The day k d lang came to our class…with Godot (Pt 2)

godot
(Image taken from quotesgram.com)

 

Last December, I published Part 1 of a lesson plan based on k d lang‘s song Constant Craving, in  combination with the amazing theatrical play by Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot.

Many are the times when with students we study literature or work on songs in English. Little did we know, that with working on the lyrics from Constant Craving we would be led to look at parts of a theatrical play – and some of the students would read the whole thing!

In my language classes, due to time restrictions or goals such as examinations or getting to a specific level by a specific time, unfortunately we do not have the luxury of looking at the whole play, which in my opinion is amazing and I cannot do it justice, I feel.

However, the parts that we do work on are interesting for the students and lead them to converse and also write in English – that is one of the things we want them to do.

So here we go!

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(Image taken from www.newcitystage.com

Things we usually do with the students before we start working on the text: 

  • I ask if they have read it in their own language.
  • I ask if they have ever heard of the and what it is about.
  • What do they think it is about?
  • Who do they think will be waiting and who do they think Godot is? – With this question, they can  create such lovely imaginary stories, either spoken (they can even prepare them for a few minutes beforehand, or even use as an improvisation technique for more spontaneous speaking) or written, either as homework for the next lesson, or a short paragraph in class, if time and circumstances allow.

 

When we start working on the text: 

Here comes one of my favourite excerpts from the play, with two of the main characters, Vladimir and Estragon:

ESTRAGON: Charming spot. (He turns, advances to front, halts facing auditorium.) Inspiring prospects. (He turns to Vladimir.) Let’s go.

VLADIMIR: We can’t.

ESTRAGON: Why not?

VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Godot.

ESTRAGON: (despairingly). Ah! (Pause.) You’re sure it was here?

VLADIMIR: What?

ESTRAGON: That we were to wait.

VLADIMIR: He said by the tree. (They look at the tree.) Do you see any others?

ESTRAGON: What is it?

VLADIMIR: I don’t know. A willow.

ESTRAGON: Where are the leaves?

VLADIMIR: It must be dead.

ESTRAGON: No more weeping.

VLADIMIR: Or perhaps it’s not the season.

ESTRAGON: Looks to me more like a bush.

VLADIMIR: A shrub.

ESTRAGON: A bush.

VLADIMIR: A—. What are you insinuating? That we’ve come to the wrong place?

ESTRAGON: He should be here.

VLADIMIR: He didn’t say for sure he’d come.

ESTRAGON: And if he doesn’t come?

 

  • A great idea I love is have two students read it out loud to the rest of the class – or if it is a one-to-one class, like many of mine are, I can read with the student. The students can set the tone, bring the feelings out and make a nice little play for the rest!
  • Why do they suddenly start arguing about the tree, or whether it is a shrub or a bush?
  • Who is the greater realist / optimist of the two? why?
  • What happens when you are waiting for someone and they are not coming? How do you react, what do you do and what are your feelings?
  • Try to continue the dialogue. In your story, does Godot come or not? Who is he? Why has he been late?
  • Borrow photos of the play from the internet. What are the characters saying or doing, in your opinion?

There are so many things to do with such a play! This is only a tiny part of what we can do with it. I truly do not do it justice at all.

Here are some more resources about working with this great play: 

 

And yet another rendition of the amazing k d lang song that gave me the idea to teach this play! Enjoy : ) 

 

 

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The day k d lang came to our class…with Godot (Pt 1)

This is a long story…that can be explained in this post only a little. Along with our students, it can lead us to many places!

Let’s start from the very beginning. k d lang (she writes her name in lower case, just like  e e cummings : ) is a Canadian singer, with a golden voice, and my absolute favourite female performer. Her song Constant Craving is one of my all-time favourites. I just love the instruments used (especially the accordion is haunting and beautiful), the lyrics are amazing and k d’s voice spectacular.

The other day, I was listening to the song (again) and paying much closer attention to the video, which I have seen more times than I remember…and it hit me. I looked at the characters…they reminded me of something. Are the men in the theater where k d is, playing in Waiting for Godot? I did that play in university, in my very first year in a class called Introduction to Drama. I loved that play so much, that it became the main topic of a paper I wrote then. I checked the story behind the video, and it really is k d in a theater, where this play is being performed!

Can I use her song AND the play in class? Sure – I can try!

Here is how I am thinking of using it – let me know if you have any different ideas! I am positive that my students will take me to other places that I had never imagined before, so this is just a rough idea.

I am thinking of using it with B2 / C1 / C2 level students, because some of the vocabulary and themes can be a bit challenging for lower levels. So then for my classes, it will be mainly teens and adult students.

I will show them the title first. Some initial rough questions:

  • What do you think it means?
  • What does to crave mean?
  • Why does she call it a constant kind of craving? Guess what the song is about! (The artist herself has never clearly, in as many interviews as I have seen, mentioned who or what the source of inspiration for this song is. There is no correct or wrong answer in songs, poetry or literature anyway, I believe. They can all be left open to interpretation. We want our students to produce written or spoken language in English.)

I will let them listen to the song and watch the video then. 

  • What is the singer doing? What do you think her feelings are and why?
  • Where is she? Why do you think so?
  • What are the people in the theater doing: The audience? The people on stage?

Then I will give them the lyrics. You can see them and the activities in a document called ConstantCraving_LessonPlan and feel free to do anything you like with it, change it, create it from the beginning, anything!

  • We can go through the lyrics one by one and discuss, thoughts that come to our minds, feelings, anything.
  • They can choose a word or phrase that strikes them and write a small poem or short story.
  • They can perform / present their poems or stories in front of the class (if they feel comfortable, or we can do it with them / for them) – perhaps even with the song playing softly in the background, to give a more dramatic tone : )

Here is my favourite live performance of the song, for your pleasure – happy listening!

Waiting for Godot will be the next post – Part 2! Stay tuned. 

Remembering Terry Fox @terryfoxcanada

Terry Fox (Image take from Reuters)
Terry Fox
(Image take from Reuters)

Another academic year started here in Switzerland a month ago. One of my students that I have been teaching ever since I came here in 2009, came back to classes full of enthusiasm to tell me that next year, he will be going to Canada on a student exchange program!

Now my joy is double – he is going to my birth country for the first time, and he is staying there for a whole year! The things he will learn and he experiences of a lifetime he will have! I asked him whether we could incorporate various lessons about Canada into our classes and he agreed. I will be sharing them from time to time on my blog.

Today, I introduced him to one of the most inspiring Canadians – Terry Fox. I remember being inspired when I was in Grade 1 in Canada and our teacher was telling us about him. Terry lost his leg to cancer when he was 19 years old, but that didn’t stop him from deciding to run a cross-Canadian marathon when he was 22, with an artificial leg. He did this to raise money for cancer research. He eventually ran 5,373 kilometres, before cancer had spread to his lungs and was the cause of his death. The legacy he has left Canada and the world is tremendous.

There is a treasure trove of lesson plans from the Terry Fox Foundation that helped us a lot today and we will be going back to it with my other students as well.

We also watched this inspiring and moving video of Terry Fox’s amazing feat. A Canadian hero that continues to inspire us many years later.

Work and Motivation – A Lesson Based on Dan Ariely’s TED Talk

Dan Ariely (Photo from YouTube)

Like many educators I interact with, I really love TED Talks. Some of them are really very good, some inspiring – and some can be used in class too! I love that we can not only watch (parts of the) videos with students, but each video has an interactive transcript (in many languages as well!).

I first found out about Dan Ariely three years ago, when a student of mine at a bank was raving about Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational. He told me what it was about – I read it and loved it. He inspired me especially when I found out he had been a burn patient and all the things he did to keep himself motivated in such a truly difficult situation.

Needless to say, I have watched almost all of his talks and read lots of his material. In today’s class, we watched the first 6-7 minutes of Ariely’s talk.

  • Before that though, we talked about what motivates us either to work or study or both (they work in full-time jobs and study full-time too – I share their agony as I am doing a MA too!). I made a wordweb on the blackboard and we write down all factors around the central idea of motivation and feeling good about what we do.

 

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  • We then watched the video fragment, talked about it and we especially liked the experiment with the Lego. It was a great idea! They gave people Lego pieces to build Bionicles for three dollars. They gradually reduced the amount, while secretly destroying the creations and giving them back the same pieces to build a ‘different’ Bionicle.
  • I then gave them part of the transcript, from which I had removed words that they had to fill in, and also removed words that had to be made into derivatives of other words (they will be examined on Reading Comprehension in October, but I believe it is equally important  for them to read and comprehend in their work and studies as well, and learn new vocabulary and enhance the words they already know. I like them to be able to expand their skills into their everyday lives as well and not only to concentrate on the exam). Here is the document with the gaps and the answer key.
  • We discussed any problems they had with the text and also did some speaking about motivation that came up on the spot.
  • As a final task in class, I gave them a topic to write a proposal on (it is at the end of the gap-fill document).

Here is Dan in action: 

Feel free to leave a comment, how you would use or have used TED talks, or any other ideas you come up with and wish to share!

Storytelling and Language Learning with Picture Dice

One of the things I love about being connected on social media is that I get new ideas for my teaching practically every day. It must have been three or four years ago, when I was on Twitter and I saw an educator (apologies for not remembering who it was!) posting about using story cubes in class and then a lot of teachers got into the Twitter discussion, talking about how there were using them in class, others said they were also discovering them then and there like me…I found it a brilliant idea and they work a treat, not only with Young Learners, but also with my teenage students – I have also used them with adults and they loved them!

I also mentioned them in one of the workshops I did about three weeks ago, invited by the amazing Larissa Teachers Association in Greece! The teachers there have inspired me to write this post.

On to the picture dice, or story cubes now…

They can be used as a filler at the end of the lesson, for them to unwind and still learn, as a warmer for the beginning for the class – even though they might get really excited and not want to continue with other things – including the adult students!

One of our children telling us a story! (@LorasNetwork)
One of our children telling us a story! (@LorasNetwork)

This is not an advertisement for the specific product, but I also got this idea from a teacher on Twitter. There are actually ready-made story cubes, called Rory’s Story Cubes and they come in various topics. Actions, Voyages, Original, and many more. They are actually quite affordable and their material guarantees that nothing will happen to them.

How we use them:

  • The student holds them all together and shakes them, and then throws them on the table or floor as they would with normal dice. Then, they have to spend a few minutes thinking about the order in which they want to connect the nine cubes, in order to tell a story.
  • Sometimes, if we have time, we mix up two or three boxes and they can make an even longer and funnier story!
  • Two or three students can work at a time, preparing what they want to say and then, when the time comes for them to tell their story the collaboration and improvisation that comes up is spectacular!
  • One student throws the dice and starts telling the story, while the other(s) have their backs turned to the storyteller and they try to guess which picture the storyteller is talking about!
  • Students practise so many things with this game. Their grammar, and mainly their tenses and also vocabulary. They learn new items of vocabulary and they use them again and again in their next games, and they do it in a fun way too!

If you prefer not to buy, and create your own, or even better create your own along with the students, I have found a Paper-Cube-Template, online, which you can print on thick paper or cardboard so that it is even sturdier to use and lasts longer.

We can then:

  • Draw or cut and paste pictures on them with the students so they can create their own character and stories.
  • Add splashes of colour on each side of the die, so they can learn the colours, if they are beginners – we can do the same with numbers, or words, anything!

There is an educator in Istanbul, Evridiki Dakos, who did something last year that was terrific! She created her own huge dice using cardboard boxes, and then laminated them with clear tape so they would be more durable and the pictures could stay in excellent condition. Here is a collage of her work and you can find more super ideas from Evridiki on her blog, ELT Teacher Development.

Evridiki's amazing creations!
Evridiki’s amazing creations!

The Disabled Access Friendly Campaign (@DAFCampaign) – Thank you!

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I have decided to write this post as a huge thank you to the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign, started by the equally amazing Katie Quartano and Paul Shaw in Thessaloniki, Greece. It started in 2010, after an article in the Athens News was published under the title of A day in the life of a disabled person. The campaign was born as a Facebook page and at this very moment has 976 followers!

DAF has a great website full of free lesson materials, created by teachers all around the world – lesson plans and videos listed by level A1 to C2, according to the CEFR. They are designed to create awareness in the ELT classroom and outside of it. If you have any great ideas about lessons, share them with Katie and Paul!

A few days ago, they included me among their Ambassadors. I am deeply honoured and happy to be part of this great project! I will do my very best to help spread this great campaign. Other ambassadors are Hassan Ait Man, Julia Aliverti, Lindsay Clandfield, Jeffrey Doonan, Adir Ferreira, Ben Goldstein, Jamie Keddie, Sue Lyon-Jones, Gerard McLoughlin, Eleni Nikiforou, Waleed Nureldeen, Aleksandra Strahinic. 

The best news lately has been that the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign has won an ELTons award for Innovation in Teacher Resources. If you click on the link you can see a video of Katie and Paul’s red carpet interview (at 34:25 mins), the winning announcement and their acceptance speech (at 1:32:33).
http://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/eltons

Congratulations to everyone at DAF and thank you again so much for everything you do!

Watch this video The Wheelchair, from the Disabled Access Friendly YouTube channel, with David Gibson and Luke Prodromou:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day Sting Came to Our Classroom – A Lesson Plan on “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”

As I have mentioned in other blog posts, I love teaching with songs – and students love it too, even if they have never heard the specific songs before! I must admit that very often I use songs I personally love – and today’s is one of them. Sting is one of my favourite artists and the particular song is super too, I think.

I have also realised that I have a lot of lesson plans with songs and I will share them more often in the future!

The song I have chosen and have used with my students in Greece and now here in Switzerland is If I Ever Lose My Faith in You. Depending on the context and country, it could be slightly controversial – but the activities I have created are pretty neutral. I hope you enjoy them and if you have more ideas, feel free to share in the comments!

Here is the video:

And the lesson plan.