TESMC IV: The Quest for Peas

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was a British-American superhero fantasy released in 1987. Lead actor Christopher Reeve penned it alongside Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. It was bobbins. Proper crap. It was perhaps the reason the Superman franchise fell silent for 19 years. That and the unfortunate paralysis of handsome Christopher Reeve. The fifth movie followed Supergirl but slotted into the storyline arc after Superman III. The first four movies are good. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, remains one of my favourite pieces of cinema. Superman: the Movie has been regular viewing since I was a kid.

“We were also hampered by budget constraints and cutbacks in all departments. Cannon Films had nearly thirty projects in the works at the time, and Superman IV received no special consideration. For example, Konner and Rosenthal wrote a scene in which Superman lands on 42nd Street and walks down the double yellow lines to the United Nations, where he gives a speech. If that had been a scene in Superman I, we would actually have shot it on 42nd Street Richard Donner would have choreographed hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles and cut to people gawking out of office windows at the sight of Superman walking down the street like the Pied Piper. Instead, we had to shoot at an industrial park in England in the rain with about a hundred extras, not a car in sight, and a dozen pigeons thrown in for atmosphere. Even if the story had been brilliant, I don’t think that we could ever have lived up to the audience’s expectations with this approach.” – Christopher Reeve, Still Me

The final appearance of Christopher Reeve was ill-received by fans. Movie critics washed their hands of it. Plot holes gaped as large as life and special effects looked very much out of place. That’s exactly how my fourth instalment of TESMC will be. Read on to be convinced that I am right to state this early on. I make no apology. It is, what it is.

Literacy and learning must be multi-dimensional. A topic can be talked about, in terms of content and theme. Talk serves as a bridge to writing. Talking about those written and supporting texts will only support the learning further. Our primary school years are crucial to allow us to develop literacy skills across the curriculum. A range and repertoire of skills can be born here. The key role of spoken language can furnish a student’s developmental progress. This is the path to critical literacy skills. New topics, new subjects, new teachers, new methods and the all round goodness of new experiences facilitate, under guidance, can bring meaning to it all. Talk is a tool for thinking and communicating. We’re helping students to make sense of the bigger (possibly daunting or exciting) world around them. In one blink of an eye we are seen as a facilitator, or in another flutter of the eyelids, we become the tour guide. Likewise we are an expert or a caregiver. We’re the U.N. Peacekeeper. We’re the negotiator. We’re a nurse. We’re an advisor. Then we’re a play figure. We shape our role in the classroom to the need of each or all students. Our interaction is important. We must be flexible and varied in our approach.

The four stages of the teaching learning cycle (negotiating the field; deconstruction; joint construction; independent construction) are part of our arsenal to allow us to bridge the gap between oral and written language. We work tirelessly to integrate spoken and written language. We add clarity to muddy waters, interweaving the teaching learning cycle to give students a balanced understanding of concepts. We engage. We inform. We educate. We give opportunity. We task students to predict. We task students to evaluate. We check their prior knowledge. The students own their lessons. This becomes their own learning. It should shape their methods. Metalanguage builds up over time. These shared understandings about language and text allow students to look back on Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and agree it was crap.

I can interact with classmates confidently. [I’m not afraid to try.]
I can interact with my teachers confidently. [I’m Superman or Supergirl.]
I can try to volunteer relevant information about the topic in class. [I can raise my hands.]
I can express my personal opinion regarding a topic, when asked. [I have a view.]
I can give feedback about the ongoing topic. [I can talk about something, over a few days.]
I can talk and give relevant inputs in a group discussion. [I like teamwork.]
I can try to use meaningful vocabulary / terminology for answering questions. [I can find big words that are useful.]
Listening
I can listen with sustained concentration and retell things. [You say it. I say it again.]
I can listen to and follow teacher’s instructions/explanations attentively. [I know what you said I should do.]
I can understand the different kinds of questions asked by the teacher. [I am clever.]
I can respond appropriately to my peers and adults. [I am respectful.]
I can listen and respond to audio tapes appropriately. [I understand more than music.]
Useful rubric? From the fourth module of TESMC, I believe the above rubric to be of great value to my student’s self-assessment. I shall edit it further until it is of more use.

Multiple activities can be effective in the process of learning. Students can use interests as a scope of discussion. They can use discussion as a scope of their interests. They can find common ground and talk openly. There will always be moments of excitement and times when familiar objects or foods generate a real buzz. One or two sentences by students beats no input and it is important to allow students a voice. Some may tend to hide. A teacher’s job is to encourage. Encourage. Stand tall. Perform. That’s the key to effectiveness. Tasks, however, must be relayed clearly, always based on the English as a Second Language (ESL) learner’s needs.

I’m going to go away and find a downloadable copy of the Superman IV: The Quest for Peace script. Perhaps my grade four students can rewrite the script, and use a cast of garden peas. It can’t be any worse. Mark Pillow, A.K.A. Nuclear Man came from Leeds, Yorkshire (U.K.). Best forgotten.

I guess the writing just says that the movie is bobbins.

TESMC III: Colonel Bogey March

In the morning, the familiar tune of the Colonel Bogey March blazed out from tannoys filling the air. The nearby high school were performing their morning exercise. Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts had penned this tune way back in 1914. It has been rather odd to hear a pre-Great War marching song, based on a golf term, penned in the Highlands of Scotland. The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare is more apt, but no, here I find myself in Dongguan, Guangdong, the P.R. of China, humming Hitler Has Only Got One Ball”. I doubt very much I can teach this song over here. Well, just in case you were wondering…

“Hitler has only got one ball; The other is in the Albert Hall; His mother, the dirty bugger; Cut off the other, when he was only small; She threw it into the apple tree; It fell in to the deep blue sea; The fishes got out their dishes; And had scallops and bollocks for tea.”

The above discrediting tactic [Trump move] first appeared in August of 1939 in the U.K., yet I found myself learning it from classmates in Chapel Street Primary school as early as year 5/grade 5. Between the Jurassic Park novel and goals from Niall Quinn’s disco pants, Mike Sheron and Garry Flitcroft against Q.P.R. on September the 11, 1993, I was picking up the habit of reading at school. I am sure this is when I penned a story called Sam The Wonder Dog. Think Lassie meets Superman.

Using vivid and colourful games or activities like jigsaws can be advantageous to many students. It can be fun, creative and allow for thinking within teams. Group work solidifies strengths in teamwork by allowing discussion, and giving everyone roles to perform. It lessens worries and burdens. Everyone is valuable. It encourages relevant and meaningful communication with an emphasis on thoughtful questioning skills. The learning pace is dictated by the students and their needs. Collaborative working skills can be transferred to other activities later on. Afterwards it allows for a joint analysis of their work. This was evident in my grade 4 class when practising the Anna Kendrick song When I’m Gone [Cup Song] actions and lyrics. Two groups of four students, and two solo students seemed disjointed. However, with gentle persuasion and leading, eventually one student, Jimmy, encouraged a group of 6 to work together. Later he led both the group of 4 and his group of 6 to join forces.

Through sequencing the information in a classroom, it allows clear communication. With that collaborative working has a good chance of being followed through. The aim has to be visualised and that end goal can then be met. Some thinks can appear easy or simple, but maybe some of the scaffolding is lacking in the instructions. That’s why sequencing is so much more important to the learning environment. A huge advantage of team and group work allows for students to work through problems.

Deconstruction, however, allows for a clear context to be set. Modelling and construction can follow. With joint construction it can allow a group of students to work together. Independent construction can happen equally well but holds less advantage in terms of enhancing classroom dynamics and group work. Some students need to work alone. It may be in their character to feel better when acting solo, or feel more confident. Support and guidance from classmates may not make a student feel confident. They might already have the spark of self-belief to go it alone. Within my classroom, I’ve seen Amir demonstrate practical exploration, review and evaluation before then joining Terrance and Harry to show their final workings as one team. It allowed Amir to work efficiently and show his ability before joining others. The model of language they used throughout their interactions and participation differed according to their audience. With myself present, it was much more formal and well thought. With other students, they played and joked more, between little instances of shy behaviour. In front of a camera and no audience they started off shy and unsure, before gaining a rhythm and moved away from the tension of a camera being present.

Macro-scaffolding is the bigger picture. It’s the pandemic that grips the world right now. To the world of football this is like the great Sir Alex Ferguson speaking to his squad in the Old Trafford Theatre Of Dreams Swamp scaffolding stadium using encouraging words through growls, “Don’t be afraid to go down in the box on the 96th minute and get us that draw.”

Meso-scaffolding corresponds to the goals and activities required of a specific class. It’s the middle of a pandemic and the world are searching for vaccinations or a cure.

Micro-scaffolding zooms in up and close like a microscope on a COVID-19 virus strand. In football coaching some managers go in up close and personal. They take players aside and put an arm around the shoulder and talk about how to improve that player.

Without building on a student’s current knowledge and understanding, teaching would be like going up a creek without a paddle. Through the use of concrete experiences we can further understanding which will enhance their concept of English. Learning language allows the learner to have the tool to use it. The more contexts they can experience or talk about, the easier it is for them to understand it. Expecting a student to understand language without a proper concept means that student is now knee-deep up the. creek without the paddle or a suitable kayak. Language needs context. Let me write that again: language must have context. Without context, language is near useless. Think about the last time you were in foreign lands and used a handful of limited phrases. You wouldn’t say ‘Namaste’ or ‘danke schoen’ as ways to request directions in Greenland. Or maybe you would. I’ve never been there. I may head there after hearing of a catastrophic asteroid heading to Earth.

A clear plan of action when working with groups is important because it can give each student the opportunity to assume different roles, have enclosed experiences and learn using a different context. With every group work activity we need to evaluate it. This gives us an idea on how to improve the learning experience for future instances. Clear guidance gives a clear pathway for learning.

Oral language teaching is central to supporting the learning of a secondary language. The teacher has a crucial role of interaction that supports and scaffolds students during their development. Through a range of classroom tasks we can provide opportunities to use and develop oral language. This is an integral and essential part of teaching each and every subject effectively. The task shapes the talk. The talk shapes the talent. Now we can move on to the use of oral language. How should it be interpreted and how can it produce oral texts? This will allow us to scaffold students to become more effective in their listening and speaking.

Sometimes we must be reminded constantly of the best or better teaching practices to better serve our students. Waiting for a student to respond for over three or four seconds would significantly allow students time to use better language than the quick and easy answers by the first hands up. Students need to take a few more moments. Think time is essential. Give encouragement to think and then respond after rethinking. As an adult we need time and a conscience effort to think sometimes. So, why not give extra thinking time for students?

Having read about and watched students performing experiments before being introduced to key vocabulary, I find it clear that with experience those same students can relate and build on the knowledge they had prior. After some time and reflection, students can use new vocabulary more simply to describe what will happen. Having examples to relate to vocabulary matters. Practising vocabulary becomes more about directions and learning how to describe and use new concepts than the weight of new words (often without context).

Chaos can be avoided, in favour of a more comprehensible class, simply by instructions appropriate to the level of the students. The descent of chaos bobs up and down like an angry turkey’s head, knowing that Christmas is close by, but with an Ikea booklet to hand, the turkey can face up to some vegans for this year. Speaking, of course, leads into the development of proper critical literacy skills.

“Don’t worry about a thing; ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.” – Bob Marley & The Wailers, Three Little Birds

Negotiate the field. The farm is tricky without navigation aids.

Deconstruction. Why not break the farm map and layout down?

Joint construction. This has nothing to do with Bob Marley. The farm is a mess now. It has been ripped to shreds. The tatters and remains need piecing together carefully, and with thought. Sit down and chill to Three Little Birds, as the students perform their tasks.

Independent Construction (of text). Well now the farm is running smoothly enough to advertise and run an article in the local Farmer’s Weekly magazine. E-I-E-I-O.

After the between module readings and module activities, many thoughts, as broad as as wide, popped into my noggin. Time constraints can inhibit development using these techniques. How can we ensure something isn’t rushed for all the individual students? Do those higher up the grade and year levels need further ESL support? How about giving extra support to incoming students that arrive midway through an academic year? What if fewer lessons were given to higher level students, would it allow more time to develop their English skills by way of concrete experiences, scaffolding and to find a range of appropriate contexts? Are all learning cycles considered in a proper integrated approach?

MATE MASIE – “what I hear, I keep” – wisdom, knowledge, prudence [from Adinkra, the language of west Africa]