The Mother Tongue. The World’s Language.

“More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest … try to” this quote is from the opening lines of the non-fiction book “The Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson.

In this book, the author compiles the history, origins and quirks of the English language. In the first chapter, “The world’s language” Bryson proffers the argument that English is, in short, one of the world’s great world industries. Indeed, such is the demand to learn the language that there are now more students of English in China than there are people in the United States.

Bryson discusses the place of English in contemporary society, explaining how English words and phrases have entered the vocabularies of many other languages around the globe, reflecting the power that English has in the modern world. As it is well known, English is often the neutral language chosen for international businesses that have workers and management who speak different native languages. Notwithstanding, Bryson tries to justify the popularity of the English language not with historical or political arguments. Surprisingly, he does not mention the colonization of part of the world by the British Empire and the subsequent cultural and political hegemony of the United States.

The author argues the point that what sets English apart from other languages are facts such as the diversity of its vocabulary. He states that “the richness of the English vocabulary, and the wealth of available synonyms, means that English speakers can often draw shades of distinction unavailable to non-English speakers”. This, I would suggest, is a statement both controversial and debatable.

After a quick examination of the role that English plays in the world today, Bryson goes back in time to study the origins of language itself in the second chapter: “The dawn of Language”. But that chapter will be reviewed in the next post.

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Waving a magic wand (The language of false solutions)

Words and phrases there are to describe solutions that, for whatever reason, are not as effective as we might hope.

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

fergregory/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

I recently wrote about phrasal verbs that we use to describe managing problems. While I was researching this area, I started to think more widely about the language of solutions.  I noticed how many words and phrases there are to describe solutions that, for whatever reason, are not as effective as we might hope.

The first word that comes to mind is panacea. People often say that something is not a panacea for a particular problem, meaning it will not magically cure that problem. The idea here is that the problem is more complicated or varied than people sometimes assume: Technology is not a panacea for all our problems. A phrase with a very similar meaning is silver bullet or its variant magic bullet. Again, a silver/magic bullet is a solution that is too simple or too general for a complicated…

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Do you use cooperative learning in your classroom?

Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals.

Cooperative Learning is particularly beneficial for any student learning a second language. Cooperative Learning activities promote peer interaction, which helps the development of language and the learning of concepts and content. ELLs (ELL is a person who is learning the English language in addition to his or her native language) learn to express themselves with greater confidence when working in small teams. In addition to ‘picking up’ vocabulary, ELLs benefit from observing how their peers learn and solve problems.

How students should interact with one another is the point.

How teachers structure student-student interaction patterns has a lot to say about how well students learn, how they feel about school and the teacher, how they feel about each other, and how much self-esteem they have.

Assign each student in a team a role (such as reporter, recorder, time keeper, and materials manager), you might want to rotate roles each week or by activity or by project. This prevents what typically happens if students select their own roles: the same students wind up performing the same tasks. By rotating, students develop the skills they most need to practice.

There are some popular strategies that can be used with all students. Most of these strategies are especially effective in teams of four: take a look at this past post on this same blog: Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.

In this post, I am going to focus on two cooperative strategies that I found very useful with my students.

Numbered Heads Together

Ask students to number off in their teams from one to four. Announce a question and a time limit. Students put their heads together to come up with an answer. Call a number and ask all students with that number to stand and answer the question. The aim is to recognize correct responses and elaborate them through rich interactions and discussions. This strategy ensures that each member knows the answer to problems or questions asked by the teacher. Because no one knows which number will be called, all team members must be prepared.

A very useful strategy, moreover, if you have hoarders and shy students in your classroom. The hoarder likes to talk, so they are getting an opportunity to talk within their small group and even teach them.  The introvert students will have to pay attention and participate because their number might be called.  You have just differentiated learning.

Heads together instructions from teachingwithsimplicity

Jigsaw

Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece — each student’s part — is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final product. If each student’s part is essential, then each student is essential; and that is precisely what makes this strategy so effective.

Assign each student in a team one fourth of a page to read from any text (for example, a narrative text or a short tale or biography). Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. Form temporary “expert groups” by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.

Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group. Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.

Each student presents her or his segment to the group and then teaches the others or helps to put together a team product by contributing a piece of the puzzle.

Jigsaw instructions from Cult of Pedagogy

You could appoint one student from each group as the leader in order to prevent troubles (e.g., a member is dominating, disruptive or not collaborative),

After each Cooperative Learning activity, you will want to debrief with the children by asking questions such as: What did you learn from this activity? How did you feel working with your teammates? If we do this again, how will you improve working together? And finally, have students celebrate the hard work of group members.

An Overview Of Cooperative Learning David W Johnson and Roger T Johnson

Numbered Heads Together Cooperative Learning Strategy

4 Things You Don’t Know About the Jigsaw Method

The Jigsaw Classroom

Digital vs Digitized Learning

BYOT Network

Digital vs Digitized Learning

As teachers begin to shift toward greater personalized learning experiences for students, their initial steps build upon what they already know from face-to-face instruction. Districts usually provide teachers with easy to use Learning Management Systems (LMS) that can facilitate new learning opportunities with technology. However, the greatest potential of learning with technology tools is that teachers and students can transform the traditional learning environment, processes, and products. Just providing teachers with an organizational tool, such as an LMS, will not lead to transformative practices. Teachers need on-going support if they are to truly transform their classrooms into ecosystems for digital age learning.

A Model for Redefining Learning

The SAMR Modeldeveloped by Dr. Ruben Puentedura provides a guideline for explaining the digital transformation. The four levels within this model are Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. At the Substitution level, teachers merely replace the traditional methods of instruction with digital tools, so instead of…

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A little bird told me …

It is an idiomatic expression that means “someone told me, but I’m not telling you who it is”. This phrase is often used more comically than seriously, especially when the source of the information is obvious to both parties but neither is willing to say.

Various authors over the centuries, including Shakespeare, have made reference to birds, feathered or otherwise, giving messages. I have found an earlier version of this phrase: “A little bird has whispered a secret to me,” from 1833 on www.phrases.org.uk

Idioms are fixed combinations of words whose meaning is difficult to guess from the meaning of each individual word. For instance, If two people are birds of a feather, they are very similar in many ways, so they naturally spend time together and join together. That is not the same as the separate meanings of their individual words.

“Do not complain about your friends. Remember, birds of a feather flock together. Your friends are just like you.”  These are examples of idioms, they cannot be taken literally.

Sometimes we use the features and cliches based on birds as a short way of expressing a more complicated idea. For example if “the student learned about the birds and the bees in his health education class at school” is a way of saying that he or she has learned the facts about sex and birth and life, the facts of life.

Also idioms help to make English a more colourful language: “An early bird” is someone who arrives someplace early or starts something early

“I am an early bird and I like to arrive early at work every morning.” If you wake up and get to work early, you will succeed, in this case we can say the proverb: “The early bird catches the worm”

Similes are expressions which compare two things, they always include the words as or like. You can use similes to make a description more emphatic or vivid, e.g. “as free as a bird” completely free, carefree. “Eat like a bird” to eat very little. The opposite would be “Eat like a horse”, and if he eats very unpleasantly and greedily with no table manners he “eats like a pig”.

Idioms are used to catch the reader’s eye, particularly those with strong images, e.g.: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This expression means that it is better to have an advantage or opportunity that is certain than having one that is worth more but is not so certain. The ‘bird’ we already possess is far more valuable than the ‘two’ we could possibly get. In essence, don’t be greedy and a “bird brain”, stick with what good things you already have, instead of going after something you’ll probably never get.

The Teacher, a very interesting and intelligent person, not a “birdbrain”, introduces us to three idioms connected with birds:

  • Birdbrain.
  • To have a bird’s eye view. (a general view from above)
  • A little bird told me.

The phrase “to kill two birds with one stoneIdiom 68 Kill two birds with one stone 2I do use it by habit, but I catch myself every time I say it. The expression is rarely used literally, no one really goes around throwing stones at birds these days. Again, because these examples are idioms, they cannot be taken literally. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the usage as a proverbial phrase meaning “to accomplish two different purposes by the same act or proceeding.” Or in other words: “to use only one action to complete two tasks”.

And this is what I hope I have done with this post, learn about idioms and expressions and about bird features.

Another video about birds idioms by  JamesESL English Lessons (engVid)

To learn more about Bird Idioms:

About idioms in general:

 

 

Making Music Matters

The Chinese philosopher Confucius said long ago that “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”  Learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains. Playing a musical instrument has many benefits and can bring pleasure to those around them.

Quotefancy-28004-3840x2160.jpg

More qualitative benefits than only listening to music. Passively listening to Mozart, or indeed any other music you enjoy, does not make you smarter. The so-called “Mozart effect” is  now a debunked myth: just listening to certain types of music does not improve intelligence, like you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports. It’s important to engage with the music in order to reap the benefits and see changes in your learning. Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain.

Moreover, people with little or no musical training, who represent the vast majority of the listening audience, perceive music in a totally different way than the actual musicians who play or create the music. Each person who hears music is influenced by his or her own individual personality, knowledge, and life experiences that have molded their minds.

This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity.


Extract from the video:

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout

Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brains functions, allowing us to apply that strengh to other activities.

The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it is that the latter requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision, in which the left hemisphere is more involved, with the novel and creative content that the right excels in.

– See more at: 

Benefits-playing-an-instrument MerceCardus

Anita Collins Music.com/films/

The Two Sides of Music

This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain – TIME

Mozart doesn’t make you clever – NATURE

Are you studing English? If so, are you doing English or taking English ?

“Two nations divided by a common language” George Bernard Shaw.

Are you studying English? If so, are you doing English (UK English) or taking English (US English) ? Where did you go to school? the word school is different – for Brits refers only to primary or secondary school, whereas for North Americans, it can refer also to any form of higher education including colleges and universities. Even the word college has different meaning in UK English or US English.

The following blog post has focused on very general words and phrases related with studying. And not only does it describe the most typical systems in the UK and the US, but also explains some important differences between UK and US vocabulary.

 

About Words - Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog

by Liz Walter​
studying_part1
Almost everyone needs to talk about education now and then, so this blog post looks at some useful words and phrases connected with studying. It describes the most typical systems in the UK and the US, and explains some important differences between UK and US vocabulary.

The very youngest schoolchildren have a reception year in the UK and a kindergarten year in the US. After that, Brits talk about year 1, year 2, etc., while US children are in first grade, second grade, etc. The word grade is also used in US English to talk about scores in exams or written work. British English uses mark: He always gets good grades/marks.

In general, the UK has primary schools for ages 5-11 and secondary schools for ages 11-16, followed by sixth form collegesfor ages 16-18. In the US, elementary schoolsteach grades 1-5…

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Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.

The teacher no longer is the “sage on the stage” but rather a model and facilitator of learning

Why use this method of teaching?
The 21st century learning skills* require students to build reading, writing, problem-solving and application competencies. The teacher is supposed to teach less content and more skills. Cooperative learning is the perfect teaching methodology to teach students strategies and skills. It also a great model to show students how to apply those skills to study content.

*The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.

If you teach your students skills, they will become proficient, adaptable and life-long learners. And this works for ALL SUBJECTS. No matter the content, students who are skilled learners can study any subject, at any time and at any place. Cooperative learning also fosters a student’s ability to work in a team and to regularly reflect on his/her learning.

Groupings
The teacher* assigns students in groups with specific roles and jobs. After team members are organized into these small groups, usually of four people, and receive instruction from their teacher, students within the team cooperate with one another and work through the assignment until each team member successfully understands and completes it. Ultimately the shared goals are accomplished individually by each team member, and collectively by the group as a whole.
Teacher-selected groups have been proven time and again to be the best method of forming teams because it ensures a good mix and avoids friends from working together, which neglects to achieve the goal of improvement of social interactions among students who do not know each other as well.kaganpresentation

Team members.

Team members are responsible for their own individual learning as well as for their teammates learning. Members benefit from the contributions of the individual team members. Groups are heterogeneous are made up of high, medium and low academic achieving students. Team members acquire new skills and knowledge. Rewards are oriented towards individual and group.
Classroom Management
If cooperative learning is not accompanied with an effective classroom management system, serious problems are likely to occur. (Spencer Kagan)

Teachers usually provide verbal information along with worksheets, outlines and study guides during a cooperative learning lesson.
Students who are unfamiliar with the cooperative learning model will need to be taught about the model and be clear on their roles as well as the teacher’s expectations during this type of lesson
Reflection (group processing) is an essential part of the cooperative learning process. By clarifying and describing which actions and decisions were helpful and unhelpful the group continues the learning process and improves each members effectiveness when contributing to a collaborative group.
Researchers
The leading researchers of cooperative learning include Robert Slavin, Roger & David Johnson and Spencer Kagan, all of whom have slightly different approaches and emphases

The research of David and Roger Johnson, provides the foundation for how cooperative learning is structured in most of today’s classrooms. Their research shows that merely because students work in small groups does not mean they are cooperating to ensure their own learning and the learning of all others in the group.
Dr. Slavin suggests that cooperative learning is doubtlessly a great tool for handicapped and disabled students. Cooperative learning encourages these students and molds them to work in a professional environment. Cooperative learning of disabled and normal students is another great way of encourage disabled students. According to Slavin, when disabled and handicapped students work in mainstream and heterogeneous environments, they learn in a more productive and skillful manner.

Spencer Kagan has developed more than 100 structures to incorporate the basic principles of cooperative learning. “We are very clear with teachers that they should make cooperative learning part of any lesson,” Kagan says. “Ours is an integrated approach rather than a replacement approach.”

Kagan Structures
Kagan Structures are easy-to-learn and easy-to-use instructional strategies, ideal for promoting second language learning. In classrooms in which the Kagan Structures are used regularly, students for whom English is a second language learn both English and academic content far more quickly and far more thoroughly than when traditional instructional strategies are used. The Kagan Structures also promote language and content learning far more than does group work.

All of the Kagan Structures are very carefully designed. They are carefully structured to implement four basic principles of cooperative learning, PIESPIES

P  = Positive Interdependence
I  = Individual Accountability
E  = Equal Participation
S  = Simultaneous Interaction

For example, Kagan instructs teachers to use a “Timed Pair Share” structure. In this exercise, the teacher divides the class into pairs of students and poses a question. Within each pair, Student A talks about his or her answer for one minute, then Student B does the same.

The following examples illustrate a few of these instructional methods used:

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“Which Kagan Structures should I learn and use first?”, and “Where do I begin?”

Inside-Outside Circle: In concentric circles, students rotate to face new partners and then answer or discuss teacher questions.
Rally Table: In pairs, students alternate generating written responses or solving problems.
One Stray: On each team, one teammate “strays” from his or her team to a new team to share information.
Rally Robin: In pairs, students alternate generating oral responses.
Rally Coach: Partners take turns, one solving a problem while the other coaches.
Showdown: One teammate reads a question or problem aloud. Students work independently to solve the problem, then show their answers when a teammate calls, “Showdown!” They then celebrate the correct answer or coach to get the correct answer (Kagan 1994).

For more details about Cooperative Learning

On Kagan Institutes, workshops and conferences go to www.T2TUK.co.uk and www.Kaganonline.com

The “Round robin” technique

What is cooperative learning? SlideShare

Cooperative Learning Lessons Starter Kit

The Essential 5: A Starting Point for Kagan Cooperative Learning

FIVE COOPERATIVE LEARNING ACTIVITIES TO DO ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

Kagan Structures for English Language Learners