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The digital writing school

Verhuisd naar: http://catharinawritesalot.blogspot.com

16:40, 13/3/2010 .. 0 comments .. Link

Dear reader,

Due to a lack of response and technical inability to follow people on the google blogs, I have decided to move all the material to the other blog. Hope to hear from you there....

Catharina



Un lešon Franšais

22:18, 6/3/2010 .. 0 comments .. Link

Today it was the French teachers' turn to teach our multilingual group. Bénédicte and Gwènlain did the A0, A1 and A2 level, all in one. We started off in good Aim tradition: introducing everyone in French verbally. We kept on practising little sentences that had to do with introducing oneself to a new friend. The object was to learn enough French to be able to write a brief message on a postcard. With a little help from the board we all memorised the necessary wordings.

So my postcard went as follows:

Chère Yu,

Je m'apelle Catharina et j'ai douze ans. J'habite à Amstelveen. J'ai dix frères et quatre soeurs. J'aime lire et le shopping. Mon père est un coiffeur et ma mère et une coiffeuse.

Salut,

Catharina

We were given a photocopy of the back of the postcard, and we were all fairly quickly finished. Still, an enjoyable little exercise for your first classes, be it vmbo, or be it gymnasium. Simply adjust the amount of information on the card.

Beide EP studenten spraken zowel Frans als Nederlands, maar meer Frans. Zij waren als docent vriendelijk, toegankelijk en humoristisch. Zij hadden zelf liever een handout gehad met de benodigde zinnetjes, maar ik denk dat het beter werkt op de manier die zij hebben gebruikt: gewoon praten en leerlingen in de klas laten herhalen. Het is snel, spannend en interactief. Daarna zelf doen: ook heel goed. Bénédicte en Gwenlain liepen door de klas om te corrigeren of te helpen. Voor leerlingen op de middelbare school is het heel leuk om een 'product' mee naar huis te kunnen nemen uit de taalles, zeker als ze nog maar net zijn begonnen. Ik vond de keuze van de opdracht voor niveau A0 en A1 heel goed. Voor mensen die echt nog nooit Frans hebben gehad gaat het wel heel snel. Dan is het misschien zinnig om na het spreken nog eens goed naar het bordschema te kijken en met de klas door te nemen, dat dan wel duidelijk en systematisch beschreven moet zijn. Of misschien is dat het moment om de handout te geven. Al met al een goede, leuke les. Nog even over het materiaal: de uitgereikte twee ansichtkaart  achterkantjes, één voor klad en één voor net, werkt heel goed op middelbare school. Onze groep had het misschien niet nodig, maar in een gewone klas is dat heel nuttig om te hebben.

For me the lesson was quite easy, mostly because I had done Tell Me More on an A2 and later B1 level, which I enjoyed. I would still not be comfortable with speaking French though.

After the French lesson we were introduced to process writing. We were supposed to have read an article in preparation for today, but nobody had. So we were guessing what it could be. Hilde came up with the closest description of it, but in the end Karel explained: it is a writing assignment whereby the teacher comments on the writing and the student then builds on the story, taking the comments to heart. Thus ending up with a much improved version of the initial story/assignment. Appearently this is doable in a class, taking a lesson of 50 minutes. I shall have to read the article now to get an idea of such a lesson. Karel kept us in the dark and wants us to think of a solution ourselves. Typical.

Catharina



Stormy night

23:10, 26/2/2010 .. 0 comments .. Link

This is the first day of my holiday. I would have had to teach three classes today, but no, it is the Spring break. No school. Time to rip out all the dead wood in the garden, and everything else that happens to meet my shears. Such a tragic part of gardening: all these plants that you have looked after over the last year, now have to be clipped back into shape. A comparison to teaching in class is just too easy, and won't say it, although the thought comes into my mind instantly. At this moment the wind is howling round the house, it insists on coming in, like the wolfe in the three little piglets. But my house is built of stone and it cannot, but I can still feel its breath round my legs. Angrily it retreats, only to return in full force a moment later. Downstairs Wales are losing badly to France in the Six Nations (rugby).

As this is the digital writing school, I better explain why I called it that. First I wanted to put all sorts of writing exercises in this blog, so that other Engish teachers might benefit from it. The thing is though, that all sorts of ideas come up, but I rarely have an idea that is out of the ordinary. I think it's because I never have time to settle down and mull things over. I'm always on the go. 

After I worked that out, I decided that it is going to be a writing school for me. This blog will keep me writing in the vain notion that other people might want to read it. This is probably why most people start a blog in the first place, it's a speaker's corner on the web. Luckily it's also one of the assignments for my study, so I can copy and paste any entries that have a link with the study later on. In that respect it is useful and a fun way of learning. It seems that I am the most talkative of my fellow students. I have visited some other blogs and they are either just existing in name, or have some brief apologetic opening. What a shame: here's a chance to build a beautiful collection of reports on the way the study, the work, or any other part of your life is going. In the mean time you get used to putting your thoughts and feelings into words. Thoughts are often without language. They are feelings that only come into existence once you vocalise or write them down. And discover just how difficult that can be.

Catharina



O,beautiful Aachen

15:33, 21/2/2010 .. 0 comments .. Link

This weekend I had a short break, visiting Aachen with my husband. Why Aachen? Because it is an ancient town, and it is not too far away. Aachen used to be the centre of power, the town where Charlemagne ruled in the latter part of the first millenium. He had a Dome built, which consisted of an octagonal room of prayer, made after the examples of Istanbul and Ravenna. It is a stunningly beautiful place, with all the golden splendour of the Byzantine era. The cupola of the dome is entirely covered in mosaic in the most beautiful colours and gold. The upper gallery is in eight corners supported by a double row of black marble pillars (taken from Ravenna) . These were later stolen by the French, then mostly retrieved and restored to the building. A vast chandelier, over four metres in diameter and a model of the holy town of Jerusalem is hanging down from the cupola, suspended on a chain of 26 metres from the cupola. Well, you can tell I was impressed. I instantly recognised it as Byzantine (smug!), and the whole interior breaths devotion and ancient history. You can also visit the treasure museum, which holds even more Byzantine examples. The best one, I thought, was the Lothairian Cross. A large wooden cross, covered completely with gold, and set with a multitude of precious stones. On the intersection of the two crossbars there is a cameo with the emperor August of Rome. Why? They think it is because the donator of the Cross was Otto the III, who saw himself as a Roman ruler, and as an emperor crowned by God. The Stations of the Cross, or the Passion of Christ, is the key event in Christian faith, and in Aachen there is an abundance of artefacts to testify it. 

 Apart from that, there is the townhall, which has attached to it, like a wooden growth at its side, the Post wagon. It is a lovely old café, dating back to the sixteenth century. Inside the original interior has been preserved,  with lots of shallow elongated rooms with benches, due to the shallow design, and three stories of winding wooden stairs, leading to more rooms where you can have a meal.

Aachen is a small place, and it has many buildings that are downright ugly as well. The city council doesn't seem to have had any policy on aesthetics in order to match new buildings to the ancient ones over the last few decades. The town was fairly heavily bombarded by the Americans in the 2nd world war.  But I have never been to a place where ancient history felt so close by, and the influence of Charlemagne as a powerful ruler can still be seen.

Ah, and then I had to speak German of course. At the restaurant, a young waitress asked where we were from. I said Amsterdam, I usually say that, because everybody knows it, and she said: "Oh, I've been there five days ago, a crazy, crazy city." This was a somewhat unexpected reaction, so we asked why. She said she had been there with her Italian cousin, to show her around. They went to the red light district and the cousin wanted to eat something (probably spacecake, but my German understanding deserted me at that moment), The cousin had no idea it contained weet and was astounded that this was all legal. Then they went into McDonalds to have a burger and wanted to pay with a 100 euro note. Within two minutes there were two policemen standing next to her, questioning her about the 100 euro note. How can prostitution and drugtaking be condoned and an innocent young visitor be confronted with the law, just by using a perfectly normal banknote? She couldn't understand and was not amused. I tried to explain her about counterfit money that at regular intervals turns up in the Netherlands, but I'm not sure whether I managed to convince her. I sympathised, nevertheless.

Catharina



The frog prince

21:39, 13/2/2010 .. Posted in when you put the pen to paper, suddenly..... .. 1 comments .. Link

The Princess and the frog

A well known fairy tale, adapted by Catharina van der Wal

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a king who had four daughters. Three of them were ordinary girls, very beautiful and gifted, but they had no ambition to become special in any way. The youngest one though, Lily, wanted to become a gardener. The king was forever wondering how she got that into her head, but it could not be helped: she went to the agricultural university at the age of five and made steady progress. When she was sixteen she had turned into a ravishing beauty who was an expert on Japanese minimalist gardening and an accomplished tree surgeon as well.

One day she was taking care of a rare apple tree with golden apples when a raven startled her so, that she knocked the biggest golden apple in the nearby pond. She cursed the raven: “I’ll have you shot by my hunters one day and you’ll be served for dinner, you ugly beast!” That was not a very ladylike reaction of hers, was it, dear readers? She walked over to the pond and started to prod in the black slurry on the bottom of the pond with a stick. Suddenly a big green frog appeared wearing a droopy black moustache and a striped scarf around his neck. The princess was very surprised and eyed him from a safe distance.

“Don’t be afgaid, beautiful princesse, said the frog in heavy French accent, I mean no ‘amm, I am ‘ere to ‘elp you”. The princess prodded him as well, which made him giggle, because he was very ticklish. “Get off, slimy toad or I’ll kill you here on the spot”, she said. This made the frog smile nervously and repeat: “I’m ‘ere to ‘elp you. I will find your beautiful apple for you, if you just give me two minutes to fetch it for you.”  “Alright then, two minutes, but if you’re not back after that I’ll start my search again”, she said impatiently. “By the way, do you know you’ve got pondweed on your upper lip?” He smiled peevishly and jumped into the pond.

Lo and behold: he was back after two minutes and held the big golden apple between his front legs with some effort. “Here you arre, lovely lady, he panted,  your golden apple”.  She wanted to take it off him straight away and put it in a basket, but the frog wouldn’t let her.  “Firrst you must make me a promisse, my lady” he said mysteriously. The princess’s first impulse was to just step on him and be done with this petulant animal, but something calmed her down. She kneeled and waited.

“I need you to be my fgiend, my lady.  I want to live in your ‘ouse with you. I want to eat from your  porcelain plate and drink from your silver cup and sleep in your gilded four poster bed with you.” “Have you gone completely off your rocker, frog? Who do you think you are? Some enchanted prince or something? No can do matey, you go back to your pond or else..”, the princess replied gruffly and reached for the apple again. The frog secreted a red alcoholic cloud from its skin and the princess stood back once more. He said nothing, put the golden apple in the basket and jumped in himself as well. The princess had no other option but to pick it up and walk back to the ancient castle which was her homestead.

The frog proved to be a fantastic friend for princess Lily, although all the servants were scared of him and the king made her eat at a separate table, because he couldn’t bear to see his daughter slowly becoming a mental case. He should never have allowed her to become a gardener, he should have listened to his wife, who died a slow and painful death a long time ago but was always right about things he found afterwards. The queen said that Lily should become a rock singer, far less dangerous and more likely to bring some money into the kitty. He hadn’t listened and regretted it painfully now.  

The frog in the mean time, whose name was Hector, turned out to be brilliant at conversation and he was very humorous too. The princess laughed her head off with him every day. But he was also very knowledgeable on history, literature and arts and he played a fine violin. He ate from her plate, mostly white bread and cheese, drank loads of red wine from a silver dish and slept on a small silk rolled cushion next to her. He used to wake her up by whispering French poems in her ear, a black beret casually covering his head. Soon she could not do without him and wanted him to be there all the time.

That was the moment when he disappeared. No, really, he was gone. The princess was desperate. Where could he be? “Hector, she yelped, Hector come back. It’s me, Lily, I miss you Hector!” Every night she sat by the pond and cut the golden apple into tiny parts.  She wished fervently for his safe return with every little golden sacrifice in the black pond water. When after three weeks all of the apple was gone she heard his croaky voice behind her. “’ere I am Lily, you may kiss me now”. 

Never did she wonder that this was a rather strange remark. All she could do was pick him up delightedly and give him a big wet kiss on his eternally smiling mouth. A strong smell of Camembert and boeuf Bourgignon arose in a puff of smoke and suddenly there were two frogs sitting by the pond. They smiled at each other and Lily leapt into the pond. Hector jumped after her and landed on her back. That’s how they remained for a very long time, deeply in love.

A few weeks after, a heap of frogspawn was deposited by Lily and she lovingly tended it until hundreds of tadpoles hatched and swam around. This is how they made their own little kingdom and lived happily ever after.

What about the King then, Lily’s father? Do you really want to know about that selfish little man who never paid any attention to her, but was only in other people’s way all the time? Well….. he went to visit his other daughters regularly and slowly got over the loss of Lily. There were many grandchildren to distract him from his grief and he lived to a very high age.   

Amstelveen, 22nd April 2009

 



the pitfalls of a presentation

13:40, 12/2/2010 .. 1 comments .. Link

Dear readers,

In this second week of the third module, the group of English had to do a presentation on writing. Although there had been some preparation in the previous module of English, it didn't seem to be sufficient material to cover a 90 minute lesson. Decision time had come last week for our presentation, and I thought it would be good if we had the so called stack-on approach, whereby everone just brings in their own exercise, and then at the last moment shuffle things around to make some kind of logical order. I had a recap of last weeks' e-mail project, mostly complete, apart from mentioning the netiquette. Then I had a listening exercise, trying to convey the importance of structure and careful use of suspense in any work of art, be it painting, singing or writing. People responded well, and one of the EP students immediately came forward to draw the melody in the empty graph on the board. All in all we listened four times to the same exerpt of music, each time listening out for something else. It seemed as though the days of teaching music had returned. I love to look at phenomenoms like music, language and art from this kind of birdseye perspective. Anyway, it was only half an exercise really, because we could have carried on trying to write in the same kind of stucture as the music we just heard, translating it into words. We could have listened to the whole piece, trying to capture the atmosphere in words. But my time was up. Plenty more people wanted to demonstrate their exercise.

Then Lale had an e-mail assignment, which was a natural extension to to the musical assignment, because she gave lots of instruction on the structure of a good e-mail. Beforehand we did recognize that we couldn't make people write for the whole lesson, so we didn't emphasize the number of words or lines that people were required to write. Some people made an e-mail in a little group. Lale let some people read their e-mail, all of a high standard, in class. Then Ana, who was ill, but didn't want to let us down, brought in a picture of Jan Steen, the well known Dutch artist, renowned for his paintings of chaotic, real life scenes. In this painting there was a classroom filled with pupils, master and class assistant, all seemingly captured in a lesson. Everybody seems to do their own thing and their is very little in the order of discipline. There was a lot to be discovered in this painting and we were all invited to point out specific individuals and interpret their actions. We were also asked to write three sentences, voicing the state of mind of one of the characters. That was kind of fun as well.

Ruben asked us to think about the summer holiday, which was great in this time of frost and snow. Will it ever become summer again? We were asked to recommend our favourite holiday destination, ultimately, if time permitted (which it didn't), producing a leaflet with all the attractions of our chosen country. Another useful exercise for our own classes. Unfortunately time was nearly up by then, and stil Yu, Lodewijk and Roy had to explain their assignments. Yu wanted us to analyse what the requirements were for a good e-mail, which took us a few minutes to grasp, Lodewijk made some complicated writing assignment, meant for B2 or higher students, and Roy had an assignment on social linguistics, which he didn't quite get round to explaining to us all. Whereas we had thought 90 minutes would be ample to explain all of it, we were short of time. This seems to have become exemplary of our Principal Subject lessons: too much in too little time. Had we have had more time to design the lesson, we would not have fallen into this trap again. As it was, I think we made the best out of it, and have now offered our fellow students a large number of writing exercises, that they can hopefully put into practice in their own classes.

Catharina



A place to write

17:56, 10/2/2010 .. 1 comments .. Link

Dear readers,

It's not that today was special in any way. The only remarkable thing was that I finally discovered how to make a crossed out zero in our Magister programme, that we use for the marks of our students. If someone has missed a test, you must indicate that in the programme by putting in the afore mentioned zero. This programme, you see, is accessible for the parents, and when they see this symbol, they know their son or daughter still has some catching up to do. And now I've finally gotten round to asking the application manager to show me how to do it. I'm sorted now, you know, I can work the programme properly.

When I started this blog, I thought it would be nice if I put some of my own writings on it, apart from the diary-like entries you are reading now. Last year I rewrote the story of the Frog Prince, as one of Jan Swijgman's assignments in the first year. The people who've read it quite liked it and it inspired me to start on another fairy tale, Little Red Ridinghood. What I'm trying to do is to give a very powerful, ancient story about morals and life's lessons, a contemporary twist. I am fascinated by stories that were told in the olden days, by the fire on a cold winter's night. They must have started off somewhere, somebody's fantasy run riot. Every time it was retold, it became bolder and darker. And I have tried to clarify the relations between characters, and mock the magic.

Catharina



The busiest day of the week

21:51, 8/2/2010 .. 2 comments .. Link

Today I have been presenting the regional round of the speech contest as an annual event, initiated by the European Platform. Eight schools from the Amsterdam region were competing in it, and each had a contestant for the 2rd year and 3rd year bilingual course students. The Dutch call it TTO. I had organised it for the first time, with some back up from my team leader. It was a great afternoon. What I wanted most of all: to create an atmosphere of concentration, joy and inspiration was fully achieved, not least by the excellent panel of experts we had invited. They managed to ask intelligent questions and made witty remarks that revealed keen listening, interest and involvement in each one of the speeches. At the interval some of our students performed a few songs live on the stage. Everyone went home with a little microphone statuette and a certificate from the European Platform, but only two people will enter the national round at the end of March. In the programme and during the presentation I did not reveal from which school each contestant came, to minimise bias. In the end that proved to be really important, because both winners came from the same school. Had the jury known they were, experienced as they were, it might have slightly influenced their decision. I can recommend to my fellow students that they include a speech in their lesson programme, because it is such a building experience and a great skill to posess.

Tonight I have been reading my emails and found my teammates Roy in there and Ruben. Unfortunately I am still knackered from the contest and won't do a lot of work on the course, but hopefully they will let me know what they are going to produce on Thursday. I might do a bit more reading. By the way: in my previous entry about the project in Turkey I mentioned the IKV. This is the abbreviation for InterKerkelijk Vredesberaad. Have fun everybody.

Catharina



Sunday, things fall into place

20:17, 7/2/2010 .. 0 comments .. Link

Today I had a phonecall from Ana, telling me that she and Ruben had already made three writing assignments and would like to use them next Thursday. There was some confusion about my emails, urging people to respond and proposing a format for the lesson. I was glad to hear that I wasn't the only one who felt responsible for the process and I was pleasantly surprised by Ana's ideas for writing tasks. That leaves Yu and Lodewijk, and I suggested that they would concern themselves with making chunks, as we call them in our teachers jargon, because at B1 level you still offer chunks to the students. B2 is another matter, but B1 still works with them. Hopefully the'll be in touch soon, so it can be fixed. I can see myself writing in this log quite often, because I think it's a wonderful opportunity to really record the whole process from the first lesson to the last. And after that, as far as I'm concerned. It seems as though I have found a little corner of my own on the web here....

Catharina



Return to the classroom, February 4

21:40, 5/2/2010 .. 2 comments .. Link

Dear readers,

Today was the first lesson of the Principal Subject by Karel. We started off by determining at which level, as stated by the CEFR, a variety of handouts were. The subject of this module is writing, as it is a requirement for vmbo-students to write a letter at the national exams, and for havo and vwo students at the schoolexam. We worked our way through the module guide with lots of interruptions and questions, because we were all trying hard to take in what we were supposed to do these coming weeks. It turned out that each set of language teachers, so English, German, French and Dutch (?), are going to prepare to teach writing to their fellow students for a whole lesson. And the English group are the guinea pigs, because they have to do it next week already. We were not amused, especially since there was no time to discuss anything with each other. Instead, we were asked to think up some advice for a colleague who wanted to set up e-mail contact between their English class and some school abroad. How to go about it. I have been involved in the Sharing Stories project in 2006, which had the very same object, only with a specific country and culture. I went with a Dutch delegation of English teachers to Urgüp in Capadocia. We stayed there for five days, and returned emptyhanded. Even though the Turkish schools that we visited were equipped suitably and teachers more than willing, the IKV had failed to ask for permission by the authorities. It was only because one of the teachers was Turkish and negotiated long and hard with the local mayor, that we were allowed in the schools at all. Some time after our return we did manage to establish contact between the various classes that we had seen, but it died soon, due to a lack of support, inspiration, perspective. Nevertheless, we were very impressed with Turkish hospitality and culture. An unforgettable journey.

Concerning the lesson for next week: we did prepare more or less for this assignment, but when I read the document properly, it did seem that at the current state of affairs we can cater for a B1 level quite easily, but not much higher than that. We also have a B2 student and Karel himself is asking for an exercise at C2 level on his own blog. It's going to be a tricky one!

Anyway, I also learned a new word: netiquette, meaning courtesy while communicating on the web.

Tips and recommendations for an e-mail exchange:

- to find class e-mail exchange contacts, there is the German Kochbuch-site

- gather all the e-mails in your school ELE, in a drop box for instance, in order to be able to monitor progress and check for any inapropriate language

- the frequency of the contacts could be five times per school year at the most. There are lots of things to consider and it is a lot of work, so don't expect weekly sessions

- make sure you have a good idea of the expectations of your colleague abroad.

- practise relevant vocabulary and sentences (chunks) with your students before writing

These were my thoughts about this first lesson. I am considering to start using this blog for real writing exercises, poems etc.

Catharina



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Verhuisd naar: http://catharinawritesalot.blogspot.com
Un lešon Franšais
Stormy night
O,beautiful Aachen
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