Thursday, 24 December 2009

24th of December

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.


Wednesday, 23 December 2009

23rd of December

The end of a busy day, and we are almost ready for Christmas in my little family. The tree is decorated, every room has been cleaned, and most of the presents are wrapped. The last days before Christmas are always busy, and I guess that is part of the Christmas spirit, too, but now it is time to sit down and relax. One of the Christmas songs I associate with the late night of the 23rd of December is Silent Night performed by Mahalia Jackson. At home, we used to listen to a radio program the night before Christmas Eve, and we all had to hear this particular song before we could go to bed. Then we knew that Christmas was just around the corner!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

22nd of December

Finally, Christmas vacation is here! This has been a busy autumn, I must say I am thrilled to know that I do not have to go to work for the next 12 days. This will be a time for relaxing, playing outdoors, meeting family and friends, reading good books, watch telly, etc. My plan was to come home from work filled with energy today and finish all the Christmas preparations in the house. At the moment, however, I am totally exhausted, and the only really useful thing I think I will do tonight, is watch another film I have to see every December, The Holiday. I simply love this movie, and cannot think of a better start on my own holiday than watching it tonight!

Monday, 21 December 2009

21st of December

Advent is soon over, and there are only four doors left in my calendar. Today I want to share with you another hillarious moment from the TV screen, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean". Maybe we should all set aside some time for playing while we go shopping for the last presents...

Sunday, 20 December 2009

20th of December

My apologies to those who find that my advernt calendar is not useful at all and that it is more or less a collection of YouTube clips. I guess most teachers are busy, busy, busy the last days before the vacation, and I am no exception. I still have huge piles of papers I need to correct, and at the same time I am trying to be super Mum at home, making sure my children will have a Christmas to remember. Therefore, I have not spent a lot of time writing long pedagogical posts on my blog in December. What I have tried to do, however, is collect various songs and film clips that I like to see or listen to in between all the things I have to do in December. Today's blog entry is strongly connected to yesterday's. Among other things, this is a part of Christmas to me!

19th of December

Back on track after some computer problems during the weekend...

For most of us who grew up in Norway in the 1970s and 80s, watching Disney films on TV was a once in a year happening. On the early afternoon of the 24th of December we could visit the magical world of Cinderella, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck . To me these films and the song that came with them are still among my favorite Disney films, and they bring back good memories.

Friday, 18 December 2009

18th of December

For some reason, all artist seem to record Christmas songs and give out Christmas CDs. Some of these artists are more successful than others, and I am sure the world would have been quite all right without some of these CDs. On the other hand, I am convinced that the world of music would not have been the same without the one and only Bruce Springsteen. In my opinion, he is one of the best American artists, and sometimes I have also used his lyrics in class. I believe both "Born in the USA" and "Living on a Dream" can be used successfully with students. The video in today's entry is just for fun, though. It is a live performance of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" from London in 2007. Enjoy!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

17th of December - Actually!

Going to work today was quite easy, and planning my lessons has not taken to much effort either. Ever since I started working at Sandvika, I have shown "Love Actually" to my students in December, and today was the day. I cannot claim that there will be any great pedagogical outcome from watching this film, but December is also about traditions and getting into the right mood before Christmas. There are many things I love about this film; great actors, intertwining stories, pictures from London in December, humour and music. "So if you really love Christmas, come on and let it snow"!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

16th of December

This morning it is actually snowing outside my window, and it looks as if we will have a white Christmas this year! Living in an area where we only have daylight for about six hours a day at this time of the year, it is a great help to see something white and bright outside. I hope the snow can give me the energy I need in order to finish the things I have to before the Holidays, so that there will actually be some time for relaxing during Christmas.

Picking something for today's calendar was quite easy, thanks to the snow, because even if the ground is covered in white right now, I am still dreaming of a white Christmas...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

15th of December

Yet another Christmas song on my calendar. "Adeste Fideles" is probably one of the most beautiful songs that I know. It has been a busy day at work today and not all that funny, so it is nice to sit back, to relax and just listen to Enya's version of the song.

Monday, 14 December 2009

14th of December

I know that not much of what I have published here in December can be used in the classroom, so today I thought I would present something that can actually be used with our students. About a year ago I tested the program GoAnimate, a site where you can crate your own cartoons and animations in just a few seconds. Some of my students tested it, too, and they really loved to play with it. It can be used with all sorts of topics we deal with, and although many of the cartoons do not turn out as serious as we might want them to, it is still a nice activity for student at this time of the year, I believe. The very short animation I have included here was made by one of my daughters last year. It has not been sensured by her mum before being published.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

13th of December

I believe that one of the first English Christmas songs I learned was "Mary's Boy Child". We learned it is school at the age of 9 or 10, and although our pronunciation was probably quite "interesting" and funny, I remember us singing it almost every day in December. The most funny part was when we had one of the other teachers at my school coming in with his guitar and made us all perform a rock 'n'roll version of the song (I must also mention that this teacher changed his hair style every other week, red one week, black and white the next, and that he was far from the stereotypical teacher most of us think of). Sometimes I wish I had more time to sing with my students, but I have realised that it is so much easier to get a group of 10 year olds to sing than a group of 16 year olds. I guess playing some Christmas songs for my students in class would be a nice activity, though, and showing them some "real quality" music videos to go along with the songs may also be an idea. For today's calendar I had planned to find a nice and quite version of "Mary's Boy Child" for you, but when I found this Boney M version I had no choice...

Saturday, 12 December 2009

12th of December

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know..." I guess I am not the only one hoping for a white Christmas. Honestly, I was in my twenties before I had a Christmas that was not bright white. I guess it is just one of the benefits of growing up in a part of Norway that is first and foremost known for its winter activities. As years have passed, I have realised that the green, or rather grey, Christmas is the usual, and that some snow will only come as an extra bonus some years. This weekend, however, the whole family have all gone to the mountains, to the skiing resort Beitostølen. Outside there is a lot of snow and we have been skiing and playing outdoors most of the day. It is a great place to get into the right Christmas mode, and I therefore want to share a picture taken today with all of those who still dream of a white Christmas whereever they are.

Friday, 11 December 2009

11th of December

Another Christmas song today; "The Little Drummer Boy". I know there are many who have recorded this song, but to me there is only one version and one video that really counts, the one with David Bowie and Bing Crosby. A happy memory from my childhood when we did not have MTV and music videos available 24/7.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

10th of December

Today has been a busy day in Norway and especially in the Oslo area. The most powerful man in the world has come to our capital to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and it seems as if Obama-mania has reached us once again. I have not had the time to watch his speech yet, but I hear many are impressed by the President's way of capturing the audience and convincing those who listen to him. I hope I will find the time during the next few days to watch the speech and read some of the reactions to it, and hopefully it is something we can use in class next week.

Right now, however, it is time to open another door in my blog advent calendar, and today I have picked an extract from a classical novel, namely Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Earlier I have said that I love the book and the film, and to me the scene showing their celebration of Christmas is really nostalgic. I have tried to search the internet for a filmclip of the scene with the sisters singing by the piano, but without result. What I did find, however, is this extract from the novel, and perhaps it is an idea to read the text with the students and then watch the scene together in class afterwards. Sometimes it just works better to read first and then watch, so that the students have the opportunity to make up their minds about the content without watching an adaptation.

Picture from Teach with Movies.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

9th of December

If I were to make a list of my favourite Christmas songs, I am sure "A Fairytale of New York" by The Pogues would have been among the top ten. A different Christmas story, full of energy and power. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

8th of December

There are many films I plan to see when they come to the cinemas. For some reason, however, I hardly ever find the time to go, and I therefore end up watching most films on DVD at home. Hopefully, I will find the time in the busy December month to go see the new version of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol". I find the trailer quite promising and believe it is a film worth watching on a big screen rather than on my rather small television set at home. I know that some of my colleagues plan on taking the student to the cinema to watch it before Christmas, too. Has anyone seen it, and is it a film that most 16/17 year olds would like? I remember showing an older version to a group of students once, and I must say it was not a success at all...

Picture from

Monday, 7 December 2009

7th of December

Another "classic" for today's calendar, Band Aid's "Do they know it's Christmas" from 1985. Watch the video and study the hairdos. Those were the days...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

6th of December

I have been in doubt about whether or not I should include today's "Christmas gift" on my blog calendar, but since I have already established that these blog posts are far from serious, I have decided to confess that the "Home Alone" movies are films that I associate with December and Christmas. I would not say they are films that are worth watching if you are looking for some "serious" entertainment, but I at least know that I sometimes just need to sit down and be entertained without having to think at all.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

5th of December

In primary school we had this picture book that we always brought out for Christmas. The book had all the typical Christmas words in it and also some short stories and legends, and I remember that we were quite eager to learn about Christmas and Christmas traditions in the UK. One of the stories I remember from this book is the legend about how the robin got its red breast, and up until this day I have thought that this story was originally from England. I was therefore quite surprised this morning when I realised the the story was written by the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf. Nevertheless, there are various versions of the story on the internet, and I still find the story to be very beautiful!

Picture from

Friday, 4 December 2009

4th of December

One of the many benefits of working in a team, is that you get great ideas and tips from others. A couple of years ago I was first introduced to the film "The Nightmare before Christmas Eve" by my colleague Rune. I had not even heard about the film before, and since I have never been a big fan of animation I guess I never would have picked up the film at all if I had not been "forced" to see it. At first this film is not at typical "Christmas film", but on the other hand, it is hard not to smile and think of Christmas when watching it. If you have not seen it, you find the whole film on YouTube.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

3rd of December

I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. From "The Christmas Tree" by Charles Dickens.

I believe many teachers look for things to do with their students the last lessons before the holidays. At the moment I and most of my colleagues have just too much to do trying to correct as many student papers as possible before Christmas, and we all want something to bring to the classroom that can engage the students without us spending too much time preparing the most brilliant lesson plans. Being a fan of literature, I have therefore searched the internet for literary text about Christmas. The text that I present today is "The Christmas Tree" by Charles Dickens. I believe it is "a must" for all students to read something by Dickens at school, and hopefully this short text can give them an all right introduction to one of the most well known British authors of all time.


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

2nd of December

Today's gift is Wham's classic "Last Christmas". Ever since I first heard this song it has been on my top ten list of Christmas songs. I have also brought this song and video to the classroom today and asked my students to translate the lyrics from English into Newnorwegian. In this way, I hope to make the students repeat Newnorwegian grammar and have a good laugh. When they have all finished I will ask the students to present their results and the class then has to decide on the best translation.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

1st of December

Some years ago I asked my students what they needed in order to get into the right Christmas spirit. I had predicted them to list things like gifts, gingerbread cookies and a Christmas tree, but obviously, they did not have the same expectations to Christmas as their teacher... "We need the Coca Cola Christmas commercial" they all shouted. OK, so I have never been a big fan of Coca Cola, simply do not like the taste and prefer Pepsi or the Norwegian Solo instead, but I do understand why my students like this commercial and that to them this is Christmas. Can it be used in my teaching of English? I do not think so...

Monday, 30 November 2009

A small December gift...

Some weeks ago, one of the many nights I was awake in the middle of the night thinking about all the things I had to do, I got the idea of having my own Christmas calender on this blog. I guess I have always been one of those who loves December and everything “Christmassy”, and cannot wait to turn the page of the calendar from November to December, and am sorry that there is so little time to relax and enjoy the days before Christmas. I have therefore decided that I will try to post one blogpost every day from the 1st of December to the 24th, and though I will not promise that everything I post will be strictly useful in the classroom, my aim is nevertheless to get my reader into the Christmas spirit. You are hereby warned…

Picture from Clip Art

Friday, 20 November 2009

Pursuing the American Dream

“America was where all my mother's hopes lay. She had come here in 1949 after losing everything in China: her mother and father, her family home, her first husband, and two daughters, twin baby girls. But she never looked back with regret. There were so many ways for things to get better.” From Amy Tan, “Two Kinds”

onion_imagearticle1128We all know that the people living in the USA come from every corner of the world and that the US is a multicultural nation indeed. Still, what most of my student mention when they are to describe Americans is either extremely obese people, or wealthy white Americans living in mansions and having more money than most of us can ever dream of. This week, this image of the American people was challenged in class. Rather than putting the focus on the stereotypical American, we have had a look at various groups of immigrants in the USA. Concepts like the “melting pot” and “the salad bowl” have been central, and I have also made an attempt at making the students see that the American Dream is still alive today, even if its nature has changed since the term was first introduced.

As my starting point I have used resources from the NDLA, Nasjonal Digital Læringsarena. I found that they have several interesting factual texts on the topic, like this introductory text about immigration inthe USA. It is not too long, not too complicated, and the questions following the text can provide food for thought for all the students (at least all the students in my class). Further, I have used texts about Norwegian immigration to the USA and the “Melting Pot”. What I plan to do next week, is turn to the experience of different groups of immigrants in the US, and we will read Amy Tan’s story “Two Kinds”. This text can also be found on the NDLA pages along with a reading of the story and various tasks. I also plan on using some of the activities on this page as we read the story (thank you, Ann, for the tip on your blog!). I have not sorted everything out yet, so I will come back to more details and some lines about how things worked in the classroom later on. My hope, however, is that all these texts can help my students understand that the American Dream comes in different colours, and that the US society is way more complex than what the Hollywood movies can show us.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Marking with Markin

For weeks I have had the program Markin 4.Markin_test0 on my computer, but I have not come around to using it until today. I had some problems at first finding out how to actually open the students' work in a way that let me use the program, but after some frustrating minutes I finally managed to make it work. My first impression is that this program can actually help me a lot in the future. I do not think it will revolutionise the way I assess the papers, but I believe the students will get much better and more detailed feedback than I have been able to give them earlier. Including statistics that can show them black on white the frequency of certain mistakes will hopefully show them that I have a point when I mention these mistakes in my comments, and including links to resources on the web where they can find more information on the issues can also help some overcome these mistakes and errors. Correcting papers is still a time consuming activity, and I do not belive Markin can help me speed the process up all that much, but if it can help the students get rid of some of the most frequent mistakes, it will, as time goes by, be of great help to me in the future.

Thank God, it’s Friday, by the way. Wish you all a pleasant weekend. I already know how I will spend most of mine – correcting more papers using Markin 4.0!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Dear Mr. President

The last few weeks we have had an interesting project going on at our school. All the students have been asked to come up with suggestions on how Presiden Obama should spend the Nobel Peace Prize money. They have all written their suggestions into one etherpad-document, and our pricipal has also sent an invitation to the President and the US Ambassador in Norway, inviting them to our school. You find the school's invitation here, and all the suggestions from the students are collected in this document. I am still hoping Mr. Obama will come to Sandvika in December...


Friday, 30 October 2009

So, what type of "Halloween teacher" are you?

I just came across this article on the internet describing four types of "Halloween teachers". I had never thought that teachers would fall into categories according to their likes or dislikes concerning Halloween, but then again, until recently, Halloween has not been a big thing here in Norway either. I am no big fan of Halloween, and try my best every year to prevent my children from joining the others in the street for "trick and treat" (knowing that I am probably not the coolest mum in the neighbourhood either...). I therefore admit that I probably easily would fall into the Scrooge-category and "will treat this day like it was any other day, and may even try teaching more information than normal because he feels it is his duty to make up for the lack of education your other, more fun teachers are offering up on Halloween." My students should probably be happy that Halloween comes on a Saturday this year! Happy Halloween!

Picture from this page.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Checks and balances - more resources

I just came across this lesson plan about the US system of government. For me it is too late, and also a bit too detailed, to use it all, but I liked the flow chart and plan to use it in class. The internet is great; there is no end to all the useful material I find there!

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Presidents of the USA

Regionalism, federalism, checks and balances

I have spent this morning planning tomorrow’s teaching, and as the title here suggests, our main focus in class will be on the USA. Ususally, the students come to class with a lot on their minds when we are dealing with the US, but my experience is that their knowledge about American politics and geography is not the best. This should not come as a surprise, but I believe most many teachers tend to forget that we have been just as ignorant at some point in life as our students are when we meet them in the classroom. I also believe we sometimes forget that one of the reasons we know quite a lot about certain topics, is because we have been interested in learning about them, not only because we were told to. I know for sure I was not all that into American politics either when I was 16.

Anyway, last week I gave all my students a small group assignment on regions in the US. My aim is for them all to know that the USA consists of 50 individual states (if someone can explain to me why so many Norwegians think there are 52 states, I would be happy to know, by the way…), and that there is a great variety from one region to the other when it comes to history, economy, attitudes, etc. As a point of departure, all the students were asked to read the text “America the beautiful”. Then each of the groups were given one specific region they were to present to the others. In the presentations I want all the groups to include information about

  • history
  • population
  • economy, business and industry
  • geography
  • famous cities and attractions

    and I really hope they have managed to dig up information about all the five points, not just the last one.

    After all the presentations, we will turn to politics. I have tried to find some resources on the internet that can help them understand the three branches of government and the system of checks and balances, and I also plan on giving them a short lecture on the topic. If the texts and my lecture are not enough, perhaps these short films can help out:

    My entire lesson plan can be seen here.

  • Tuesday, 13 October 2009

    Hemingway's "Soldier's Home"

    So far this semester we have hardly read any literary texts at all in class apart from Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident, which the students have read more or less on their own. I therefore think it is about time we get around to some short stories. Every year we read at least one short story by Hemingway with the first year students, usually "Indian Camp" or "A Day's Wait". Of the two, I prefer the first one, but having used it in class for some years now I am ready for some change. My colleague Kjetil suggested "Soldier's Home" the other day. I remember spending hours studying this short story in school ages ago, and I cannot remember finding the story very interesting. However, my reading preferences have changed since the early 90's, so I decided to at least find some resources on the text. I did believe that there would be an ocean of pages for us to use out there, knowing for sure that Hemingway is still regarded as a "must" for students to read, but I was proven wrong. Yes, there are many pages on the internet dealing with Hemingway and this story, but most of those I visited were mediocre school papers analysing the theme and the characters, and not what I wanted at all. What will come in handy if we are to read this text, however, is the text itself, which I found on this page.

    Photo from "Give me your hands if we be friends..."

    Monday, 12 October 2009

    Obama and the Peace Prize, part two

    Just a short blog entry to tell a few words of my plan of the week (concerning my English class that is). Originally me and my colleagues had planned to work on the UK the next few weeks and then turn the focus to the USA after Christmas. After we had heard the news about Obama and the Peace Prize, however, we decided to do the USA before Christmas and leave the UK for spring 2010. Last week our students worked on news from the English-speaking world, and this week we will take it one step further by letting them browse the internet for responses to the Nobel Peace Prize. We have also planned for them to write a short news article on the topic. Hopefully the fact that this event will influence Oslo in just a few weeks will make the students see the benefit of working on the assignment, too.

    PS! Thank you, Kjetil for finding the online resources!

    Friday, 9 October 2009

    Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize

    I have just heard that the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize this year will be given to President Barack Obama because of "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". I must admit this was a surprise to me, but being a fan of Obama, I know I will use this event as a point of departure for my English teaching in November/December. I also know that there is an exhibition at the Nobel Centre in Oslo called "From King to Obama", so planning some work on Civil Rights in the USA seems reasonable. If someone could also tell me how we can get Obama to visit our school, I would be thrilled...

    Thursday, 8 October 2009

    "English - the Language of Rock"

    This week our students in the field of health and social services have started working on the topic "English - the Language of Rock". It is a fact, like it or not, that most Norwegian artists sing their songs in English rather than Norwegian, and one of the things I wanted the students to think about why this is so. It is quite obvious that artists in the whole of Scandinavia have to sing in English in order to reach out to a wider audience than just the other Scandinavians, but why do most Norwegian teenagers prefer listening to English texts rather than Norwegian?

    When working on this topic, we want all of the students to prepare a presentation of a Scandinavian artist or group singing in English, and they are also going to present a song by the same artists. To prepare them for this mini-project, we have used the text "English - the Language of Rock" in the textbook "Tracks", and also some pre-reading activities dealing with English and music. You can read my entire lesson plan on this page. As you will see, I also included some grammar in the lesson plan, trying to make the students aware of the use of the definite and indefinite article.

    Photo: "Guitar hero"

    Tuesday, 6 October 2009

    Markin 4.0

    The week before our autumn break, my first year students all had an all-day test in school, and throughout the vacation I have postponed correcting these papers. Marking papers is not my favorite hobby! Today, however, I received a tool which I hope can help me when assessing written assignments, namely Markin 4.0. I have heard about this tool for some time, and I have also read blogs written by other teachers recommending it. Therefore I am quite excited, and actually looking forward to testing it myself. I guess it will be a slow start and that I will need some time getting used to the buttons and this way of working, but I am still optimistic and do hope Markin will be useful to me, too. I will come back to my experiences later on, but for the time being, I would just love to hear from others who have used it when correcting English papers.