into prose form - they write out the story in paragraph format.
  • there are some excellent Graham Higgins illustrations to the poem.
    He has used an abbreviated & more modern version of the poem. Before they read you could give out the pictures, go through the vocabulary above each picture, & ask the students to put the pictures in a chronological order. After reading, the students could return to the pictures, see if their order matched & then get them to find where the pictures fit into the poem.
    The illustrations are taken, with permission, from:
    http://www.pokkettz.demon.co.uk/barleycorn/about.html
    Click on the links in the poem for each illustration. You might want to use the version of the poem on that page instead of the one below.
  • the poem humanises 'barley' - the students could go on to choose something else to write about in a similar vein - or you could give the objects.
  • at the end it would be interesting for the students to see the original poem & compare it with the modern translation.
John Barleycorn
A Ballad

Burns Original
 

Standard English Translation
     
There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
  There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they have sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
     
They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
  They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they have sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
     
But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show'rs began to fall;
John barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris'd them all.
  But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And showers began to fall;
John barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.
     
The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong:
His head weel arm'd wi' pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.
  The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong:
His head well armed with pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.
     
The sober Autumn enter'd mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show'd he began to fail.
  The sober Autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.
     
His colour sicken'd more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
  His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
     
They've taen a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then ty'd him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
  They have taken a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgery.
     
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell'd him full sore.
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn'd him o'er and o'er.
  They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgeled him full sore.
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him over and over.
     
They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heaved in John Barleycorn --
There, let him sink of swim!
  They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heaved in John Barleycorn -
There, let him sink of swim!
     
They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him further woe;
And still, as signs of life appear'd,
They toss'd him to and fro.
  They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him further woe;
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They toss'd him to and fro.
     
They wasted o'er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us'd him worst of all,
For he crush'd him between two stones.
  They wasted over a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him between two stones.
     
And they hae taen his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
  And they have taken his very heart's blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
     
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
'Twill make your courage rise.
  John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
It will make your courage rise.
     
'Twill make a man forget his woes;
'Twill heighten all his joy:
'Twill make the widow's heart to sing,
Tho' the tear were in her eye.
  It will make a man forget his woes;
It will heighten all his joy:
It will make the widow's heart to sing,
Though the tear were in her eye.
     
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne'er fail in old Scotland!
  Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne'er fail in old Scotland!

A few links to Burns & Scotland among many:

'The Bard - the complete guide'

The Official Burns site

The Beginners Guide to Robert Burns from the World Burns Club

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Listening in
Listening in

The Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 22nd & there is a lesson plan on the site

If you've been teaching for a few years, has your approach to the writing skill changed? When I first started, writing was usually just given as a homework task to consolidate what was done in the classroom & not really dealt with as a skill. With the advent of ideas on the processes of writing, the skill came to be taken more seriously & sub-skills were looked at. Product writing become combined with process writing. As an extension of process writing here is an idea, source unknown I'm afraid, that really lets you into the students thoughts on their writing.

It is sometimes called 'protocol analysis' & lets you listen into the processes that the student goes through.

1. Choose a writing task & ask your students to carry it out as you usually might.

2. In the meantime, you also do the task but as you do it, tape your thoughts as you go along - ideas about the content & the structure of the writing. As you rewrite, keep doing the same.

3. When the students have done their writing task, play them the tape of your thoughts & see if they had any similarities. Show them your drafts & listen to your ideas. Ask them to reflect on the processes they went through & how the final draft could be improved in the light of your tape.

4. The next time you assign a writing task ask the students to do the same - tape themselves as they do the task in each of its stages.

5. When you come to assess the writing task, listen to the tape as well, taking the processes into account. Maybe start by ignoring the product & only listen to the tape & help them out where you think they became stuck or give ideas on stages that might have been missed out. You could give each student taped feedback too.

This use of taped thought processes can really help with the writing skill. It does require more of your time & might be more appropriate for the smaller group & one-to-one class. Give it a try & see how it works.

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