The End of Time.

Hello! How do! 你好~

The notion of time need to go. That’s how author Paulo Coelho answered Laura Sheahan for a Beliefnet.com interview. Everything is eternal and there is no time. He said that “time is another of these things that help us go through life”. Professor Stephen Hawking would have been proud. This was the closest I’d got to understanding anything written by the great professor, and it wasn’t through deep science.

Instead the vessel of discovering enlightenment came through a multifaceted faith-crossover text, The Alchemist. Since Qiezi (茄子) gifted me this novel, I’ve had to read it twice. Time on a hospital bed granted me a third visit to the pages. Actually, visiting this book again was like embracing an old friend. A welcome return to the familiar. And like all good friends, there’s always something new to encounter together.

Whoever is the Fatima of my Personal Legend and wherever the pyramids are that I seek, perhaps today in this hospital I’m encountering my own crystal glass shop. The cliche-heavy book is relatable in many senses and my biggest take home is change. We must always adapt and accept that very few things remain constant. If one day you can’t breathe easily, then the next you may improve (or not).

The simplicity of the book, through protagonist Santiago, tells a sweet take about keeping faith and discovering your destiny, despite the challenges set before you. Now Santiago’s visions set him on a journey that teaches more and gives plenty whilst indulging you and I as a reader in the do more, see more, be more mantra of life. If it was a Coldplay song it’d be about opening up your eyes.

The short read delves deep into fate and manifestations with a strong sense that the universe is pushing your path in front of you. Rich in symbolism, folklore and spirituality, Paulo Coelho has made me want to explore every other text he’s written since the Brazilian started publishing in 1974 (in his late twenties). His Portuguese books have spread globally and been aided by translation. Popularity has been earned. Now, which students can I put the Chinese and English editions into their hands? I’ve been gifted these words. It’s time to share this world.

Goodbye. Ta’ra! 再见~

Lately.

Good evening 晚上好 / 你好 Hello!

Lately it has been a manic period of hustle and bustle at Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS). Also, in my free time, I’ve been heavily hard at work procrastinating and doing the things I enjoy doing, whenever I feel they’re necessary. Whoever said a lack of responsibility was easy, lied. Cappuccino has been close to hand. Almost as luxury as the pair of Ravemen CR900 cycling lights. An upgrade from the N900 models. Remote controls and battery level monitors were too tempting.

The Diploma Programme team have been working solidly under great leadership. The application and candidate status has become approved. Not bad for a school without any current high school students! Now we’re gunning, pedal to the metal, for the completion of MYP’s International Bachelorette status.

The uncertainty of when travel to the U.K. hangs over my head like a Titanic-sized Goliath of scrapped metal. At times it feels like it may drop and make my noggin more squishy than nature intended. At other times, the optimism factory is producing positive vibes and sending them out in Olympic-sized swimming pool proportions. With every passing news article, input by experts, advice of Olympians going to Beijing 2022 and chilling in quarantine for twenty-one days prior to the Winter Olympics. Nothing is certain.

For two of our Language and Literature class groups, students selected Lord of The Flies and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Exams have been prepared for the former and the latter shall be assessed by essay. In the meantime, the second units are in full preparation. As are units three to five. The school year map is freshly under way. And that’s before looking at Science classes with grades 6 to 8. Hopefully the weather will drop below thirty degrees Celsius to allow some extra evening preparation motivation.

I recently caught up with Shenzhen Blues, Katherine and Stephen in Shenzhen. A fantastic Turkish meal at Mevlana (#154 Zhenxing Road, Huaqiangbei, Futian) with a witty Pakistani waitress made for a fun afternoon. Shenzhen is a city with great food and a fantastic place to recover after hiking. And matter about City’s impressive draw at Anfield.

The relentless and ferocious Guangdong heat has tested my mind and body, and ruined my balcony garden. The grape vines perished in the inexorable sunlight and the numerous passion fruit plants became single digits. The uncompromising sunshine has dried my daisies and ruthlessly culled my apparently less than shaded herb garden. The harsh weather has seldom given way to rain, typhoons or monsoons this summer. It’s dogged single-minded unyielding approach to the environment has been cooking and drying for too long. Today hit 34 degrees Celsius and that was a cool part of this last week!

Goodbye 再见

The Finale (Act I)

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Four – Individual Oral Assessment

IB Course Creator Tim Pruzinsky started his introduction video by saying this final module would be unique and no easy task. Armed with a floppy left arm (following my second installment of the COVID-19 jab yesterday) and a nausea (last weekend’s sickness has caused my appetite since to be largely under the requirements of a half-giant), I set on my studies. To baldly go… (shiny-headed pun intended)

Utterly the Higher Level!

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Assessing the Higher Level Essay

What is a 4? What is a 5? The line between the two is foggy and at times completely a blur. So, here, I use the benefit of the doubt. My reasoning is simple. The overall piece was well written, clearly thought of in detail and delivered in an informative way. I still had some question. So, I went looking. I found that Calvin and Hobbes ran from 18/11/1985 to 31/12/1995 as a daily comic strip in the U.S.A. and across the world. I’ve certainly never stumbled on this strip, despite it landing in over 2400 newspapers! Humour, satire, politics, and family life mix well with philosophy and judging by the Wikipedia write-up, a dozen of so academics have touched on it too.

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AUnderstanding & Interpretation5/5Broad understanding of Calvin & Hobbes.
Strong appearance and understanding.
Clear persuasive interpretation.
Some focus on satire shows deeper interpretation.
Implications of text explained well bit could have had more detail.
Demonstrates a passion for the text.
Reference use is strong.
Portrays the comic’s intent and purpose well.
Line of inquiry allows for development &/or relevant/focus.
Some openness of interpretation may be conveyed from the chosen language features of the student’s works.
Who, when, what and how answered. The why is a little under-supported.
BAnalysis & Evaluation4/5Graphic aspects needed a little further contextual depth.
Would have benefitted from more language analysis.
Consistent flow with convincing analysis.
Insightful analysis of the text.
Is the reader intended to be active or an observer?
Clear that: Language + style + technique = meaning.
Evaluation of author’s choice clear & concise.
Further development of points possible.
Accurate use of technical terminology.
CFocus & Organization4/5Organised/cohesive, but a little complex.
Integrated example usage.
Adequate development of a line of inquiry.
Paragraphs clear and linear, however some back and forth to the appendix is needed.
DLanguage5/5Clear and well-chosen.
Appropriate register (effective/concise).
Vocabulary strong and supportive. Literary terms deployed.
Grammar usage largely accurate. Some sentence structure errors.
Total18/20

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Added Extras (Extended Essay)

Firstly, the score weighting is different to previously marked papers, so it allows for flexibility in awarding a final mark. Deciding between a score from four or five is tougher than that of one from six or twelve. An in depth extended essay offers more chance to digest and deconstruct before reviewing and offering feedback. Overall, it is much more demanding. However, for candidate and examiner the process is more exacting and testing. It isn’t a short time task! A cup of steaming cappuccino was required!

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AFocus & Method (a reader should see the beginning to the end)5/6Effective speech chosen.
Culture/context/target language show connection.
In depth analysis versus that of a broader range of speeches.
Good usage of secondary sources as way of support.
Displays good intelligence.
BKnowledge & Understanding (a reader should be informed)5/6Social/political understanding of the speech fully demonstrated.
Subject-specific terminology deployed.
Primary and secondary sources support context.
No digression.
Public opinions over-generalised?
CCritical Thinking (a reader should see thoughts)9/12Research, analysis and evaluation evident and of a high value.
Exploration of the speech could have been furthered more accordingly (to gain full marks).
Concentrating their interpretation would be of more benefit to the writer.
DPresentation (a reader needs it to be clear)3/4Clear.
Some over-general citation use.
EEngagement (a reader should be engaged)5/6Initial topic starts and is abandoned.
Further two topics engage deeply.
Candidate’s voice lacks full bite.
Total27/34

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Reflection

How can you use the assessment components, the learner portfolio, and more, to help achieve the IB mission?

Papers one and two offer opportunities for student encouragement and development. Each offers skillsets for life. The IB learner profiles can be explored and reinforced. The issues of identity, culture, class, environment and representation, amongst other matters can be explored through non-literary and literary study. Literature is a rich vein for exploration. It offers voices and opportunity to use effectively the approaches to learning skills. Drawing a connection beyond the non-literary and literary gives rise to language exposure and expansion.

Through paper one students can explore global issues across a broad range and bring them to the classroom for debate. Global thinking inquiring minds can be founded within the realm of paper one.

Paper two has a traditional feel to deliver in a form of written communication. That. construct must include balanced analysis, evaluation and be organised in a way that shows complete organisation through good time management and and thorough language use.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

Who watches the Watchmen?

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Reviewing Examiner Marked Papers

Part One

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AUnderstanding & Interpretation4/5Demonstrates full literal understanding.
Insightful interpretation.
Fully supported/referenced to text.
BAnalysis & Evaluation5/5Convinced analysis of textual/visual features.
Supports how features/choices shape meaning.
Effective use of website provision.
CFocus & Organization5/5Coherent organisation of analysis.
Growth shown from writing’s beginning to end.
Conclusion is strong.
Supports itself.
DLanguage4/5Clear/carefully selected language.
Adequate register/style.
Accuracy in vocabulary, grammar and structure.
Ideas expressed clearly enough, but could benefit from more oomph.
Some grammatical endings likely prevented full marks.

Part Two

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AUnderstanding & Interpretation4/5Demonstrates full understanding of literal text, when combined with visual text elements.
Individual aspects highlighted.
BAnalysis & Evaluation5/5Conveys meaning & evaluation of features.
Highlights choice of word use; drawing details; story development; character choice.
CFocus & Organization5/5No focus on the story’s moral.
Paragraphing very clear.
DLanguage4/5Appropriate use of terminology for graphic novel/comic strip formats.
Notes inconsistencies.
Some tough misuse of punctuation. Tenses/clauses incorrectly used.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – Latin for: “Who will guard the guards against themselves?”

Module 3: Paper II: One try.

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Marking Rewards Content

Before tackling this, I hate red pens. I refuse to use red pens. I like to highlight in sky blue, what needs to be praised. I use orange (or pencil) to draw attention to something that needs reflection and evaluation. I use pencil where corrections can be made. So, my marking is looking to reward what happens to stare outwards and not what is missing. Marking should encourage students and not destroy their confidence.

Knowledge, understanding & InterpretationCriterion A7/10Shows knowledge about works.
Evidence of narration.
Experience of characters evident.
Comparatives used.
Contrasts clear.
Evident connection. Linked clearly to the question.
Generalisation overpowers specific areas of closer comparison.
Analysis & EvaluationCriterion B8/10Includes textual features.
Analysis connects technical features to texts.
Analysis shows connection of different perspectives.
Evaluates the chosen text.
Encourage use of explicit answers.
Encourage analytical terminology.
Focus & OrganisationCriterion C4/5Not very smooth in flow. Few conjunctions in use.
Focus seems to lack sharpness. Overall
Conclusion: vague.
Sentence length and structure needs revision.
What exactly is etc?
LanguageCriterion D3/5Some repetition of key points. Some repetition of key points.
Register appropriate.
Some spelling, punctuation and grammar faults. Proofreading would have removed these errors.
Encourage a wider range of vocabulary and terminology.
Lacks evaluation voice.
Total marks: 21/30

EDIT: Following the above work, I was allowed to read the below (which gives more guidance):

Non-Literary Unit of Study

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Wiki

Notes: It is important to use questions: WHO / WHEN / WHAT / WHY / HOW / WHICH / DO / DID / etc.

ConceptIdentity
Who is Boris Johnson? What was his political background? How did he rise to power? What roles did he have? How do you measure his success? Based on your analysis of several magazine and newspaper covers, is it possible for you to comment on his character? To what extent do these covers reflect his identity? Has he stylised his approach to that of Sir Winston Churchill?
Communication
Political parties and their members need communication methods. A voice within a newspaper column can have a great effect on the potential electorate. Every word is carefully written, edited, drafted and calculated.
How do people remember words from speeches?
How do people see written text and compare this to spoken dialogue through various sources?
Culture
Negative campaigns and advertisements are characteristic of certain cultures. Some cultures take these techniques much further than others.
§ How do texts in this unit compare to the election & political culture in your country?
§ Are they more negative or less negative than what you are used to seeing?
§ How are trends in negative advertising changed over the years in your country? Why is this?
Global issuePolitical landscape – battles of power
Area of ExplorationReaders, writers, texts
What are the different ways in which people are affected by texts and their attached imagery?
Time and space
What is the influence of cultural contexts on how texts are written and received?
Intertextuality: connecting texts
Which diverse texts have features in common?
Assessment ObjectivesHow are notions of political power constructed by the media? (Local, regional or international influence?)
How do newspapers play a role in shaping public opinion? (Or, to try to remain unbiased?)
How do politicians use language to persuade voters? (Or to dissuade?)
What kinds of debate techniques and argumentation fallacies are common in televised and political debates? (Is it civil? Or, closer to that of a talk show? Or, akin to that of Jerry Springer?)
In what ways do politicians use language to tear down their rivals? Is it respectful to the viewing audience’s collective maturity and intelligence?
Respond to non-literary texts to demonstrate an understanding and develop a personal interpretation (Paper 1)

1. Gather ten political figures on different magazine or newspaper covers. Review the presentation, first impressions and back-up their opinion using the material evidence.
2. Observe a debate video. Discuss their answer. Refer to their arguments. Discuss fairness and tactical language usage.
Non-Literary textsMagazine covers
Front pages 
Debates (ITV News: Corbyn v Johnson) (BBC Newsnight: Johnson v Corbyn debate analysis) (Johnson declines debate) (Debate regarding Bexit deal)
Ads (Love Actually parody) (12 Questions) (Greenpeace: Wasteminster) (Boris vs. Obesity)
Overview & ProcedureText typesHow to develop activities / expansion ideas / Links to TOKthings to consider
An introduction.

See column 4.

Link to oral exam: YES/NO.
Video 

Social media source

News feed

Article

magazine piece

Speech

Transcript
Discuss the connection between:

Discuss the relationship between:

Compare the differences between:

What/how do we differ between right & wrong?

How do we know information is clear and accurate before voting at an election?

Do politicians lie?

How can you be certain your vote counts?

What are objective facts?

Is there an appeal to emotions in order to shape public opinion?

Do we have an ethical obligation to understand political issues/events/global issues?

Should language be simplified for the benefit of voters or the general public?

Should language and campaign materials be fact-checked and cross-referenced before being made public?

Is misinformation legal?

How far does freedom of speech go before it becomes libel?
audience

diction

mode

genre

register

rhetoric

purpose

linguistic relativity

stereotypes

receptive

interactive
images below belong to the publication title (as per their cover) – these are selected from Der Spiegel / GQ British edition / The Mail On Sunday magazine Live / The London Magazine / Elle / Panorama – Canberra Times / Time / The Sunday Times magazine / The Big Issue / New Statesman / The Guardian Weekly / The Spectator / Daily Mail / Private Eye / The Economist / The Philadelphia Trumpet
Wrap-up/reflectionWhat aspects of this activity resonated strongest with you?
How could I have improved this Non-Literary Unit of Study inquiry?
Has anything changed the way you look at the world?
How important is it to know what is fair or unfair?
Is there an aspect you would like to explore further? Why?

Review examples (1) (2) (3) (4)

Created by: Ahmed, Acton, and Olivia. Published at: INSERT LINK Submitted to: IB PD website on 21st JUNE 2021

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Reflection

  • “How did your thoughts about what you might teach change based on the TOK debate?”

The debate opened up new avenues of exploration, exposure to other influences shared by other teachers around the globe and created a wider lens to look at teaching options. The wider the scope of texts, the broader the issues that can be covered in comparative assignments.

  • “What is your role in creating an internationally minded literature syllabus?”

Turning negatives into positives, examples of adversity can be shown to create inspirational and deep characters. I believe I can highlight equality and inequality as a stepping stone from their comfort zones to the wider world around them, using relatable issues and examples. Trying to make students feel part of something or connect is a challenge and one that needs to be handled compassionately with complete empathy, and not through a patronising lens. We’re not trying to feel sorry for others. We can relate and encourage critical thinking and higher order thinking that seeks change for the better. We don’t want every issue or problem to overshadow the mood and emotion of study.

  • “Do you believe it is more important to teach canonical works or a diverse set of texts? Why?”  

Diverse foods create good tongues. Diverse music taste influences good listening skills and music knowledge. Diversity in reading creates a reader that can handle texts from numerous countries, cultures and backgrounds.

  • “And finally, what are you most excited about teaching and why?”

I am most excited to get students lifting new unfamiliar texts, through their own choice and confidence. In turn, I want to see each student set unique challenges and bring their own interests, choices to the classroom.

Syllabus construction

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Four Syllabus Construction – (draft II)

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Syllabus Construction – A checklist for language and literacy (draft I)

See Guide, pages 20-21. Use: Prescribed Reading List.

HIGHER LEVEL (6 works)
STANDARD LEVEL (4 works)
conceptsplace* (3 / 2)period*
(3 / 2)
literary form*
(3 / 2)
Areas of Exploration
PRL (English) 1: William ShakespearerepresentationEngland/ Europe16th/17th centuryliterary text: poetryreaders, writers & texts
PRL (English) 2:
Nurrudin Farah
perspectiveSomalia20th/21st centuryliterary text: prose fiction / dramatime & space
PRL (translated) 1: Persepolis & Persepolis II (Marjane Satrapi)Cultures & identity: How does a text bridge a cultural boundary and create an insight? How do we approach texts from different times and cultures to that of our students?Iran
/France
/Austria
21st centuryliterary text: graphic novelsconnecting texts
PRL (translated) 2: Hanqing Guan / The Ballad of Mulan, anonymous / Njal’s saga, Óþekktur höfundurcommunication: How can texts offer multiple perspectives of a single issue, topic or theme?China/
Iceland
13th century; 4th century onwards; 12th-14th centuryliterary text: drama / poetry / prose fictionreaders, writers & texts
Free choice 1: The Levellerscreativity: how does the listener understand the meaning of a song and its lyrics; How are we affected by texts in varied ways?UK/ Europe20th/21st centuryliterary text: music lyricstime & space
Free choice 2: Tash Awwhy & how do we study language and literature?Malaysia21st centuryliterary text: prose fiction/novel
variousallglobal21st centurynon-literary text: websitesreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalvariousnon-literary text: opinion columnsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobal20th/21st centurynon-literary text: magazine and newspaper coversreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalpre-21st century; 20th centurynon-literary text: public information texts readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalpre-21st century; 20th centurynon-literary text: propaganda pamphlets readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalpre-21st century; 20th centurynon-literary text: advertisementsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobal21st centurynon-literary text: blogsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobal20th/21st centurynon-literary text: self-help guidesreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalvariousnon-literary text: photographyreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
various (some translated)allglobalvariousnon-literary text: speechesreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
various (some translated)allglobalvariousnon-literary text: quotationsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts

The Levellers were chosen for their breadth and depth of lyrics. I absolutely agree that I would be focusing on an exploration of the lyrics (as a form of poetry) more than any other aspect. The subculture of music videos, album art, posters, and instruments representing voices would supplement a non-literary body of work.

“Your daddy, well he died in the Falklands; Fighting for another man’s cause; And your brother he was killed in the last war; Now your mother’s, well she’s lying home alone” – Another Man’s Cause, The Levellers

There are songs within their 12 (or so) album catalogue that cover topics like human rights (food roof family), refugees (The Shame), peace (Exodus), anti-war (The Recruiting Sergeant), the 1917 Étaples Mutiny (Mutiny), homelessness (Cardboard Box City), identity (England My Home), nuclear trouble (Belaruse), being human (Julie), inequality (Dirty Davey), class and humanity (This Garden), a dived world (Generation Fear) and huge range of emotions, personalities and periods of time. There are many songs that mark a journey and an exploration of the individual. Some are simple. Some are deep.

“My father when I was younger; Took me up on to the hill; That looked down on the city smog; Above the factory spill” – One Way, The Levellers

The indie folk rock genre that The Levellers have inhabited for over three decades. They formed their own festival in opposition to the increasing numbers of festivals of a highly commercial nature. At first I was thinking about bands that are highly accessible like Coldplay and U2, but then I thought why not go off the beaten track?!

“The year is 1991, it seems that freedom’s dead and gone; The power of the rich is held by few; Keep the young ones paralysed, educated by your lies” – Sell Out, The Levellers

The Levellers were formed in the 1990s and were not afraid to speak and sing the truth. They’ve been on a musical revolution for over three decades. They edged on the fringes of pop in their early days but have found their home more across genres than any other British band. They have likely influenced more musicians disillusioned by the commercial and closed state of the music industry. Their lyrics have been heard by musicians, writers and poets. The alternative scene to as establishment has a voice that can echo far. This is a band named after a political movement during the 17th century, formed in the years of the late William Shakespeare’s growing influence (on the English language).

“They’re sending in the elite, complete with guns; To advertise the way to go; Faxing through the fax to make it clear; That they’re the ones who know” – Liberty Song, The Levellers\

Module II: Theory of Knowledge &

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Theory of Knowledge

Canon meaning (1): a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged. Or meaning (2): the writings or other works that are generally agreed to be good, important, and worth studying. (Meanings interpreted from the Collins, Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries)

Module 2 mission:

I: theory of knowledge debate about the canon, the prescribed book list, and international-mindedness. Before building the course: What do you believe? Note: conceptual/flexible/international-mindedness core values (IB mission; allows freedom and exploration). Must be a connection between course of TOK and Language & Literacy.

Questions that spring to mind are:

Is there a difference to gaining knowledge from literacy, language or other methods of learning?

What do we actually learn through the study of text?

Is there a scientific method to language and literacy study?

What is the purpose of non-literary text and why is it often compared to fuller literary text types? How is it best to interpret these different forms? Any clinical ways to explore them?

Who understands and comprehends a text best?

Do clashes exist in interpretive strategies? How can you review such diverse viewpoints?

The word canon brings to mind William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, or Mark Twain. Homer, Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney and many others make up a largely male list. Jane Austen, the Brontë family, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Gaskell often make the list to offer a feminine perspective. Gwendolyn Brooks is the only writer of a different racial group that I recall reading in secondary school. That was because Mr Mack, my year 9 English teacher, loved poetry and wanted us as students to understand the world beyond England.

Western writers always appear elevated over often-so-called new world, African, Asian or other regional writers. I have found myself in China, reading translated pieces by Kǒng Fūzǐ (孔夫子) or as he is known globally, Confucius and trying to follow Sūnzǐ (孫子) or Sun Tzu, so I can relate to Chinese students trying to master Shakespeare or other works set and written in a different world! For me, text without Confucius and Sun Tzu needs to be accompanied by the interpretation of other writers. Canon writers are predominantly the popular and classical writers that A-Levels and GCSEs have covered. Those modelled courses and their American and Australian equivalents have travelled through international schools to far flung places and huge populations like India and China. It surprised me on arriving here in Dongguan, China to see Jack London’s Call of The Wild and O. Henry’s The Gift of Magi. The latter is on my reading list but struggling to find its way off it. I found it odd that English classics had more perspective than translated versions of domestic Chinese literature. Surely, writing an essay on such relatable matters would boost comprehension of western writing interpretation?

IB curriculum schools open doors to places around the globe lesser known. I wandered into a class earlier this year themed around Persepolis. Inspired by this choice in MYP, I found a transcript of writer Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums translated from French to English. I introduced the lesser graphic edit to my PYP Grade 4 students. Later, one of the students advised they had seen the movie and didn’t know there was a book! We were there and then led to Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (Doris Pilkington AKA Nugi Garimara), and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner – under slight edits to remove scenes unsuitable for ten year old students! A unit of inquiry about migration, refugees and where we are in place and time had been connected, all because of one literature piece’s indirect influence.

I’m a firm believer in diversity and multicultural integration. I’ve seen first-hand the horrors of divide, but also the beauty and magic of inclusion and togetherness. Access and exposure to literacy and language has the power to close divide and bring people closer. It can open discussion and encourage dialogue or understanding. Remake a Shakespeare play as a movie or live action theatre by all means, but make sure those watching know their stories and the stories that are relevant today.

Increasingly there is an element of pick and mix to reading texts. Newspapers, online media, word of mouth, social media and movie adaptations are highlighting international writers, giving readers chance to develop international mindedness. With that young learners are blessed to have education bodies and influencers that can modernise and expand Prescribed Reading Lists. Context that can easily get lost to the wrong audience should not be overlooked or ignored. It should be connected and explained.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Learning Engagement

“What are the three things you want to make sure you do when you design your own course?”

Having reviewed the concepts that underpin the syllabus content, I began to unpack the course syllabus. Below is a work in progress. I am creating my tailored course outline to reflect the flexible nature of IB teaching and learning. Through freedom of design and under continual improvement, I hope to have a course outline ready for use and continued modification to enhance my learners and their learning experiences. I want to ensure that students can connect through their own identities, cultures and find a suitable perspective. The students must be offered a place to display their creative talents and all texts must represent both popular and obscure examples. In short, trio of design demands must engage, inform and educate in a natural flow.

CONCEPTS (underpin syllabus content)
1identityReading a text, for a student, or by a student, will see them make their own narrative and perspective. They may imagine the voices and characters, each in differing ways. They may imagine a deeper backstory or be influenced by movie or television adaptations. They may connect the characters to previously explored texts. This is normal. The writer and the reader each place part of their identity within the story. Sometimes the author doesn’t make reading easy to follow or understand. Their identity can bend, shift, change and be quite complicated. This complexity can make an understanding difficult to follow. Reading across texts may even deepen that mystery – or paint a clearer picture. Reading texts by James Herriot or Colin Dann gives a reasonable interpretation and insight into the writer’s background. The World War II fighter pilot, Roald Dahl, may be clear in some of his closer autobiographical books, but his children’s texts are far further from his life experiences. Or, are they not? Readers will have their own interpretation and it’s important to know that diverse responses to perspectives are possible.
2cultureJRR Tolkien penned the epic ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of The Rings’ books. These works and his other compendium of titles reflected his life story in some shape and form. He was born in an independent nation the Orange Free State (now part of South Africa). The landscape of the African continent was complex and difficult. Family circumstance saw his widowed mother move to England. Place names from his upbringing, a spider bite, the tragedy of World War I and countless other stages of his life influenced his writings. Here was a man propelled into his first job at the Oxford English Dictionary and fell in love with language. His translation of ‘Beowulf’ showed considerable international mindedness, a theme that slips in and out of his Middle Earth adventures. Beliefs, values and attitudes shape a writer. They target an audience willing to lift open the pages. Quite often the writing follows a similar style to that read in the years before it. A connection between the familiar and the new is important for a reader. Does text reflect where it was formed and when? The place and time of a text can often be acknowledged from the feel of the text.
3creativityImagination is key. Creating something and engaging it has to be in reach of the reader. The writer’s role within a text is to paint a canvas vividly enough to make the words leap from the page. The often written cliche about transporting the reader to another place is important. Interpretations can take multiple forms and transcend that of a simple text. The writer and the text will be heavily original in ideas, shapes and forms. Originality will make a work stand out.
4communicationBoth non-literary and literary text have the problem of getting their message across loud and clear. Does the writing aim to convey a message to the reader? How can the writer know that the reader will see the message? The audience must be assumed to be in on the writer’s previous works, or of a particular kind that can easily access the text. Some readers may struggle to follow the messages hidden or directly thrown at them from the text. Some may ignore the bias of a message and value their own views more highly. Cooperative readers may follow more closely, but even so, text meaning is not always definitive.
5perspectiveAuthors can also write in ways that do not follow their views in any shape or form. They may take the role of devil’s advocate just to sell more books, or open a debate. This is one example of literacy devices available to writers that readers may or may not be aware is being used on their perception of a text. The reader may or may not bring their own complete perception which clashes with the views in the text. Before you know it, there’s critical thinking, attention and a discussion as the reader tries to interpret the text. What will the end result be? Will it influence the reader or not?
6transformationIntertextuality: the connection and relationship across texts, especially that of literary ones. One text can lead to a heavy influence on the next text. Sometimes it is the creation of new ideas from one text to another. Some texts may follow one another, across authors, or not. Some may be reimagining or taking elements of a story into their own works. C.S Lewis penned ‘Perelandra’ which is often cited to be a reworking of John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and the biblical ‘Book of Genesis’. Some texts will influence a reader changing their perception of reality. Reading Michael Crichton’s ‘Congo’ as a teenager opened my mind drastically to interspecies communication and in later years whilst volunteering at a zoo, I found myself communicating with an orangutan, like you do. Potentially, personal interpretations can be hugely transformative.
7representationSome texts are abstract. Some are relatable to reality. Some are every step between. Accurate reflections of reality, potential futures, to artistic imaginings are central to a reader connecting the text to meaning. The form and structure of the story must connect between both the author and the reader. The largely popular space soap opera epic ‘Star Wars’ started out under the pen of George Lucas. His dog, an Alaskan breed would find itself as a relatable humanoid representation in that of the character, Chewbacca. Throughout his writing he represented characters using human touches.

With the above in mind, the course can be further dissected and placed in the required syllabus areas of explorations. They can be supplemented by the Prescribed Reading List.

AREA OF EXPLORATIONS
1readers, writers text#0.1 Why do we study language and literature?
#0.2 How do we study language and literature?
#0.3 How does text affect us? [Use real world examples]
#0.4 How does text affect us? [Use variety]
#0.5 Meaning: constructed, negotiated, expressed and interpreting
#0.6 language use variation: text types/form/genre
#0.7 Building confidence through structure
#0.8 Non-literary and literary differences
#0.9 Language & literature: an introduction.
#1 Breaking down the complex
#1.1 Text type: style & structure – the affect on meaning
#2 Investigate texts, the various forms & types – pay close attention
#3 What choices do writers make to communicate meaning? (e.g. images, sounds and words)
#3.1 Texts: an insight? Form a response
#3.2 Texts: a challenge?
#3.3 Personal vs. academic responses
#3.3. expand your response
#3.4 metacognitive awareness
#4 What role do readers make to understand meaning? (e.g. images, sounds and words)
#5 The role of creative language.
#6 How does creative language relate through literature?
#7 The power of texts/perspectives
#8 Linguistic and literary messages: what are the authors communicating?
2time and space#A social capacity: connect to community, culture & history (advertisements, poems, etc)
#B variety of cultural contexts (places, cultures, times; insights?)
#C Do texts reflect or refract our world? (Is there a social or political agenda? How do we approach older texts? Still relevant or obsolete?)
#D How do cultural conditions affect language? (Any representation of social, political and cultural concerns? Do meanings and impacts change over time?)
#E How are cultural conditions a product of language? (Bound by societal framework and the implications? Do they represent cultural practices?)
#F How is identity and culture influential to how text is received?
#G Explore cultural and historical perspectives (Open, plural or cosmopolitan?)
#H The role of text to oneself, local and global connections (Does it provoke influence of raise questions?)
#I Is a text complex or dynamic? (Is there a hidden story of reality?)
#J An exploration of the author’s background (historical events, narratives in terms of critical reception; is it important?)
#K Who is the author’s audience? Obvious or unapparent?
#L The intricacies of relatable places and times across generations and boundaries (Is a society or identity represented reflected in language use?)
3intertextualityRelate: past to present.
Engage: literary & linguistic traditions.
#i Connections between text and audience (ideas and traditions in respect of diversity; is a classic text still valid?)
#ii Making a comparative (deeper appreciation; how can different perspectives highlight an issue, topic ore theme? Can a comparative and an interpretation be transformative?)
#iii Unique characteristics and complex systems as a connection (Similarities & differences? Can diverse texts share points of similarity?)
#iv How to and when to openly discuss your interpretations (create a critical lens; expand on a meaning; question it; what’s your view? How does a system of reference evolve over time?)
#v Mode & genre of text, literary form, chronological development, topic or concept, debate or theoretical perspective. Do texts deviate from literary forms and genre? Why? How?

“What two principles of course design spoke to you personally, why, and how will you use that to design your syllabus?”

Integration and variety will enhance interest. I believe as a teacher our heaviest influence sits in these two areas. Students are mostly familiar with autonomy and accountability. These should be well-trod paths across IB subject areas.

COURSE DESIGN PRINCIPLES
1varietyStudents can connect, compare and contrast across multiple texts. This can include translated texts and those in an original target language. The traditional canon and the voices of emerging voices can strike a balance to form a varifocal view of the world at large. The bigger the lens, the deeper the understanding? The text students are exposed to should reflect global society, local society and multiple cultures. The protection and preservation of texts should be side by side with literary forms, places times and most importantly voices. Is less more? Or, is in terms of literary form more diversity essential for diverse understanding? Linguistic and language evolution is ongoing, and tied to literary developments. Students must understand that they are the master of their own exploration. Their individual selection of texts will open new doors for others within the classroom cohort. “Variety is the spice of life” – William Cowper, British poet.
2integrationA learner profile needs more than reflection. How can a student look at each current and previous text to form a connection? Do students need to form spider webs and mind maps to draw and illustrate connections? Will as Minecraft-style virtual map help relate and show their connections? Lines can be drawn across areas of exploration and through the seven concepts. Organisation skills will be needed throughout.

Everything should connect. Compartmentalisation has little value to complimenting the study of multiple texts. Inherent, context-related and comparative text studies should be integrated to demonstrate to students that references from outside of the classroom cohort’s own research are relevant and supplementary to their development.

Why is integration important? Oral assessment / Paper 2 – meaning elaboration required.

“Integration happens when all your parts of your being are in harmony.” Amy Leigh Mercree, author.
3autonomyStudents must be empowered. They’re the keepers of their destiny. They prepare their likely routes of study individually. They work towards assessment, formative (self-assessment and peer-assessment will encourage evaluation skills) and summative. They must make decisions with care. They will need pushing through positive encouragement. A variety of materials and access to research tools, the right syllabus components, how an assessment is made, and full scaffolding support (in the case of students new to the IB or international schooling). A teacher’s role is to guide and ensure texts are appropriate to the short-term and long-term study at hand. Is the text connected to the concept or issue? “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” – Rumi, Persian poet
4accountabilityAcademic honesty.
Whole class awareness of the course requirements.
A plan of action that is clear and achievable: the pathway to assessments.
Individual assessment components must be used on a sole occasion, keeping it fresh and balanced.
“Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life – music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.” – Eric Carle, author and illustrator

“What one question do you still have about the philosophy or the practicalities of designing a course syllabus?”

I want to think mainly in terms of reflection:

Is my course fit for purpose? Are all the outcomes specific, attainable and measurable? Does the content and method match the outcome? How well can students achieve the necessary outcome? How can I make the course a better fit for the differentiated learner? Are my course syllabus learning outcomes reasonable in relation to the contextual issues? Are all the outcomes going to be theory-based or will it be possible to draw on transdisciplinary skills to highlight skill-based outcomes?

I should hope any student on the course has a level of English that’s appropriate but I’m willing (as is the school) to intervene and develop that level. The level of interest is something I half-worry about. Parent power in China is strong. Some students may feel pushed into the more traditional areas of education and lose sight of their personal interest. A student studying English, here in Dongguan (China), is often a source of pride to family and face. Developing and maintaining an interest in era heavily flooded with video game, social networking and other distractions takes time and patience. As a teacher we must adapt and evolve with the times. Discouraging a student will only create a barrier. How can we integrate their other interests to reinforce interests in literature and language?

How did your thoughts about what you might teach change based on the TOK debate?” The understanding that knowledge is a reconstructed or constructed representation as opposed to a perfectly symmetrical mirror image of life and reality.

What are you most excited about teaching and why?” Engaging students in their time and place and uncovering their viewpoints. Watching as they evolve confidence in understanding the viewpoints of others. I’m excited to help our learners at TWIS develop inquiry and critical thinking skills alongside literature and language. I hope that they can recognise the value of reflection, transferring their skills into other disciplines. Explorations should be shared. Are we told by the author to read their text in a certain way? Can we choose to interpret their work in terms of our own cultural assumptions? How do communities of students, academics, teachers or other groups view a text? The same? Differently? Constructing knowledge around text will be enjoyable. Meanings shared are often enlightening.

As a teacher the challenge is monumental. Explaining things sometimes lost in translation will be challenging. Exploring how a text may have been written for a completely different audience (ethnicity, location, time etc) will determine how open-minded a learner can be. Perhaps, there will be absence of an international viewpoint that can be explored. Charlie Hebdo,a French publication known for satire have experienced extreme examples of how an approach to place and time could be considered divisive and unhelpful in international outlooks and mindfulness. Poets, bloggers, cartoonists, and journalists must all take careful approaches. The learner too. They are each subject to their interpretation techniques.

To I.B., or not to I.B.? [Wrap up]

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module One reflection

Is the learner profile relevant?

help teachers build rapportdeepen a teacher’s professional relationship with their learner(s)connect support levels and buddy peersallow informed planningallow a teacher to observe a student’s perspective more closely
allow for suitable timetablingallow teachers the chance to create a relevant scaffolding of learningdetermine classroom layoutdevelop tutoring support through differentiationallow group and class participation
Information is not static. It moves. The student’s profile is a record and guidance for new teachers.Pertinent information such as interests can be aligned to teaching.Highlight strengths and needsAllows supply and cover teachers a fairer insight into the individualpersonalisation
it can be a document, a portfolio, a combination of digital and traditional formsTHISISABOUTINDIVIDUALS
Formal or informalCan contain conversations, questionnaires, video interviews etcA place for their aspirations & passionsRecommendationsTo inform discussions between teaching staff, parents and guardians
Insert things they dislike and wish to avoidDocument life experiences, people, pets, moments of inspiration or importanceHighlight what they do when help is neededExamplesExemplars selected from other sources that guide the student
Select appropriate curriculum material/supportHelp develop maximum engagementProvide assessment dataExplore the profile’s purposeReview snd evaluate the profile format
Two-way process between the teacher & the learnerUnderstandingA chance to show inclusion of all in the learning journeyHow does the individual adapt?What tools and/or techiniques and/or technologies do they favour?
A chance to express themselvesAddress assumptionsSkill setsHave their own saySupport transition

To I.B., or not to I.B.?

There are numerous forms of education systems and curricula out there. The University Admissions Officers Report 2017 may argue that A-Levels are in-depth looks at specific avenues. Many will have you look at US, Australian, or British curricula. The International Primary Curriculum is reportedly the fastest growing primary school system on Earth. So, as a teacher, a parent or a potential student, it pays to do your homework in the form of research. Which methods best fit you? Differentiation in learning is also about knowing when a system of study will or will not suit your learning style or method. Cost, demand, class size, location, and a plethora of other factors need to be taken into account. If a student or parent aspires to have holistic, rounded, international minds after primary, middle years and diploma years, then IB is the way to go. A range of skills as opposed to the ability to answer exams may help.

Native and foreign languages are encouraged with IB formats. Whereas, a language must be chosen separately in the AS- or A-Level formats. Students usually opt for 3 to 4 A-levels, but can take more. Obviously more subjects will equate to more homework and class time. That could also create more clashes in a timetable. The base AS-Level can serve as a foundation, paving the way for the A-2 Level which give the final result and grade. Their grading ranges from A* down to E.

The IB system is comprised of six subjects. There are academic cores (TOK: Theory of Knowledge), Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity, Action & Service (CAS). Optional subjects are plentiful and the opportunity to attempt Higher Level study is available. Points win prizes and diplomas are issued based on overall points gained. University entry, e.g. UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) in the U.K. requires a number of points earned. Overall, feedback via independent websites and student reviews indicates that students feel they’re better equipped at university. One student’s experience of course differs to another student’s feel. Perspective is key.

Close language analysis: what’s the point?

Words matter. Phrases matter. How you teach it and convey the comprehension of all text matters. Writers convey and highlight messages in their text. How your comprehension interprets this message matters. Figures of speech, idioms, sentence structures, tone of voice, choice of words and other techniques need to be clear. Literacy and language need good communication to avoid messages losing meaning or creating problems! We, as analytical thinkers, must decode and reconstruct the meaning. We must be able to say what it is about and the possible effects of the text.

Optional challenge: Further analysis

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Further textual analysis of two I.B. documents

IB Theory of Knowledge Guide Module 1Parent Pack FAQs About The PYP
purpose of textTo make all students and teachers aware that interpretation of knowledge is important. It is fundamental to ideological thinking. It is key to understanding bias, valid or not. It offers the chance to retain, revise or reject bias. Critical reflection is encouraged. Knowledge and knowing are there to be questioned and explored. With knowledge and exploration, it allows students a chance to apply it to real-world scenarios. The whole subject must be passed. Without it, then no certificate of diploma can be awarded.An introduction to the curriculum/framework of primary (those 3-12 years old) years programmes within the I.B. schooling systems.
dominant vs oppositional readingmostly dominanthighly dominant first page spread; second page is dominant also, with a slightly toned-down aggression
tone created/reasoningTOK (Theory of Knowledge) is assessed through an essay (1600 words) & by an oral presentation. It’s a broad spectrum reflection on what knowledge is, how it happens and why we know is what we know. It must argue how we know what we state to know. It’s a mandatory test within the I.B. Diploma Programme (D.P.) central core. As a student, you will need a broader mind. Arguments are presented to teachers. Question and answer style format. Adopted the role of interviewer and interviewee. Some bullet points and linked sources included to break down the monotony of paragraphed answers. Highlights I.B.’s interweaving style of teaching and emphasis
words or phrases have a highly charged connotation/ the effect on the reader“Theory of knowledge guide
intended to guide the planning, teaching and assessment of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) Theory of knowledge (TOK) course.”
curiosity, creativity, ability to reflect, stimulating, challenging, nurture, foster a lifelong love of learning (also smooth alliteration), transdisciplinary, investigating big ideas, gifted, special,
words or phrases demonstrate the ideological perspective of this text“Theory of knowledge guide
TOK teachers are the primary audience, although it is expected that teachers will also use the information in this guide to inform students and parents about the subject.”
Aimed at parents and guardians.
Other notesBertrand Russell (1926) invented the term Theory of Knowledge. The 8 areas of knowledge are mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems.N/A

Close textual analysis of the I.B.

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Close textual analysis of the I.B.

I.B. Mission Statement:

“The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” (Source: https://ibo.org/ accessed June 2021)

#1 What ideological biases exist in the IB mission statement and how do you know this as a reader?

Is education equally accessible to all? Do the elite get independent and private teaching with more ease? How many governments support IB teaching? Do regional governments back the IB system and methods? Is the IB system open to all, or to the few?

The notion that the target market is those classified as young. There is an assumption that people want to make peace. Some cultures and societies do not want other teaching methods placed to their population. The statement refers to international organisations, notably governments and schools. It implies that other systems of assessment and international education are less challenging, however, it acknowledges that other ways of life and education may also be right. These other methods of learning are other ways and means to continue life-long learning. The statement that it ‘encourages students across the world…’ is bold and clearly implies the IB backs its words up with statistical analysis. Social, intellectual and cultural bias could be implied from the first and third sentences of the statement. Similar to some countries not wanting an external influence on domestic education, it could be said that tolerance or understanding may also be subject to different perspectives. Marginalised and threatened social groups may not be treated equally within one kingdom. The paragraph on the whole highlights that nations and continents are connected, and more than ever, we as a race of people need to communicate and get along. Yes, there are many ideals, but aspiring to be better for everyone is a very human trait.

Cognitive verbs form the first half before the latter becomes less preachy, more clinical. The persuasion blends into intrigue and overlooks nationalism in favour of internationalism. The standing of populism, separatism and divide from internationalism shows this debate has plenty of room for the IB system. Isn’t together as a species for the preservation of the planet a better way to be than selfish ways?

Preferred (or Dominant) ReadingNegotiated ReadingOppositional Reading
An audience follows the direction of the media or writing in a way that was pre-calculated by the writer.The viewer or reader must make their own decision, be it in whole or partial agreement to the message of the writer. It is quite often a partial agreement.The audience are not expected to swing their views in favour of the writer or the message of the produced text/material.
Complete disagreement is expected.
e.g. An advertisement in a magazine triggers the reader to use a discount voucher or follow social media channelsA documentary, TV programme or show, or a movie.A political broadcast aimed at one party’s members but not the opposition following.

#2 What is the dominant reading of this text and what might be an oppositional reading of the IB learner profile?

Looking objectively through eyes that imagine that I have never encountered the IB system, I can see a few cases against IB learning. An oppositional reading may be one whereby a student or parent has been sold A.P., IGCSE, Cambridge Pre-U, or the BTEC National Schemes. The traditional AS- and A-Levels of the U.K. may be favoured due to their longevity and global usage. Advanced Apprenticeships, NVQs and T-Levels are other such alternatives. The world is fluid and these days, more than ever, with global uncertainty in the shadow of COVID-19 and political disagreements, mean that IB faces a challenge, like all education methods. Online teaching, isolation, illness and worry are barriers that prevent smooth collaboration and transition without dedication and focus. Education attitudes change and idealising every problem is far from, erm, ideal. And, as the semester crack on, there are stories of IB students weighed down by too many essays, from too many subjects. Are students reflecting too often and in too much detail on too many common sense matters? Should students and parents ultimately share their perspective of the IB system and its benefits, rather than the IB itself?

Dominant wording such as ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’, ’empathy’, and ‘compassion’ are qualities that many people aspire towards. These hard-selling words sit alongside people’s curiosity. We’re a species that asks questions, over and over again. And when we get answers, we seek more questions. For many questions start to fade, but there’s always a group of people asking more and more questions, continuing through their lives. We develop. We grow. We exercise our minds. We expand our knowledge. We express ourselves. We think about how the world works. We explore who we are and where we are in space and time. Consciousness gives us appreciation and we use it in empathic ways. The IB school appears to be a garden and source of higher learning. It shows a student who is an ideal: the champion of learning. A student who is hungry to excel, has drive and uses resilience to battle through studies. The IB method can’t create a ‘Super Student’ in a red cape with a blue suit, but it can stand students in the right position to know which tools to use, and when. Each will then be capable to use their best qualities and maintain their learning efforts throughout life.

#3 “What is the tone created in the aims and assessment objectives, how does the author create it, and why?”

Aims are presented clearly. They’re fed to the reader as a list. The assessment objectives are clear and again placed in a bullet-point list to allow clarity when reading. It has a dynamic shift using active words. Engage. Develop. Communicate. Foster. Collaborate. It screams of hands-on learning. Key skills are set out, and with that the scaffolding of the student’s eventual endgame assessments. Target acquired? Lock on and engage.

For a young learner it allows imagination and gives meaningful descriptive words to appeal to those who likely have at least one of the 10 IB learner profiles, even before they’ve encountered such things. There’s an emphasis on motivating a keen student, that shows at some stage they must ‘analyse and evaluate’ their own studies. Great responsibility awaits the learner seeking independence. A student can develop their own journey of learning.

#4 What words or phrases have a highly charged connotation and what is the effect on the reader?

All throughout you can celebrate learning. Who doesn’t like a celebration?! Did somebody mention learning? This key word appears in phrases throughout the text. Learning celebrates meaning. Learning means an open and inclusive classroom. Learning is for life. Learning processes are cyclic. Learning is a doctrine to develop purpose, culture and the environment of the classroom. These paraphrases give various simultaneous overtones and undertones, e.g. that of lifelong learning/It brings people together/be part of it.

The word democratic empowers people and perhaps those in more closed systems may be sold on the idea of governing themselves or bringing revolution to learning. It also implies that the teacher is not the be all, end all autocrat of traditional classroom environments. It says to the reader that they can command their own seas, and a voyage is possible (on the way to a pre-guided syllabus assessment). The student, however, will feel empowered.

#5 What words or phrases demonstrate the ideological perspective of this text?

The phrases allow creative minds to wander and focus. There’s an emphasis on connecting whilst taking responsibility. They allow outside the box thinking to dream of situations beyond the walls of a learner’s classroom or school. They encourage community, caring and service to others in active ways. It is an open invitation to think bigger than a page in a writing book. Inevitably there will often be students who carry causes or concerns to the classroom. The word empowers returns again. It gives them a chance to think of a way to rectify or influence change, even if it’s simply drawing attention to a concern that is lesser talked about. The examples serve to inspire and tap into the emotional level of a reader. It introduces projects as being possible and plausible. Contextualising opportunities gives ample opportunity for educational analysis, in a way that students participate. How can the learner create a more superior world? Can they start that process in their early days of the IB?

ATL (Approaches to Teaching & Learning)

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): ATL (Approaches to Teaching)

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” Find pages 60-66. Read them, digest them and share them in a way that has meaning. “What is your criterion behind some having a higher or lower priority?

The below positions can be interchangeable dependent on a student’s needs. It’s important to differentiate and tailor tasks to a student’s needs. A student will be better equipped for inquiry work, if supported by peers and collaboration. This will iron out any doubt in a student’s mind. Inquiry can lead to putting those questions into a context (locally, regionally and globally) through real examples and exemplars. From that a conceptual understanding can form. Finally assessment should follow, whether formative or summative. All areas of approaches to teaching and learning are essential but to knock down any barriers to learning is a sounder starting point. Remove the barrier and forward progress can be made. Leave the barrier and growth will not come.

1Teaching designed to remove barriers to learning.
2 Teaching based on effective teamwork and collaboration.
3Teaching based on inquiry.
4Teaching developed in local and global contexts.
5Teaching focused on conceptual understanding.
6Teaching informed by assessment.

Further thoughts: The weight of importance in all six aspects are near equal, but in reality little is equal. So, I believe they are better thought of the form of a mode continuum (Gibbons 2003). This popular profiling can help us to show the understanding and needs of students, with respect to their development and targeted progression.

Additional thoughts: Following my own look and thoughts of this challenge, I found that other students on the course had similar ideas but also preferences on their own take of the ATL positioning. Perhaps a central title with arms spread equally and outwardly like a starfish is more appropriate. There’s a bigger picture at play in context, conceptual understanding and assessment. However, the removal of barriers, creation of teamwork and direction of assessment need to be in place for the latter three aspects.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): ATL (Approaches to Learning)

1Communication skills
2 Social skills
3Self-management skills
4Thinking skills
5Research Skills

What is your order of importance for the approaches to learning?

From the beginning of any course, students may or may not be new to one another. Communication is key to a smooth study. They must be able to talk with, e-mail or write to one another, or their teachers. Ineffective communication may lack social skills. The two are very closely related. Likewise, self-management links to thinking and research. Can all truly be prioritised over others? Not really, due to the fact they’re interactive and they’re dynamic. Essential agreements between students mean that they set their boundaries and regulations for study. Without that there would be an unclear pathway of communication. Social skills allow good communication, but good communication takes social skills. Holistic learning systems are like a dessert jelly. They shift and wobble to the needs of the learner. Self-management requires prior learning and knowledge. Not every student comes from the same background. The social and communication skills of a class allow self-management to filter through. With this skill in place, then thinking and research has a firm base to take part. Basic thinking is a natural skill, to take it further it needs inquiry and research. Research, like in real world scenarios (e.g. vaccine makers and pandemic preventers) takes the thinking of others and combination of all of the above skills.

On reading other student’s works and their ideas, I really liked Amy Bosnich’s Adobe Spark presentation.
Feedback“Thanks, Acton. As we proceed in the workshop, you’ll come to appreciate how fundamental visual literacy is to our course. Your choice to incorporate a visual interpretation when you respond is a good model for others — and will be a valuable practice in your teaching. Students are invariably familiar with the maxim “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but that’s a very superficial starting point to the broader examination of the interplay of image and text, how one can complement the other, or offer a nuanced interpretation of a single point etc. The authorial / creative choices behind the creation of an image is something we’ll explore often with our students (in photos, ads, documentaries, films, tv shows etc).” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma Teacher

Learner Portfolio.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Portfolio task

Module One (2/6-8/6)
The Learner Profile
Notes
Analytical writing
Formative Approaches to teaching and learning (ATL)

Close textual analysis of the I.B.
Five questions:
I.B. Mission Statement; I.B. Learner Profile; Course Aims and Assessment Objectives; Standards & Practices; Creativity, activity and service.
Summative

Populating as we go.

C
r
e
a
t
i
v
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writing
HERE IT WILL BE, WHEN IT IS HERE

Talk to me.

Feedback“Thanks John. I like the idea of using this as an icebreaker early on … something you might share with students at the end of Week 1 or 2, after you’ve gone over various components of the course. It’s a good way for students to focus in on areas where there still may be uncertainty, questions outstanding, etc. Also a good prompt to have students consider ‘why did Mr Acton use this (or that) particular symbol or icon here?’ (discussions pertaining to authorial choices are always fundamental to our study of any text).” – Marie Baird

You need to be yourself.

Projects &/or alternative assessmentsAlso important.
A bullseye activity is a great way to explore a global issue. Imagine an ear bud. To you, it may be of use to clean your ear (individual) but then how do you dispose of it? Are there family rules about ear bus uses? How does the community see an ear bud? What are the city regulations on ear bud disposal? How has ear bud use been affected by regional hotel environmental laws? What problems do ear buds prevent to global pollution levels?

Voices.

ReflectionIt’s important.
1.     Begin by writing a bit about yourself: where do you teach? What’s unique about your IB situation? Let others get to know you. Write whatever you want others to know about you.I joined the I.B. candidacy school of TWIS in Dongguan, against the run of traffic. As I sat in quarantine, having returned to China (on the last possible day before a border closure in March 2020), I figured my job interview was not going to happen. It was due three weeks prior and there had been no response, because everyone had bigger things to worry about. So, I dropped one last e-mail & WeChat message to the principal of TWIS. Video interviews followed. The ball was rolling again. I was excited because the opportunity allowed for holistic teaching methods.

After transfer from my previous school, I realised that I was in a school facing the candidacy process and with many teachers stranded in other countries. Immediately, online meetings and collaborations allowed us as a team to perform effectively and deliver a clear near-uninterrupted school year of teaching. We’re less worried by a nearby outbreak in the city of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, because we know we can adapt and perform during this new norm.
2.     What is the most pressing question you have about the Language A: language and literature course?Actually, two matters arise that I wish to address:

How has this course managed to remain in touch with technology and changing social attitudes to literature and language?

How can the course better support those who require an English intervention programme to better enrich their comprehension and vocabulary skills?
3.     How can you develop positive online professional relationships for the workshop and beyond?We’re each more linked than ever through LinkedIn/Facebook/Weibo/Twitter and so on. Many channels like Xoom allows video calls. E-mails are simple enough. They’re the hassle-free electronic pen pal of the world right now. Meeting teachers at seminars face-to-face and via online courses can be invaluable. I remain in contact with university friends, first aid class companions, teaching colleagues and my door is firmly open. I read somewhere that teachers teach teachers. I couldn’t agree more.
4.     What does a successful outcome look like for you after this workshop? List three things you want to achieve.Diverse literature syllabus.
Balanced literature and language course formation (creative v analytical.
Enhanced teaching method strategies, specific to this course.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Portfolio worksheets

Introduction worksheet for student learner portfolio. Features spaces with prompts and areas to trigger investigation or prior knowledge mind-maps of different text types; Electronic information space (as the portfolio will be analogue); gently stresses that learning is a journey and the portfolio is a pathway to the outcome. Can be used as a classroom ice-breaker early on. Customisable.
Feedback“Thanks John. There’s lots going on here, and at first it felt a little confusing, but when viewed in tandem with your “learner portfolio template” it all makes good sense. I’ve not seen a blog suggested before as an LP format, and I’m not sure if it would be the most appropriate of platforms for the demands of the Learner Portfolio (given the need to offer substantial organisational capabilities for 2 years). But in other respects the blog format accomplishes a great deal, particularly in terms of introducing students to their teacher as an individual, and as a means to demonstrate how organic our thinking and learning can be.” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher

“By encouraging teachers to explore the widest possible array of text types, authors/creators, issues. You’ll see in Module 2 as we take our first look at the syllabus, that no (or very few) restrictions are placed on us in terms of course design — rather we are invited to design a course that takes into account our context, our students’ capabilities and interests, and invites and welcomes multiple interpretations and perspectives.” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (6/6/2021)

“Thanks John. I like the idea of using this as an icebreaker early on … something you might share with students at the end of Week 1 or 2, after you’ve gone over various components of the course. It’s a good way for students to focus in on areas where there still may be uncertainty, questions outstanding, etc. Also a good prompt to have students consider ‘why did Mr Acton use this (or that) particular symbol or icon here?’ (discussions pertaining to authorial choices are always fundamental to our study of any text).” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (5/6/2021)

“Thanks Acton. All good here. Just one query to note — in your IO you used The Levellers as a non-literary text (if I’ve understood correctly) – ie their music video. Here though you seem to be including them as a literary work (ie as lyricists – with a study of their lyrics only). Either of these options is possible (as they are not PRL and therefore designated as ‘literary’). However, you would need to make the choice clear to students. If they are studied as multi-modal texts, then they are non-lit (a BOW). If they are studied only as lyrics (a sub group of poetry) then they are a literary choice.
And with that, you’ve completed the requirements for our Cat 1 workshop. All the best as you implement your course — I hope the candidacy phase is nearing completion and you can put your plans into action soon!” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (29/6/2021)

“I too like your concept questions, Acton. I have been considering for a while this ideas of teaching texts as part of an inquiry. The questions you have included give me a better idea on how to do this. Thank you!” – Amy Climpson, teacher (15/6/2021)

“Hi Acton, When I think about the questions you will focus on, I saw once again how well the works you chose fit the criteria. Thank you” – Banu ÇELİKEL Yildiz, teacher (15/6/2021)

“Hi John, I found your text choices really interesting – so many are unknown to me but it seems a versatile choice offering a lot of unique perspectives which is great! I also like the idea of a unit that explores language change, especially through Shakespeare. This really could open students’ eyes to how we as humans create meaning and are in control of language: a great foundation for all kinds of analysis. I think it would be interesting to see an overall topic for each unit (perhaps this is something you have in mind already!) to better understand the links between texts and also the types of GI your students might consider for the IO.” – Erica Inman, teacher (29/6/2021)

“I’m really impressed by the amount of thought and energy you have put into coming up with a meaningful topic. The detail, especially regarding the press reviews and further reading are useful springboards to encourage students to flesh out their knowledge and this approach could very well make a positive difference to the final mark. However the non-literary text, although chosen from a BOW still has to focus on a single piece i.e. one video, picture, set of lyrics. You are referencing the whole Levellers BOW and from what I understand, I don’t think that’s possible. I wish you would hone down that aspect and focus one just one, then I think it would make an excellent IO. In the 10 points, it might be useful to make a few explicit references to the GI too. cheers Neville” – Neville Attree, teacher (29/6/2021)

“Thanks, Acton. As you’ll have noted I try to focus on one or two elements in each person’s contribution here (different elements, as much as I can) — so that there’s maximum learning from others’ work. Your post is quite comprehensive but I’ll limit my comments.
 
GI is clear – perhaps a further focus – representations of displaced persons – artists using their art as a vehicle for protest
 
Extracts — you’ve provided the non-lit (music video) perfectly — lyrics and screen grabs. (The lyrics run to 43 lines, and we have a 40-line limit, but here’s an example where discretion tells us it’s wise to run to 43. Remember to tell students to add line numbers: SO much value in terms of time saved in the presentation and follow-up discussion.)” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (30/6/2021)

“The intention of having the extracts is so that students don’t have to memorize quotes — they have the text right before them (and before the teacher, too). Thus, it’s not necessary for the student to use valuable bullets in quoting from extracts (which are there in hand). Perhaps you did this so that we here in the workshop could follow your thinking? if so, thank you. But tell your students to use their bullets for content, key vocab, shifts / way points. 
 
You’ve provided a wealth of other resources you’d use for contextualization etc. We can make double use of this kind of resource if we use the review (for example) as well to study it as a non-literary text type (a text type students might well encounter on their Paper 1). Have students look at 2 or 3 reviews of the same subject (eg The Levellers new album) and consider how bias, voice, intended audience etc shape meaning. (This all has relevance for Paper 1 success.) You’ve included another possible music video (by a different group / performer?). Why not use this for trial IO practice (giving students the chance to work with the form — multi modal text / music video — and thus ‘protecting’ your Levellers BOW for the authentic IO).
 
Thanks for a good pairing and all your thinking — this BOW seems ready to go!” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (30/6/2021)

Anything else goes below here:

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): General notes

The course is available for students at both standard and higher levels. The higher level is a study of 6 works and lasts about 240 class hours. The standard is 90 hours and two works less in length. The material works must be broad in spectrum, representing literary forms, time periods and places.

What are your key expectations for this workshop?” Language changes. Literature evolves in meaning and interpretation. It keeps us on our toes, thinking and learning. I expect to enhance my personal critical thinking; collaborate and develop my personal appreciation of literature (and the surrounding language). I expect to encounter a variety of aesthetic or stylistic forms. I expect to find ways to unlock cultural differences to help deliver a deeper appreciation to young learners in the near future.

To support study on this course, students will encounter non-literary text. These bodies of work will include a wide variation in format. Students are to be enabled to deep think, use higher order thinking skills to give an analysis that is critical, shows understanding of culture and context. They must determine a meaning. What is the purpose of the text to the audience? The students will take their assessments through formal examinations, oral and written coursework and other spoken activities. Two essay papers will be taken: A comparative response to two previously studied texts; and then one analysis of a previously unseen, and unto that point, unknown text. Transferring those study techniques will come into action at that stage. Practice to performance. The inevitable coursework for higher level students features a 1200-1500 word essay on a previously studied text.

“How familiar are you with the subject of this workshop?” Language covers all forms of expression that allow communication. It can be written or verbal. Literature is the written form of language. It’s the words to painting in an art gallery. If a song has lyrics and they’re written down, then it sits alongside poetry. Unlike language, literature is always written.

Students are attending this online course from as far afield as Russia, Canada, the U.K., the U.S.A. and China. That’s one heck of a lot of land surface, and a fair old electronic journey. All connected students. Each together on a journey. The COVID-19 pandemic allows opportunity. We can’t stand still. We each must remain engaged, involved and collaborate from offices, school and apartments. At this moment I’m typing in a tent. A Friday night wander into Dalingshan Forest Park (Dongguan, China) seemed like a wise move.

How would you describe yourself as a learner? What helps you to learn best? I like to read, survey varied sources, research using a selection of articles and books before hitting the interweb for accountable sources and also gap-fillers.

To allow storage and to manage this I.B. exploration via a home page, I have a link for Announcements and one for the Resource Library. There’s an interactive forum too. Tomorrow, I’ll print off the Language A: Language and Literature Guide, first exams 2021. Blue, purple and yellow highlighters at the ready. Then, I’ll swing by the downloadable samples and have a gander at them. I am just reading THE ROADMAP for a more clear pathway to complete and collaborate my way to the end of June. Any questions, I can drop here at Burning Questions. Where else?!

I watched a video by Tim Pruzinsky and followed his designed workshop first steps. The take home being that I am a student and I need to create exemplars. Time to test my approaches to teaching and learning (ATL).

the key study chapters are as per below:

Module One (2/6-8/6)
The Learner Profile
Notesapproaches to teaching and learning (ATL)

Greater sense of confidence in class?

Module Two (9/6-15/6)

Learner Portfolio Educator

“Space of development”

“Formative”

“Autonomy”

“Authentic journey”
Exploration (make connections between texts?; reflect on their own responses; practice; preparation area; early introduction; increases in importance; evidence – think academic integrity; reports; experimentation; with creative writing; form, media and technology; insights; record of responses; create guiding questions)

Notepads, art books, post-it notes on a small board, reading logs, web based e.g. Padlet (2), OneNote 2, Moodle, PowerSchool Digital, Adobe Spark, blogs, other such ways.

Non-Literary Unit of Study
Transdisciplinary learning (beyond the classroom investigation); diverse; monitored; created independently; students can use digital or old-fashioned paper (choice); orally: link global issues, representation of different or similar perspectives;


Syllabus construction
Portfolio allows self-assessment of skills that lack confidence; keeps a running record; which text types will be a challenge? Monitor progression of Paper One/Two attempts. Reflect on challenges posed by essay writing.

Grouping of common themes; explore similarities and/or differences (build an awareness of the multiplicity); any significance; record references and quotations. Which works match the questions they may face?

How to tackle a beast

Module Three (16/6-22/6)
Assessing student work
Assessing student work: Paper 2 marking.

Looking closer

Module Four (23/6-30/6)
Close textual analysis of the IB
Notes

Greater sense of confidence in class?

AssessmentPaper OnePaper TwoProjects
Higher Level (6 works/240 hours) paper reviewAssessing the examiner’s marking.Assessment under review.Individual Oral Assessment example exploration (Close textual analysis of the IB)

Feedback

ReflectionSelf-assessment (self checking your own progress)

Module one reflection.

Module two reflection.

Module three reflection.
Peer (suitable audio recordings)

Pool and identify ideas.
Teacher (personal valued feedback; challenges overcome; challenges to overcome)Feedback & Evaluation (critical analysis – exploring possible meanings)

A little extra:

Optional ChallengeModule One challengeAlternative
<object class="wp-block-file__embed" data="https://acton28.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/ib-guide_language-and-literature_may2021update.pdf&quot; type="application/pdf" style="width:100%;height:600px" aria-label="Embed of Language A: language and literature guide
Language A: language and literature guide
Download

Jargon:

AOE = Areas of Exploration (there are 3)

ATL = Approaches to Teaching and Learning

BoW = Body of Work

IBDP = IB Diploma Program

IBEN / MyIB = IB Educators Network (accessible once you are employed in an IB school)

IO = Individual Oral

LE = Learning Engagement

LP = Learner Portfolio

PRL = Prescribed Reading List

TOK = Theory of Knowledge

TSM = Teacher Support Material

ERIC CARLE June 25th 1929 – May 23rd 2021

224 words shaped so many bedtime reading sessions. Bedrooms around the world were greeted with a heart-warming tale of growth, albeit through humour and a spot of seemingly obesity. The story has radiated like the light from the moon, from pages in over 60 languages to beaming eyes looking at the colourful intricate nature of the tale.

“That’s something I learned in art school. I studied graphic design in Germany, and my professor emphasized the responsibility that designers and illustrators have towards the people they create things for.” – Eric Carle

Eric Carle didn’t just write that one book of course. His designs, illustrations and words have appeared in numerous texts. Having dropped his first drawings in 1965, Aesop’s Fables for Modern Readers (Peter Pauper Press), the new-to-the-scene and relatively young illustrator was spotted by educator and author Bill Martin Jr. One red lobster in an advertisement led to a lifetime of colour and creation.

“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.” – Eric Carle

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was an award-winning book collaboration with the late author Bill Martin Jr. Thereafter cardboard editions, die-cut holes, inflatables, plastic pockets and multiple versions of artwork with words began to grow and filter from Eric Carle to the world. Countless children have lived and learned through rhyming picture books and used string in one of his many creations.

“One day I think it’s the greatest idea ever that I’m working on. The next day I think it’s the worst that I’ve ever worked on – and I swing between that a lot. Some days I’m very happy with what I’m doing, and the next day I am desperate – it’s not working out!” – Eric Carle

The story of the story-teller is ever more remarkable. This was a man, who his wife Barbara Morrison, strongly believed had held a form of post traumatic stress disorder. He’d dug trenches on the dreaded Siegfried Line of a World War II battlefield. He’d seen death at first hand, aged only around 15 years of age. But then, darkness turned to light over the years: “One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” Okay, it wouldn’t have been that simple, but Eric Carle refused to bow down and give in. Years of toil brought his mind to a place where writing was permitted. An audience was earned. From Germany in World War II, he returned to his country of birth, the U.S.A. and found his way from Syracuse to the New York Times as a graphic artist.

“Let’s put it this way: if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with a 200,000 word novel. We, picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and I reduce it to 20.” – Eric Carle

Via stints back in Germany, for the U.S. Army (during the Korean War) he went on to be an art director at an advertising agency. His collage techniques, rich in hand-painted paper, featured layers and slices of vivid imagination set out as tiny pieces of artwork. Nature and wonder have set tones throughout his simple stories. These stories have been warm and inviting, and give hope to children, especially those new to schooling and education.

Papa, please get the moon for me is a tale of great importance in my opinion. It shows us that imagination is wonderful, even if it is breaking something seen as impossible. Whoever told me that Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny weren’t real, or anybody for that matter, that breaks the dreams of a child, deserves a good long look at themselves. Reality and imagination can sit side by side, otherwise Neil Armstrong, or Elon Musk or Celine Dion would not be around. Ability and knowledge need the company of spark and dream – and that’s where imagination grows.

“They are deceptively simple. I admit that. But for me, all my life I try to simplify things. As a child in school, things were very hard for me to understand often, and I developed a knack, I think. I developed a process to simplify things so I would understand them.” – Eric Carle

As I sit typing words and reading about Eric Carle’s history, I recall flicking through glossy covers of his books, and the joy as my face beamed when I discovered a translated copy in Hengli, Dongguan. That beautiful familiar white cover with a caterpillar and a red apple missing a mouthful, all slightly imbalanced, as if to say, and to appeal, that things aren’t always neat and tidy. One day when COVID-19 passes and the world is a little more tidy, I dream to fly to Amherst, Massachusetts to see the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. That would be as good as finding another Uroballus carlei on a trip to Hong Kong. The Caterpillar Jumping Spider’s Latin name is testament to the reach and pull of a world class picture book writer.

“My father used to take me for walks in the woods. He would peel back the bark of a tree and show me the creatures who lived there. I have very fond memories of these special times with my father and in a way I honor him with my books and my interest in animals and insects.” – Eric Carle

ERIC CARLE June 25th 1929 – May 23rd 2021

The Cafe Book

The Cafe Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literacy Assessment and Instruction, by self titled sisters Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, attracted me in library. Or because of the literacy element. Nor so that of instruction. The word cafe stood out. Its abstraction and my liking of coffee met perfectly.

Hoisting the 204 paved softback down, I noticed the bump in the cover. A CD-ROM. I haven’t used a DVD or CD for so long. The Tungwah Wenze International School staff-issued iMac doesn’t come with a drive. I don’t have one on my personal laptop. The TVs at school, my TV at home and all the smart board systems at school don’t have a place for discs. Printed in 2009, I started to wonder if the contents would have dated as fast as the technology they employed. The longevity of books however remains stalwart.

Seven sturdy chapters opened before me. I skim read the acknowledgements, unable to connect to the names on the page, but fully aware such matters as teaching and writing needs a cast of many. Last Friday, Grade 4 had a COLA (Celebration of Learning Achievement). Mr Jaime, Mr Richard and Miss Aria with support from Miss Keats and Miss Belinda set our class on a good course.

Chapter one asks why and what are assessment systems. It refers heavily back to the authors and their previous book, Daily Five. The general idea being: students read to self, read to someone else, write something, use word work and then listen to reading. In an ideal and disciplined world, it makes a big difference. The appendix of the book I had in my hand though made more sense. I could see how CAFE system could be of use to the busiest of teachers. It is simple.

Notebooks are often overlooked in these times of electronic record keeping. These can be filled by simple strategy forms. Students set their goals and post to a classroom chart. Small group work is encouraged, much like what I’m trying, time and time again. Whole group instructions and flip charts caught my attention. I’ve neglected flip chart paper for far too long.

By the time I’d reached chapter two, the key details that came across were that teachers want to do more; the importance of scaffolding; and teachers take offence to be told to follow a set template. They want to find their own ways to adjust the scaffolding needs of individuals. Can’t say that I disagree.

The evolution of a calendar from post it notes and scribbles on paper has certainly met all the best teachers. Our methods evolve and practices adapt. Reading literacy takes time for monitoring. Tabs, pages and menus of reading form. A bulletin board showing comprehension, fluency, accuracy and expanded vocabulary certainly feels like it should be at home in every classroom. Just like a daily ongoing story book. A chapter and day helps work, rest and play.

To get students to know their target, classes often need exemplars. These set a clear visual goal for their work ahead. The CAFE book covers familiar grounds of observation, encouragement, tracking and how to push interest. It develops wall display ideas and recommends strategies to develop readers. There are bucket loads of suggested reading books, group activities and then reference forms. Before the evening expired, I had read the book cover to cover. Ideas will have sank in. But, first, just one chocolate Hobnob biscuit

The Little Picture Book: Lost & Found

Eck and Timu, otherwise known as Echo and the late Tim Mileson, can be found in a book just shy of sixty glossy pages. The compact pocketbook is presented through poetry and story alike. It is conventional and yet unconventional. Interpretation is a skill you can choose to use, or just float on the muse.

Sandwiched between Tim’s personal writing, Eck explores emotions such as loss, belonging and echoes nature throughout. Cute eye-catching illustrations using a variety of sketching styles follow an imaginative route to deliver a peaceful and loving tribute in the form of a poetic manuscript.

There are lines throughout that transport the reader, catch them, hold them and bring them downward. There are uplifting words, moments of hope and flashes of light. It’s a sweet little book deserving of a wider audience. The book comes in both Chinese and English editions. My grade four students at Tungwah Wenze International School greeted that with joy. Next up they’ll interview the author…

In China? Further afield? Order directly from Eck by scanning the above on WeChat.

The Little Picture Book: Lost and Found arrived.

They could be seeds of new growth;

or water to the roots of the tree.

They could be dusted on shelves;

or taken away by borrowing elves.

They could be friends in a pocket;

or maybe passed on from brother, to sister to brother or cousin or read by many a dozen.

They may become forgotten in time;

or triggered memories by one rhyme.

There are 14 of them, plus two and two more. Two for over there too. For Kitty. For Harry. For Jim and Kim. For Jimmy and Marline. For Alex, Sofia, Alice and Jerry. For Angela also. Not forgetting Amir and Owen. And last but not least Lucy.

One for me. One for the library.

Either way, I wish their echoes go on. And on. And on. And on and on. Ripples in a pool.

The Little Picture Book: Lost and Found arrived. Thank you Echo. Tomorrow I’ll sit in a tree by Songshan Lake or a cafe (if it rains) and soak up all the words, with illustrations. I can smell the spirit of Tim Mileson and the lively love of Echo. Mr Bee is happy.

PEACE AND LOVE 心

Lost for words.

A student stood up my class one day. She smiled as she asked a bold question. Her little voice was quivering but audible, “How many words can you write?” To my mind, I could not answer her. We began a class task, searching books, dictionaries (Cambridge and Oxford English), newspapers, everything and anything we could lay our hands on. The task followed each student and I from the classroom. It became an obsession. As time changed our research became simpler. Yet words expanded and multiplied. Eventually journals, magazines, compendiums and the internet came along, and how it grew and grew. We pooled our tasks together. The list for the student grew, even as she did not.

That first tough question was in the year 1948. I was a young teacher then. Just twenty five years of age. It’s now 2022. I’m still writing the list of words. I hope to be finished this decade. I fear our work will never be complete.

TESMC: Bell, Bishop…*

*…Walsh, Gündoğan, Sheron, Creaney, Wright-Phillips, Benarbia, Fowler, Barton, Geovanni, Pizarro, Nasri… and all those other wonderful Manchester City numbers 8s.

These are the voyages of the starship TESMC. Its nine-module mission: to explore strange new words. To seek out almost new teaching methods and relatively new vocabulary. The bold crew of the giant starship explores the excitement of strange uncharted dictogloss things, and exotic uninhabited refined writing. Imagine it – thousands of noun groups at our fingertips… To boldly go where few teachers have gone before!

“Navigation was always a difficult art,
   Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
   Undertaking another as well.” – The Hunting Of The Snark, a poem by Lewis Carroll

During TESMC classes we have focused on language in learning across the curriculum. Here’s a recap (to build on the 7th instalment), at the Using English for Academic Purposes website, of nominal groups, structures and examples with exercises. There’s two links here and there for dictogloss activities. Look at this website called The Up-Goer Five Text Editor. It expects you to type a complex idea only using words from a list of 1000 common use words. That’s that, done!

[Now, an important announcement] Lemma: a word family, e.g. running, run, ran; blue, bluer, bluest, blueish, blues, etc. [Announcement ends]

Another vocabulary test website was pointed my way. Cheers ears! You know who you are. VocabularySize.com is a tool to create customized and test vocabulary tests for students. It was created by the University of Wellington, in New Zealand. Their School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies worked with School of Engineering and Computer Science. Language acquisition takes time, patience and exposure. Those students in an international school such as Tungwah Wenzel International School, surrounded by numerous international teachers, are most likely to increase their vocabulary than students in Inner Mongolia without a foreign teacher or access to YouTube. To them English will be as Scottish as a suntan.

Judgement value calls shouldn’t be drawn from memory. Responsive attitudes towards data collection over time carries more merit and significance. By showing a daily goal, we set a part of a bigger picture. The bigger picture should come from steps and aims. Those goals need organising. Rubrics are familiar territory that often get overlooked. I know, from my experience, that I have often favoured an in-head calculation over pencil, pen or paper. That’s not fair. Formative and summative assessments need clarity, not just for the teacher or the parent. The student should have the goalposts set early on. They must know what the task entails and how to achieve maximum marks.

“When the cook tastes the soup, that’s formative; when the guests taste the soup, that’s summative.” – Robert E. Stake, Professor Emeritus of Education, University of Illinois

Having a summative assessment that resembles activities earlier on is key too. If you use formative pieces that have multiple choice questions and then for the finale you switch to an all-singing, all-dancing 2000-word essay, then that’s totally not playing cricket with your students. English as a Second Language (ESL) students need modelled methods that allow them to switch between multiple forms. To do it without preparation is unfair. Failure or success depends on students and their experience. To think outside of the box without the necessary scaffolding is not easy. One activity that I found useful was to assign half the class the activity of being the teacher. The other half had to follow the instructions given by the teacher. Afterwards peer review of the followers revealed that some students gave clear instructions. Others did not. Some students improvised where instruction was lacking. Many students competed to give the better and clearer instructions. Positive peer pressure gives chance for evaluation and reflection. Using a checklist or rubric over the top of that student’s activity gives a more meaningful insight to the activity and assessment. The teacher can play the role of referee or judge. The peers become the jury. Hopefully no executioner needs assigning. That being said we’ve all had that one student who never does homework… [It’s gallows humour, relax]

“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”  – Alfred Mercier

Student age gives us an idea of where to set our expectations. Within an age group, each student’s experience and exposure to English needs to be factored in. Then there’s nationality, multilingualism, academic performance in their native language(s), and so on… or what they ate for breakfast. Classrooms are living breathing jelly-like places that seldom remain constant. One gargantuan factor to take into consideration is that of student behaviour. Special needs and cares need to be taken into account. Not every student has the level of focus that we desire. To give confidence, informal formative assessments and their analysis will benefit the teacher and student. In the long run, reforming practices to unlock their true productive potential using a variety of interactive assessments will become a most valuable teaching tool.

“I never teach my pupils. I can only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

Formative assessments can guide a teacher to how a student is or is not progressing. It can allow the teacher to amend their methods or tailor an individual student’s needs much more fluidly. John Polias, of Lexis Education, describes it as:

  • assessment of learning;
  • assessment for learning;
  • assessment as learning.

I read that in the style of Pep Guardiola as an intense football manager. He, like many great football managers, uses coaching of football in the game, after game analysis and during the game. The game is the test. The game is also a time to test new formations and tactics. The game is something to reflect on and to understand new learnings. This can also be said within our classroom. This should also be applied to our students. Assessment as learning is a real chance give appropriate and frequent feedback – in order to modify learning activities. It’s proactive and not reactive. Assessment of learning, the summative part, is reactive. It’s done, it’s dusted. Game over, almost. Assessment for learning also allows us scope to work away from the traditional unit test and external testing of old. Here in assessment for learning and assessment as learning we allow magic to happen. Students can express themselves. There’s self-assessment, self-monitoring and peer-assessment time. Students can create or make their own checklists or rubrics. With that, they can be employed for the purpose of learning. They allow students incentive, a drive, a spur on to get to a much more useful end. Therefore, Making Assessment Supportive focuses on how we can devote adequate time to making a type of assessment that makes sense for our students – and being able to use it at varied points of instruction. At points along the teaching cycle allows us to make assessment more fruitful. Lorna Earl’s Assessment as Learning: Using Classroom Assessment to Maximise Student Learning further strengthens this material showing a host of judgements about placement, promotion, credentials, etc to fit with other students. It shows information for teacher instructional decisions to meet external standards and expectations. It shows self-monitoring, self-correction and adjustment to reach personal and external goals.

“You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” – Kahlil Gibran

So, with all that, I ask you, teacher or not, what does the assessment pyramid look like? Identify how your school, current or old, had their pyramid. Where would you place the below? Top, middle or bottom?

  • assessment of learning;
  • assessment for learning;
  • assessment as learning.

Let’s each analyse samples of assessment tasks being used in our schools. Are they devised to be assessment of, for, or as learning? How can we incorporate a more overlapped approaches to assessments within teaching? What’s the understanding from students within our classes about the kinds of assessments that we do?

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King, musician

Until next time… goodbye for now.

TESMC: Pitt & Freeman vs. Spacey

Good (insert time here) / Hello / How do,

“Ben told the class that nouns are sexy.  I couldn’t agree more.” – Mr Lee, 2020/21 cohort, TESMC, TWIS

Noun groups are everywhere. ESL (English as a Second Language) learners may find ordering tough, whereas a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, may find that their description of the fictional Scottish public and private boarding school of magic for students aged eleven to eighteen child’s play. The British magical community’s Ministry of Magic may not be an ideal place to start an exploration of noun groups, that most specific to English topic, but we can begin here with a dabble into the magical realm of TESMC class with Mr Ben. It’s our seventh class, hence the title.

“Many a man has a treasure in his hoard that he knows not the worth of. (Sellic Spell)” – Beowulf, J.R.R. Tolkien

Perspectives on Vocabulary by John Polias, Nominalisation, meaning making in the written realm by Brian Dare, and How accessible are the texts we use by John Polias made for riveting reading. They kept me up into the wee hours and on my toes. Why? They made me question my teaching and my selection of textbooks. Hugely. I’ve always been a fan of a DK Board game called Very Silly Sentences. This game helps to expand the vocabulary and manipulates verbs, adjectives and nouns. The idea of manipulating the nominal group needs base knowledge. That is to know the density of meaning slapped together inside a written text by giving numbers to nominalization per clause. Heavy stuff. Really heavy packed stuff. As a teacher we want to see the evolution of a student’s writing. It must go from: ‘It is a cat.’ We’re aiming to add weight to the sentence. Students, like adults, should be spouting Shakespearian cat descriptive pieces.

“foul night-waking cat” – The Rape of Lucrece, Sir William Shakespeare

If we sit our student’s first grade work alongside the same student’s work as they enter their early teenage years, you will see progress. The same can be done if we take week two work, week ten and week 17 work. Analysis is easy because it is reactive. Our job is much more proactive though. We’re targeting an end product. The factory assembly line of our classes must be targeted to show our desired outcomes of language learning. The crux of the matter is vocabulary extension: It’s a pretty cat. John Polias makes some strong cases for playing detective and taking visuals aside for as good old interrogation.

Fellow hair-challenged Brian Dare points out the pros and cons of refined writing. The high end of the mode continuum gets a fair treatment. He points out that suddenly students are less likely to be thinking on their toes. Students should be encouraged to both rewrite spoken text and speak in different ways about written text. It has to be bidirectional and the transpositions should become the tools of meaning-making in language. Going back and forwards, inverting, flipping it a bit, and relocating words here and there will provide the necessitous scaffolding. Do you remember the joys of messing with words and creating something clean and trim? The mode continuum gives our students something to blend and bend as a way to develop knowledge about language.

Explain these terms to a student without using the terms: common noun, proper noun, abstract noun, concrete noun, countable noun, uncountable noun, compound noun, collective noun, singular noun and plural noun. Respective examples could include window, Manchester, love, house, bike and bikes, rice, textbook, crowd, monkey, and babies. Easy enough, right? Now explain the function and use of a noun group. A noun group is a group of words relating to, or building on, a noun. There may be a pointer (a, an, this, that, these, those, my, your, his, her, its, our, dad’s, Mr Ben’s), one or more adverbs and adjectives. Before and after the main noun. The pre-modifier and the post-modifier offer ample opportunity for exploration. Referring back and forwards, within a sentence is a highly useful skill and tool for an up-and-coming writer. Adding weight and detail to the noun expands the information about the noun itself. It offers a clearer mental image. With these skills, our students can tell us much more about a cat. It’s a pretty fluffy cat with a wonderful temperament. The students are now armed with magic wands to cast spells on their noun structures. Effective writers need detail. Expanding the nominal group should be a weapon of choice.

Note: Nominal means as planned, or as named, or as written (in the mission plan). It does not mean normal.

Synonyms and antonyms are keys and tools to create colourful and abstract language. They’re also ideal for adding dimension to concrete dialogue and reports. One of my earliest English class memories was at Clayton Brook Primary School in Manchester. I, under ten years of age, and my peers were tasked with finding as many synonym words for the words good and bad. Many students talked about it. Some sought books. The tall loner in the corner dived like goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and grabbed something useful. The dictionary fell into my lap. I was hooked. My personal vocabulary grew from word hunts, games, and reading. Mr Jones, class 5AJ, at Chapel Street Primary School, where I later attended, had me constantly finding words, or even searching for made up words, which made me look up similar words. These strange games certainly gave me reasons to live amongst the pages of discovery.

Here on vocabulary played a part. Even to this day, I enjoy expressions, terminologies, and styles of writing because the words within are shouting at me like conversations and whisperings that I must hear. According to TestYourVocab.com, most adult native test-takers range from 20,000-35,000. The average 8-year-old native speaker already knows about 10,000 words. Foreign test-takers tend to hit 2,500-9,000 words – and even by living overseas that only tends to hit 10,000 words. As I slotted my answers into tick-boxes and scored an estimated 32,700 words for my vocabulary size, I realized how few of the 300,000 entries into the Oxford English Dictionary that I probably know. In reality knowing one word from the 20,000 printed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary isn’t all that bad (and in truth, just 35,000 are useful). Are the website’s findings accurate? Well, entering your data is based on honesty and over two million surveys doesn’t accurately reflect a global population of umpteen billion people. Also, who uses the internet?! Their website’s methodology, the nitty-gritty argues that their accuracy is around ±10%, so in my instance, I could be closer to 35,970 or 29,430 words. Either way, it’s a curious little tool of play. I’m not showing off. Not at all. It gives me a good reflection on how many words I have yet to experience or learn. The bad news, however, is that their findings say middle age is where vocabulary retention tends to end. The best reading I found on their website related to reading habits. They found that reading habits directly increases vocabulary growth. It may sound like, as my Dad would put it, “stating the bleeding obvious” but it goes a long way to reinforcing the habit of reading at an early age. This website is part of an independent American-Brazilian research project. The decade-old findings of China show that the average vocabulary size here for English as a Second Language users was 6,636 words. Now, considering the education boom in China, that could be higher now. The website is an indication but not a science. It made me think about how many base words we need to learn a language. But, then how often do we use the words and do we lose the words? Who do we talk with that make us use new words? Are some words specific to some scenarios? Oh, the endless questions! Where on Earth is Anglesey?

“One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilising or it will die.”- Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, writer (28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966)

Textbooks need selection. Most of us read reviews and even more of us get handed a reading list and stack of books tall enough to paralyse a student’s passion for reading. Trying not to overwhelm a young kids with a stack of books is a good start. As John Polias points out we need to support the students. If I throw the Welsh town of Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch at you and say read it. With that name of the Welsh village just over the Menai Bridge, you can unlock the language of Welsh, possibly. Possibly not. That’s where teachers must support every textbook handed to a student. A book without support may scare away passion for reading.

“Our song escapes, on little silver discs; Our love is plastic, we’ll break it to bits” – Reflektor – Arcade Fire

Too long, didn’t read? Well, that’s half the problem. If reading isn’t for you, how can reading be for someone else? And if reading isn’t a habit, how can writing be a skill? I haven’t read any of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Am I a sinner? Maybe. It just never grasped my attention. So, now, I believe that I must read it. I won’t read it alone though. I’ll make it my personal mission to read it with each and every student of my grade four class. Maybe they have read it in Chinese. Maybe in English. But, how did they enjoy it? I’m sure we can enjoy the magical journey as one. If you don’t have one of the Harry Potter books to hand and you want to dig on into the wider world of English, check out the below sites:

The Economist (Johnson blog: named after Samuel Johnson, who made dictionaries. This blog is all about the use and misuse of language, with its ripple effects)

FreeRice.com teaches and tests vocabulary whilst donating 5 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme.

Language Log. Simply put, Mark Liberman, at the University of Pennsylvania, is a linguist with love of words. His Language Log website is a ticker-tape of blogs, posts and news all relating to language. Expect popular culture, controversy and history.

Dictogloss: a language learning technique. Used to teach grammatical structures. The teacher prepares text examples that need to be studied. The teacher reads it. The students just listen. No pens allowed. Next the students lift up their pens. Notes must be taken. By forming small groups, students can work together to reconstruct the text example using their knowledge, notes and teamwork. Afterwards reflection comes as students compare their various versions. With respect to my Grade 4 class, they tried this task twice and each time, they sailed the rough seas. Grade 4 are very capable sailors when the going gets tough. For extra experience, add a Powerpoint presentation whereby the words (and phrases) that you feel need noting pop up as you read it. It can reinforce student ability. After students become familiar with the dictogloss methods, take away the option of teamwork. First try paired working and then ask the students to work solo. This can also promote confidence.

“Fate goes ever as fate must.” – Beowulf, Seamus Heaney

As students move through schooling they will encounter different registers with full expectation to engage them accordingly. The use of nominal groups to enhance and even make complex text can be explained and shown to be more than useful. The dictogloss is there to be used as a tool, but not for exactitude. How many things change through new interpretation and retelling? Language and writing, like speaking can all be about exploration. As teachers we are captains of ships and we must wake our hypnopompic students with a sparge of word play. Our fuliginous fluffy funambulist of a feline with a wonderful temperament must exercise its vibrissae to avoid any pother as it balances on the tenebrous tightrope of life. With that, I end my braggadocio writing.

“Fate will unwind as it must!” – Beowulf, Burton Raffel

Goodbye, for now.

TESMC ה: Hiraeth Strikes Back

It has started. We are too close to the door to close it now. The wind is too strong now to wind the sail. Anthony Horowitz gave empowerment to five. Enid Blyton made the number famous. Swordsman Miyamoto Musashi wrote a book about five rings. The Olympic games use five rings representing inhabited continents. Five-a-side football isn’t a bad game. In rugby a try gets you five points. “Give me five”, praises someone as you high five. Quintessence is essential to water, earth, fire and air. The five-second rule used to be applicable but then COVID-19 came along. UK pop band 5ive are best forgotten, just like the notes taken from the fifth TESMC module.

Words like dynamic and dynasty be so mellifluous. Pleasing to the ears. They make me all aquiver when tied to descriptive texts, like the bombinating of a bumblebee briskly buzzing by. Sometimes the words themselves are so ineffable that no words do them justice. These moments can appear ethereal like the petrichor (the sometimes pleasant fragrance of earth that follows rain). Try laying supine, facing the sky, closing your eyes and listening to the things around you. What sounds pleased? Which make a horrendous hum? Yesterday was the memorial day of the Nanjing massacre in China and at some stage a sonorous sound shrieked out from a siren. On the quieter side, there has been bird song and on opening my eyes, spheres danced in my vision, the phosphenes from the rubbing of my eyes.

Hiraeth [hiːrai̯θ] is here. A longing for home. The home of yesterday has changed. The world has changed. I cannot go back as easily as before. It’s a Welsh word. Pure beauty in meaning, a pining for nostalgia. A desire for home and an epoch gone by. I find myself as a somnambulist. I miss second-hand bookshops too. The kind of bookshop which is so full that it had to refuse more refuse. That vellichor. The fragrance and strangeness of so many gathered histories. The insurance has long been invalid for the invalid books.

A teacher must know words. Words are friends. Words need sharing. Words need to be entrusted and explained. How can we intimate this to our most intimate student friends? Students from ESL (English as a Second Language) backgrounds need new words. New words can help develop a love for language. Without these tiptoe steps into a world thesaurus and dictionary, what will a student learn? Are we sometimes guilty of assuming students can’t pick up new words? What are the ramifications of low expectations? Surely, if a student has been set low standards or an activity without a challenge then they will wither and fade like an autumn flower as winter arrives. Speaking of word play, congratulations to my mate Gerry on his third marathon finish. If he was a drummer, he could paint a bass fish on the head of the bass drum. Wordplay.

Ongoing and meaningful preparations are a must. You can’t make Christmas cards easily without card, colouring pencils or pens, and materials to stick onto the card. You may have the words to write ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ but they’re null and void without a place to affix them. Now, you have prepared well, and now it is time for explicit and timely support – by teachers and their assistants. These key tools of learning are essential to educating ESL students. Think omnipresence. Even at a later stage a teacher should be guiding through support and reassurance, or corrective guidance, when and where appropriate. Give an ESL student supportive confidence and they’ll fly. No more wilting flowers.

Practice alone won’t hone writing as a skill. It needs companionship. Reading, a variety of examples, experimentation and bravery aren’t bad starting points. Encouragement and explicit guidance by all teachers will go far. Repetition may help an ESL student with handwriting or to spell a few words but it won’t do much more without a careful eye and a hand on the shoulder. Teachers are the Jedi masters of the classroom. They must be open-minded, flexible and experimental in teaching strategies to encourage students to adopt the same mindset. Practice is important, however, to get better a structured and reflective approach, of a clear nature is of greater benefit. What a teacher wants from a class should be discussed and explained clearly. The teacher has the task of progressively conveying their expectations in ways that don’t confuse or blur the outcome. Every opportunity for a student to write should be a chance to seek clarification and guidance. Perhaps like now, it is Christmas and the task is to write Christmas cards. Careful wording helps build a basic familiarity. If not worded correctly your Christmas card workshop class could easily become a paper aeroplane and origami showroom. In my classroom, anything is possible. Perhaps, they’d create a Picasso-style masterpiece then rip it up. Upon seeing the tears in their painting I would shed a tear or two.

Writing processes must be clear, with the genre of the task apparent from the off. The specificities of the genre will make the register of the writing task transparent and relevant. Joint construction, modelling, then independent construction each have different demands on both the student and the teacher. Here the right language choices can be made. They offer the chance to have a running dialogue between the teacher and the student. The activity of writing is integral to learning in many educational contexts. It is not simply to show what has been learned. Far from it! One piece of text could be construed by one reader as a different thing to another reader. The writer interacts with their audience via the text. Various semiotic systems make this possible. They could be multimodal, interactive and often they have meanings or interpretations that change over time or from culture to culture or from prior knowledge or even contextual factors. Society and culture changes. Technology changes. Word meanings evolve or fade away. Who knows what literacy skills we’ll need for the next century?!

Pariseetomol sounds like paracetamol. Whilst one is headache-reducing, the former could be headache inducing. Part of the text is below. Is it a hybrid of Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl, or JRR Tolkien or Lewis Caroll? Perhaps Shakespeare has made a comeback tour like all good big-haired 80s artists do (1580s, obviously). Anyway for more on the below, look at it first and then I’ll share something just after the below text:

“Pariseetomol ossildates the senses, demanding to be looged, hoshed, plessed, misted and spolt. From plooking along the Seine to scarbarsters on merse-sized canvases to the pick-an-ism dupers in cafes parlandering on the mis of garlic or the perster kolecks of Jerry Lewis, Pariseetomol is the embiffers of all things French. Morzel simplurously at its brousal boulevards, pressim monuments, highstopper works of art and larly lippers. Savour its gourmet stoop of premble, jasmerse, dorsims and marebits. Feel the rosset in your doppel as you glerglack through Bastille, or a wergle of frompt and plossule atop the Eiffel Toppletipper.– Is this gibberish? See below.

Google and other search engines can ruin a mystery, as can Ben Greuter, ace TESMC instructor. Without giving anything away, here’s a link to explain the above Lonely Planet piece. In the classroom we were asked to answer some questions. Again, see below.

1. What does Pariseetomol do to the senses?

2. How is one advised to morzel?

3. When are you likely to feel the rosset in your doppel?

4. Why might you have felt a wergle of frompt and plossule atop the Eiffel Toppletipper?

5. What is the writer’s view of Pariseetomol?

Now, where and how do you begin to answer that. The bandage was wound around the wound. That’s where I’d begin. Much of what we read in English is about context and prior knowledge. Many authors can skip the obvious in a series of novels, but pick up the latest Jack Reacher novel and you may need a few back-publications to fully follow the brutal ex-military officer created by Lee Child. His mind was used to produce produce. He polished his character with the odd Polish trip. I’m sure one novel has the main character deciding to desert his dessert in the desert. And, Jack Reacher definitely took aim at a dove which dove into the bushes, which he could lead others to do if he would get the lead out.

On returning from lunch I see there is no time like the present. Someone thought it was time to present the Christmas present. I do not object to this secret object. Now, who sent it? I shall subject the mysterious subject to a series of tests. I have a package with neat folds, level taping and handwriting that appears feminine. The colour scheme is light and cheery. After, “Hey John” there is “~” which is quite common to signify affection or warmth. The contents will remain secret until Friday when I open it at the staff gathering. I guess from the feel that it is a pin badge, a keyring or earrings. I shall pontificate in my best Sherlock Holmes fashion without sweat. Maybe i could watch a documentary about an Australian marsupial, let’s say the wombat. It eats roots, shoots, and leaves. I’ll get my coat…

WOFORO DUA PA A – “When you climb a good tree” – support, cooperation [from Adinkra, the language of west Africa]

Pavarotti and Weetabix

Previously on TESMC (Teaching ESL students in mainstream classrooms): Factors impacting on ESL students…

In conclusion, language is a tool, a mode of context and something that gives a valid outcome of learning. Success will depend upon fluence of the language. By success, I mean success in learning. In an ESL setting the fluency of English shouldn’t outshine or exceed that of the mother tongue. Students in an ESL environment, as a necessity, must develop and advance the native tongue’s skills, which will allow a faithful and genuine proficiency in English. The language environment with adequate support facility are vital. Attitudes, family ability and support alongside realistic expectations are just a few or many factors that influence language learning.

Language demands or language choices? Name, praise and the words we, our, and us. Connect as a team, and support will follow. A reduction of hesitation will allow confidence. The teachers and classmates need to avoid laughing at each other to promote a stable and safe space to allow expression and exploration of a second language. There will be a need to use their own native tongues to support one another.

Do students feel the pressure of their future on their shoulders? University, a life overseas and so on may follow…

Student-student interactions are different to teacher-student interactions in terms of language demands. Varied support is available. Language accompanies actions. Teachers can prompt, even just through one word. Encouragement follows. Small questions that act to prompt students to question and define facts. Students can direct a sequence, through shirt-sharp input. Collaboration can assist students to create a report, through gentle guidance. Abstract reports need definitions and information to educate and to report clearly to the reader.

Realia and materials allow negotiation of language without full technical statement. It and this are valuable words too. Students can support each other.

Process of routines can allow students to try to work alone. They can guess first, then do. Students can be observed before the teacher pushes them to use a little harder sentence structure. Simple experiments. Smaller groups make a comfort zone and task ownership. Once a teacher joins, they can expand the technical language and methodology. Strong guidance replaces exploration without prevention of free-thinking.

Last week, Supreme Training Leader Ben set us the task of gaining a profile of a specific student. To protect the student’s identity, I chose one, and for the purpose of writing, I’m going to call him Jay-Z.

Jay Z likes the colour yellow. He is about 10 years old. He likes football and basketball. He prefers football. He has an older sister and she attends a school nearby to our school. He shares a classroom with 9 other students. He joins his Dad running. He likes board games but doesn’t like to pay attention for too long. He is happiest studying maths but prefers online maths games to written work. At times he can demonstrate good leadership and organization skills. He likes to eat meat from the bone. He doesn’t like girls. 

Now, let’s imagine that famous Star Wars theme music in our heads:

Not so long ago in a galaxy where Earth resides, and I’m sat in a room admiring the sunset reflecting off Donghua Songshan Lake Hospital’s windows. The day has been long, and noisy. The room we’re in smells of pulled pork and pizza. There isn’t a beer in sight. EIP Supreme Training Leader Ben Greuter is overseeing a cohort of TESMC course learners and module 2 is on the approach…

(Did you picture it scrolling?)

In this module we introduced the theories of language, learning and teaching that underpin the course. It’s essential. A backbone. We develop our understanding of the relationship between text and context and the implications for our classroom. Interactions give us expectations, whether written or spoken. We can’t react to a piece of meaningful language if it misses key points or lacks weight of content. Text and context are often related, and gibberish is just that. With proper text set in the right context, we can predict how to respond.

A text message (SMS), and e-mail between friends, a letter or communication between a medical expert or letters between schools and parents all have different contextual usage and language content. Nuanced functional models of language are much like cultural changes. Those tones can be regional, national, or global. Likewise they can be like friends with shorter interactions or deeper in content. American, British and Chinese cultures influence the output language whereby an American kid, a Chinese child or a British brat is placed within. “Hey man, wassup?”, may be appropriate for the playground at an International School, but would it be heard in that same school’s principal’s office? By the principal? To their students? The student who always chooses trouble over calm? You know the student, the one with real energy? That student who makes teachers leave for foreign trade jobs? Language is influenced heavily by the context of the situation, which is in turn impelled by the context of language. Think specifically about the genre of a situation.

Genre – what’s occurring? E.g. Doctor-patient consultation. Genre is kind of like a topic.

The field is e.g. a doctor and his/her patient establish the problem. It is also a place to allow cattle some much needed energy-producing food consumption. Fields are good places to have music festivals, one such musician belted a song out in a Milan field in 1990 that many may recall. The London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta had triggered a call for that one song.

A tenor gives the commanding role. The tenor and the relationship to the e.g. The doctor is producing a dialogue and leading the conversation. Luciano Pavarotti Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was one of three tenors that always had something to voice. My Nana loved those three blokes singing their opera pieces. Nessun dorma, alone is a soft classic, made globally famous by football at FIFA Italia 1990’s World Cup. That aria from Turandot, and the voice of James Brown alongside James Brown, for It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World are such wonderful songs. They use the medium of songs, which is what needs discussing next…

Mode: how does the text and context take place? This is the channel of the language. E.g. face-to-face, using spoken language not usually found in written text. It’s a good example of contextualized language. In mathematics, the mode is the value that appears most often in a set of data values. Mode can also mean a way of living, operating or behaving.

Register time…

Is the field/subject matter everyday and concrete or technical and abstract? Students can feel uncertain or out of place, just like some foreign workers do overseas, or office workers do when they’re sent to run a warehouse. The rules of the playground at home, or school can be two different beasts. Socio-cultural practices differ. As do rules. Home is where the heart is. School is where the art is. Schools help students find comfort or ability to move from everyday fields on the field continuum to highly technical fields via specialized fields in the middle. New technical vocabulary, new challenges and a continued need to develop the everyday language makes the task all the more daunting for those learning a second language. Links and examples galore will be conveyed or pointed towards. Finer meanings will be challenging.

Is the tenor informal, personal or novice? Are they formal, impersonal or informed? That tenor continuum is important too. Flitting between informal and formal language, or other situations that require a slightly increased formal spoken ability could be as common as wearing a football shirt, business suit or the casual dress in between. Without the tenor continuum or field continuum the mode continuum would be useless. The ability to use most spoken-like dialogue, needs an air of spontaneity and to remain concrete and shared. Or, it could be written, as a reflection, shared or not, or better still presented well, concise and clear and edited or organized in an engaging way. Between these two polar regions sits language as a means of reporting (think BBC News) or recounting (The World At War), or gossip down The Sidings pub in Levenshulme, Manchester (post-lockdown).

Is the mode mostly spoken, “here and now”, with language accompanying action or mostly written, generalized or the language constitutes the text? Students need to know that they can flip between a good register continuum. A student who can write or talk as a professor might be needed for one task, but a functioning student needs to flip in and out of popular, social and other scenarios as and when. Talking like a Shakespearean actor is all well and good but will it be appropriate at a DMX concert? Many scientists engage in workshops and debates, but after these professional meetings, they may enjoy a game of chess, golf or a beer down Ziggy’s in Chang’an, where a good Reuben sandwich may be the topic of discussion, more than blooming COVID-19…

The classroom environment will have the inevitable spoken stage at which a challenge is given to students. It could be homework or guided classroom written work. It could be almost anything. They will need preparation for that written work task. The students need warming up and encouraging. Student engagement is everything. Engage. Inform. Educate. Make the students want to talk about something or ask questions. From my experience, correcting students too early will only switch them off from the task. Ensuring that students engage is not easy. It’s a challenge for sure but early stage conversation can be key to generating interest.

The mode continuum is a tool. This tool allows students numerous ways to break down and build both spoken and written forms of English. It helps students and adults alike to prepare writing and thoughts in a crisp clear way. It gives precision to a situation. The school life offers ample opportunity to play with, experiment and develop the mode continuum. It should allow students confidence and comfort in talking about what they’re learning and give opportunities, to learn that quite often some things can be written in different ways to how they are spoken. It can help to standardize the various ways and means of speaking and writing English as a language too. With or without this tool, students have the support or not, to take risks with language. This allows time to reflect on what was said as being accurate or inaccurate for a certain context. Can it be improved upon?

“You can’t write it if you’ve never said it. You can’t say it if you’ve never heard it.”Pie Corbett, Poet, storyteller and educational consultant.

Literacy is for life. It’s not just a test! This skillset is important. How well a person conducts themselves in conversations or writing can open or close doors, according to their ability. A fully articulate person at a job interview will have benefits, but without their written skills of a suitable level, they may find some careers beyond them. Talk For Writing, modelled by Pie Corbett & co., highlights the need to build oral literacy before pushing for excellent writing. At the end of the day, a good teacher brings words alive. Teachers have the power to guide language learners in ways others may not. With great power, comes great responsibility. So, if a student lacks that essential scaffolding, perhaps they weren’t exposed to beautiful elegant flowing constructed phrases or well-thought arguments. How many great teachers stick in your mind from your school days? What made them stay there? Mr Jones, Mr Meheran, Mr Mack, Miss Hodges, Miss Rowe, and so on all remain influential to my reading passion, and the biggest teacher of them all: my mum.

“Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the Earth.” – Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC), Greek mathematician, philosopher, scientist and engineer.

Is there a link in the class between proficient readers and superb writers? If one reads a large quantity of books, expect a larger quantity of output in their writing. Give a child Lego blocks, and they’ll build. Give a child Lego blocks, some demonstrations, some blueprints, some instructions and some examples and then take them away, and they’ll build something better. Just as an architect needs to be able to draw or use computer design technology, so do writers need to be readers.

Language and its context will always have a relationship. The two broad concepts of culture enveloping that of the situation register were well illustrated by Halliday and Martin, in their 1993 hit number: model of language. Language exists within a situation, which in turn exists within culture. From that, the genre, is usually a pattern or predictable way that language can be put to use for the purpose of something social. Have you had your Weetabix? It could be an advertisement, an information broadcast or a conversation about cheese. Lancashire cheese, crumbly, hands-down, every time, always the winner. Melted. Of course, some cultures and contexts may need to be learned cariad. And, as sorted as it is, that doesn’t just mean country or ethnicity, oh no! Not so buzzing, right? We’re talking ginnels and proper local dialects, regionalization and popular trends, religious stuff, organisations, schools, professional bodies, schools, families groups, clubs and fragments of society integral to making a diverse way of life into a patchwork quilt of living, breathing, amazing beauty. And Manchester Utd fans.

The more words we hear, the more we can use. As a second language learner, kids need more chance to see and hear new and unfamiliar vocabulary. Maybe they’ll like the sound or the way the word looks. Maybe they’ll hear a new word and it won’t be new next time. It could be the word that leads to a curious question. Word up! Being word poor can hold students back. With the power of words, students can be culturally enriched and have access to beautiful books, watch movies at cinemas with subtitles from many countries and feel confident talking to anyone. As someone in education, it is my responsibility to look to close these gaps. That chasm between word rich can be closed or bridged. By mastering standard English, students will both speak and write better.

Giving value, the Halliday and Martin model, helps us as educators to discuss the connection between language and context. It tells us there are patterns, and to our students, these are valid and predictable, to allow our students to choose contexts for each given situation.  

Language and learning and the role of scaffolding is all about producing texts for given contexts; finding the context in the text; a functional model of language (in terms of genre, field, tenor, and mode); plotting texts along the register continuum; patterns of the ESL development; implications for programming, teaching and assessment; teaching and the learning cycle; and all, in relation to the scaffolding of language. We as teachers can explore how we can make meaning-making systems, the benefits of visuals and music, so as to focus on the literacy demands that are intrinsic to curriculum statements. The battle for second language teaching goes on… but it can wait for me to tuck into a bowl of Weetabix. Cheers Taobao!

Tally ho and away I go.

Here are some cats:

Understanding Thursdays.

Bonfire night in England has been marked by an explosion of COVID-19. As Guy Fawkes Night comes and goes, Britain goes back into lockdown for an entire month.

“And then mother took me to Grammar School; But I stopped all in the vestibule; Every time that bell would ring; Catched me playin’ with my ding a ling” – the song My Ding A Ling by Chuck Berry

Meanwhile on a murky Thursday night in a warm Dongguan, at Tungwah Wenzel International School, I found myself taking notes on Teaching ESL in the Mainstream Classroom [TESMC]. There are several modules which start from a zoomed-out overview to a much more-closer and specific look at our teaching area. Quality of teaching matters, especially for English as a Second Language learners. Collaboration is key withing all teaching environments, so here I was surrounded by technology, Chinese, English, science and other specialist teachers.

Interrelatedness of culture is important. ESL (English as a Second Language) students bring culture capital and funds of knowledge that can be tapped and used in the weapon against Minecraft and all other manner of distraction. Sat with Mr Jason, Miss Keats, Miss Cindy, and others in groups around, we all observed teachers Mr Ben and Mr Cherlito in leading a great classroom workshop.

Classrooms should set high expectations and resource in their mainstream classes. There should be a bar to jump up to, rather than a bar to meet level. Expectations should increase to allow students to learn the language through the language and learn about that language. There is a plethora of learning theories, many tried, tested and tired, but a good teacher should know that there’s always more out there to bring about a good learning context.

Oral and written language must be treated separately. In our youth we make sounds before we scribble words. Those sounds and phonetics become words, sentences and eventually conversation. We crawl, walk and then run – until we get old enough to walk, drink beer and crawl again. Writing needs codes. We start with a few letters, then we pair a few more, and we build words. Following that a few simple sentences, and then they expand bit by bit, until we’re banging out sonnets like Shakespeare was our teacher. Some of the braver kids that write carry on writing and move on to be Dan Brown or Anne Tyler. They all started with the ABC though. Patterns and a need to make technical and abstract meanings fit educational contexts a little before we hit our double-figure years. Why do we do it? The world is demanding and so are parents. Teachers backed by educational curriculum standards encourage students. Students push themselves – or not. Accountability is something learned or not within teenage and early years. For some it takes a little longer than others. Some will never learn it.

Teachers and the school community adapt and evolve support language, not just to improve students, but to find strategies relevant and achievable for the classroom, and in this instance the ESL classroom. Improve our teaching, improve our target students. With that we must recognize that not all students have the name needs or motivations. There are many variables that need to be taken into account to ensure students participate in schooling and beyond.

What do I hope to gain from the course? Self-enhancement, bettering one’s self, being more invaluable and experienced in order to help and work closer with my colleagues. Yes, all that and some. Actually, I really want to understand my students better.

Students cross a broad range of identities. We all have multiple identities. I act differently around colleagues, friends, family, football friends, near strangers, and other groups. This is life. We are social butterflies and act accordingly to comfort surroundings and situations. What identities do we have?

Think about diets. Do we eat differently or behave in varied ways? Perhaps around vegans, vegetarians, American Embassy-eaters (that’s McDonald’s) and so on. How much respect can you give a total fructivore? Does a sister command a special response that is distinctive to that of an aunty or a mother? What’s the atypical reaction to dad? Relations matter. The position within the family, the runt of the litter is that kid that gets the passed down Manchester City F.C. shirt, according to their big bad bold brother.

If you want division, look no further than religion, it’s an age-old area of conflict. Don’t trust me? Google it. Even your choice of search engine can separate you. Sorry Baidu, you just won’t do for me! Age category, maturity, sexuality (LGTGB+ etc), members of book clubs, groups, communities (C’mon CITY!), neighbours (noisy or other), sports, language-speakers, ethnicities, creeds, hobbiesprejudices, Marvel or DC comics Star Wars or Star Trek; Trekker or Trekee… The list goes on. And on. And on, and on, and on and on. With all that in mind it is clearly difficult to understand your colleagues, let alone your students. We still must push on (gently, softly or otherwise) and probe ways to understand any potential barriers to learning and find range and depth suitable for extraction. Some negatives can be turned into positives. Some cannot. Here as good teacher is digging for positivity and the factory in each student that manufactures optimism. What do students struggle with? Locating a pencil case? Someone looked at them with a squint? An ant walked into the classroom doing ballet?

Some of the roles or aspects of having multiple identities will cause internal conflicts, doubts, and worries. One place that I feel tensions are my political views and belief in human rights. So, to be in America or China, I must respect the head gaffer and the regime that rules the joint. As a guest, I can only say or do so much. Imagine being a Chinese kid flung into international education. Will that kid’s neighbours or young relations also be in that same international school setting? They’ll be strengthening and weaking on one and the other. You can’t follow two systems perfectly. ESL students, a widely used terms for many nationalities, at a school that uses English as a primary target language are privileged to expand their cultural window, but they may find their own cultures closing from them. As they develop language for an increasing range of purpose of contexts, their world is changing in ways that they may or may not notice.

For an Irish kid learning at an ESL school in Wales, who studies only in English, they may not be exposed to much Gaelic language other than that at home, infrequently. The Welsh kid at school may be using English at home, attending Welsh classes online and immersed in a bilingual environment at home. The Chinese student on exchange from Dongguan to Aberystwyth may get to speak English, Welsh and a spot of Chinese with fellow students. They will all face improvements in their English language, but which students will improve their native tongue? What range of langue will they be exposed to? For the ESL teacher, this, like many other factors sits outside the scope of control. Awareness of these facts is important. Which students enjoy the same access to range of language as their peers? Is immersion in English to the detriment of other tongues? Do some students slip, trip and flip-flop from one school to the next? I know of at least a handful of students that I’ve taught that are in their third primary school in as many years. I shouldn’t judge because I also attended three primary schools as a kid. However, I didn’t have the pressure of a second language… unless North versus South Mancunian dialect was it. Barmcake or muffin?

The evening featured acronyms galore. EMI wasn’t Electrical and Musical Industries records; it was English as a Medium of Instruction. When CALD was mentioned, I expected to hear the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, but it turned out to mean Culturally and Linguistically Diverse.

Other notes (not typed up in any depth yet):

WHAT FUNDS OF KNOWLEDGE MIGHT AN ESL STUDENT BRING TO THE CLASSROOM?

Understand classroom exposure (Chinese vs Int’l); different opinions about the future (environment; conservation; search engine exposure) …

LANGUAGE/COMMUNICATION – visual artifacts / bilingualism / translation /

/ EXPERIENCE/WORLD KNOWLEDGE – A.I. / surveillance / icons / cultural exposure /

/ ATTITUDES OF FUTURE

/ WAYS OF THINKING – Wikipedia/media literacy / transfer of knowledge / attitudes in academic context / curiosity

/ MULTIPLE IDENTITIES cultural norms / family backgrounds / expectations / regional knowledge / local

Possible consequences of failure to acknowledge the above include neglect of diversity and cultures. Value it. Ignoring the valuable resource will limit their world view. Disenfranchising and discouraging, devaluing, disempowering – don’t handicap

Attitude of a teacher: transition / support / how do students feel in terms of students who finish first or take longer? /

My homework (A.K.A. the between module activity) is as follows. Select one class student. Understand their life, experiences, impacts on their ability to learn, hobbies, favourite biscuits, and so on. I can use any strategy to do so. Perhaps an untargeted questionnaire, a survey of the class, discussions with other teachers, an insight from their family, a photo of their favourite thing at home and so on… What do they miss when they’re at school? The old who, when, what, why, how, do, etc scenario is with me until next Thursday’s class. That student’s funds of knowledge will be valuable to teaching them.

And with that, I’m sat listening to Chuck Berry live and reading about things other than books that students can read to enhance their reading skills. Books are the gateway to knowledge, but in these modern times books are not the only medium for reading. In the age of information, words are all around us. Students should be encouraged to read (digital or hard copies):

books written by each other

dictionaries and thesaurus

play scripts

road signs

maps and atlases

song lyrics

poetry

travel brochures and leaflets

blogs

websites

encyclopedias

newspapers

magazines

social media and micro posts

catalogues and listings

programmes of events/sports meetings/games

manuals and ingredients on food labels

recipes

Anyway, that’s all for Thursday night. Let’s hope this COVID-19 scatters away soon. Keep busy. Eat a toffee apple for me and some Parkin Cake. I had to make do with McVities Hobnobs (the ones without chocolate). Stay strong. Peace and love x

John

Dear Diary

Good day/Namaste/S’mae/How do/Hello/Nihao,

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020:

What was my favourite moment today? Was it receiving a beeswax candle from a student as a surprise gift? Was it passing the walking grade one students who all sang me happy birthday? Was it seeing a message from mum and the tribe first thing this morning? Perhaps it was the many well-wishes from polite students hither and dither? Maybe the unexpected gift in the post? Actually, it was one student, often of the alive and kicking variety, showing his gentle side and writing happy birthday on the whiteboard. That, and the many great displays of hard work he exhibited today. It is really pleasing to see some of yesterday’s frustrations shape into today’s delights. By the evening, I was shattered and went to bed early.

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020:

The Hunters has been a dynamic TV series so far. Brutal, grim and tantalizing with all the right comic book feel of fantasy and fiction overlapping reality. That’s the series I am watching after binge-watching series one to six of Borsch. I do like a good detective show, especially with the gritty cast, a splattering of suspense and the odd bit of wit. Titus Welliver plays a fleshy version of Michael Connelly’s novel character Harry Borsch. Some good co-stars in Amy Aquino and Lance Reddick make for a good run of episodes. The main star has his flaws and the first season justified a follow of five more seasons, with a post-COVID finale season in expectation. Having read several of Michael Connelly’s novels, this Amazon production was attentive and steered well. Little was overcooked, leaving an engaging piece of TV pie to chew on later. 

Friday, October 30th, 2020:

Our school, TWIS (Tungwah Wenze International School) held a marvellous book character parade and house sports day, sandwiched around parents’ day and a fantastic lunchtime buffet. After quite an exhausting day, I retired to my apartment before scooting over to Houjie town and Irene’s Bar. Here, without the day’s earlier bee costume, I met my friends Echo and Ani. Ani had recently returned from Argentina via Amsterdam and quarantine in Shanghai. Echo shall shortly say farewell and depart to Yunnan to live an adventurous life as an artist. Catching up was good. Also, Irene, Marcus and their staff at the bar were super-welcoming and the food was fantastic. It remains my favourite bar in a country of 1.5 billion plus people. A mixture of the west and China at its finest.

Thursday, October 29th, 2020:

My birthday cheesecakes arrived the day after, due to an error on my part, At the age of 37, I’d ordered them fully in the belief that my birthday fell on a Thursday. It didn’t. My class and immediate colleagues devoured the majority of the blueberry cheesecake. The chocolate cheesecake made the staff room refrigerator and mostly survived a whole night before being gobbled and scoffed accordingly. I had a slice the following day too.

Saturday, October 31st, 2020:

In the afternoon, I played 5-a-side with Murray’s F.C. for the best part of two hours. Following a late dinner, I had another early night’s sleep. I plan to work extra hard this coming week, so a spot of avoiding Halloween didn’t worry me too much. It has surprised me how a festival from Ireland became very American and is now very much here on Chinese shores in all its commercial glory. It’s for kids and adults to enjoy equally, but it certainly has become part of the fixture and fittings here as east meets west. Not bad for a festival supposedly banned in primary schools.

Sunday, November 1st, 2020:

Today, I discovered that the WeChat yearly balance is limited to 100,000RMB (12,504.44-ish Pound sterling). That’s great. My SPD bankcard has expired, possibly. Now, I need to affix my Bank of Dongguan card (which I have been trying for 3 years, and recently thought I had attached it, but it hadn’t). During this last year I’ve certainly handed over 340RMB weekly (football pitch hire, having received just under that amount from our team players) and at the weekends a similar of larger amount. So, that’s probably 14,950rmb since April, plus flights, salary, accommodation, travel, etc for me, and even others. So, I can see how I hit that limit now. Hindsight of a wee problem.

Monday, November 2nd, 2020:

Manchester Utd. footballer and social-influencer Marcus Rashford is campaigning to end child starvation in the U.K. He’s pushing for the Conservative-led government to subsidise and help kids eat during Britain’s pandemic conditions. Like many hungry children, Marcus Rashford is up against the elite House of Commons membership who get subsidised or paid lunches in the heart of the government. All this as England enters a month-long lockdown from Thursday. Not immediately does lockdown come. Only Britain, can delay it, as if it was a train due at London Paddington. The socio-economic nightmare that the U.K. faces is well and truly into a new wave. Godspeed and good luck. Stay safe.

Thank you kindly for your time.

First thoughts.

It’s quite a hard sentence to follow. Simultaneously positive and negative. It is deep and meaningful, yet selfish and shallow. I like it, yet I hate it. My interpretation is that the polar opposite would also be contradicting and tough.

Never say hello, because saying hello means staying here, and staying here means remembering.

What’s your take?

ALL CHANGE.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

August 2020 has seen a few new components to my life. A new apartment. A new place of work. A new kettle. A new model bridge in the balcony garden. And finally, like Star Wars, a new hope. Moving from Changping to Songshan Lake and Dàlǐngshān (大岭山) was relatively straight forwards.

The new apartment sits over the line of the township borders. I live in Dàlǐngshān but I work in Sōngshānhú district (piànqū / 松山湖片区). Dàlǐngshān Zhèn (大岭山镇) is part of Sōngshānhú but these days Sōngshānhú is a very high-tech centre within the 6 townships that surround Sōngshān lake itself. Shilong (石龙), Chashan (茶山), and Shipai (石排) aren’t really that close to the lake area but they’re part of the district. The lake area is mainly surrounded by Dàlǐngshān, Dàlǎng (大朗) and Liáobù (寮步). Sōngshānhú as a town has grown from 2003, from a simple high-tech park to the mammoth green living space around the lake that is now. Huawei and many other tech giants are here. It has a railway station on The Dongguan West to Huizhou railway and will soon join the subway with three stations in Dàlǐngshān on the line 1 route (东莞轨道交通1号线/Dōngguǎn Guǐdào Jiāotōng Yī Hào Xiàn), and one at Sōngshānhú itself. The new line opens in 2022, so I won’t get too excited right now. The subway Line 3 will also have 4 stations in Sōngshānhú but that hasn’t began construction.

The new job has been welcoming, well-paced and full of encouragement. I am confident that this is a new start with great potential. Two former students are following me from grade 3 at St Lorraine Anglo-Chinese School to the new Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS). I’m sure that they will enjoy their grade 4 class – and I will have to work hard as their Home Room Teacher to ensure that they do. Between various conference calls, meetings and introductions there has been good coffee and ample time to down tools to think of a plan of action. I am terribly excited about the coming semester. Even amongst these COVID-19 times there is a lighthouse and beacon when we look in the right places.

Dàlǐngshān town isn’t far away, and in the relatively short time since I first went to Dàlǐngshān, the place has grown and has modern districts, several branches of Lauren’s Pizza and even a Walmart. There are universities and amongst the Guangdong Medical University is just over the road from me and DG University of Technology (东莞理工学院) isn’t far off. The lake has one large section that is completely free of cycles and cars. There is a parallel cycle route below a highway and under a cooling tree canopy. Cycling around the rest of the lake is a must. It is a great spot for tourism with backdrops of Huawei’s impressive European-style town and numerous picturesque places along the way. Lotus leaves, lush green sprawls, flowers and bird call should be abundant. Around the many tranquil pathways, you can see Tai Chi, yoga, dates holding hands and families flying kites. I can’t wait to hang up my hammock sooner or later.

“I feel invigorated.” – Those were my words spoken to a new colleague on Friday. The evening was finished with a leaving day drink for Calum from Murray’s F.C. He’s only moving to Shenzhen but felt the need to arrange a leaving meal and drinks. I didn’t attend the meal as all new team members of Tungwah Wenzel International School were treated to a splendid buffet meal at the stylish Dongcheng International Hotel (owned by Tungwah/Donghua group). Even the coach journey was on a Tungwah group coach. They own factories, gardens, estates, hospitals and schools. They’re a sizable group and well-known in this region. Between the blooming peach and plum trees of Dongguan, the group’s assets aren’t far off. The ministry of optimism within my head is thankful for such a great opportunity. My only regret is not buying a crane from the car park exhibition at the Dongcheng International Hotel. Dahan Construction Machinery have some great pieces, ideal for placing hammocks within.

There are plenty of places within a short cycle ride now. Tongsha lake and the parks around it are just a stone’s throw away. Dalingshan Park is between here and Houjie. I’ve already cycled back to Irene’s Bar for a sandwich. There’s much to see and do in the area that I have yet to explore. On my doorstep, I will find the Tongji Bridge (通济桥 Song Dynasty, 920-1279) and cross that bridge soon. It will help me forget my worries. That’s the literal meaning, I believe.

“Quite apart from its meaty content, we believe we have found a real dramatist” – Gerry Raffles of Theatre Workshop speaking about Shelagh Delaney’s play A Taste of Honey.

Every story should have a beginning, an end, and some middle parts. There should be a plot, a setting with characters, some form of conflict (because something must happen), and a resolution (the smooth end). Some books carry the resolution or conflict over a series. That is life. Some things drag on. Others happen and fade away. There is no one-size-fits-all story to life. There will le a logical following and flow to a story because they must run smoothly to allow the follower to tag along. British dramatist and screenwriter Shelagh Delaney (who featured on album cover Louder Than Bombs, by The Smiths) intended A Taste of Honey to be a novel. It is a very famous play now. The drunken working-class single mum of Helen, and a daughter called Jo have spread from the monotonous 1958 skyline of a desolate Salford to London’s West End, Broadway, BBC Radio 3 and the Royal Exchange Theatre amongst other places. Peter, the wealthy southern lover of Jo’s mother Helen and a black sailor called Jimmy feature alongside a camp art student called Geoffrey. It is a complex and heavily questioning piece of drama. Class, gender, sexuality, and race are dissected which for mid-twentieth-century Britain was highly risky. The stars have followed the play with Stockport’s Sally Lindsay, a cluster of soap TV stars and Dr Who extras, Joan Ann Olivier, Baroness Olivier, DBE (born 28th October 1929) and notably Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury DBE joining the productions. A certain Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) has also featured on the stage for this production. From Salford to Home and Away to a Galaxy far, far away…

But, right here, right now my story at Dongguan’s Tungwah Wenzel International School has just began.

Statue of Limitation

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

There’s a financial crisis, then there is austerity, the Grenfell Tower disaster, then a global pandemic, and recessions, and environmental disasters, and climate change, before race battles and financial meltdowns and worries. Oh, there are worries. So many worries. A book written and translated in the 1880s is as ever-relating now as it ever was. We have the translation skills of Florence Kelley Wischnewetzky to thank. Following the 1848 revolutions, Friedrich Engels moved to Manchester for around two decades. Through capitalism he was afforded the luxury of revolutionary ideas.

Friedrich Engels dated Irish immigrant Mary Burns. After Mary’s death, his love passed to her sister Fenian (Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB)) Lizzie. They married on her deathbed. In ways he had a Clark Kent and Superman lifestyle. Between riding in hunts in Cheshire, chasing foxes for fixes, he was slipping money out of his accounts to revolutionaries. This Bruce Wayne on one hand, Batman on the other existence was a huge contradiction. Part knight in shining armour and protector to part capitalist imperialist pig. A life beautiful and ugly in the reflection of contradictions.

“social murder”  – Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

Artist Phil Collins gave Friedrich Engels a home next to HOME in Tony Wilson Place. What was all that about? Our Friedrich Engels was an honorary Manc back in the day. He lived in and around the area for many years. He observed industry at its most brutal and gathered his thoughts in and around the city. The statue of German Friedrich Engels stands outside HOME, an arts and entertainment complex in the heart of the city of Manchester. Phil Colins gave Manchester a piece of its history that is well-documented in paper form, but little seen in the day to day tapestry of the city’s vast structures.

“The way in which the vast mass of the poor are treated by modern society is truly scandalous. They are herded into great cities where they breathe a fouler air than in the countryside which they have left.” – Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

Whereas Engles came from Barmen, Kingdom of Prussia, the artist Phil Collins moved to Berlin, from Britain. Back in 2017, a 3.5 metre monster of a stone statue, fractured and left for ruin was moved from the eastern Ukrainian village of Mala Pereshchepina to Manchester. As part of the Manchester International Festival, it was unveiled as part of a show called Ceremony, featuring songs and dance, with a ditty by the Super Furry Animals’ frontman Gruff Rhys. In an unassuming carpark, the procession moved over to Tony Wilson Place and all around newbuilds sat and towered above old mills, relics of the Industrial Revolution, and people sipped coffee from Starbucks cups and held Tesco carrier bags. The statue passed by Engels’s birthplace in Barmen, Berlin and was subject to great interest.

“The capitalists soon had everything in their hands and nothing remained to the workers.” – Principles of Communism (1847)

Like Christ, Mohammed and many other Gods, their words have been responsible for countless deaths through misinterpretation or abuse. They have been used by the powerful to suppress or enhance those who choose to use them. Think Trump with Twitter, or Elliot Carver (actor Jonathan Pryce) in the 1997 instalment of James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies. So, having a legacy or words and ideas, a multifaceted figure arrived to Mancunian soil. A now-outlawed sign of communism may now be outlawed in the Ukraine, but in Manchester this statue of Engels symbolises the then, the now and the future. The scar where the statue was severed in half of the waist is clear. The artist Phil Collins had negotiated the statue as a gift from one community to another. Its journey was documented – with a video commissioned.

The writer of The Condition of the Working Class in England, in sculpture form fits in with the spirit of Manchester. A radical, against the establishment and for the people. The concrete structure looms over the paving slabs below, featuring patches of lichens and a broad beard. The very city he once developed his philosophies in has changed much but many social issues remain. The horrific conditions of workhouses have gone, but in the COVID-19 days of capitalism and struggle, new challenges are present. I’m lucky, as are many Mancs, that we grew up later in better times. Our Engels though, he was here when misery and suffering were commonplace.

“Manchester is a meeting point. It represents both the birth of capitalism and the factory system and the magic of capitalism, the magic of surplus value.” – Phil Collins, The Guardian, to writer Charlotte Higgins (30/6/2017).

Engels had such an influence on what would happen in the 20th century that even today, his relevance and legacy is present. This German philosopher, historian, communist, social scientist, sociologist, journalist and businessman understood Dialectical materialism and Continental philosophy whilst remaining a keen advocate of solutions to class struggle. So, on July the 16th 2017, Engels came home and Manchester had a bash to mark the occasion.

As per the ideas of Collins, he shifted a statue from one space to another, and an idea from one place that once embraced communism to one that in all fairness skirts closer to Labour and Socialism than the media would have you think. Now in 2020, we’re seeing statues of slavers, Romans, imperial figures and all under deep scrutiny. Just as Saddam Hussein and Colonel Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi fell, so to, are the busts of Sir Winston Curchill and co. It’s like a historical hunt in the manner of Operation Yew Tree, but without BBC stars. Just like some of the childhood stars of old, even the big guns of history are there to be torn at with our claws. #BlackLivesMatter is opening a whole range of debates and dialogue.

“That the Materialistic Socialists will improve H. [History] for the poor. Their best writer, Engels, made known the errors and the horrors of our Factory System.” –  Lord Acton, quoted in Gertrude Himmelfarb, Lord Acton: A Study in Conscience and Politics (1952), pp. 181–82

It has been around three years since we could dress up like Engels, make banners or talk with academics in the then named Engels Exchange at Tony Wilson Place. The statue still stands. The beauty of history is that it has happened. Now we’re in an era when more and more history is being questioned. That’s good. That’s evolution in action. We have to be careful what we do with our history. Some statues remind us of different times and give us a voice for that period. They don’t always need to be celebrated and respected. They stand as a reminder of progress. All symbols must be questioned. It is our right and instinct as a species to want to be better. History shows us that Marx was more celebrated than Engels. As Engels slaved away writing Marx’s notes and supporting the Marx family, Marx had already departed this world. Engels may have come from a wealthy cotton-mill owning family but his time from 1842 to 1844 was profound.

In memory of those who have died in the workhouses and during this modern austerity.