Though I am still mostly teaching online, I feel that with the end of the pandemic I need to overhaul my blog. Maybe even choose a new theme. Especially Viral Times and Useful Lesson Links read like diaries of the last three years. I don’t want to delete anything, I am glad I have this document of the past three years. But now, 2023, I feel I need to change things.
I will try to restructure those parts and topics that can be used as lesson plans, reduce the number of categories and try to make this whole thing more useful – not just for myself. It has become too crammed and needs to be made more practical
The topic of schools, schooling, and education is one that frequently comes up. The reason is simple: education is of the utmost importance and many agree that our school systems do not provide a positive environment for learning. The whole structure is unnatural and forces kids and adults (the teachers) into a strait jacket that might fit some, but most it doesn’t.
There have been many educators who tried to fight for better educational concepts, better schools, for approaches to education that consider the psychological nature of humans and cater to our minds and nurture our brain’s fascinating capability to figure things out, to recognize patterns, to be curious about our surroundings – and enjoy the whole process.
Being nice and treating each other with respect does not mean only saying what others want to hear. Harmony and cooperation is created by honest communication.
This post is about constructive feedback, and how important honest exchange is in every aspect of our lives. Avoiding open disagreement, hiding things away or pretending to be on the same emotional and intellectual plane when you are not, causes tensions and hurtful feelings; the opposite of what we actually intend.
In the short video below, the speaker, Bo Seo, argues that openly disagreeing with each other instead of pretending to be on the same level leads to richer human relationships.
This topic can be supplemented by pages from the chapter on candor in the book about Netflix’s company culture: No Rules Rules (summary of the book’s main points under link).
The word(s) of the year, sometimes capitalized as “Word(s) of the Year” and abbreviated “WOTY” (or “WotY“), refers to any of various assessments as to the most important word(s) or expression(s) in the public sphere during a specific year from: Wikipedia)
The pages below are from Louise Penny’s Gamache series book 16. It plays in Paris, France. The exerpt is an exchange between the wife of the main protagonist Chief Inspector Gamache from the Canadian Sureté, herself a retired librarian who worked in top position at Québec’s Bibliothèque et Archives nationales, and the Chief Archivist of the Archives Nationales in Paris.
The page below is from a very recently published novel. The author has written a large number of highly successful stories, many of which have been adapted to movies. He likes experimenting with different genres from science fiction, magic realism, fantasy, crime and suspense, to name just a few. His books often relate to current topics of social or political relevance, and frequently, though not always, include supernatural elements or twists. All stories evolve around human relations and conflicts. His strength lies in creating atmoshere and drawing the reader into the story – you feel you are there. He creates complex characters and a vivid sense and atmosphere of the locations or places where events unfold.
The English verb system in its basic structure is very regular and fairly free of inflection. It does not consist of 12 to 17 tenses as some sources claim. It is a combinatorial system whose building blocks are: two simple forms (traditionally called ‘simple present’ and ‘simple past’), two auxiliaries (BE and HAVE) and two participles (verb + ing, commonly called ‘present participle, and ‘past participle’). Together they can be combined to form various structures of different semantic complexity. This I demonstrate with the Verb Structure Circle.
In one of my classes, a participant showed us one of these traditional, never going to go away lists of verb structure combinations sold to students of English as ‘all the tenses of English’. Daunting. I have written about this in more detail on my page ‘The English Verb Structure Circle’.
The internet is full of pages that list these structures. (Some) English course books and grammar reference books present these kinds of lists too. I find them little helpful as they lack insight into the regularity of the English verb structure system. Besides the two ‘simple’ forms, they are lists of all possible combinations of the auxiliaries BE and HAVE plus participles, and modal auxiliaries plus participles. The two modes (factuality and modality) are not clearly differentiated from each other. Instead, constructions with WILL, for instance, are singled out and named as future tense of English.
The article and quiz ‘Are you an extrovert or an introvert (and why it matters) (link below) is related to a TEDtalk from 2012 by Susan Cain; Quiet: The Power of Introverts. This issue has forcefully come up again during corona times in connection with how people feel about having to work alone from home.
In relation to this, the BBC article Why introverts excelled at working from home deals with the question what kind of personality types are supported by which kind of work. Or in other words: do ‘traditional’ office jobs favor louder, more visible and extroverted people at the expense of introverts – whose time has now come?
Sporcle.com is a page that provides a huge collection of quizzes of all kinds. For my classes I like using those where language has to be linked to imagery. There are some very creative ideas on this site waiting to be discovered. You can add them to a class at the end when some time left or at the beginning as an introduction or supplement to a topic.
Sometimes, when you start with a sporcle quiz it can also evolve into a full swing lesson. This happened in one of my classes when we played a geography quiz where you had to identify all 50 states of the USA. For one, it took much longer than expected, and then we ended up talking a lot about the single states, researching them on the internet. For something like this to happen, though, it is important to change the setting “timer” to “stopwatch”.
There have been a lot of discussions, books and articles about a change in attitude especially among younger generations towards the role of work and careers. They are, assumably, not as willing anymore to slog away their days in questionable loyalty to some company or institution, no matter what.
Guess which ‘classic’ the following text passage is from.
The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village. It stood on its own and looked out over a broad spread of West Country farmland. Not a remarkable house by any means – it was about thirty years old, squattish, squarish, made of brick, and had four windows set in the front of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye. The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived in. He had lived in it for about three years, ever since he had moved out of London because it made him nervous and irritable. He was about thirty as well, tall, dark haired and never quite at ease with himself. The thing that used to worry him most was the fact that people always used to ask him what he was looking so worried about. He worked in local radio, which he always used to tell his friends was a lot more interesting than they probably thought. It was, too – most of his friends worked in advertising.
On Wednesday night it had rained very heavily, the lane was wet and muddy, but the Thursday morning sun was bright and clear as it shone on Arthur Dent’s house for what was to be that last time. It hadn’t properly registered yet with Arthur that the council wanted to knock it down and build a bypass instead. At eight o’clock on Thursday morning Arthur didn’t feel very good. He woke up blearily, got up, wandered blearily round his room, opened a window, saw a bulldozer, found his slippers, and stomped off to the bathroom to wash. Toothpaste on the brush – so. Scrub. Shaving mirror – pointing at the ceiling. He adjusted it. For a moment it reflected a second bulldozer through the bathroom window. Properly adjusted, it reflected Arthur Dent’s bristles. He shaved them off, washed, dried, and stomped off to the kitchen to find something pleasant to put in his mouth. Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn. The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search of something to connect with. The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one. He stared at it. ‘Yellow,’ he thought and stomped off back to his bedroom to get dressed. Passing the bathroom he stopped to drink a large glass of water, and another. He began to suspect that he was hung over. Why was he hung over? Had he been drinking the night before? He supposed that he must have been. He caught a glint in the shaving mirror. ‘Yellow,’ he thought and stomped on to the bedroom.
Then find examples for ‘past perfect’ and ‘used to’. Describe their use. What is the prevalent form most verbs are in in this passage?
Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: 42nd Anniversary Edition (S.3-4). Pan Macmillan. Kindle-Version.
During the pandemic, the topics of work-life balance, healthy work environments, satisfying work etc. came even more into focus than they had before. Work environments underwent dramatic changes in various lockdown situations. Whereas in many jobs or professions, employees and workers had no choice as to continue going to their respective work places, others, especially office workers, experienced working from home as a new normal.
Towards the end of the pandemic or the emergency situations, discussions intensified about how people wanted to work in future: which changes induced by the pandemic situation would they like to keep, where would they like to go back to how things were before – if at all – and what was truly missed.
Major mistakes are mistakes that matter. Where what you say (wrongly) can really lead to a misunderstanding (worst case), violates the basic structural regularity of the language, or is simply not the correct form to use or right thing to say because it has a different meaning from the one intended.
Analysing and discussing these mistakes can help understand the semantics of grammatical forms, especially verb structures. In the case of vocabulary, it can help improve your active use of words and phrases (and I find talking about words and their meanings enjoyable, but that might just be me).