Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grammar Rules!

I make no qualms to hide the fact that I think English grammar is really interesting, and I think my enthusiasm for it comes across in my teaching. (In fact, I'm the grammar teacher for my level at work... that is, I teach grammar to my own class in addition to two other classes).

Before I taught in Korea, and even after teaching there, I had no idea how to explain anything in regards to grammar. I had no idea about verb tenses, parts of speech, or any formal terms to explain the process and the practice of grammar. After I completed my TESL certification at the U of S, however, I realized halfway through my grammar and phonology class that I am actually one of those people who really get enthused about the underlying structures of the language.

I think that anyone who has struggled with learning a second language has probably sat through innumerable grammar classes with a teacher droning on about irregular verbs or some kind of impossible tense, but I take a different approach. I present the grammar structure we're studying, and have them take notes (so they can also practice their listening/note-taking skills), then I make them explain to each other (in partners) the concept I just taught them. I will then usually do a quick drill or worksheet to reinforce the concept before doing a class activity (role-play, discussion, game, etc) that requires more thought and creativity with the grammatical structure than a simple drill or worksheet.

When I first started teaching at my university, I had very little experience teaching grammar and not a lot of knowledge as to how to teach it. However, my amazing co-worker John, (also a former ESL teacher in Korea), created a handout for a presentation he did at a conference a while back which clearly explains all the verb tenses. Check it out here! (It won't make you tense, I promise).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Manic Music Monday (2)

Today, I want to introduce you to one of my favourite groups of all time, the Senegalese Orchestra Baobab. Heavily influenced by Cuban rhythms, they began in the 1970s, only to break up in the 80s and then reunite in 2001. Turn it up!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Continuation of "How To's"

It is clear from my Internet surfing for the past hour (hours...?) that I am indeed procrastinating. I seem to have a case of multi-procrastinationitis, really, which is two or more times more inefficient than just single-task procrastination. It's like multi-tasking, only the opposite, because you can get twice as little done in just as much time.

Anyway, I've started a new term at the University of the Coldest Place on Earth, and as a general topic for a speaking presentation this term, I was thinking about giving them a "how to" presentation, whereby they have to instruct the rest of the class how to do something.

I'm not too picky. I though they could easily be able to do something like this.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Swear in Englishee

"Little children and pregnant women should not watch."

I love the objective of this video. He is teaching Koreans how to swear in English, not because he wants them to swear, but so they can understand what the foreigners (insert scary Jaws music here) say when they are swearing at Koreans. Personally, I think he should have included a bit more of an opportunity for role-playing to practice the new vocabulary in an appropriate context. Also, pronunciation needs to be stressed, so that "fuck" doesn't end up sounding like necessary equipment for a hockey game.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Best Album of 2010 (no, it's most definitely not KPop!)

My favorite album of 2010 has to be The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae, a killer performer who is able to layer about a million different things together and make it all sound really, really good. The album is narrated from the perspective of Monae's alter-ego, Cindy Mayweather, a messiah-like robot (it's a "conceptual thing," but don't ask me anything about it because whenever I try to explain it in person, it succeeds in doing nothing more than garnering a few raised eyebrows). Just listen. Check out the single Tightrope here, which features Big Boi of Outkast.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Getting my husband to the dentist is like pulling teeth

Well, the husband and I are reconsidering our plans to relocate, for a few worthy reasons. One, North Korea is crazy and causes us to fret. The fact that they have missiles pointing at the South and have already shot at a few civilians have made us a little more thoughtful than we usually are. But that would not stop us from going there still, unless, of course, there were actually a war about to happen, and I don't think the war is about to break out again. (Public opinion in Korea always has to be taken with a grain of salt, and even though South Koreans are more fired up than usual about the latest attack, things could still die down...). I don't know numbers or stats or anything, but I figure that the most likely cause of death we might suffer in Korea would be not from the North but from a drunken ajosshi barreling down on us in his Hyundai as we attempted to jaywalk across an intersection.

So, despite the fact that there is the possibility of war, this in and of itself is not necessarily the biggest deterrent.

What is, however, the biggest obstacle to our eventual dreams of being able to eat at "Kimpap Changuk" for each and every single meal is not Juche ideology but the fact that Matt has ridiculous, bred-in-the-British-Isles teeth. His dentist told him several years ago that he'd eventually have to get his wisdom teeth removed or else they would cause indescribable pain and torment for the rest of his life. Well, when "eventually" is a word that can be interpreted according to the will and the desires of those who are in the position of needing a significant amount of dental surgery, it becomes interminable.

A little background.... I have an amazing job (most of the time) teaching English at a university here in Canada. As a result, I, (along with the rest of my family) get thoughtful health and dental benefits. One of the perks is a dental cleaning and check-up once a year. Well, as the summer transformed into autumn, I felt it my duty to persistently remind Matt of the fact that he had not yet taken advantage of the dental cleaning/check-up for 2010. As the autumn days shortened with snowfall, I increased my reminders, which began to be accompanied by stares of reproach and phrases such as: "As a responsible adult, you have the responsibility to be responsible for your own health." No. Still no luck. December and my patience were both running out.

Finally, I broke, and called the dentist's office myself a week or so before Xmas (something I had promised myself I wouldn't do, because Matt had to be "responsible" for himself). No, I was informed, there were no openings until the New Year - no good because my insurance covers one check-up a year. Matt gloated. I fumed. How could he do this to me? To us? Our family? He had to be responsible! Dammit! Determined that he would be in the dentist's chair before the year was out, I put his name on the waiting list. Then I called about six other dentists' offices and had his name put on waiting lists, as well. Then, I waited.

Well, lo and behold, my tenacity was rewarded. In only a few short days, he had an appointment booked with the dentist. He went, begrudgingly, only to come home with the news that "eventually" was no longer eventual, but now meant "get your ass to that X-ray now because if you don't get your wisdom teeth taken out ASAP, the rest of your life will not be worth living."

So I finally understood the full extent of Matt's skillful avoidance of dentists (I mean, I understood the part about his trauma as a preteen when his embittered and distracted dentist administered an insufficient amount of anaesthetic as he discussed his divorce with his assistant); if Matt doesn't know about the full nature of the problem, then he can go on living like everything is flowers and crap like that. No... dental surgery is in his near future.

So, it might be a year or more until he goes under because of Canadian-style waiting lists for surgeries and the like. We'll have to wait and see.