Thursday, June 04, 2020

Finished: The Guns of Avalon (The Chronicles of Amber #2) by Roger Zelazny ... review coming eventually.  I'm a bit behind in my book reviews at the moment, but hopefully I can get around to this one before too long.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Learning One-to-One by Ingrid Wisniewska

(Book Review)

Started: April 6, 2020
Finished: May 5, 2020

Published as part of the Cambridge Handbook for Language Teachers series (series editor Scott Thornbury) in 2010.

Why I Read This Book
5 years ago, this book was on the discard pile in my school's library.  I picked it up to save it from the trash.  I was thinking at the time it might be useful for the tutoring I was giving to my Vietnamese girlfriend (now wife), but our regular studying session petered out, and this book sat on my shelf unread.
But then, with the school shut downs in Vietnam - earlier this year, I ended up picking up a private student online.  (A friend of my wife, who I tutored online via zoom.)
It had been years since I had had a regular private student (going all the way back to my days in Japan), and back in those days, my approach was very haphazard.  I would either just try a free conversation, and hope it was productive.  Or I would grab a page from a textbook, and hope it was interesting.
But now that I'm older and more invested in myself as a professional teacher, time to try to take a more systematic approach to teaching private students.  So I decided to read this book.

The Review
A very slim book--only 200 pages.
It's divided equally into 2 parts (exactly close to exactly 100 pages for part 1, and 100 pages for part 2).
Part 1 is the theory and principles for teaching one-to-one lessons.  Part 2 is a compilation of suggested activities that you can do with a one-to-one student.

Part 1 contains a lot of basic common sense advice about how to structure lessons with a one-to-one student.  Like a lot of common sense advice, it's obvious in retrospect.  For example, always have a plan for the lesson, ask the student for feedback regularly, agree on the ground rules ahead of time, etc.  While I was reading it, I kept thinking to myself, "This isn't new information.  This is just obvious."  But then I realized that I hadn't actually been doing a lot of this common sense stuff, and that it was good to be reminded of it.  It seemed obvious after I had read it, but it wasn't stuff I was doing regularly.

Perhaps my most important take-away from this book is that the teacher needs to plan a syllabus for a one-to-one student in much the same way that you would have a syllabus for a class.  Again, this seems obvious in retrospect, but I have to admit I've never actually done the work of designing a syllabus for my one-to-one students.
I think this is partly because I've never had to design a syllabus before at all.  (Excluding Delta Module 3, but that doesn't count because it was just an academic exercise.)  I've always worked at schools where the syllabus was pre-designed.  I suspect this is true for most teachers.

Chapter 3 of this book covers the basics of syllabus design "Needs Analysis, course design and lesson planning".  It's good practice advice as far as it goes, but it's only 30 pages--possibly not sufficient for a teacher to feel confident in designing their own curriculum.  I recommend this book be supplemented by a book on course design.  I recommend Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers by Kathleen Graves.  (In fact I feel that the real value I got from Ingrid Wisniewska's book was simply reminding me to use what I had learned from Kathleen Graves book in a one-to-one context).

I was initially worried that much of this book wouldn't apply to me because I was teaching one-to-one via zoom, but actually this book has anticipated that a lot of one-to-one teaching these days is over computer, and it talks a lot about how to apply the principles to distance learning.
I was also worried parts of the book that talked about technology would be dated (this book was published in 2010), but it seems to have held up pretty well.  It talks about a lot of things that are still current in 2020 like using google docs to edit a document together with your student.

What has not aged very well, however, is all the talk of learning styles.
To be fair, this is mostly a result of how quickly the group-think in the field has changed, and not the fault of the author Ingrid Wisniewska.  In 2010, everyone in ELT (English Language Teaching) accepted learning styles.  In 2020, most people in ELT view it as an outdated pseudo-science.  (See HERE and HERE for more background on the backlash against learning styles.)
Still, even given the fact that this stuff was more accepted back in 2010 than it is now, Ingrid Wisniewska seems to have gone a bit off the deep end on some of this.  For example, on page 24:
"Another way to observe learning styles is through insights offered by Neuro-Linguistic Programming. One example is to interpret your student's learning style by observing their eye movements.  Looking upwards and to the right, for example, is said to indicate use of visual imagination; upwards and to the left is said to indicate imaginative recall." 
[Sidenote: It's amazing how much the field has changed in just 10 years, isn't it?  10 years ago this kind of talk was perfectly acceptable.  And this book was published by Cambridge University Press and edited by Scott Thornbury, so this is right in the mainstream of the field.  Now most people don't even want to hear the words "learning styles".]
Anyway, for better or for worse, references to learning styles and Neuro-Linguistic Programming pop up all throughout the book.  To be fair, not all of it is completely crazy.  For example, on page 22:
"Every learner brings with them a history of successful (and unsuccessful) learning.  They will be used to certain methods of learning and teaching and therefore deal with them well, but will find other methods difficult or unfamiliar."
...and that much is fair enough, I thought.

Chapter 2 breaks down the various roles that the teacher will have in a one-to-one lesson.  Conversation Partner, Observer and Listener, Feedback Provider, Mentor and Guide, and Learner.  The book then describes what is expected of the teacher for each role.  It's mostly useful advice, but I was slightly nervous about the advice for "Mentor and Guide" section, which contain sentences like: 
"As a mentor, you can also help your student develop independent learning skills by encouraging them to find says to study outside of class" (p.32)
I often worry that independent study for second language learning is a separate field of expertise.  Many English Language Teachers are monolingual speakers who have some training in classroom management techniques, but are not experts in second language acquisition.  It could be dangerous to push them into the role of language study expert, even though in reality many students expect it, and many teachers readily assume this role.
But that caveat aside, I thought that the section on teaching roles was well done and useful information.
Chapter 4 was on selecting and adapting material, and it gave some good ideas about how simple everyday textbook exercises on grammar can be easily adapted and made more interactive with a few simple adjustments.  I found this part very useful.

And then onto part 2, which is just a long compilation of suggested activities.
Part 2 is divided into 5 chapters, which corresponds to the 5 teacher roles that were identified in chapter 2 of part 1: Conversation Partner, Observer and Listener, Feedback Provider, Mentor and Guide, and Learner.  So, for example, one chapter on all the activities that can be used for conversation partner, one chapter on all the activities for Observer and listener, etc.

Part 2 is no doubt what many readers of this book came for in the first place--some practical ideas and activities that they can use as a life-raft to get through the lesson.
It is, however, not very interesting to read through from beginning to end, as I did.
To be fair, it's not meant to be read through from beginning to end.  It's meant to be skimmed through, or used as a resource.  (This isa - constant - problem I have when I'm trying to read for professional development.  I always try to read a book from cover-to-cover before I review it on this blog.  But many of the books on ELT are meant to be used as resources, not reading material.  And that's definitely the case here with Part 2 of this book.)
The other problem is that unfortunately it's very difficult to come up with a large list of activities that are successful in any context (as Ingrid Wisniewska acknowledges), so of the 60 or so activities listed, only a handful will be actually applicable to any given situation.
I was constantly reading through the activities and thinking, "No, that one's too advanced for my student.  No, that one won't work with distance learning.  No, that one won't work in my student's culture.  Ah, here's one that may be good."
The individual reasons for accepting or rejecting activities will be different from teacher to teacher, but I'm guessing most teachers will end up having a similar ratio to me.  Of these 60 or so activities, only about a quarter will be actually usable with their student.  It almost makes me wonder if the space could have been better used to talk more about general theory. 
Also, as interesting as some of these ideas are, a lot of them seem to be a bit random.  (e.g.--here's an interesting activity on writing a business letter.)  A teacher who was over-reliant on the activities in Part 2 would have a very random and scattered curriculum--which would seem to undercut the advice in part 1 about how the syllabus needs to be organized and responsive to the individual needs of the student.
All that being said, I did get some useful activities out of Part 2, and I did use a couple of them with my student successfully.  So it would be an exaggeration to say I got nothing out of it.

Video Review
Video review HERE and embedded below:

Link of the Day
What Is Anarchism? Avram Noam Chomsky on Capitalism, Socialism, Free Markets (2013)

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Insightful quote by Anderson Cooper "They're all for peaceful protest, except never the actual peaceful protest that's happening"

So what do we actually want?

A friend of  mine recently posted on Facebook:
Since no revolutionary council or workers' soviet has issued any demands, I'm assuming that the police and anarchists will just keep punching people and smashing things until the punching and smashing stops.
To be fair to the protesters, this is not a problem unique to our current situation.  Very rarely in history (only 1 or 2 times?) have revolutionary organizations actually been in enough control of the protests to issue a list of demands.  Certainly no one was in control of the Watts Riot, for example.

And yet, his point is still well taken.  These protests are now an expression of outrage without a sense of direction.

The good news is, there at least seems to be broad societal consensus that:
*  Police killing black people is a legitimate problem
* It's an institutional problem, and not just a few bad apples
* The problem isn't going to be solved by just asking police to be nicer.  We need some sort of structural change.
4 years ago, all of these points were in dispute.  So the fact that we at least have consensus on all of these points is progress of a sort.

Now the question is: what do we want?
In my previous post, I suggested just getting rid of the police entirely.  And while this is the long term goal, this may not be politically realistic within our lifetimes.  So in the meantime, what new laws could alleviate the current situation?
This is a legitimate question.  I legitimately don't know.
So I threw the question out to my Facebook friends, and was impressed by the intelligence of some of the responses.  I'll quote some of the best responses down below:

Are you asking specifically for institutional racism in the law enforcement institution specifically or in our institutions generally?
I guess I'm asking for any proposed legislation that would make this situation better--general or institutionally specific. 
For institutions generally, likely not. The way in which structural racism operates in each of our institutions is sort of unique to the institution. The way it works in churches is different than schools is different than law enforcement is different in workplace, etc..
For law enforcement, specifically, I’m not sure you can legislate it (at least not federally), but the list of things is pretty long — training, education, policy/strategies (community policing vs Gates model), union overhaul, cultural overhaul, performance metric overhaul, etc.
The one thing you could legislate is to overhaul qualified immunity. That concept has been pushed to its limit. If LEOs actually had the spectre of liability for their conduct, that would push down a lot of change into training, policy, culture, metrics, etc.
My point re qualified immunity: 
I heard Tim Wise speak on this a few years ago and I was compelled by the steps/recommendations he had for legislative changes. He has some books and a podcast where he explores these issues. Also Michelle Alexander’s work on the New Jim Crow digs into deep underlying systemic issues.

Also Rev William J. Barber, II and his Poor People’s Campaign is major in this work 

I learnt a lot from these books 

Have you ever heard of-- or even better tried-- one of Harvard's IATs? If not I'll put the link below, click through 'I wish to proceed' and select 'Race IAT'.
I bring this up because I think it's important, in thinking about this issue, to be very clear about the difference between intentionally malicious acts of racism and implicit bias.
In the States, we tend to think of people as being 'racist' or 'not-racist', all or nothing. And while there are, of course, people out there who are maliciously racist and know they're racist, they're obviously not the majority and not as much the cause of the problems in the US as we'd tend to think.
Tests like Harvard's Race IAT get more to the root of the matter, which is that we ALL to varying degrees, harbor implicit biases that color the way we see the world.
Interestingly, these biases have been shown to follow more cultural than 'racial' lines. What I mean by this is that Americans, in general, black or white, tend to share many of the same inclinations toward race, even in cases where these inclinations would seem self-loathing. This isn't so surprising when you think about it as we, as Americans, have all been raised on a diet of the same media, we've been educated in similar ways and we share many of the same values.
So in regard to how, specifically, can we legislate, well that's a problem. We can make laws to strongly disincentivize violent racists from doing racist things, But nine times out of ten, this is not what is resulting in black deaths. It's the sorts of implicit biases-- knee-jerk reactions/perceptions-- that average people who don't live very examined lives, just chalk up to having been 'the truth' of some given situation.
So seeing a black guy running down the street or a group of them congregating as vaguely criminal while seeing white people doing the same sorts of things as harmless is a byproduct of our culture. These initial reactions don't make one a terrible person, especially in instances where people have been taught to recognize their own bias-- people can't after all help where they come from or how they were raised-- but if you happen to be in a role where you have to make quick, life or death decisions then these initial reactions could result in people losing their lives. And the trouble is that you can't legislate any of that away.
If the US actually cared to change-- and I strongly doubt this to be the case, that place is awful-- rather than trying to make quick fix laws we'd need to adopt a more holistic approach. This might include establishing a task force to address the issue of systemic/institutional bias; implementing mandatory Implicit association testing and awareness programs for any job where a person makes critical decisions that affect the lives of others and making continued employment contingent on performance and participation in these programs; and removing lethal force as an option for civilian forces. As a culture we'd ultimately need to move away from the 'all or nothing' conception of racism and come to understand our actions as being motivated by biases that we are not even always aware of and that stem from attitudes and assumptions that are endemic to our culture.
To the degree that we could encourage folks to live more examined lives-- to question their own actions and motivations in their dealings with others-- we could incrementally change that culture, creating a better, safer and more inclusive society. And as a result fewer people would be murdered in the streets. But, as I said, I don't think any of this will actually happen in the States. At least not in my lifetime. Consideration for the feelings and perspective of others is almost antithetical to the American way of looking at the world. The US is the land of 'ME!'. 

I thought of your question when I saw this. Looks like this is what the NAACP is demanding

I just watched the full video for the first time. (Up until now, I've only relied on the clips that were in news shows). The full video is disturbing, but it's worth watching because it makes two things very clear:
1) This wasn't an accident. They knew exactly what they were doing.
2) The bystanders on the street pleaded and pleaded with the police not to kill this man, but the police kept doing it anyways.

In my little video manifesto on anarchism that I made last year, I tried to make the following point: if left to their own devices, people naturally want to help each other.  If you saw a bleeding body on the street, your natural impulse would be to try to save their life.  But it's governments that force people into wars and violence.  Anarchists didn't make the death camps in Auschwitz. Anarchists didn't nuke Hiroshima.  Anarchists didn't ship draftees around the world to kill people they didn't know.  Anarchists didn't bomb Vietnam into smithereens.  Governments do this.
Was that point a little bit too simplistic? Maybe.  I don't know.
But watch the video.  Notice how the natural human reaction of everyone standing on the sidewalk is to want to try to help the man.  But the police, as agents of government and authority, automatically just kill the man, without appearing to give any thought as to why they're killing him.  They just know that they have the power to do what they want, and so they're not concerned about the consequences.
And it's not even entirely a race thing. No doubt the fact that George Floyd is black made him vulnerable, but the lines of racial division are not entirely clear cut. Notice how one of the officers who killed him was Asian American, and one of the bystanders pleading for his life was white.
Rather, the clear division is between those who have institutional government power, and those who do not.
Nor is this a case of "a few bad apples".  Unless you believe that there are only a handful of bad apples in the Minneapolis police force, and it's just a coincidence that in this case all 4 bad apples all happened to be at the same spot at the same time.

There's also a telling line in the video, when one of the bystanders says, "We need to call the police on the police."  It's meant to be ironic, but it illustrates their complete lack of options to resolve the situation.  When the police are killing someone in front of you, what can you actually do?  There's no other authority you can appeal to in order to resolve the situation.  They've been given authority over you, and if they decide to slowly kill someone in front of you, all you can do is beg them not to do it.  And if that doesn't work, then all you can do is watch.

It's worth remembering at this point that for most of human history, we didn't have a police force.  Communities were able to regulate themselves.  Most people have a common desire to help each other.  Watch the reaction of the bystanders.  They're illustrating our common desire to assist someone in trouble.  But what function do the police serve?  To bravely stand on the street corner and stop people from checking George Floyd's pulse? When you give human beings institutional authority over each other,  and when you give humans unlimited power to do what they want, then you're going to offset this natural human impulse for mutual aid, and the result of what kind of society you will end up with is so clear in this video.

If this video isn't the best argument for why people should be allowed to regulate themselves without the police, then I don't know what is.

George Floyd Died After Police Knelt on His Neck During Arrest | NowThis

Addendum June 3, 2020: Further thoughts
We've been so propagandized by everything in our media and culture to believe that we need police.  We've been made to believe that the only thing separating us from savagery is that the police are there to prevent us from all of a sudden turning on each other and tearing each other apart.  This is such an ingrained belief that it's difficult to get people to think otherwise.
It's so easy to forget that police are a very recent addition to civilization.  Certainly the idea of an organized modern police force only goes back to the 19th century.  And communities were able to regulate themselves just fine without the police.

What benefit do we get from the police?  Watch the video, and ask yourself what benefit the police brought to this situation?

And yet, we are against systems, and not men.  When a police officer says, "I saw the video, and I was just as horrified as you were," I think the correct response is to say...
"Yes sir, I'm sure you were.  You are one of the good ones.  But if you weren't so good, then there would be nothing to prevent you from strangling me to death right here in front of everyone, correct?"  I mean, sure, there would be legal ramifications later. (Maybe). But during the moment, what restraints are put on the police officer?  The bystanders couldn't stop the police officer, or they'd be charged with assault or interfering with the arrest.  And again, I'm not talking hypotheticals here.  Watch the video.

Monday, June 01, 2020

The Outsider by Albert Camus: Book Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
So this has been making the rounds on Twitter:

...not to brag, but yours truly (history geek that I am) was pointing this out way back in 2006.
To quote myself:
King’s philosophy of non-violence was always based on the violent reaction of the police. This is a detail that has frequently been overlooked, but a close reading of civil rights movement in the 1960s reveals that even the non-violent demonstrations were deliberately designed to provoke violent reactions of the police, which was then captured by the media and broadcast to the nation. King himself was frequently criticized by moderate clergy who, rightly, realized that his philosophy of non-violent confrontation was in fact based on violence. This was why King’s demonstrations were a tactical success in the South, but was a failure in Chicago when Mayor Daley went out of his way to be accommodating to King.
But then I go on to make the following point:
The strength of King’s movement was that it was disciplined. The evening news showed the demonstrators as only the recipients of police violence, and produced overwhelming sympathy for the civil rights cause.
In Seattle, and subsequent anti-globalization protests, this formula has been turned on its head. The Police inflict violence on demonstrators, the media captures this but then blames the violence on the demonstrators themselves, and where ever possible footage shows footage of anarchists violently resisting police. Even if one is aware, as the resulting news reports made clear, that the violence was overwhelmingly from the police, the sympathy for the demonstrators is not as strong if a fraction of them can be shown to have participated in the violence themselves.
 ...or in other words:
Yes, it is true that Dr. King's protests were criticized by conservatives in the 1960s for relying on violence.  King's protests were deliberately designed to provoke the police to violence, and then that police violence was used to get national sympathy for the civil rights cause. But despite this objection, King's strategy worked.
But this strategy could only work when the movement was disciplined enough that the protesters themselves didn't get violent or respond to provocations.  If the media can show the protesters being violent, even if it's a small percentage of them, than that will become the narrative, regardless of whatever violence the police commit.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Tales from Earthsea: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

English World 2 Unit 10 Vocabulary

 (Supplementary Material for Specific Textbooks--English World 2)

Google drive folder HERE
Google Slideshow: slidespub
Quizlet Handout: drivedocspub

J2B Unit 10

J2B Unit 10

J2B Unit 10
So, I have this friend, Jorge--someone I know from my Gifu days in Japan.  (I've written about Jorge before on this blog HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE).

One of Jorge's family members recently made some allegations on Facebook about the officers who killed George Floyd.  It was quite serious.
I read the post, and I thought that if these allegations are true, then they should be in the news.  I think it's important information, because it illustrates how deep the institutional problems are.
At the moment, however, I don't believe that these allegations have made it outside of their circle of Facebook friends.  The post has (as of this writing) been shared 68 times, but it hasn't gone viral yet, and I can't find anything about it in the news media.  (I checked with my friend Jorge, and it hasn't been reported in the news.)  I'm worried that this important information might get overlooked.

However, with all the misinformation that is being spread on social media nowadays, I should make clear that I don't actually know these people.  These are friends of friends.

I find myself in a dilemma.  On the one hand, I'm worried that this could be important information that needs to be in the public domain.  On the other hand, I don't want to be guilty of spreading misinformation online.
After some internal deliberation, I've decided to go ahead and try to spread this information.  I know Jorge, and I trust him.  And the emotion behind this story seems to be genuine.

Both of the Facebook posts were on public sharing settings from the beginning, but just to be extra sure I wasn't out of bounds, I contacted the person involved, and she discussed it with her husband and gave me permission to share their posts and use their names.
It would be really great if someone in the media was able to fact check this story and possibly publish it.  Does anyone know a guy?

Link to Facebook Post 1

Link to Facebook Post 2:

In 2015, we field a complaint on the exact same officers that killed George Floyd. Nothing was ever done. We were told there would be an internal investigation but that clearly didn't happen.
In 2015 officer Derek Chauvin and his partner Tou Thao tried to kick in the front door to our apartment in South Minneapolis. We didn't want damage to the property so we opened the door. Without any explication, Chauvin pulled my husband into the hall, threw him down the stairs and began choking him. As this was happening, officer Thao was holding me back, shut my door so I couldn't see what was happening and begin telling me that my husband would be arrested for resisting arrest. I tried asking where they were taking him but all they told me he was being arrested.
Hours went by where I had no idea what was happening with my husband. He didn't have his phone and I all I thought was he was going die. For sure.
Eventually my husband came back home hours later with no shoes and bloodied up. He had told me that the cops drove him to an empty alley, put on black gloves, covered their badge and beat his ass. He had to beg and plead for his life before they let him go, 30 blocks away from our home and took his shoes.
I have experienced racism in my life before but nothing like this. South Minneapolis is still very much home to me despite the fact that I live in Texas now. I still send my son to Minnesota, specifically South Minneapolis, every summer because his dads family is there. I have uncle's, aunts and cousins there too.
I hate that I have to fear for my husbands life. I hate that he has to fear for his life. I hate that everything goes unheard. I hate these fucking cops that are ruining so many innocent lives. I hate watching my husband go through PTSD and not knowing what I can do to help.
I'm tired of hating and something needs to be done.
I've been trying to work my limited contacts in the media to see if there's anything to be done about this story getting picked up.  One of them gave me this advice:
Best thing you can do with these is if you think it needs media exposure... Go to the big publications find the writers if the stories for floyd then tweet at them with the link.  New york times, cnn, usa today, msnbc etc
I think I'm going to start doing that next.

June 1st, 2020 Update 1: Why I Believe This Story
Having had a day to think about it, I find myself more and more convinced that this story is true.
The reasons are as follows:
* My friend Jorge knows and trusts these people
* The husband and wife are both collaborating each other's story, which at least gives it more credibility than a story made up by a single person.
* They seem to be trusted by the people in their Facebook community and in their comment sections
* The emotions in that video feel real.  I believe the man is telling something deeply real and personal to him when I watch the video.
* There's nothing that they would gain by fabricating this story.
* This story was only shared on Facebook.  Although the settings were public, there was no attempt by the couple involved to get this to go viral or to gain fame by it.  They did not go to the media. It appears before I contacted them, they had no intentions of sharing this more widely.
* A lot of specific details mentioned in the story--in the video, the man mentions which districts the police officers got transferred to as a result of his complaint.  Strikes me as unlikely to be made up.

Update 2: Why I Think This Story Matters
I think this story is important because it removes all doubt as to the kind of people Derek Chauvin and Tou Thao are.  Up until I saw these Facebook posts, I at least had a small sliver of doubt about the incident.  Maybe Derek Chauvin didn't mean to kill that guy.  Maybe he legitimately thought he needed to restrain like that for some reason.  Maybe he was just a good cop who made a mistake that day, etc.... all of that benefit of the doubt, now completely gone in my mind.
It also illustrates how this is a problem with the system.  You can't just say now that the Minneapolis Police force was a good functioning system with just a few bad apples in it.  This story means they knew they had abusive racist police officers, and they didn't do anything about it.
It also demonstrates the type of abuse that minorities in Minneapolis experience, and so goes a good way to explaining why the protests blew up as they did.

Update 3: Getting this Story Wider Exposure
So, I've done my best to give this story wider exposure.  In addition to writing about it here on this blog, I've posted it on my Facebook page.  I've tweeted it.  I've emailed my old buddies from the college newspaper days to see who is still working in media, and asked them if the're interested.  And I've taken the advice my friend gave me (mentioned above), and tried to tweet this story at people who work in the media and are covering this story.  See HERE, HERE, HEREHEREHEREHERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.  (I don't know what the etiquette is.  Are you supposed to just tweet at one reporter, and then give him time to respond?  Or should you tweet it out at as many reporters as possible and hope somebody bites?)
So far, no luck.  It's time to admit what I've always kind of known anyway--I have very little influence on social media.
I'm disappointed no one has shown interest in this story, but I also have to admit that I whenever I get fixated on something, I have a tendency to lose perspective.--That is, now that I've started the process of trying to get this story more attention, I just continue to tweet it at reporters without stopping to think whether or not I've gone overboard already.
Have I gone overboard on this?  If so, let me know in the comments. Or is this legitimately a story that needs to be shared?  If so consider sharing it yourself. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

The Benefits of Extensive Reading: Listening Version

(TESOL Worksheets--Listening, Extensive Reading)
Google: docs, pub, video
[This is a re-working of my previous worksheet on The Benefits of Extensive Reading, which I've reworked to make into a listening exercise.]

The Benefits of Extensive Reading: ESL Listening

Watch the Video:
The Benefits of Extensive Reading
Question: What is extensive reading?
Students read a lot and read often.
Students read on a wide variety of topics.
Students only read stuff that is interesting or fun for them.
Students choose what to read.
Reading focuses on: pleasure, information and general understanding.
Reading is its own reward.
There are no tests, no exercises, no questions and no dictionaries.
The reading material is easy for the students--they can understand the meaning of the text easily without having to work too hard.  The vocabulary is also at an easy level for the students.
Students should be able to read and understand the material without any help from teachers or dictionaries.  If the student finds that they need to use a dictionary to understand the text, then it is best for the student to stop and pick something slightly easier.
Reading is individual, and silent.
Question: What kind of things can you use for extensive reading?
Anything and everything, including graded readers (books that are intentionally written with a simplified grammar and vocabulary for English students), novels, adventure or action books, science fiction or fantasy, romance or drama, informative books or articles on topics that interest you, comic books, newspapers, magazines, Internet articles, entertainment news (articles about music, movies, or celebrities), fashion magazines, children's books, teen literature, advice columns, and more.
Question: How will extensive reading help my grammar?
As every student knows, learning English grammar can be very difficult.  There are many different language structures.  It is possible to focus on these and understand them one by one in isolation, but it is very difficult to be able to remember them and use them all at once.  In order to fully learn these, you will need to become familiar with them by repeatedly encountering them over time.  In the limited time we spend in the classroom, there is no way that you can fully develop your English grammar.  Extensive reading will help you with this in two ways:
Firstly, during extensive reading, you will see, and be reminded of grammar structures that you have already learned.  This will help you to cement them more fully in your memory. 
Secondly, extensive reading will allow you to see many types of grammar structures that you haven't yet learned in class.  You may be able to learn some of these structures just through reading.  Other, more complicated grammar structures, you may need to practice more, but reading will help you to become familiar with them so that it will be easier to learn them in class later.

Question: How will extensive reading help me remember vocabulary that I have already studied?

As with grammar, learning English vocabulary can be very difficult.  You have probably realized this already.  In your English classes, you have probably studied hundreds of words.  But how many of these have you really learned?  How many can you remember now?
It is not enough to simply look at a vocabulary word once, and expect to remember it permanently.  In order to fully get the word into your long term memory, you will need to practice it again and again.  In our very short time in the classroom, you will not have enough time to do this. 
Extensive reading, however, will help you review the vocabulary again and again until it is permanently in your brain.  This is why it is useful to be continuously reading in English.  Even if you're not learning new words, you are helping yourself to better remember the old words.

Question: How will extensive reading help me better understand vocabulary that I have already studied?

English vocabulary can be very frustrating for students, because to truly learn a word is often a lot more complicated than simply learning a dictionary definition.  One word can have many different meanings in different situations.  Or two words can mean almost the same thing, but have slightly different nuances (different shades of meaning).  Or words can have different connotations (for example, two words may mean the same thing, but one word would only be used in positive situations, and one word would only be used in negative situations.)  There are also different collocations--for example, some nouns will only be used with certain verbs instead of others.
It is impossible to learn all of this simply by looking a word up in a dictionary.  The dictionary definition will give you only a poor understanding of the word, and you may not be able to use the word correctly.  But extensive reading will help you to get a fuller understanding of what the word means, and how it is used in English.

Question: How will extensive reading help me learn new vocabulary?

Extensive reading should expose you to many new words that you haven't yet learned before.
However, be careful here.  If there are too many new words in the text, the text is going to be too difficult for you, and you will not benefit from it.  You will want to try to pick reading material where you already know 98% of the words in the text.  This means that 98% of the vocabulary will be review for you, but you can still learn new words from the 2% new vocabulary.  This will quickly add up over time if you read enough.
This has been supported by many scientific studies--students who do a lot of extensive reading have a very high level of English vocabulary.

Question: How will extensive reading improve my reading fluency?

Reading is a skill.  Just like any other skill, this means you have to practice it in order to get better.  When you first learn to read in English, your brain has to work very hard to look at all the letters on the page, and match those letters to words, and match those words to sentences, and match those sentences to meanings.  Perhaps you remember how slow and difficult reading English used to be for you when you were a beginning student.
However, as you get more and more practice, these processes begin to become automatic.  Your brain no longer has to think so hard when it looks at all the letters on a page.  Words you have read many times now become familiar and easy.  You no longer have to look at each letter one by one to recognize the word.  And you are able to recognize the meaning from several words together much easier than before.
The more you read, the easier reading will become, and the faster you will be able to read in the future.  This will help you tremendously in your reading tests at school.

Question: How will extensive reading improve my writing?

Reading and writing are connected skills.  When you read, you are learning how to write, even if you don't realize it.  Every time you read, you are looking at something that somebody else wrote.  This is providing you with a good example for your own writing.  Even if you don't realize it, your brain is beginning to understand the common styles in English writing.  Your brain will also have absorbed many of the common sentence structures used for writing.  The next time you sit down to write, you'll find the words and sentences will come that much easier.

Question: How will extensive reading improve my speaking?

All language skills in English are interconnected, because they all make use of some of the same knowledge and processes.  Students who increase their grammar and vocabulary through extensive reading will find that this same increased knowledge is now available in their speaking. 

Question: What does the research show about extensive reading?

The most famous research study comes from Japan.  There was a group of Japanese students whose English ability was far behind the regular students.  The researchers took these students out of the regular English class, and put them in a special class.  In the special class, the students spent the whole time just reading books that were interesting and enjoyable for them.  At the end of one semester, their test scores had improved so much that they were almost as high as the regular students.
Somewhat surprisingly, the research on extensive reading has shown that it not only improves the students' reading scores, but also their listening, speaking, grammar, and writing scores.

Question: What about if I don't like to read?

It's important to remember that nobody likes to read everything.  For example, I don't enjoy reading motorcycle repair manuals in my spare time. 
For informative reading, I enjoy reading about subjects that are interesting to me.  I enjoy reading when it gives me information about something that I want to know. 
For fiction, I enjoy reading when I am interested in the story.
If you're reading something that is not interesting for you, stop reading it and find something else to read. 
It's also important to remember that reading is a skill that gets easier the more you practice it.  (Remember the section on reading fluency.)  When you first start to read, it will be very difficult for your brain to translate the words into meaning, and you will get tired quickly.  As you read more and more, your brain will begin to get used to this process, and it will begin to happen automatically.  You will find that reading is becoming easier and easier for you, and that you are enjoying it more and more.
It's also important to choose books that are not too difficult for you.  Nobody likes reading things that are difficult.  This is not enjoyable.  Choose books that you can read easily.
Watch the video, and make notes about each question.
What is extensive reading?

What kind of things can you use for extensive reading?

How will extensive reading help my grammar?

How will extensive reading help me remember vocabulary that I have already studied?

How will extensive reading help me better understand vocabulary that I have already studied?

How will extensive reading help me learn new vocabulary?

How will extensive reading improve my reading fluency?

How will extensive reading improve my writing?

How will extensive reading improve my speaking?

What does the research show about extensive reading?

What about if I don't like to read?

To Have and Have Not: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Needs Analysis: High Level Teens class

(TESOL Worksheets--Needs Analysis)
Google: docs, pub
[Note: Some of the questions on here were borrowed from colleagues.]

Name of your partner:

Why is your partner studying English?  What are their goals for using English in the future?

What is your partner’s strongest English skill?

What is your partner’s weakest English skill?

Does your partner enjoy using the textbook in class?

What kind of homework does your partner prefer?

What is one activity that your partner really enjoys doing in class?  Make sure to describe it in enough detail so that your new teacher will know how to run the activity.  (You can write on the back if you need more space).

What is one activity that your partner really hates doing in class?  Why?

Complete these sentences:
My partner enjoys it when…
My partner gets bored when…
My partner finds _______________ easy because ...
My partner finds _______________ difficult because ...

Write down 3 things that your partner wants to improve on by the end of the course.

What topics do you like learning about?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Key Largo: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
I found this video HERE and these worksheets HERE useful when supplementing a lesson on vocabulary about the family. 
In my own class, I used this to supplement lesson 1B: A Family in East Africa from Life Elementary Textbook.

Speaking skills practice: Talking about your family (Elementary - A2)

(I am posting this on my blog so that I can keep track of it for later use. I am also indexing it with my TESOL Worksheet materials, and my Vocabulary materials).
From Vnexpress:
HCMC lacks the parks its population requires
Definitely true, not enough parks in this city.  Although it's much worse in Phnom Penh.  When I first came to HCMC from Phnom Penh, the first thing that struck me was all the trees in parks in HCMC.  And whenever I have friends visit from Phnom Penh, it's usually the first thing they mention as well.

Still, it is sad how much green spaces HCMC has lost.  Every now and then, photos of Saigon from years ago will make their way onto Facebook, and everyone will marvel at how much green the city used to have. 

An article recently appeared on Tuoi Tre News:
Colorized photos show Saigon’s green coverage 100 years ago

Look at this picture of Saigon in 1920.  The Cathedral is still there nowadays, but all the trees have been turned into McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts.

There was a similar thing going on when I lived in Phnom Penh.  People would often post videos of Phnom Penh from the 1960s on Facebook or chat forums, and then lament about how the city has lost its beauty.  (People say that in the 1960s, Phnom Penh used to be known as the Paris of South East Asia.)

(If you go to the comments section on this video, you can see a lot of Cambodian people lamenting about how beautiful the city used to be.)

It's a reminder of how beautiful cities can be transformed if city planners are not careful.  Businesses and the shopping malls don't care about preserving the green spaces and urban beauty.  If you let them just build wherever they want, then you'll lose these beautiful cities.  As happened to Saigon and Phnom Penh

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Treasure of Sierra Madre: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
Good Will Hunting | 'My Boy's Wicked Smart' (HD) - Matt Damon, Ben Affleck | MIRAMAX

The 90s were before I started reviewing movies on this blog, but I remember how popular this movie was when it came out.  I wasn't quite as big a fan of it as some of my friends were, but I remember liking it well enough when I saw it.
...saw this clip on Youtube, though.  (Randomly popped up while I was surfing).  And I realized how incredibly stupid this whole movie was.  I remember this scene, and I remember thinking even at the time that it was vaguely unrealistic.  But now 20 years later, re-watching it, I'm struck by how unbelievably stupid this scene is. The screenwriters (Affleck and Damon) have no sense of how people actually interact with each other in the real world.  In what world do history grad students try to humiliate townies at bars by showing off how much they know about history.  How did this movie win so many awards?

Supporting Students on Reading Comprehension

(TESOL Worksheets--Workshops, Reading)

Google Drive Folder HERE
Critical Case Study: docs, pub
Reading Support Strategies for low level students: docs, pub
Suggested Answers: Reading Support Strategies for low level students: docs, pub
Strategies and Suggested answers together in one document: docs, pub

[Note: This is an uncompleted workshop I prepared as an assignment for a class.  It could probably use a lot of fine tuning before being used in real life, but since I'm not sure whether or not I'll actually get around to doing that fine tuning, I'm just going to post it here for now as a work in progress.  The impetus for this workshop was based on some reading lessons I observed where the students were struggling with reading comprehension, and the teacher didn't know how to support them.  Easy enough to identify the problem, of course, but what is the solution?  This is my attempt to come up with some ideas to help the teacher help the students.  But if anyone else has any other good ideas, let me know in the comments.]

Below is a list of reading support strategies for low-level students.  Some of them are good ideas, and some of them are bad ideas, and some might depend on the circumstances of the individual class.  Read through the strategies, and discuss which ones you think could work well in your classroom:

* Pre-teach some difficult vocabulary from the text
* Pre-teach all the difficult vocabulary from the text
* Make sure the students are familiar with the situation before reading the text
* Have students predict what they are going to read beforehand
* Tell students to note parts of the text that they could make no sense of. (They can later ask the teacher or another student to explain it to them.)
* Read the text out loud yourself, and have the students follow along
* Ask the students to read the text out loud
* Read a portion of the text out loud, and do a think-aloud while reading to show what kinds of things the reader should be thinking about while reading.
* Break the text into smaller units, and have a stop-and-check activity to ensure that students have understood the reading up until then.  (e.g. comprehension questions, asking students to summarize the reading).  If the students have not understood, they must re-read the section before moving on to the next.
* Paraphrase the text yourself by explaining the text to the students using simpler words
* Highlight the key sentences in the text that contain the answer
* If the students are having difficulty comprehending the assigned reading texts for their level, then disregard the assigned reading and for the rest of the term give them simpler reading texts instead.  Focus on building up their reading fluency with easier texts for the rest of the term
* Keep the assigned texts, but change the comprehension questions to make them easier
* For complex sentences, ask students to identify the main subject and main verb in each sentence.  * * Check that the students have identified correctly. Clarify any sentences if needed
* Check that the students understand the meaning of all the reference words (e.g. he, she, it, which) in the text.  Clarify if needed.

Here are some suggested answers.  Please note that for some of these strategies, opinions differ, so it is possible to disagree.  Do you disagree with any of the suggested answers?

* Pre-teach some difficult vocabulary from the text. 
This is a common strategy, and it can help a lot in some situations.  Sometimes a single unknown word can interfere with the student’s ability to complete the task.  Important things to keep in mind, however.--Only pre-teach a small amount of unknown vocabulary (5 words maximum).  Teach only the words that will impact the reading comprehension tasks. 

* Pre-teach all the difficult vocabulary from the text
This is not a good idea. It takes too long, and will distract from the main aim of a reading lesson.  Also, students need to develop their own strategies for dealing with unknown words from context.

* Make sure the students are familiar with the situation before reading the text
This helps a lot.  Not understanding the situation is a common reason why students cannot comprehend the text

* Have students predict what they are going to read beforehand
This helps.  If students can successfully guess what will be in the text, it will make it easier to comprehend.  Even if their guesses are wrong, thinking about the text ahead of time will prepare them for the content of the text.

* Tell students to note parts of the text that they could not make sense of. (They can later ask the teacher or another student to explain it to them.)
This is recommended by some teaching websites.  It needs to be used with caution, however, because often our goal is not for the students to understand everything in the text, but for the students to understand just enough to complete the reading comprehension task. However, if the students are unable to complete the task, this could be a useful way for the teacher to find out what is going wrong, and decide how to support the students. 

* Read the text out loud yourself, and have the students follow along
This will not help their comprehension of the meaning of the text

* Ask the students to read the text out loud
This is not helpful as it may increase student nervousness and confuse their skills in pronunciation with their skills in reading

* Read a portion of the text out loud, and do a think-aloud while reading to show what kinds of things the reader should be thinking about while reading.
This is recommended by several literacy experts.  It may not be useful to do this all the time, but it is useful to demonstrate this technique once or twice to the students.

* Break the text into smaller units, and have a stop-and-check activity to ensure that students have understood the reading up until then.  (e.g. comprehension questions, asking students to summarize the reading).  If the students have not understood, they must re-read the section before moving on to the next.
This could be useful for longer texts

* Paraphrase the text yourself by explaining the text to the students using simpler words
This is sometimes necessary as a last resort for students, but it should be used with caution.  It’s better to ask guiding questions to help the students’ arrive at the meaning if possible.

* Highlight the key sentences in the text that contain the answer
This is a useful support if students are struggling.

* If the students are having difficulty comprehending the assigned reading texts for their level, then disregard the assigned reading and for the rest of the term give them simpler reading texts instead.  Focus on building up their reading fluency with easier texts for the rest of the term
Possibly.  Building up confidence with easier reading texts is important, but it may be better to supplement the assigned reading texts rather than replace them.  We want to challenge the students sometimes too.

* Keep the assigned texts, but change the comprehension questions to make them easier
If you have the flexibility to do this, this is a good strategy.  Don’t be afraid to challenge the students a little bit, but remember the challenging questions should come last.  First give the students an easy set of comprehension questions, then after those have been completed, you can increase the level of difficulty.  A gist question should always be one that the students can complete easily.

* For complex sentences, ask students to identify the main subject and main verb in each sentence.  Check that the students have identified correctly. Clarify any sentences if needed
This can be a useful exercise occasionally.  Students will get bored with it if it is overused.

* Check that the students understand the meaning of all the reference words (e.g. he, she, it, which) in the text.  Clarify if needed.
As above, this is also something that is useful occasionally, but it can also be overused.  Most reference words are obvious from context, even for lower level students.  But difficulties arise in some cases when the reference is ambiguous, when the reference is an abstract concept, when the reference is referring to more than one thing, and when the reference word is not close to the word it is referring to.

Helping ESL students understand written texts
What to Do When Students Don’t Understand What They Read: Tips for Improving Poor Reading Comprehension in K-3,
Nation, I.S.P. (2009). Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing. Routledge.
Focus on Reading by Susan Hood, Nicky Solomon, Anne Burns (2002). Macquarie University

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Contact Tracings Show Risk Of Coronavirus Spread Through Churches | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC

Started: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien [Note: This is actually a re-read.  I read this once before back in 5th grade.  Our teacher read it with us in class.  I'm now attempting to use it in my own class as an extensive reading project with a group of upper-Intermediate teens.  Whether or not I continue all the way to the end of this book will depend on how engaged the teens end up being with this book.]

Video HERE


Words with -tch

(TESOL Worksheets--spelling)
Crossword Puzzle: drive
Crossword Puzzle Answers: drive
[In my class, I used this with English World 7 Unit 11 Working with Words p.111]

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Big Sleep: Movie Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:

Story Listening in the Style of Beniko Mason--The King of the Golden Mountain

(TESOL Worksheets--Listening, Comprehensible Input, Story Time ESL ListeningDelta Lessons)

Google Drive Folder HERE
This lesson is meant to go together with this essay: Story-Listening by Beniko Mason
There are two versions of this lesson.  The first is my attempt to duplicate Beniko Mason's style exactly, including her avoidance of a lot of extra materials.  That version is here: Lesson plan: drive, docs, pub
The second version is an expanded lesson plan that includes extra material that Beniko Mason herself might not approve of.
Expanded lesson: drive, docs, pub
Script: drive, docs, pub
Writing follow up: docs, pub
Pictures: drive, docs, pub
Slideshow: slides, pub
A video of the lesson is here: The King of the Golden Mountain: Story-Listening (in the style of Beniko Mason)
This is an experimental lesson trying to copy the Story-Listening Technique of Beniko Mason.  See here for an example of what I was trying to copy:
The video quality isn't great.  Sorry.  Sorry about the squeaky markers.  Sorry that the whiteboard isn't visible.  Sorry that the video cuts out after 30 minutes, and leaves the story unfinished.  (Hopefully this gives an idea of what I was trying to do even though it cuts out early.)

It should also be noted that the length of this story is not ideal for illustrating Beniko Mason's method.  A shorter story would have been better.

Monday, May 18, 2020 know, back in 2016 or 2017 I might have believed that Trump's tax returns would undo him.  But it's 2020.  Can we all wise-up a little?  Whatever these tax returns will expose, it will just make Trump more popular with his base. 
"Look how triggered the liberals are by the awful thing our President has done!  Isn't it great how triggered they are?"
The Long Good-Bye by Raymond Chandler: Book Review (Scripted)

Video version of an old post (as I explained about HERE)
For the original post, see:
Steve Donoghue answers one of my questions on his Q&A video

7K Answers - Part 2!

I discovered Steve Donoghue years ago (via Phil's recommendation) back when Steve was primarily writing reviews on his website.  Since I've discovered his Youtube channel, I've gotten addicted to watching it (as I've mentioned here), and particularly enjoy his Q&A sessions.

The fun of the Q&A sessions is that Steve has read everything, has strong opinions on everything, and is a very intelligent guy.  (Which is not to say I agree with him all the time--I frequently disagree with his assessment.  But I recognize his intelligence nonetheless).
So ask Steve about any obscure subject, and he'll have read about it, and have strong opinions on it.  Which is why people love querying him about his thoughts on all kinds of varied subjects in the Q&A section, and is what makes these Q&A videos so fun to watch.

After watching several of these videos, I decided to jump in on the fun when Steve announced his next Q&A.  After pondering which obscure subject I wanted to hear his opinion on, I settled on the Chinese Classics of Literature.

I had mentioned in a blog post 5 years ago that I thought it was an interesting omission that these books don't get talked about at all in literature classes at university. 
In my experience, when we talk about diversifying the educational curriculum, opponents often have this image of getting rid of Shakespeare and replacing it with the folk tales from some hill tribe nobody has ever heard of.  But China isn't some hill tribe that nobody has ever heard of.  And especially when you consider that these Chinese classsics are also influential in many other South East Asian countries, it's almost half the world's population.  It probably deserves a place in the curriculum.
I thought this would make an interesting question especially since I often watch Steve talk about essentially reading on his channel, but have not heard him mention the Chinese Classics.  (Although I may have missed it.  The guy puts out a lot of videos.)
So I asked my question.

Steve hits my question at 2:29

Joel Swagman says "I never read the four great Chinese classics but have been debating adding them to my TBR (The Romance of the Three kingdoms, Journey to the West, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber.) Have you ever read them?" ... I have. In translation, in English. "If so what are your thoughts? Are they necessary reading for a Western person, or can they be skipped?" They're not necessary reading, there's no necessary reading, there's no wrong way to read. So they can be skipped. Anything can be skipped. But they're really good. They're really entertaining reading and they give you a wide open door to a totally alien literary culture. Those two things alone are worth... I mean "Can they be skipped?" like there's some sort of... is this going to be on the exam or something like that and that's not how this works. So you can skip them of course, but I don't recommend that you do. I recommend you find a really spirited English language translation and read them. Who knows if you might not love them. I love The Water March. Just love it.
As you can see, Steve disagreed with the premise of my question somewhat.  But in my defense, I think he does often talk about essential reading on his channel, so that is what I was going for.