Saturday, 28 March 2009

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

When different cultures meet

Last weekend, while I was preparing this week's teaching, I searched the internet for texts that could tell us something about the present day situation for young immigrants in the UK. I believe things must have changed since the early 70's when East is East is set, and I have realised that I simply do not know enough about the situation today. I cannot remember having heard about racial problems in the UK in the news lately, and I do not know too much about Britain's policy either. So, if someone has any good ideas, please enlighten me!

What I found, however, are many texts which illustrate the conflict between first and second generation immigrants, and I include a list of these under. What I fear when dealing with texts like these, is that they only focus on the negative aspects of growing up as part of two different cultures. Surely, there must be good examples of people, in Britain and elsewhere, who find that this is actually a positive thing too?


Photo: 'I have rised up by my university+books...'

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Term papers, grammar, multiculturalism and a dog

Right now I feel panic and frustration lurking in every corner and corridor; there are so many things I should have done, and there simply is not enough time for it all. Tomorrow I will meet one of my groups for the last time before their term tests next week, and the main focus will be on the upcoming tests. This term test will be the last chance for the students to really show their skills when it comes to writing English papers, and I will therefore start this week's lesson by giving them time to browse through all the comments I have given them on their papers this year, and also time to dig into various grammar topics. I made this collection of task and activities on grammar last week, hoping that everyone would find some exercises that could help them improving their grammar. We started working on these exercises last week, and I hope that some saw that this could actually help them; many asked if I could explain a bit more, and some said that they finally understood why I corrected them when they wrote "everybody are doing their best." Most of the exercises in this lesson plan are taken either from the Tracks/Passage pages or from Exploring English. I find it useful that these pages explain the grammatical topics in Norwegian, and that the English terminology is listed at the same pages.

This week I have also planned to continue working on multicultural Britain. The film last week was a success, and this week it is time to look at some facts and figures concerning immigration to the UK and how multiculturalism affects the British society. As I have said before, I have had some problems finding up to date-information on the topic, but hopefully we will manage by the resources available. My idea is that the students are to work in groups of four preparing a presentation on multiculturalism, hoping that a group activity will keep most of them busy and forcing them to read some of the texts I have picked out for them.

Last stop on this week's agenda is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Most of the students have managed to get hold of a copy of the novel, and it is time to start working on it. Knowing that reading is not the favourite occupation of many of the students, I believe it is necessary to give them time for reading at school, at least in the beginning. I suppose most of the students will find that reading the novel is not all that hard, and therefore I want them to do a close reading of at least parts of the book. My colleague Ann gave me the idea of letting the students pick out central paragraphs in the novel and then to explain their choice. I have therefore planned this rubric for them, and I will introduce it before they start reading so that they know what to put focus on. My colleagues Anne and Kjetil also suggested that we put focus on the characters and Anne has prepared this rubric in which the students have to fill in information and reflections on the various characters we meet in the novel.

My guess is that I have more than enough activities to fill the days this week, too, and that I have probably tried to squeeze too much into one day. My main goal, however, is to present activities that will engage my students in various way, and that they feel that they have actually done a good day's work by the end of class.


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

American slang vs. English slang

We sometimes like to think that there is just one kind of English, but closer examination shows that there are so many expressions that are to be found in one part of the English-speaking world only. So if you are one of those who believe they are in total control of the English langage, take part in this competition between Hugh Laurie and Ellen Degeneres and see if you know the meaning of expressions like "flossing", "chin wag" and "ba-donka-donk".

To blog or not to blog, that is the question!

Lately some people have asked me if I use blogs in my classes, and the answer is yes and no. I teach both Norwegian and English, and I use blogs in my Norwegian classes and my goal is to start using it in my English classes, too. I was first introduced to blogging by my colleague Ingunn Kjøl Wiig in January 2008, and we decided that we wanted to try it out with our students. The project was met with some scepticism, but we nevertheless got all our first year students to create their own blogs and to use them in the Norwegian classes for roughly five months. When analysing the response from the students, we saw that the majority of the students were positive to blogging, and that quite many liked blogging as a means of communication. We therefore decided to continue using blogs with the first year students this year. Most of the time I give my students various assignments on a blog called DigiTalt, and ask them to write their answers on their blogs, but I have also told them to write about things that interest them. Personally, I like this way of working. It gives the students a chance to write more freely than in the traditional papers, and I also believe I get to know them in a different way than through ordinary classroom activities.

Having used blogs in my teaching for about a year, I am now ready to start using it in my English classes, too, but I have put it on hold until the next school year. There is simply too much going on right now, and neither I nor the students have the capacity to start new projects at this time of the year. My colleague Ann S. Michaelsen, however, has had all the students in her English class use blogs this year, and I recommend you all to have a look at their pages (you find links to their blogs on Ann's page). If you consider using blogs with your students, I just want to say: give it a go! It is great fun!

Monday, 16 March 2009

East is East and multicultural Britain

Walking the streets of almost any British city you meet people from all corners of the world, and stating what is typically "British" gets harder and harder. Ever since World War II a great number of people from the former British colonies have come to England in pursuit of a better life. All these people have, of course, given their contributions to the British society and influenced post-war Britain in various ways. This week we wanted to put focus on multiculturalism in Britain in class, and as an introduction to the topic we showed the movie East is east. The film is hillarious, but there is also a serious tone throughout, displaying the problems second generation immigrants face in Britain early in the 1970s. Growing up with a strict Muslim father from Pakistan and a more liberal British mother, the seven children in the Khan-family find themselves torn between the wishes of their father and their ever-growing identity as British.

In an interview the author of East is east, Ayub Khan-Din, tells that there are many parallels between the story of East is east and his own life: The parents are drawn directly from my own family. The youngest boy, Sajid, is me as a child. All the arguments in the film, all the theories behind the father's way of thinking, are my own arguments and theories which I developed from writing the first draft of the stageplay to the last draft of the screenplay. The different issues, the different aspects of different relationships - they're all very similar to my own background. Hence we can probably see the film as a realistic portrait of what life was like for young, ethnic Brits at the time. But what is the situation like today? Is the gap between the generations as wide as it used to be? Do second generation immigrants face other problems in Britain today than they did 40 years ago? I have tried to find some resources that could highlight some of these questions, but I have not found many yet. "The truth of multicultural Britain", published in The Guardian in 2001, is quite informative, however, telling how there is not "a single 'ethnic minority experience' of life in Britain", but a complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage with as many differences within and between different ethnic groups as can be found by comparing the 'ethnic minorities' to the general population. An other page I like is the UK in the USA-page where we can read about the history of immigration, and also about how Britain is a result of its post-war immigration history. "Everything in modern Britain - from music and fashion to food and language - has been shaped by different ethnic communities, cultures and social groups," the article says, and in this way we may all be seen as influenced by this multiculturalism. One final page worth mentioning is the BBC page on the history of immigration from the 250 AD to the present.

Photos from

Thursday, 12 March 2009

"By working together we can change the world!" - Bono

Lately I have started watching and listening to the TED talks, and since I am in the middle of planning my lessons on Northern Ireland, I decided to have a look at this speech given by U2 vocalist Bono in 2006. We all know that Bono is so much more than a rock star, and that he has shown so much commitment when it comes to aid for African countries. Of course, this is also his main focus in this TED talk, but what I find interesting is that he starts off talking about how technology has really changed the world and how this development can actually help us helping the poor people in the world, too. Bono's speech and what he tells is really a wake up call for me, and though it has not really anything to do with my teaching of English at the moment, I really recommend others to take the time and listen to what he says. "By working together, we can change the world," he says, so lets start networking and actually do something!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Northern Ireland - trouble once again

The last couple of days we have seen that the conflict and the trouble in Northern Ireland have not come to an end. Since Saturday two soldiers and one policeman have been murdered, and there is much unrest in the Ulster region. The Continuity IRA, a dissident republican group, today claimed responsibility, saying that "as long as there is British involvement in Ireland, these attacks will continue."

For years I have tried to really understand what this conflict is all about, and though I believe I have managed to see some of the lines, I find it really hard teaching this to my students. First, I find that they do not have enough knowledge of British history to understand how the problems could have started in the first place. Second, I believe that most Norwegians think that the conflict is just about religion and that you can simply say that Catholics and Protestants disagree on how Northern Ireland should be governed. How much should we teach them? Do Norwegian students have to know all the details about the conflict, or should we just try to give them a simplified version of Irish history? I have often used the textbook Passage's "Thirteen Questions about Northern Ireland" to be a good starting point when teaching this topic. This text gives answers to many of the questions that the students have, and it helps correcting misconceptions. I like to present more facts than there is in this text, but for some students these thirteen questions will suffice. For those who really want to go in depth on the topic, I believe this BBC page is a place to start. Here you find information on all the central events and people involved, and the page is well structured, so finding what you are looking for should be fairly simple. I have also browsed through a couple of pages on the internet, and I guess both BBC's history page and can be used, at least when preparing for the lesson.

I still have a few days left before putting focus on Northern Ireland in class. I guess I must wait almost until the last minute before I decide my approach this year. After all, it would not make a whole lot of sense talking about history only when the situation is as it is in the region at the moment.

PS! Please take the time to listen to Sinead O'Conner's beautiful song "This Is a Rebel Song". It is really worth the time!

Monday, 9 March 2009

What is English?

We are surrounded by the English language. Everywhere we go we can see or hear English words, and if you know some English you can make yourself understood in any part of the world. As English teachers we know, however, that English has not always been a world language, and that there are several factors that can help explaining how English gained the position it has nowadays.

One of the competence aims for my students is to be able to "explain the main characteristics of the development of English from an Anglo-Saxon language to an international world language". Earlier this year we put focus on colonisation and how English became a world language. This week, however, our focus has been on how English developed from Old English into the language we know today. When preparing for this class, I came across this timeline on a BBC-page. This is quite informative, even if it takes some time clicking into all the different objects on each page, and I really like that it has some examples of how the various variants of English sounded like. I also used a page from Gyldendal's book, Experience while working on this topic in class (click "Global English" and then you will get to texts and activities). What I like with both of these pages is that they engage the students, and that they present the information in more than one way. I know that many of the students find it a bit uninteresting learning about how the English language has developed, and that some of them therefore do not read the information as carefully as I wish for. In order to make sure they heard it all once more, I gave them a lecture dealing with the same material that they had already read. In this lecture I have tried to make it quite simple and not give too many details, and I have also tried to give examples of central texts from various literary periods. I have published my power point presentation at SlideShare, and I have also posted in below for those who would like to have a look.

View more presentations from lkhogvold. (tags: language english)

At the end of the day I asked my students to do a "Find someone who...", in order to make them rehearse the material. "Find someone who..." is quite simple actually, and it engages the students and gives them some energy. What you do is that you prepare a sheet with questions like"Find someone who can tell you about the Celts", "Find someone who can name the cases in Old English", etc. The students then walk around in the classroom trying to find someone who can actually help out. The person who gives away the information has to sign the sheet, and the owner of the sheet then has to move on to find someone new who can answer the next question. When they have had all the questions signed, I usually spend some time going through the questions in class, and the idea here is that it is the one who has signed the paper who has to answer, not the one who owns the paper.

I will probably not spend a whole lot more time on the development of the English language this year, but I just want to include a couple of web pages which might be useful the next time I work on the topic. The first one is from and it gives the short-short version of the development. The second article is written by Philip Durkin, Principal etymologist at the Oxford English Dictionary, and here he has chosen five events that all participated in shaping the English Language.

I do not expect all of my students to give a detailed account of how English has developed from being an Anglo-Saxon language into being the language number one in the world today. My hope is, however, that the texts that they have worked with this week can give them a better understanding of what English really is.

Photo: Wikipedia

Guns, violence and school massacres in the USA

One of the topics that most of my students find interesting is gun control and school violence in the USA. The debate about gun control is quite far from our everyday life here in Norway, and this might explain why the students have so much to say when talking about it in class. This week I gave my students two articles from BBC, one called "America's Gun Culture", the other "Firearms: A Civil Liberties Issue?", and asked them to prepare a list of arguments for and against stricter gun control. Then, in groups of six, they were asked to discuss and to defend their arguments regardless of their personal opinion. The discussions were a bit slow at first, but when someone dared to present a provocative statement, the others were quick to respond.

Other years, I have used Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" when working on gun control. This year, however, I have not found the time to do so. I have nevertheless shown this presentation of American history taken from the film.

Under is a list of more articles on this topic. Some of these articles are a bit old, but they can still work as a point of departure in discussions and for giving more information.
You should also visit my colleague Anne's blog to see her lesson plan on gun control.

Monday, 2 March 2009

About "About a Boy" and reading in general

Earlier I have told that I have used Nick Hornby's novel About a Boy in class several times. I think this novel is great, that it provides food for discussions, and that the language is not too complex and difficult for Norwegian 17-19 year old students to cope with. It is a pity, though, that many of the students think that they can just watch the film instead of reading the novel. Personally, I really love the film, too, but I believe some central scenes have been omitted and that the book is so much better. I also find it a bit sad that so many of my students are so negative when it comes to reading literature. I know that it takes a whole lot more time getting through 300 pages in a novel than watching the film, but what about slowing down the pace once in a while, enjoying a good book and a moment of peace? Since I have always loved reading, I really have a hard time understanding that some people simply do not like reading, and that well-equipped bookshelves are not to be found in every house. On the other hand, I have never liked football, and know that many cannot understand how I survive without watching a single match...

Anyway, About a Boy has been replaced by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time this year, but I have nevertheless collected some online resources on the novel, in case I will use the book another time. British council has this page on Nick Hornby and his works, whereas at Penguin Readers I found a factsheet which can help us teachers preparing for this novel. On the page of Manitowoc Public Library I also found a page on the novel, on which there are also some questions for discussion, and finally, we have the Nick Hornby homepage where there is material both on About a Boy and on the other Hornby novels. Enjoy the novel!