May 28, 2010

Some days are interesting, others, well…

I had a good day today. I sort of convinced my two grade 8 classes to start their own ‘class’ blog. I’ve got them started, now it’s up to them. Once things are going, I’ll post the links in the link list to the right.

The idea of the blog is to get my students to improve on another aspect of learning a language.

When I was working with the Federal Government in Ottawa, one of the opportunities I had was to continue my second language training, which for me, was French. I was fortunate enough many, many years ago, to have an ‘in-house’ French teacher, namely, my mother. She is originally from Quebec, and took it upon herself to teach my two brothers and the two neighbour boys – Jamie and Robbie Smith – French.

I’m not exactly sure when she started our French classes, but I do know that it was before we started learning French in school. In Ontario at that time, second language training began in grade 7. Once we got to high school, French was an elective course. However, I am still glad to this day, that I decided to take those elective courses all through my school years.

Now, moving to Ottawa, my French abilities in the beginning were terrible. Most people didn’t understand a word I said in French. But I persisted. I kept using my French at any opportunity, learning the proper way to say things, and picking up the accent enough that at times, people would think that I was actually bilingual. Let me tell you now, I am far from being fully bilingual. However, I can still pick up an article, or listen to music, or read something on the internet in French and understand it.

Now, here I am, several eons later, living in Taiwan. Before coming to Taiwan, I bought a book on basic Chinese. Little did I know that the Chinese dialect spoken in Taiwan was different than that of the book. The book is for Cantonese Chinese, not Mandarin Chinese. The written language may be the same, but the pronunciation is very different.

Anyway, back to the language thing. During those years with the government, there were several occasions where I had to take a second language evaluation test. During my beginning years, this consisted of four parts: speaking, writing, reading, and comprehension. In later years, this was reduced to three parts, as the speaking and comprehension (I believe) were rolled into one. Apparently, if you could speak and answer questions, then your comprehension was apparent.

So, with these two particular classes, I feel that, for the most part, these kids are pretty good. They’re far from perfect, but then, so am I when it comes to Chinese. I know, English is not an easy language to master. We have so many rules and exceptions to the rules, conjugations, tenses, ways of saying the same thing, idioms – it’s almost impossible for an ENGLISH speaker to know all.

I have laid a couple of ground rules for them to follow before registering the blog sites. First, everyone must participate. That is, each student must post something, at least once a week. Second, it must be in English. As I will monitor the sites, I will delete any message that is NOT in English. Third, no profanity or insulting of fellow classmates.

In each class, as to be expected, there was one or two students who didn’t want to participate. Since this is a democratic decision, majority ruled. Now, only time will tell how they are doing. Once these sites are running, I would invite any of MY readers to have a look over the students’ sites. Give your comments if you feel inclined to do so. I will also encourage the students to respond to any comments when warranted.

Their reading abilities are very good. Their comprehension of the English language required at their age, is far beyond most of the students of their age that I teach. They participate in class, they do try to speak in English – most times – so this will be the next step. Writing.

I have also suggested to them to have a look at my blog. My goal in each blog, is to write 1000 words. I think that for the most part, I have accomplished this. Yes, there have been a couple of times where I didn’t reach that mark. The other thing that I have reiterated about my blog, is that I do not respond to comments.

That is not because I don’t care. I do. I thoroughly enjoy and sometimes laugh at, the comments posted to my blogs. My blog is my blog. These are my words, my opinions, my feelings, my outlet.

My students’ blog site is to get them to write. Therefore, responding to comments should be part of that writing. I have mentioned to them that I will have my laptop available during class times for anyone who is unable to post something on their home computers.

I truly am hoping that these two classes have fun with their respective blogs. I have read about other teachers and know that schools all around the globe, have similar blogs in place. I also hope that each student participates. Who knows. It could also be a way for these students to remain in contact with each other in the future.

How cool to know that a blog site has the ability to keep a group of people in contact with each other, no matter where they go, where they live, what they do.


1 Comment

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One response to “May 28, 2010

  1. Marie

    Wow!! Good for you Bill. This sounds really interesting and I hope your students enjoy themselves doing this project. I look forward to reading some of their blogs. Keep up the good work.
    Love you lots

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