Trilogy.

Good evening from China.

Mr Ben caught my ear a few moon ago. He mentioned that the movie Unbreakable, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson was part of a trilogy. I did not know that. So, last week Mr Ben pointed me in the direction of the movies again. So, after an abandoned cycle ride after 45km, in torrential rain, I chomped on pizza, swigged good coffee and sank into the sofa.

Split and Mr Glass were most enjoyable. I found the intensity of Split closer to that of a truly well mastered horror movie. Mr Glass was closer to X-Men and Batman Begins without being over-glossed. Coupled with great menacing soundtracks, a well cast ensemble and gritty camera work, all were as digestible as my Lauren’s Pizza order.

As someone who appreciates graphic novels and their genre, I enjoyed the pull of both movies. I must confess to having not seen Unbreakable since 2000 when it came out, so now I’ll look back on that as a prequel. This trilogy was thankfully not just made for sales. Writer and director M. Night Shyamalan has come far since his 1999 hit The Sixth Sense. I see dead people? Signs remains one of my favourite flicks for its pointers back to classic thrillers and sci-fi. It did much for a revision of classic cinema in modern times. Manoj Nelliyattu (Night?) Shyamalan penned and directed The Happening which I enjoyed, despite the bleak feel. I’m now looking forward to the Indian-American director’s movie Old, due out in July of 2021.

Split stars one of my favourite actors in James Mcavoy. In this movie his tortured role doesn’t endear him quite the way he did whilst playing Rory O’Shea in Inside I’m Dancing. To many Mancunians, James Mcavoy will always be Liam from pub comedy Early Doors or Steve from Shameless. Scatter. Since those days though, Mcavoy has gone far and wide, scoring awards, landing big roles and doing proud for his native Scotland. Proof that Glaswegian talent can go anywhere, even if he does follow Celtic.

So following two good movies, I’m lay down listening to the music of Katherine Jenkins, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Ellie Goulding, Barry Gibb, Sia, and The Killers. A selection of 2021’s album releases isn’t a bad way to unwind. Weezer and Foo Fighters would definitely sound better live. The Killers have visit very familiar territory, whilst Barry Gibb, of famous band The Bee Gees, plays a few gentle collaboration hits. All very good for riding a bicycle casually. And The Bee Gees were formed in Manchester, so it’s good to visit one’s local music from time to time.

Enjoy your weekend.

Here’s a duo of photos from today’s bike ride:

TESMC: The end of the beginning.

Jiǔ (九) is nine in Chinese. It sounds like jiǔ (久) which means long-lasting. Nine is considered a lucky number. So, with the ninth class of Mr Ben’s TESMC course, our journey into the English as a Second Language (ESL) course will hopefully last forever. Failing that, until retirement to the R.Y.P. (Retirement Years Programme) at the nearby care home that is under construction (by the Tungwah Group). With our nine bows we took aim at the challenge of teaching a foreign language in a foreign land.

In some ways the ninth module was like a Best of… TV show. It was a compilation of all that was before it, applied to our very own school situation and discussed in part, to remind us and drill home the finer details. The module title of Programming and whole-school models of support for ESL students summed up the content. That is what chapter titles do after all. It gave an increased awareness of the importance of collaboration throughout the school, with respect to ESL students’ and their delicate needs. It gave us a chance to reflect and evaluate the course before clarifying the next steps (after the course).  It reassessed person programmes and combined them with understanding gained throughout the TESMC course.

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” – The Reverend Fred McFeely Rogers, Children’s television presenter, actor, puppeteer.

As we zipped through an overview of the course, Mr Ben outlined how far we had come on the TESMC journey. Whilst much wasn’t too new, much of it was refreshing and cohesive – something to take away and re-digest before using actively. It was the beginning of the end, of the start of something. The sun was on the rise with the sky brightening.

“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as every child should be given the wish to learn.” The Right Honourable The Lord Avebury John Lubbock, author and X-Club founder.

Possession is nine tenths of the law, apparently. After nine great classes, we’re in control of more than we entered the classroom with. The teachers were the students. We went the whole nine yards to get where we were – and didn’t need the nine circles of Hell. With the conclusion of our class, I should have been on cloud 9. Instead, my head drifted to the question, “So, what now?”

Notes from the final class:

Programming and whole school models of support for ESL students.

What is our the school’s ESL policy? Can we describe our student group? How much time has been allocated to our students? What are the roles of our ESL students, classroom and specialists within our school? What are the anticipated learning outcome throughout an appropriate state of the ESL continuum? What themes, topics and topic objectives are covered by our International Baccalaureate programme? Is there a specific language goal and objective list? Are any grammatical structures focused upon? Will there be a final series of Money Heist (La casa de papel) in 2021/02? What’s our methodological approach? Have we got an appropriate assessment and reporting plan in place? Together with guidelines for programme evaluation and resources available, we looked deeper into how our school functions for the benefit of the ESL students within it.

The conditions of the International Baccalaureate methods satisfy the below key points:

1. The long-term programme

2. Units of work

3. Daily diary or work program

4. Assessment program.

The course finale gave me chance to think about my own planning and collaboration. I must look at the below more closely:

include / delete / modify / elaborate upon

I’d written ‘involving and working in partnership with families and the community’ and underlined it with two lines. My reasoning being that like the whole course, we must consider ways to set up a successful whole-school framework that is achievable over a manageable time-frame and is completely sustainable. As an early years teacher, I must adhere to four principles: every child is unique; positive relationships are essential; the classroom must have an enabling environment; we’re all here for learning and development. To that end, I wish to thank Mr Ben for enabling us throughout the TESMC class. There’s plenty to take away. Be that practical suggestions and language clubs, or birdwatching groups, or revision centres or cultural exploration… the world of teaching is diverse and open to sharing through collaboration.

So, what now?

Essential TESMC reading titles:

  • “ESL Students:  some factors influencing their school experiences and learning outcomes.”
  • “ESL Students:  changing and re-shaping identities (identities under construction).”
  • “What ESL students may bring to the learning context.”
  • “From speaking to writing in the content classroom”
  • “Using small group work”
  • “Talk about literacy in the content areas”
  • “Supporting ESL students with written and visual texts across the curriculum”
  • “Multiliteracies in literate futures”
  • “Reading for meaning across the text”
  • “Perspectives on vocabulary”
  • “Nominalisation:  meaning making in the written realm”
  • “How accessible are the texts we use?”
  • “Making assessment supportive”
  • “Reviewing ESL provision within a culturally inclusive curriculum”
  • “Models of ESL program organisation”

Back In The Saddle

Good evening from China,

“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” – George Lorimer, author and journalist.

It could be afternoon, morning or night where you are, but I’m greeting with my own time-influenced greeting. Why not? I mean, “G’day” is for the Australians, “How do” is rather Lancastrian and “Nihao” is local but not that local. Let’s stay simple. I’m sat watching Irish actor Ciarán Hinds in movie titled The Man in the Hat. It’s a Sunday night movie. Very gentle. A British independent movie, downloaded in China. Musical composer Stephen Warbeck (Billy Elliot, Mrs. Brown & Shakespeare In Love) has moved from scores to directing. It’s a flowing road trip comedy full of charm and great cinematography. It features five bald men in a Citroën Dyane car. Rather Good Films Ltd. have a modest name and now they have a movie befitting their studio title. This is a great movie to escape the news and doom or gloom of these most testing months.

“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.” – Thomas Carlyle, Scottish historian.

This week has seen two visitors join the apartment. First, following Western Wednesday (on a Tuesday), I walked from Mr Ben’s digs outside, with Mr Oliver. Many kittens and cats were by the overflowing rubbish bins. On walking around the bins, in the gloomy post-Chinese New Year smoky air, I spied a white rabbit. Follow the white rabbit? I did. I picked it up. It was chewing plastic. It being around midnight, and following Once Upon A Time In The West, I was shattered. Oliver scooted off. I passed the garden security guard bearing a white bunny. I tried to explain, in my crap Chinese, where I’d found the long-eared lagomorph but didn’t get anywhere. So armed with the calm albino rabbit, I tootled back to my apartment, giving a mixture of dry food and a small bed to the new guest. After almost tripping up over him, I nicknamed him Speed Bump.

“The individual who says it is not possible should move out of the way of those doing it.” – Tricia Cunningham, author.

The previous night has seen me message almost everyone I knew within the gardens of residence that I reside, and the neighbouring phase one complex. Some clues were gained but nothing concrete. Nobody claimed the bunny. So, later that day, hearing that possibly two rabbits were regular lawn guests, I went back. There I found the second rabbit. On asking some kids on the lawn if they knew where the rabbits lived, i got nowhere. I did find a cage and the second rabbit chewing plastic with gusto. So, Second Coming joined Speed Bump. That was last week. It’s Monday now. Many small brownish black balls have been scattered throughout the apartment and promptly cleaned up. I’m starting to see why Elmer J. Fudd had such a problem with Bugs Bunny (originally a hare!). Whilst I don’t class myself as an adversary to my guests, I could do without them jumping on me whilst I’m reading on the sofa, especially whilst watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre late at night.

“When someone tells me ‘no,’ it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.” —Karen E. Quinones Miller

The Friday of last week and the Saturday saw our academic team join the varied and diverse departments of Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) return to work. With an International Baccalaureate® (IB) task we made a video showcasing Songshan Lake, created some ideas for the next Unit of Inquiry (American English is acceptable). All in all it was two days after a 13 day break that was quite enjoyable. We finished Saturday with a barbecue (completed by Breakfast Champion’s black pudding) and looked out across our school grounds, over the running track and football field. I looked at the farm at the farthest reaches of our school perimeter. Perhaps the compost machine rabbits will join our school farm soon. Maybe an owner will come forward. We’ll see.

“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Emile Zola, French novelist, journalist

Until next time, good evening/night/morning/afternoon/day… Have a nice day (if you must)

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.