Sunday, December 29, 2013

Kings and Queens of Britain by Tim Vicary

            A co-worker noticed this book on my desk.  “Are you actually doing Kings and Queens of Britain?” he asked incredulously. 
            “I’ve got a young learners class that I really hate,” I answered.
            This produced the laugh I was hoping for.  “Okay, okay,” he said as he walked away laughing.  “I’ll let that go, because that’s the only reason why you should ever do a book like that in class.”

            Actually I don’t hate my students.  On the contrary, I was really fascinated by history as an adolescent, so I figure the same has to be true of at least a few of the students in my classes, right?  And if there going to be doing a lot of extensive reading in my classes anyway, why not try and improve their general knowledge at the same time?

            The book is written at an easy level in terms of grammar and vocabulary.
            And each chapter is very short (I’m estimating 250-300 words) so it’s very easy to sneak in a short history reading at the beginning of each class before we turn to another story.
            Nevertheless, for Cambodian students without any background in British or European history, they got very confused very easily.  How to explain King Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church and the Pope when my students have no idea what any of that is?  (This book was probably designed more for European ESL students who might have a better idea of who the Pope is.)
            But I think to a certain extent, when you learn history some confusion is inevitable.  As a child, we don’t learn history cleanly and chronologically—we start out with a fuzzy picture of history that we learn from old movies, bad historical novels, and general lies and oversimplifications.  Then, with each new book we read, we gradually develop a cleaner and clearer view of history.  (Not that this book contained lies, but just to say we all go through a process of confusion when learning history initially as children.)  

            At least that’s how I justify to myself using this book.

Teaching Materials
[This book contained a glossary at the back for words that might be problematic for students.  On the first day, I had the class read through the glossary, then on subsequent days I made matching exercises for the words in the glossary.  I know this is all terribly boring and uncreative, but my theory was something was better than nothing when it came to the vocabulary.]

baby,  began, bridge, burn, church, daughter, divorce, emperor, fight, great

________when people hit and try to kill each other
_______people go here to talk and listen to God
_______ past tense of "to begin"
_______ a very small young child
________ a girl child
________a king of many countries
________very good and very important
________ to make something very very hot
________ this carries a road over a river
_________when a husband and wife do this, they are not married any more

kept, kill, knew. marry, met, Parliament, prison, son, speak, spoke

______a place to keep bad people
_______when a man and a woman do this, he is her husband, and she is his wife
_______to make somebody die
_______to talk to people
______ past tense of "to know"
______ past tense of "to speak"
_______an important building in the middle of London; the people who say what must happen in a country work here
______ past tense of :"to meet"
______ a boy child
_______past tense of "to keep"
stood, strong, took, world, wrote

_________where we all live
________past tense of "to write"
_________ these people can carry big things easily. They often fight well
__________ past tense of "to take"
__________ past tense of "to stand"

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky Replies on: (Bill Maher & Anderson Cooper on Islam, May 2010, CNN)

Also from the Phnom Penh Post: garment workers swelled turnout at the opposition’s ongoing demonstrations yesterday to what some estimated to be double the number seen at any previous rally
and the Cambodia Daily: Protesters Unite Around Demand For Hun Sen’s Resignation
(I got somewhat caught up in this march when I was walking home from the gym, and encountered the main road was just overflowing with marchers.  Whether or not they'll succeed in anything remains to be seen, but it was certainly a very impressive mass of people.)

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