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.

    Tip of the day; John Boyne's Website

    The other day I came across an interesting web page, the home page of the Irish author John Boyne. I must admit I had not heard a whole lot about him before, but I guess The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is well known to many. One of the objections to not using an ordinary textbook in class has been that it is hard to find modern literary texts elsewhere. On Boyne's page, however, there is a selection of short stories that at least can serve as a starting point when looking for texts to use in class. Give it a go; the page is well worth a visit!

    Photo: John Boyne's Website

    Friday, 2 October 2009

    Thoughts on a sunny autumn afternoon.

    I know that there has not been much activity on my blog the last weeks, but I simply have not had the time to write anything lately. Last week our school had 21 students and 2 teachers from Delft in Holland visiting, and that kept me busy 24-7. Though it was busy, the week was a success, (at least that is my impression...). We started off by taking all the students to the mountains for two days, and then had some days for sight seeing in Oslo and workshop in school. I believe this is a good way for young people to get to learn each other better, and I also believe some of them learned a few things about themselves during the week. As for the teachers, I hope the exchange gave them a glimpse of what life is like at Sandvika upper secondary.

    This week we have had our autumn break, and I have just enjoyed a week off from school. On Monday it is "back to business", however, and I really need to start thinking about the weeks ahead. Usually the period between the autumn break and X-mas is filled with activities, tests and projects, and this year is no exception. One of the things I am really looking forward to, though, is the huge ICT conference at our school next week. It is always inspiring to attend events like this and to get some ideas for my own teaching.

    I have just listened to a debate on the radio where people from all over the country have phoned in and discussed teachers in Norwegian schools. It still amazes me that they never invite any teachers to these debates. While Tom, Dick and Harry are free to express their frustration and spell out what a lousy job we do teaching their children, the voice of the teachers is absent. I am not one of those who believe that things cannot and should not be better in our schools, but I find it quite hard believing that everything can be blamed on the teachers. I will not let this debate ruin my lazy autumn afternoon, however. Time to go out in the sun and just enjoy my day off!