Thursday, 28 January 2010

Focus on Haiti

During the last couple of weeks, we have all seen the pictures and heard the cries for help from Haiti. People have donated money and there seems to be a genuine wish to help the victims of the earthquake. But what will happen to the people of Haiti when the pictures from Port-au-Prince will not reach the front page of our newspapers and the headlines on TV? It is a fact that life goes on and that we tend to forget the things we are not exposed to day in and day out. There is still time, however, to put focus on this disaster in our classrooms, and on the New York Times Learning Network, you can find five ways to teach about Haiti right now. Have a look at these ideas and see if you can find 30 minutes to put focus on Haiti in the week to come!

Photo from

Friday, 15 January 2010

A year on the road not taken

A year ago I decided to start writing a blog on which I shared some of my experiences from the classroom, tips and ideas for teaching, and reflections on various things related to the English language and teaching English as a foreign langBirthday Baby uage. During this first year "on the road", I have published 103 blog posts and I must admit that it takes quite some time updating this blog. Nevertheless, I find inspiration in the feedback I get from people around the world and am happy to see that others can find some of the things that I publish useful. Since I was first introduced to blogging a couple of years ago, I have spent increasingly more time reading various blogs. If I search for something specifically related to school and teaching, I visit certain blogs, if I need a recipe for my Friday pizza I visit others. There seems to be a blog out there for everyone, and being a blogger can certainly open doors that would otherwise be closed. So I guess what I am trying to say is that I will continue writing on this blog, regardless of the number of readers and followers I have (I have understood that if you really want to brag about the number of visitors to your blog, writing about interior design is a better choice than writing about teaching English...), simply because it gives me something in return. Right now, however, I will enjoy a weekend without preparing classes or correcting papers. That is a joy of life, too, is it not?

Picture: "Birthday Baby"

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

yellow-wallpaper It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.

A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity but that would be asking too much of fate!

Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.

Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?

John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.

At the university, one of the short stories that I really liked was Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper". I have often thought that I should reread the story about the lady crawling around in her room trying to sort out what happens to her yellow wallpaper, but still after so many years I have not found the time to do so. One way of browsing through literature, however, is to visit "Book-A-Minute" web page. Here you can find very short versions of many classics; Perkins Gilman’s 6000 word story is shortened to the following dialogue for example:

The Wife:
I think I'm sick. What do you think, my husband and noted physician?
The Husband:
Nah. But stay inside and don't talk to anyone until you're better.
The Wife:
Now I'm insane.

Perhaps this is the way to impress people by telling them about all the books you have read in just a very short time… I think I would stick to the original versions, though, and the complete version of “The Yellow Wallpaper” can be found on this page. If you have not read the story already, I strongly recommend that you find the time to do so in the near future.

Picture from

Monday, 4 January 2010

Native Americans

One of the benefits of this blog, is that I can go back and find lesson plans I have made earlier and use them all over again. I can also read about the things that worked and the things that did not work in class so that I can make changes and adjustments. With a busy week ahead, it is nice to find plans that I have used and that I remember worked quite well in class. Last year I read W.P.Kinsella's short story "Panache" with my students, and I plan to use the same story tomorrow. I find that one of the challenges teaching literature is to make the students dig into the literary text, to read between the lines and also try to come up with their own reflections on the text. Last year I therefore made this list of activities to the story that were meant to force the students to be active participators that had to think and not just recite what others had already said. Hopefully these activities will work with my students this year as well.

Learning about the Native Americans simply by reading literature is not enough, however. As a point of departure I have therefore planned for us to use a couple of factual texts from the NDLA pages, one text dealing with the present day situation of the Indians, and another focusing on the Trial of Tears. I am really happy with most of the resources on the NDLA pages and find them to be of great help when planning a new topic, so I just want to say thanks to all those who have contributed with material!

Picture:'aniishnabek' from FlickrCC

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Bridget Jones's Diary

In 1996 Helen Fielding published her first novel about the "thirty-something career woman" Bridget Jones, and the book quickly became a bestseller among women. I remember that we all loved this novel, and that some of my friends even started writing e-mails in the style of Miss Jones. Quotes from the book were frequently used, and I guess we deep inside were all happy we were still "twenty-something" and not going to end up like Bridget Jones... Later on, the two films based on Fielding's novels have also come into my DVD collection, and I have seen them both numerous times. This morning while I was searching for a proper picture for my first blog post this year, I came across a reading guide for the novel from Penguin, and although I have never even considered using Bridget Jones's Diary in any of my classes, I must say I got some ideas from this reading guide. Perhaps it would be an idea to compare the novel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, or study the two Mr Darcy's? Perhaps my students would not like it, but I am sure I would...

Picture from

… and a happy new year!

New Year Eve London 2008

It is the 2nd of January, and in just a couple of days it is time to go back to school. I wonder what the new year will bring. 2009 was a great year in many ways, and I know that I am a priviledged person and do not really have anything to complain about. Still, I realise that I way too often talk about all the things I have to do and that I hardly find the time to do anything fun during the week. My friend and colleague Ingunn wrote on her blog yesterday that one of the things she wanted to do in 2010, was to have more fun. I guess we should all make the same resolution, and if we do not feel that we have the time to have fun, we need to make time. I am not talking about having big parties in the middle of the week, but simply finding a few things in our everyday life that can give us more energy to do the things we actually have to do. Sometimes calling a friend, watching a film, reading a book or listening to some music can be enough to get your spirit and energy up again. Seize the dayand capture the moment!

During my Christmas vacation, I have spent some time correcting some essays, and this time I was really pleased with most of them. And talking about having fun, I just like to share one of the sentences I found in one of the papers. This student was writing about all the things that influence our personalities and actions, and among the aspects she listed, I found the following statement: “ I have a lot of religious ants that have influenced my upbringing…” Who says spelling mistakes cannot make you laugh?

Wish you all a happy new year filled with fun and laughter!

Picture: New Year London Eye 2008