Saturday, 20 June 2009

Summer time - and the living is easy...

The first day of the summer holiday! All papers are assessed, all the students have got their results (luckily my students did quite well in their exams), we have wished each other a pleasant summer, and I am so ready to relax! Eight weeks of lazy summer days lay ahead of me, and I just love it! During the last weeks of the school year I always make a lot of plans about things I should do during the summer in order to make next year's teaching better and less stressful. My ambitions are high this summer, too, but I have learned to be realistic as I have grown older. However, summer has always been the time of the year when I get some reading done. I usually bring a huge bunch of books to our cabin, and since I neither have access to internet nor television there, I actually manage to get through quite many. I have picked five book for a start this summer:

  • J.M.Coetzee, Boyhood and Disgrace. I have never read anything by Coetzee, so I thought I should give these a try.

  • Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides. The third year students at my school read this novel this year, and it might be a pick for next year too.

  • Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar. This novel I read at the university ages ago. I remember that I really loved it, but I cannot quite remember why...

  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway. Another novel from my years at the University. The first time I read this novel I told myself time and time again that I just could not make any sense out of it. In the exam, however, everything in this novel made sense, and I promised myself that I would definitely read it again one day.

I guess this will make me busy for quite some time; at least it is a good start. If anyone in the world of blogging has suggestions for English novels to use in class, please let me know. I really appreciate tips about novels that work!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A real American classic, Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
Louisa May Alcott

I have began preparing the reading list for the course in English culture and literature that I am to teach next year. I actually feel quite privileged doing this job; there are so many literary texts I just love, and now I can pick and choose more or less what I want. Tonight I have tried to search for information on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, a novel I read many, many years ago, and a film that I have seen time and time again. I guess I am a bit soft hearted; I cried when I read the novel, and I cry every time I see the film...

On a page hosted by the University of Virginia, you can find the entire novel online along with other resources. Although I do believe books are to be read on paper, rather than on a computer, an online version may come in handy if students have problems getting hold of copies, have forgotten their books (yes, that happens in my school too!), if I only want to use an extract of the novel, etc. On a page from Yale - New Haven Teachers Institute they promise various activities which can help "21st century students appreciate Alcott and Little Women." Yes, please! Web English Teacher also has resources on the novel (and a whole lot of other texts), and has information on Alcott herself, resources on her works of literature, and also online versions of her texts.
I loved the novel when I read it, and I would have liked to read it with my students. On the other hand, it is an undeniable fact that this is a really girly book, and I am not sure it would appeal all that much to the boys in my class. Any comments?
It is such a joy being able to spend some time in front of the computer doing things I do not really have to do right now. The last few weeks have been so busy, but now it is time to do things for fun. I found this quote by Alcott on the internet tonight, and believe it illustrates quite well how I am feeling at the moment: "Now I am beginning to live a little and feel less like a sick oyster at low tide." Enjoy your night! Y

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.” T.S.Elliot

Three days left before the summer holiday and it is time look back at the months that have passed, and it is also time to look forward to August and a new school year. As always, I have learned quite a few things this year, and even if I have now taught the same courses for three years in a row, the experiences are different from the previous years. I feel that this year has been a busy one; new students, new projects, new colleagues, seminars at various places in Norway, student exchange in Holland. Looking back, I do think the year has been great. Some of the things that I have done in my English classes this year have been a success, and here is a list of some of the things I know I will do next year:

  • Continue using discussion groups rather than class discussions with the first year students. I really feel that these groups have made the students more active and more talkative, and also that this has been an all right way to dig into various topics from the syllabus.

  • Read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with the first year students. Almost all the students liked the novel, and my plan is to start reading it quite early in the first semester. Perhaps I will let them read a second novel in the spring term. Reading is good, and can really help all of us to improve our language skills.

  • Using Exploring English when dealing with grammar, language and text structure. My school has also bought a lot of copies of the book, which I believe will be a nice supplement and quite useful.

  • Make the students use glogsters and photostories as a way of presenting their material. Much more fun than the ordinary power point presentations!

  • Watch the film Crash. It always works well with the students, and it is worth seeing time and time again!
So which things will I not do again next year? Honestly, I believe that most of the things we have done this year have worked quite well, and therefore I cannot come up with anything I know I am sure I will not do again another time. There is, however, room for improvement in various ways. As I have said above, I have taught the same courses for three years now, but this does not mean I have done the same things every year. I definitely hope that we can manage to find a way to assess the works of the students that can be less time consuming, but at the moment I am not sure how to do it. I also have some ideas about new things to do in class, new texts to read, etc., but I think I will wait until after the summer holiday to present these.

I would like to end this blog entry by a quite by Napoleon Hill. I think these words can be useful to keep in mind when planning a new school year and in life in general: "Do not wait; the time will never be ''just right.'' Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along. "

Photo: "Papion"

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Sylvia Plath reading "Daddy"

I am one of those who neither liked nor understood poetry in school. My teachers could try their best to teach me about stanzas and metaphors, rhymes and symbols, I simply could not make any sense out of the words. During my years at the university, however, the doors to the world of poetry were opened to me.

At the moment, my brain has began thinking about the courses I am going to teach next year. One of the courses I will teach is English literature and culture, and in tonight's search for material on the internet, I found an interesting YouTube film. It is Sylvia Plath reading her own poem "Daddy", one of the poems I know I spent a lot of time reading and interpreting at the university. I guess this film can be used in class both as an introduction to the poem, if I decide to use it, and to show how the author herself intended the poem to be read.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Mississippi Burning

There is not much time for blogging these days; the much longed for summer vacation is just 21/2 weeks away, and there is so much to do before the end of term. It is almost time to start looking back at this school year and begin planning the next; I am really looking forward to making the reading lists for my courses next year, but I guess I have to wait at least one more week before I have the time to do so.

In this blog entry, however, I just want to write a couple of lines about one of my favorite films (I guess all the films I have mentioned here so far have been on my list of favorites...), Mississippi Burning from 1988. The first time I saw this movie I really did not want to believe that it is based on a true story. How can something like this happen in a country like the USA? Is it really possible that you cannot even trust the police?
I guess I have always been particularly interested in the US in the 1950's and 60's and in the Civil Rights Movement, and this is also a topic many of the students have some knowledge of, too. But reading about Rosa Parks, the March on Washington and Martin Luther King jr. hardly gives us enough information on what segregated USA was like. Perhaps this film does not give the true picture either, but in my opinion it is definitely worth watching when working on this period in American history. I have therefore listed some resources on the story under and hope they can be of some help when preparing how to use this film in the classroom.