Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Vlog: The Trojan War

The Trojan War Part 2 (Vlog)

The Trojan War Part 3 (Vlog)

As the Trojan War was an obsession of my adolescence, it took place before the days of blogging.  Nevertheless, I have occasionally referred to it on this blog:

Talking about the “The Trojan War” By Olivia Coolidge on my list of books that changed my life:

Talking about my expectations for the movie Troy before it came out:

Talking about the movie Troy after I saw it:

High school essay I wrote on the Trojan War:

My review of Ilium by Dan Simmons (a take-off on the Trojan War Story):

My review of Olympus (sequel to Ilium):

My defense of the Iliad (recounting comments that I left on someone else's blog):

Vlog Playlist HERE:

TEFL Interviews 45: Ema Ushioda on Motivation

(TEFLology Podcast)

Friday, September 21, 2018

"decided" versus "have decided"

(Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer)

With apologies, this is another question that I think I came to an answer on the end.  But I thought I'd through it out to the Internet for a second opinion.
After class, a student of mine came to me with a question he got from his grammar exercises in high school.  (I'm currently teaching in Vietnam, so this was part of what he was studying in Vietnamese high school.)

The text read:
I have changed my address and I live in Corydon now.  I ________ that I wanted a change from Central London because it was so expensive.
In the blank, the student had to choose between "decided" and "have decided".  He chose "decided" but his teacher (also Vietnamese) had marked it wrong and wrote "have decided".

"have decided" made a certain amount of sense to me based on the grammar rules.  The present perfect is used for past actions with present results.  The decision took place in the past, but the present result is that he is living in Corydon now instead of London.
And yet, my native speaker intuition was telling me that "decided" just sounded better.
I thought about it for a while, and decided that in this case, the result was not the focus of the second sentence.  Rather, the second sentence was focusing on the reason for the decision, not the result of it.  The result was in the previous sentence.
So, "decided" was indeed the correct answer.

But let me throw it out to the Internet for a second opinion.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Many companies also use his images in their advertisements

(Grammar Questions I Couldn't Answer)

Actually this is a question I did answer in the end.  Although I had to look it up.  I'm posting it here in case it's of interest to anyone else.  Or in case anyone else can give me some more insight.

In class the other day we were looking at the transcript from doing the lesson 7A X-Ray Photographer p.82-83 from Life Pre-Intermediate TextbookThe following sentence appeared:

"You can see his photos in galleries all over the world and many companies also use his images in their advertisements."

A student raised her hand.  "You told us before that we only use 'many' in negative sentences and questions," she said.  "So why is it in an affirmative sentence here?"

Indeed, I had taught the class this before.  But I had been prompted by the textbook, and my first instinct was to say, "Oh, that's just a rule in the textbook.  In real life, people use 'many' in affirmative sentences all the time."
But instead of telling her this, I told her I would look it up.
So I consulted Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, which stated:
In an informal style, we use many and much mostly in questions and negative clauses.  In most affirmative clauses they are unusual. ...  In a formal style, much and many are more common in affirmative clauses.  Much has been written about unemployment. In the opinion of many economists...(Swan p.332)
I came back and told the student that because the listening transcript was in the style of a report, it was more formal.  And that is why "many" was used in the affirmative sentence.
But let me throw it out to the Internet for comment.  How does that sound to everyone else?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Finished: Teaching Unplugged by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury  (Review coming soon... hopefully)

Aesop's Fables: Story Time ESL Listening

(TESOL Worksheets--Story TimeListeningReadingExtensive ReadingComprehensible Input)

So, when I started working on The Grimm Brother's Fairy Tales ESL Listening, I was thinking in the back of my mind that once I got a certain number of Grimm Brother's Fairy Tales done, I would start branching off into other areas: Hans Christian Anderson, Arabian Nights, Greek Myths, and probably Aesop's Fables.
But I've decided to start with Aesop's Fables sooner rather than later.  The reason is that I'm having trouble keeping up with this project. 
I had wanted to give my students one new story a week, but that deadline is proving hard for me to meet.
Part of the problem is that a lot of these Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales are pretty long.
So, I've decided I wanted to alternate Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales with Aesop's Fables.  Because Aesop's Fables are super short.  (My childhood memories of Aesop's Fables is of the stories being longer.  But I think that's because a lot of children's books expand the fables in order to create more of a story around them.  But if you go back to the originals, most Aesop Fable's are only about a paragraph long.)
So, from now on, I'm going to try alternating my Story Time Project between Aesop's Fables and the Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz

(Book Review)

Started: July 23, 2018
Finished: September 14, 2018

This is the 3rd book in the Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz.  For the first 2 books, see my review of Palace Walk and Palace of Desires.
Now that I'm at the 3rd book, I'm not going to waste any time re-explaining what this trilogy is and what it's about.  (See my previous 2 book reviews for that.)  I'm just going to jump right into the story.
And, because it's hard not to comment on the story without spoiling it, there will be plenty of spoilers.

The Review (*SPOILERS*)
This is the most depressing, and also the most interesting, book in the trilogy.

It's depressing because Naguib Mahfouz really hammers in his point about how time destroys everything.  He is not subtle about this at all.  He just hits the reader on the head over and over and over again with this theme.

In certain literary circles, subtlety is thought to be a virtue.  And if you're of that mindset, Mahfouz's explicitness about his themes is going to be irritating.
But perhaps these things go in and out of style?  In the Arab world in the 1950s, was the writing style more explicit?  I don't know.

Anyway, be prepared for a lot of long descriptions about how miserable aging has made most of the main characters.
Mahfouz really has a depressing view of aging.  His characters start to have problems at 50, and are dying by 65. It can be a bit of a drag to read this book, and think, "Is this what the next 30 years have in store for me? Boy, life really sucks!"
Personally, however, I'm inclined, to reject Mahfouz's extreme pessimism about aging.  The older people I know have continued to be happy and productive into old age.  (Or take Donald Trump.  For all his many many faults, he does seem to be proof that one's ability to be active and participate in society is not over by age 70). 
...I don't know.  Check back on this blog in another 20 or 30 years to see how life is treating me, I guess.

Not all of Mahfouz's characters are destroyed by aging.  Some of them have also been destroyed by tragedy.  Aisha, who was so happy and carefree child at the beginning of this trilogy, has been so completely destroyed by tragedy (the deaths of her husband and children) that she is just a ghost of herself by the end.  She is still technically alive (she still eats and smokes and drinks coffee), but she has completely given up on life.
And there are a lot of characters like this--characters who were once happy at the beginning of the trilogy, but whose fortune has been reversed.  A rich family who lost all their money.  A once respectable girl who ends up working at a disreputable bar.
It's a reminder, I suppose, that although our present happiness always has the illusion of permanency, life is inherently unstable.  Everything we love could be gone tomorrow.

(...did I mention this book was depressing to read?)

But, for all that depressing stuff, this book is also the most interesting in the trilogy.  A lot of things finally happen in this book.
On a societal level, changes in Egyptian society, that have been slowly brewing for the past couple decades, are now finally beginning to happen.
In the first two books, the second generation mildly pushed back against the traditions of their parents.  But in this last book, the grandchildren have full out embraced radical politics.
And on a character level, a lot of the plot points that were set up in the first two books are now finally beginning to pay off.  I used to be confused about what the point of certain characters was, but now that I've read the whole trilogy, I can see what everyone's arc was.

And it is for that second reason that I recommend this book.  And this trilogy. It's a fascinating look on the changes in Egyptian society.  I'll comment on a few of the themes that struck me, and some other odd details, down below.

Conversations With Egyptians
I've had the opportunity to talk to a two different Egyptian friends about these books on two different occasions, so I'll just jot down a few notes here about what they told me.
Both of them told me that these books are tremendously famous in Egypt.  And that Naguib Mahfouz is looked upon as a national treasure.

I was a bit confused, because these books present an image of Egypt getting gradually more liberal over time.  But isn't Egypt well-known nowadays for being a conservative Islamic country?
They both confirmed to me that there had been a period of liberalization, but now the pendulum has indeed swing back the other way. 
"Well, then, how are Naguib Mahfouz's books regarded now?"  I asked.  "Since Naguib Mahfouz shows the gradual introduction of Western ideas into Egypt (like Darwinism and Marxism) and the gradual lessening of the patriarchal power, wouldn't these books be out of favor in a conservative Islamic Egypt?"

(...although, re-thinking it now, I may have exaggerated the liberalism of these books.  The end of the trilogy has shown some changes in Egyptian society, but it's still firmly a traditional Muslim country.  But I got the sense that Mahfouz's sympathy was with the characters who were pushing the intellectual boundaries--the transformation of Kamal into a humanist philosopher in the second book, and the transformation of Kamal's nephew Ahmed into a Marxist revolutionary in the third book--but perhaps that was just me reading in my own sympathies.)

Anyway, both of them confirmed that inspite the changing intellectual climate, Mahfouz is still as popular as ever.
One of them told me that everyone loved Naguib Mahfouz because he is the only Egyptian author who has gotten any sort of broader international recognition.  "In Egypt, the people who read novels tend to be more open minded," he said.  "So the people who actual read Mahfouz's novels aren't offended by it, because they are open minded.  And the people who don't read still love Naguib Mahfouz because he has brought prestige to Egypt.  And because they don't read, they've never discovered what is in his books, so there's no chance of them getting offended."

All of this brings me to my next topic, which is...
Changes in Egyptian Society and the Expansion of Intellectual Boundaries
This book continues the theme of the trilogy which is that every generation pushes the boundaries of progress out a little bit more.
In the first book, the eldest son Fahmy became involved in the Egyptian nationalist revolution against the English. (And he became a martyr to that movement).  In the second book, the youngest son Kamal loses his religious faith and becomes a secular humanist.
By this 3rd book, the nephews of Fahmy and Kamal have fully embraced radical politics. One of them gets involved in the Muslim Brotherhood, the other one joins the communists.  (I suspect it's intentional symbolism that neither Fahmy nor Kamal have any physical offspring.  Fahmy died young, and Kamal remained a bachelor.  But in their nephews, they have intellectual offspring.)

Like most people, I first heard of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2012 Egyptian revolution.  I had no idea they went back all the way to the 1930s.  But it turns out they do.  (See their Wikipedia Page.  Also one of my Egyptian friends confirmed this to me in conversation--although they only recently got political power, the Muslim Brotherhood have been around for a long time).

I do have one minor complaint, however....
In my original review of Palace Walk, I mentioned that Naguib Mahfouz had a talent for writing realistic 3-dimensional characters, with the exception of Fahmy's political radicalism, which seemed to me more contrived than realistic.
It's true that young people are often attracted to radical politics, but they do not become one note political zealots.  They also have complex emotional needs and insecurities which interact with their political development in all sorts of ways.
The two brothers in Sugar Street are in danger of becoming one-note characters.  One is always talking about Muslim purity, one is always talking about the poor people.
It's also maybe just a bit too contrived to have them be brothers in the same house-hold.  On the one hand, I see what Naguib Mahfouz is going for, and there is some interesting parallelism going on with their different trajectories.  (Each brother chooses a completely different path, but they both end up in the exact same place at the end of the novel.)  But it's also a little bit too cute.  In the first half of the book especially, I had trouble taking them seriously as characters.  They seemed more like plot devices than characters.
They do, however, get more depth as the book continues, so by the time we got to the end of the book, I felt like they had been a bit more fleshed out into full characters.
Both brothers do get a bit more humanized when they encounter romantic obstacles. And, interestingly enough, both end up falling in love in ways which is challenging to their respective ideology.  The Muslim brother falls in love with a girl who he regards as a sexual temptation.  The Communist brother falls in love with a girl who is looking for a rich husband.)

That complaint aside, I like a lot of other things about this plot.
I like the interaction between the nephews and their uncle Kamal.  Kamal had been the radical intellectual in the previous book, but now he's finding himself outflanked by his nephews.

It's also interesting to see that the radicalism of the first novel (the Egyptian nationalist revolution) has now become regarded as conservative by the younger generation:

Ahmed, the communist nephew, says at one point: "It's not unlikely that in the future we'll come to regard martyrs of the nationalist movement as we now do victims of foolish battles between tribes and clans."
At which point his Uncle Kamal reacts by thinking "Foolish battles! You fool!" Kamal thought. "Fahmy did not die in a foolish battle. But how can you be certain?" (p.30-31)

By the end of the novel, both brothers are in jail.
The family members had suspected all along that the godless communist would end up in trouble, but it's a surprise that the brother obsessed with Muslim purity also ends up in jail.
When Kamal relates the news to his friend, his friend asks: "The one who worships God and the one who doesn't?"
Kamal answers "You must worship the government first and foremost if you wish your life to be free of problems." (p.328)
So true!

The interrogating police officer, it turns out, was a friend of Fahmy's 30 years ago.  (This was actually set up back in the first book.  Fahmy did have a police officer friend who was a minor character in Palace Walk.)
The officer says: "Your lamented uncle Fahmy was a dear friend of mine.  I assume you know that he died in the spring of his life and that those of his comrades who survived now hold some of the most important [government] posts."
The police officer means this as an admonishment for the young people to respect the government their martyred uncle helped to create.  But the communist nephew Ahmad sees it instead as a call to perpetual revolution, and replies, "Allow me to ask you, sir, what condition Egypt would be in if my uncle and others like him had not sacrificed their lives." (p.320)

(Professor Grant Voth, in his analysis of this trilogy, says that Mahfouz is showing how individuals die, but society progresses.  Fahmy sacrifices his life to the nationalist revolution, but by doing so he helps create the conditions that allows his nephews to push society further.  In effect, Fahmy willed his remaining lifespan over to the next generation.)

Other Notes
* Some interesting historical details in here about life in Cairo during World War II.
I had vaguely known that there was a North Africa campaign during World War II, but I hadn't quite realized that the inhabitants of Cairo experienced bombing raids.
Naguib Mahfouz does a good job of showing how the War directly affected everyday life in Cairo.

* I suspect most readers of this book identify most with Kamal.  At least this was true of me.  (I'd be flattering myself if I called myself an "intellectual", but I am at least more inclined to books than to sports.  And I think in general the type of person who would read a trilogy like this is most likely to be the type of person who would identify with the bookish Kamal.)
So I was most invested in Kamal's progression.
There's a frustrating moment in the trilogy when Kamal is on the verge of finding love, but throws it away through hesitation and failure to act.  It's frustrating for the reader.  (You want to slap Kamal.)  But at the same time, I identified with it.  I have been there many times in my own past.
Kamal had spent the whole 2nd book in the trilogy obsessed with a girl he could not possess.  By this book, he is no longer in love with her.  But he's still fascinated with his past obsession as something that had taken on a life of its own independent of the actual girl.
The truth was that he no longer wanted Aida.  But he still wished to learn her secret, which might at least convince him that the best years of his life had not been wasted. (p.257)
This, I also felt, was something I could identify with.
At the end, we get somewhat of a conclusion to Kamal's progression.  He leaves the book with at least some sort of purpose in his life.
Kamal had long wondered what was true and what was false, but perhaps doubt was as much of an evasion of responsibility as mysticism or a passive belief in science.
"Could you be a model teacher, an exemplary husband, and a lifelong revolutionary?" he asked himself. (p.330)
But the book ends before we find out if Kamal succeeds in his new purpose.  Or if this is just one of the many phases he goes through.  (Kamal has gone through several phases before.)

Connections with Other Books I've Read
I don't know exactly what Naguib Mahfouz's politics are, but he's obviously done his research on Marxism.  (According to Wikipedia, he had some sympathies with socialist ideas).
He knows about the romance between Karl Marx and the aristocrat Jenny Von Wesphalen, and makes references to this.  (Something that I had also picked up from the biographies - of  - Karl Marx I read).  And he seems well-versed in socialist history, name dropping figures like Louis Blanc (who was prominent in the 1848 Revolution).

* Fellow blogger Blogging the Canon reviews this same book here.   His takeaway?
the genius of Mahfouz is that he makes his characters so familiar and so human that they transcend the foreignness of the culture and become instantly relate-able.  Whether we speak English or Arabic or German, we all have the same emotions, and we all grow old and have the same frustrations.  I highly recommend these books, they're some of the best I've read for this blog.  
* I mentioned this book briefly before in the vlogThe Books on My Shelf Part 3: The Books I Haven't Even Started.

Video Review
Video Review HERE and embedded below:

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky | How Come we Live in Open Society with a lot of Information and yet we Know so Little?
Started: Aesop's Fables
As with the Brother's Grimm, this is something I plan to be work through in conjunction with my Story Time ESL project.  But I'll write about that in a separate post.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Lady Mary's Child: The Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales Story Time ESL Listening

(TESOL Worksheets--The Brothers Grimm Fairy TalesStory Time ESL Listening)
Worksheet: drive, docs, pub
Video 1: HERE, Video 2: HERE, Quizlet: HERE

Lady Mary’s Child: Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale #3
Video slow speed:
Video normal speed:

Suggested Use:
Step 1: Look at the vocabulary. Check any words that you don’t know in your dictionary.
Step 2: Listen to the video. (Listen only.  Don’t look at the reading yet).
Step  3: Practice the vocabulary on Quizlet
Step 4: Watch the video again.  This time look at the reading. Read and listen at the same time.
Step 5: Practice the vocabulary on Quizlet again
Step 6: Listen one last time.  The last time, don’t look at the reading.

admit, afraid, alive, allow, alone, amazement, angel, apostle, area, autumn, baby, behind, beat, beautiful, beauty, believe, berry, birth, bit, burn, bush, cake, calm, care, castle, charming, Christian, circle, clothes, complete, continue, councillor, country, cover, crawl, crazy, creature, cry out, curiosity, cut down, daughter, dear, decide, deep, deep sleep, deer, defend, demand, dirty, disappear, discover, disobey, door, drink, during, Earth, eater, empty, enough, escape, explore, fall, fall in love, fall into a deep sleep, fast, fear, feed, feel, follow, forest, forgive, front, full, gather, give birth, God, glory, golden, ground, grow, hair, happily, happiness, hear, heart, heart melt, heaven, hollow, horse, hungry, hunt, hurt, immediately, in front of, inside, journey, judge, jump, key, kill, kindly, king, lady, lie, lock, loudly, magical, marry, matter, melt, middle, milk, missing, moment, moreover, narrow, natural, newborn, nod, no matter,  nut, old, once, once upon a time, pass, path, place, plant, pocket, point, poor, promise, protect, punish, punishment, queen, quickly, quiet, rain, rainy, refuse, religion, rest, return, ride, root, rule, sad, save, sentence, sharp, shine, shut, sin, sink, sky, soil, soften, son, sorry, special, spring, stake, stay, stick, stick out, still, surprised, surround, sweet, sword, take care of, tall, terrible, thick, thorn, thornbush, tie, total, tree, trial, unhappy, unlock, upon, wake up, warm, wash, whisper,  wild, wilderness, windy, wing, winter, wonderful, woodcutter, woodpile
Proper names:
Names of people: Jesus Christ, Mary
Lady Mary’s Child: Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale #3
Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter who lived in the forest.  (A “woodcutter” is someone whose job is to cut down trees.)  The woodcutter had a wife, and together they had one child--a little girl who was 3 years old.  But the woodcutter and his wife were so poor that they couldn’t feed their child.  So they were very sad.
One morning the woodcutter went out to his work as usual.  And while he was cutting wood, he suddenly saw a tall and beautiful woman standing before him.  And she said, “I am the Lady Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.”  (In the Christian religion, “Lady Mary” is the mother of Jesus Christ, and is often believed to have special magical powers.)  “You are poor and hungry, and don’t have enough food to feed your daughter.  Give your daughter to me, and I will take her with me, and I will feed her, and love her, and take care of her.”
So the woodcutter did what Lady Mary had said.  He brought his daughter to Lady Mary, and Lady Mary took the child up to heaven with her.  (“Heaven” is a wonderful magical place in the sky where God and the angels live.)  In heaven, the child was very happy.  She ate sweet cakes, and drank sweet milk, and her clothes were made of gold, and little angels played with her.  (“Angels” are magical creatures with wings.  They live in heaven and help God.)
When the child was 14 years old, Lady Mary came to talk to her one day.  “Dear child, I am going to go on a long journey for many days, so you must stay here in heaven without me.  While I am gone, I will give you the keys to the thirteen doors of heaven.  12 of these doors you may open, if you want, and see the wonderful things inside them.  But the 13th door you must never open.  If you open the 13th door, terrible things will happen to you.”
The girl promised to do what Lady Mary had said, and Lady Mary left to go on her journey.
While Lady Mary was gone, the girl began to explore the doors of heaven.  Each day, she opened one new door, until she had seen all 12.  Behind each door was one of the apostles.  (The “apostles” were the men who helped Jesus Christ.  There were 12 of them in total.)  The apostles were each sitting in a great room full of light, and it was very wonderful to see.  Each time the girl opened one of the doors, she saw how wonderful the apostles were, and the angels, who always followed the girl around, were also very happy to see such wonderful apostles.
At last, only the 13th door was left.  And the girl wanted very badly to see what was inside it.  So she said to the angels, “I will not open the door all the way, and I will not go inside it.  But I will unlock it and open it a little bit so that I can see through the opening.”
“Oh no,” said the angels.  “That would be a sin.” (A “sin” is when you do a bad thing.)  “Lady Mary has told you not to open the door, so you mustn’t open it.”
After this, the girl was quiet.  But in her heart, she still really wanted to see what was behind the 13th door.  She thought about it, and thought about it, until she was almost crazy with curiosity.  (“Curiosity” is the feeling of wanting to know about something.)
At last, when the angels had left her, and the girl was all alone, the girl thought, “Now, I am all alone, and I will look into the 13th room.  If I do it now, no one will ever know.”  So she took the key out of her pocket, and held the key in her hand, and put the key in the lock, and turned the key.  And then, the door suddenly sprang open.  And behind the 13th door, the girl saw God himself, sitting in fire and light and glory.  (“Glory” is something of great beauty.) 
The girl stood still for a long time, and looked at everything in amazement.  Then she decided to stick out her hand and touch the light.  She touched the light with her finger, and her finger became golden.
Immediately after this, the girl felt very afraid.  She shut the door quickly, and ran away.  But the feeling of fear would not leave her.  She could not calm down, and her heart kept beating quickly.  The gold, too, stayed on her finger, and would not go away, no matter how many times the girl washed her hands.
Not long after that, Lady Mary returned from her journey.  Lady Mary came to talk to the girl, and asked to have the keys of heaven back.  “Did you open the 13th door?” asked Lady Mary.
“No,” answered the girl.
Then Lady Mary put her hand on the girl’s heart, and felt how fast it was beating.  And Lady Mary knew that the girl had disobeyed her.  (“Disobey” means to not do what someone tells you to do.)
So Mary asked her a second time, “Are you sure that you did not open the 13th door?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” said the girl.
Then, Mary saw the golden finger.  So Mary asked a third time, “Are you sure you never opened the 13th door?”
“No, I never opened it,” said the girl.
Then Lady Mary said, “You have disobeyed me, and you have lied to me three times.  You have sinned, and people who sin cannot stay in heaven. 
Then, the girl fell into a deep sleep.  And when she woke up, she was back on Earth.  She was in the middle of a wilderness. (A “wilderness” is a natural place far away from where people live.) The girl tried to cry out, but she could not.  Lady Mary had taken her voice, and the girl could not talk, or make any other sounds with her mouth. 
Next, the girl tried to run away, but she could not. She was surrounded on all sides by a thick thornbush, so that she could not escape.  (A “thorn” is a sharp point that grows on some plants.  It hurts if you touch it.  A “thornbush” is a bush full of thorns.)
The thornbush made a complete circle around the girl.  But in the middle of this circle, there was a hollow tree.  (If something is “hollow” it means that it is empty inside.)  The girl crawled into the hollow tree, and it became her new home.  She slept in the tree, and she could also stay in the tree when it was windy or rainy.  But it was a terrible life.  The girl cried a lot when she remembered how happy she had been in heaven, and how the angels used to play with her.
The only food the girl could find to eat were wild berries, and nuts, and roots.  (“Roots” are the part of a plant that grows under the ground and gets water and food from the soil.)
In the autumn, she gathered a lot of nuts and leaves, and saved them in the tree for the winter.  The nuts were her only food during the winter.  And she used the leaves to cover herself and keep warm during the cold winter nights. 
Year after year, she lived this way in the wilderness, and was unhappy.  Her clothes became very old and dirty.  And yet, her hair grew very long, and became beautiful. 
One day, in the spring, when all the trees were green, the king of the country was hunting in the forest.  The king was hunting after a deer, and the deer jumped over the thornbush, which closed off that part of the forest.  So the king got off of his horse, and, with his sword, cut a path through the thornbushes.  (A “path” is a narrow area of ground between the plants that people can walk through in the forest.) 
And once the king was inside the thornbushes, he saw the girl.  Only by now, she was no longer a girl, but a young woman.  Her clothes were dirty, but her hair was very beautiful. 
The king was very surprised, and he spoke to her.  “Who are you? What are you doing here all alone in the forest?”
But she couldn’t give any answer, because Lady Mary had taken her voice.
The king said, “Will you come back with me to my castle?”
The young woman still could not talk, but she nodded her head to say yes.
So, the king took her in his arms, and carried her to his horse, and rode home with her.  And when they got back to the castle, the king had her cleaned up, and he gave her the most beautiful clothes to wear.  And after that, the king gave her the best of everything--the best clothes, the best food, the best room, and the best bed. 
Even though the young woman could not speak, she was so beautiful, and so charming, that the king fell in love with her.  And it was not long before he married her.  And she became the queen.
After one year passed, they had a son together.  But one night, when the queen was lying alone in bed, Lady Mary came to her, and Lady Mary said, “If you will tell the truth, and admit that you opened up the 13th door, then I will give you back your voice.”  (“Admit” means to agree that you did something bad.)  “But if you lie to me again, and continue in your sin, then I will take your newborn baby away with me.”
Then, Lady Mary allowed the queen to speak.  But the queen still would not tell the truth, and she said, “No, I did not open the 13th door.”
So Lady Mary took the newborn baby away from the queen, and disappeared with it.
The next morning, everyone looked for the baby, but they could not find it.  And when they could not find the baby, people began to whisper to each other that the queen was a baby-eater, and that she had eaten her own baby in the night.  The queen heard these whispers, but because her voice was gone, she could not say anything to defend herself.  The king heard the whispers as well, but the king loved the queen so much that he would not believe it.
After a year had gone by, the queen had a second son.  And in the night, Lady Mary came to her again.  “If you admit that you opened the 13th door, I will give you back your voice, and give you your first child back.  But if you lie to me again, I will take your new child with me also.”
Lady Mary allowed the queen to answer, but the queen said, “No, I did not open the 13th door.”
So Lady Mary took the newborn baby from the queen, and went back to heaven.
When this second child also disappeared, the people began to say very loudly that the queen was a baby-eater.  And the king’s councillors demanded that the queen be punished.  (A “councillor” is someone who helps the king to rule.)
But the king loved his queen so much that he refused to believe it.  And he told his councillors that he would kill anyone who said that the queen was a baby-eater.
The next year, the queen gave birth to a beautiful little daughter.  And once again, Lady Mary came to the queen during the night.  “Follow me,” Lady Mary said, and she took the queen by the hand, and brought her up to heaven.  There, Lady Mary showed the queen her two oldest children, who were playing in heaven with the angels, and who were very happy.  The queen was very happy to see that her children were happy.  And Lady Mary said to the queen, “Is your heart not softened? Can you please tell me the truth now?  Did you open the 13th door?  If you tell me the truth, I will give you back your voice, and your two little sons.”
But the queen said, “No, I did not open the 13th door.”
So, Lady Mary let the queen sink back to Earth, and also took her third child.
The next morning, when everyone discovered that the third child was missing, the people said very loudly, “The queen is a baby-eater.  She must be punished.”
The king was very sad, but he couldn’t protect the queen any longer.  The people were too angry. 
And so, a trial was held.  (A “trial” is when someone is asked questions in front of a judge to decide if they have done something bad.)  Because the queen still could not speak, she could not defend herself.  And so she was sentenced to be burned alive as punishment for eating her babies.
The wood was gathered together, and the queen was tied to a stake in the middle of the woodpile.  And as the fire started, the queen’s hard heart at last melted, and she felt sorry for her sin.  “If only I could tell the truth before I died, and admit my sin,” she thought to herself.
And at that moment, her voice came back to her.  So she called out to the sky, “Yes, Lady Mary, I did it.”
And immediately, rain fell from the sky, and put out the fire.  And then a great light shone from the sky, and Lady Mary came down from heaven with the queen’s two sons by her side, and the queen’s newborn baby in her arms.  And Lady Mary spoke kindly to the queen.  “Anyone who is sorry for their sin, and admits it, will be forgiven,” Lady Mary said.  (To “forgive” someone is to decide not to be angry with them, or to punish them, after they have done something bad.)
Then Lady Mary gave the queen back her three children.  And moreover, Lady Mary also gave the queen back her voice.  And moreover, Lady Mary also gave the queen happiness for the rest of her life.
And the queen, and the king, and their three children all lived happily ever after.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Cat and a Mouse Living Together: The Grimm Brothers' Fairy Tales Story Time ESL Listening

(TESOL Worksheets--The Brothers Grimm Fairy TalesStory Time ESL Listening)
Worksheet: drivedocspub
Video 1: HERE, Video 2: HERE, Quizlet: HERE

A Cat and a Mouse Living Together: Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale #2
Video slow speed:
Video normal speed:

Suggested Use:
Step 1: Look at the vocabulary. Check any words that you don’t know in your dictionary.
Step 2: Listen to the video. (Listen only.  Don’t look at the reading yet).
Step  3: Practice the vocabulary on Quizlet
Step 4: Watch the video again.  This time look at the reading. Read and listen at the same time.
Step 5: Practice the vocabulary on Quizlet again
Step 6: Listen one last time.  The last time, don’t look at the reading.

advice, already, animal, baby, believe, besides, birth, careful, ceremony, church, christening, common, continue, country, cousin, decide, during, eat up, else, empty, enjoy, feel, God, godfather, godmother, grab, greedy, ground, hear, hide, hungry, inside, instead, jump, lick, lip, look after, matter, meanwhile, mice, mouse, nobody, once, once upon a time, or else, outside, parent, place, plan, poor, pot, pray, probably, quickly, relax, responsible, return, roof, serve, shake, shake your head, should, son, space, stay, steal, strange, summertime, sun, sweet, trap, truly, untrue, unusual, upon, whenever, whole, wine, winter

A Cat and a Mouse Living Together: Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale #2
Once upon a time, there was a cat who met a mouse.  And the cat liked the mouse very much.  In fact, they liked each other so much that they decided to live together.
They found a small room that no one was using, and they moved there.
At first, it was summertime, and there was lots of food everywhere for animals to find on the ground.  But they both knew that winter was coming, and during winter, it would be very hard to find food. 
“We should make a plan for the winter,” said the cat.  “Or else, we will go hungry.  And you, little mouse, cannot go outside to look for food, because there are traps everywhere.”   (A “trap” is something that people put on the ground to catch mice.)
It was good advice.  So they bought a large pot of food to eat during the winter.  But, they did not know where to keep it.  There was no space in their small room to keep such a large pot.  After thinking for a long time, the cat said, “I know where we can keep it.  Let’s hide it in the church.  No one will steal from a church.”  (A “church” is a building where people go to pray to God.)  “We can hide it in the back room of the church.  But we must be careful, because winter is very long.  We don’t want to eat all of our food too quickly, or we will be hungry later.  So we must agree to only go to the pot when we are really in need of food.”
The mouse agreed, and the pot was put in a place of safety inside the church.
Winter came, and it was not long before the cat began to feel hungry.  So the cat said to the mouse, “I want to tell you something, little mouse.  My cousin has had a son, and he has asked me to be the godmother.” (In some countries, each baby is given a “godmother” or “godfather” at birth.  The godmother or godfather are not the parents of the child, but they are usually close friends of the parents.  The godmother or godfather is responsible for teaching the child about God.)  The cat continued, “I have to go to the church today for the christening.  Let me go out today, and you look after the house by yourself.”  (A “christening” is a ceremony in which the baby is given a name.)
“Yes, yes, of course,” said the mouse.  “You go and have a good time at the christening.  And if you get anything good, think of me.  If would very much like to have some of the sweet red wine that they serve at the christening.”
So the cat said goodbye and left.
But, everything the cat had said was untrue.  The cat didn’t have a cousin, and there was no new baby, and there was no christening, and no one had asked the cat to be a godmother.
Instead, the cat went straight to the pot of food, and started eating the top of it.  And the cat kept eating until she had eaten the whole top.
Then the cat took a walk upon the roofs of the town, relaxed in the sun, and licked her lips whenever she thought of the pot of food.  And the cat didn’t return home until evening.
“Well, here you are again,” said the mouse.  “You must have had a very happy day.”
“Everything went well,” answered the cat.
“And what name did they give the child?” asked the mouse.
“Top Off,” said the cat.
“Top Off!” cried the mouse.  “That is a very strange and unusual name.  Is that name common in your family?”
“What does it matter?” said the cat.  “You mice also have many strange names in your family.  Besides, Top Off is a good name for a cat.”
A few days later, the cat got hungry again.  “Mouse, you must watch the house for me again,” said the cat.  “I have been asked to be godmother again, and I must go.”
The mouse agreed, and the cat left.  But the cat went straight to the pot again, and this time the cat ate half the food.  When the cat came home again, the mouse asked, “And what name was this child given?”
“Half Done,” said the cat.
“Half Done?” said the mouse.  “That’s a very strange name.  I’ve never met anyone with that name in my life.”
A few days later, the cat got hungry again.  “Little mouse, I must go,” said the cat.   “You’ll never believe it, but there’s been another baby, and I’ve been asked to be godmother a third time.”
“So many new babies,” said the mouse.  “This is all very strange.”
“You’re thinking too much,” said the cat.  “Just wait for me, and I’ll be back soon.” 
So, the mouse stayed home and cleaned the house.  Meanwhile, the greedy cat went straight to the pot of food, and ate everything. 
When the cat came home that night, the mouse asked what name the child had been given.  “You’re probably going to think it is strange again,” said the cat.  “But the child is named All Gone.”
“All Gone?!” said the mouse.  “This is the strangest name of all.  I have never heard this name anywhere before.  What can it mean?”  The mouse shook her head, and went to sleep.
After this, nobody asked the cat to be godmother for a long time.  But, during the long winter, the mouse and the cat soon ran out of their food at home.  “Come,” said the mouse, “Let’s go to the church, where we put the big pot of food, and enjoy that.”
“Yes, let’s,” said the cat.
So they set out on their way.  But when they got to the church, the pot was empty.
“Oh no,” said the mouse.  “Now, too late, do I understand what happened.  You are not a good friend.  You ate this whole pot when you told me you were going out to be godmother.  First Top Off.  Then Half Done.  Then--”
“Stop talking,” said the cat.  “If you say one more word, I will eat you too.”
But it was too late.  The poor mouse had already started to say “All Gone”, and the words came out before she could stop herself.  As soon as the mouse had spoken the words, the cat jumped on her, grabbed her, and ate her up.
And that, truly, is how the world is.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Started: An A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury

English World 6 Unit 9 Vocabulary

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks--English World 6)

Google Drive Folder HERE
Unit 9 Vocabulary Slideshow: slidespub
Quizlet Handout: docspub

English World 6 Unit 9 Vocabulary

English World 6 Unit 9 Vocabulary

English World 6 Unit 9 Vocabulary

English World 6 Unit 9 Vocabulary

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Vlog: Activities that Can be Used for Any Grammar Point (For ESL or TESOL Teachers) Part 1

Activities that Can be Used for Any Grammar Point Part 2: Crosswords through Find Someone Who

Activities that Can be Used for Any Grammar Point Part 3: Find Someone Who through Human Bingo

Activities That Can Be Used for Any Grammar Point Part 4: Hurricane through Tic-Tac-Toe

This is a video version of two previous posts: HERE and HERE.  In these posts I already posted all the materials, but I'll post them again here.

Everything is in the Google Drive Folder HERE
Description of all the activities: docspub
Worksheet (for participants to fill out): docspub

Post Around the Room:
3 Sentences 2 Truths and 1 Liedrivedocspub
3 Sentences Variationdrivedocspub
Around the Room Memory Gamedocspub
Board Game Speaking Promptsdrivedocspub
Board Game TPRdrivedocspub
Brainstorming Sentencesdocspub
Change Chairsdocspub
Choose Your Victimdocspub
Class Surveydrivedocspub
Crossword Puzzledrive
Crossword Puzzle Treasure Huntdrivedocspub
Find Someone Whodrivedocspub
Find Someone Who--Write Your Owndrivedocspub
Find Your Partnerdrivedocspub
Find Your Partner--Find Two Partnersdrivedocspub 
Garbage Mandrivedocspub
Grab the Carddrivedocspub
Grammar Auctiondrivedocspub
Grass Skirtsdocspub
Guess My Sentencedrivedocspub
Guess Your Partner's Answersdrivedocspub
Hangman for Grammardocspub
Hot Potato Sentencesdrivedocspub
Human Bingodrivedocspub
Human Bingo--Same and Differentdrivedocspub
Memory Card Gamedrivedocspub
Memory Game on Whiteboarddrivedocspub
PowerPoint Gamedriveslidespub
Running Dictationdriveslidespub
Scrambled Sentencesdrivedocspub
Scrambled Storydrivedocspub
Shouting Dictationdocspub
Sorting Activitiesdrivedocspub

Bonus Content (In the Google Drive Folder, but not posted around the room)
Board Raceslidespub
Dictogloss Procedure PDF: drive
Jump the Line Gameslidespub
Machine Gun: drive

See also Vlog Playlist HERE

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

(Book Review)

Started: December 27, 2017
Finished: August 29, 2018
(Those dates are actually misleading.  It didn't take me 9 months to finish this book.  I only got a couple pages into it on December 27, and then I loaned the book to my wife.  I thought it would be good for her to practice her English.  I didn't actually get the book back until about a month ago.)

Why I Read This Book
In my review of The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, I wrote that I was going to try to read more light-escapist books in the evening to try to break my Internettelevision addiction.  (I concluded that one of the reasons I spend so much time on Youtube is because all the books on my shelf were too serious, and I lost the willpower to read serious books after 9pm.)

And so, here I am with a review of a book obviously meant for children.
It's - not - the - first - time - I've - done - this - on this blog, so I've gotten over my embarrassment long ago.
Also the selection of books in Asia is limited.  If I were in a bookstore back home, I'm sure there would be a thousand other books catering to my pet interests that would have grabbed me before this one.  But here in Vietnam, the selection of English books is limited to a few shelves.

Anyways, I was browsing the bookshelves in Vietnam, looking for some light reading.  And I saw this book.  It looked juvenile, of course, but I had already given myself permission to buy something juvenile for reading after 9pm.
And, because there is an inner child inside all of us, I admit to being taken in by the cover art, and being charmed by the idea of a world of fairy tales, and castles, and green forest, and anthropomorphic frogs.  And I felt a childish desire to immerse myself in these fairy tales.

The inside cover of the book flipped out to reveal a map of the Land of Stories, which also seemed to promise an immersive world:

And so I bought the book.
On my way out of the shopping mall, I actually ran into a couple of co-workers.  We started chatting, and they asked what book I had bought, and, somewhat embarrassed, I showed them this one.  (I made sure to assure them that this was in addition to all the serious books I was also reading.)
"Oh, hey, this is by that guy from Glee."
I hadn't caught this in the bookstore  (There was nothing on the book cover that mentioned anything about Glee.)  But it turns out that Chris Colfer is indeed that guy from Glee.  (I'm not a fan of Glee, but I used to watch it when there was nothing else on.  It was one of the few English programs that was part of the cable package in Southeast Asia.)

If I had realized the author was a 25 year old actor, I might not have bought the book.  (Not  that I have anything against Chris Colfer, but I'm skeptical that someone who is famous for one art can successfully transfer over to another.)  However, now that I've read the book, I can report that Chris Colfer has successfully pulled off the transition.  It's not a perfect book.  (I'll get around to nit-picking it down below.)  But it's perfectly readable.

The Review
So, if I haven't made this clear already, keep in mind that I'm not in the target audience for this book.  I'm a 40 year old man, reviewing a book for 11 year old girls.  Take my opinion with a huge grain of salt.
That being said...

I liked the book well enough.
It starts out pretty slow, describing the problems two twins (Alex and Conner) are having at school and home after their dad died.
The prose is readable.  And it flows.  Although one thing that jumps out at you right away is that the twins don't talk at all like real children. For example, on page 26, when they are discussing which fairy tale to pick for a school project:

"You can't choose that one," Alex said, shaking her head.  "That's the most obvious one! You have to select something more challenging to impress Mrs. Peters. You should pick something with a message hidden deeper inside it, one that isn't so on-the-surface."
Conner sighed.  It was always easier to just go along with Alex instead of arguing with her, but sometimes it was unavoidable.
"Fine, I'll pick 'Sleeping Beauty,' " he decided.
"Interesting selection," Alex said, intrigued.  "What do you suppose the moral of that story is?"
"Don't piss off your neighbors, I guess," Conner said.
Alex grunted disapprovingly. "Be serious, Conner! That is not the moral of 'Sleeping Beauty'," she reprimanded.
"Sure it is," Conner explained. "If the king and queen had just invited that crazy enchantress to their daughter's party in the first place, none of that stuff ever would have happened." (p.26) cetera.  And it's like that throughout the whole book.
But I think the problem of unrealistic dialogue is SO common in children's literature that you just have to accept it, and move on.  (Did The Hardy Boys ever talk like real people?)

 The story plods along, but finally on page 80, the twins travel into "The Land of Stories" and then the fun begins.

The portal into "The Land of Stories", in this case a magical book, is a cheap plot device.  But then so was the wardrobe in the Narnia books.  And at least this book has the self-awareness to make fun of itself:

"I was just thinking," Conner said. "Alice went to Wonderland after she fell into a rabbit hold. Dorothy's whole house was scooped up by a tornado that dropped her off in Oz. The Narnia kids traveled through an old wardrobe.... and we ended up in the fairy-tale world by falling through a book."
"Where are you going with this, Conner?" Alex said.
"I'm just saying, it's kind of lame compared to the others," Conner said with another sigh. (p,108)

The best part of this book is the setting.
Because Chris Colfer has chosen to set his fantasy in "The Land of Stories" (which he uses as synonymous with the land of fairy tales) much of the work of creating a fantasy world is already done for him.  The reader already brings their mental images of fairy tales, castles, princesses and fairies with them.  And all Chris Colfer needs to do is provide just enough description to provide a scaffold for the reader to place their pre-existing mental images of fairy tale land.
But, to give credit where it is due, Chris Colfer does this excellently.  See, for example, his description of the Fairy Kingdom from pages 268-269:

They reached the heart of the kingdom and were completely bewildered by what they saw.  It was like they were standing in a gigantic tropical garden with large, colorful flowers of all shapes and species.  There were weeping willows over small ponds and vines that grew across the ground and up the trees.  There were beautiful bridges over many streams.
There were fairies everywhere.  Many flew around in the air, some just hovered above the ground, and some walked on small paths adjacent to the one the twins were on.  They were all different shapes and sizes and colors.  Some were taller than Alex and Conner, some were as small as Trix, and some didn't seem even to be solid, but rather made from pure light.
There were just as many male fairies as there were female.  Some of the fairies wore gowns, others' clothes were made entirely from plant materials, and some wore nothing at all.  Many had made miniature homes in the branches of the trees or in mushrooms on the ground, and there were fairies who even lived underwater with colorful fish. (p. 268-269)
This is typical of the descriptions throughout the book as the twins travel to many different places in The Land of Stories.  It's not overly detailed, but just enough to bring out your sense of wonder and enchantment of a fairy tale land. It works.

All the famous fairy tale characters are also living in this world, and many of them (Goldilocks, Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Cinderella, etc) become major protagonists.

The plot, however, is a weak point.
The over-arching plot is okay.
Once inside The Land of Stories, the twins must find a way to get back home.  And it turns out that the only way home is to make the Wishing Spell.  And the Wishing Spell can only be made by assembling a bunch of items that have to be gathered from all over the Land of Stories.
I've watched enough film criticism videos on Youtube to know that this kind of plot device is known as a MacGuffin (W) and is usually mocked by literary and film critics.  But for a children's book like this, I think it works just fine.  It's just another thing you'll have to forgive to go along with the book.
Plus, there are actually two plots going on at once.  While the twins are wandering around collecting their MacGuffin devices, meanwhile the evil queen from the Snow White story has escaped from prison and is plotting something while everyone from The Land of Stories is trying to hunt her down.  These dual plots help to keep the interest up.

The big problem with this book, however, is all the various mini-adventures that the twins get into along the way.  In each case, the set-ups are okay, but Chris Colfer never knows how to pay them off in a satisfying way.
Again, one example from many should suffice to give the flavor.  The twins are capture by the trolls and goblins and taken down as prisoners to work in the mines. (Interesting set-up).  They end up getting freed because one of the troll girls has a crush on Conner, and she agrees to free them in exchange for a kiss.  (Boring resolution.)
In the same way, the encounter with the witch at the gingerbread house, and the troll at the bridge also all have really boring and lame resolutions.

In the end, I kept reading because of my enchantment with the setting and descriptions, even though I kept rolling my eyes at how boring the adventures were along the way.

But, if you can make it all the way to the end of the book (...and you can--it's a children's book and a really quick read...) then the final climatic showdown is really good.  There's an epic final battle between all the good characters and all the bad characters that takes place in a crumbling castle and has a lot of great swashbuckling and narrow escapes.
(According to Wikipedia, a film adaptation of this book is in the works.  And I'm actually down for it.  That last battle really would look great on film.)

There's a few reveals along the way that are so obvious I think most adult readers will see them coming a mile away.  The clues and evidence are just overwhelming long before we get to the denouement.
But perhaps these work better with younger readers?
Besides, the fact that the plot reveals are so easy to guess might not be a bad thing. I'm reminded of an article I once read about predictable plot twists in Westworld (article HERE) that argued that plot twists should be somewhat predictable.  The author should lay some clues and foreshadowing before the plot twists comes.  That's just playing fair.  The thing we should get angry about are not plot twists that come out of nowhere, and are not earned.
It may be comparing apples and oranges to bring Westworld into all of this, but I think the same principle applies.

Other Notes
My embarrassment about reading this book as a 40-year-old man seems to have been presaged by Chris Colfer, who prefaces his book with (of all things) this quote from C.S. Lewis:
"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."
--C.S. Lewis
Perhaps there's some truth to this.  When you're in your teens and your 20s, the world is your adventure, and you don't need to escape into fairy tales.  When you're middle-aged, you feel tired and worn out, and you need more of an escape into fantasy.  So maybe 40 is about the right age to start reading fairy tales again.
...Or maybe I'm over-simplifying.  If you search the archives of this blog (and see what I was reading and writing), you can see that there was never not a time in my life when I didn't want to escape into fantasy.

Complaining about Plot Holes (Spoilers)
...So, when they had to swim under the moat on page 301, they got everything they owned completely soaked, right?  That should have ruined the paper journal they had with them, right?

* I mentioned this book (or alluded to it) very briefly on the vlog: Books I'm Currently Reading

Video Review
Video review HERE and embedded below:

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky on Challenging Authority