Thursday, 20 November 2014

Adventures from the classroom 18

The UNSIS 9a.m. fashion show
The clothes show:

To practice clothes vocabulary my classes recently did a fashion parade. Tasks like these take an inordinate amount of time to set up - teaching the vocabulary, and trying to get them to be more imaginative and forthcoming. They don't get to do a lot of things like this in other classes so they are usually a little perplexed as to why we are not just listening and copying. 

I did my best pout and catwalk prance to show them that it's more fun when you get into it. I also encouraged them to wear their glad rags even if their wardrobe choices are a little limited. Many of them obliged and wore something different. A couple of them even invented imaginary accessories which was good. However, I'm not sure that 'Paris Hilton diamonds' actually exist.

Their command of the language was predictably iffy, and their preparation was even worse. Some of them had memorised their passages well, although most students just frantically looked at what their partner was wearing and blurted out things like "pants blues" or "esweater Hollister". This lead to the poor models having to walk up and down the catwalk about 55 times! Luckily no one stacked it.

One strange thing to come up, is that almost everyone wore Oggi brand jeans. I don't know why Oggi is so popular amongst Mexico's youth, but it is. Some Italian designer is pouring another glass of prosecco for themselves. Oggi (pronounced Ojji) is Italian for today, although every student insisted on pronouncing it 'Oggy'. 

"She is wearing the Oggy jeans very nice. She is bought Oggy jeans in market of Oaxaca".

It made me wonder if the pockets were filled with Cornish pasties, or if Gareth from the office was a brand ambassador.

I kept the 'models' on stage for a minute to ask them questions about their outfits which normally transformed into lengthy anecdotes about Oggy jeans, but it did give me the opportunity to crack some bad fashion jokes.

"Who's that at the door? Oi Javier, the fashion police are here to take you away."
"You spent $500 pesos on those shoes and you moan about spending 50 pesos on an English book!"

It was good to do something tailored towards girls, as the majority of students are feminine. I guess it was a good example of showing them that something can be fun, and even make believe rather than drab gap-fil exam based assessment. Oggy Oggy Oggy!

Architect of my own downfall:

With very little banter coming back from my students, I often have to keep myself amused in class by including silly phrases, names or sentences in my texts and examples. This however, regularly bites me in the ass.

"Barry Pinches is a snooker player from Norwich . . ."

"Teacher, what means Pinches?"              "It's a surname"
"Teacher, what means Barry?"                 "It's a name"
"Teacher, what means esnookerr?"           "It's the sport Barry Pinches plays"
"Who is the Barry Pinches"                      "A snooker player!"
"ahhhh, OK . . . what means Norwich?      

Students aren't good at picking up on proper nouns and will ask about names and places all day, and just like that Barry Pinches has derailed the class.

I also like to force them to ask in English by mimicking them and saying:
"Qué signífica 'Qué signífica'?"
"Cómo se dice 'cómo se dice'?"

One of my classes finds this little game so funny they deliberately ask in Spanish and we just go back and forth for about five minutes saying "Qué es, qúe es?".

Generally, when my students ask how to say something, it is to ask me or tell me something obvious. I can see their little games coming from a mile away.

"Como se dice 'quemado' teacher?"            "Sunburned"
"You is sunburned teacher"

"Como se dice 'peinarse' teacher?"            "Brush your hair"
"Teacher no brush your hair today"

"Como se dice 'lentes' teacher?"                "Glasses"
"Where you glasses teacher?"

In fact, letting them in on any part of your private life always leads to a stream of inane comments and questions. I showed them a picture of my cat the other week which they liked, but they just bring it up at the wrong moment.

"What did you do last weekend Itzel?"         "How is the Nacho teacher?"
One student even claimed that Nacho ate his homework! I guess we do have a little banter sometimes.

Board stiff:

More fashionista
I'm trying to get my students to write on the board a little more to give them the feeling of having more control in class. It's funny that although they might be quite confident and lippy in their seats, they crumble as soon as you ask them to stand up and go to the board. They're not used to the accountability of them having their answers judged by their peers.

I'm not really the right person to criticise them as my writing isn't neat, but theirs is illegible. Watching them write a sentence is painful, as they 'um' and 'ah', rub out words with their hands (instead of the board rubber) and scrawl word-like constructions onto the white surface.

I have to mark where to write for them too otherwise, they overlap each others writing or even go off the edge of the surface! I often forget that I'm a little taller than them too. Some of the girls can't reach above the midway point of the whiteboard!

The class always shout out instruction to the student scribe too. It goes back to them thinking that the answer is EVERYTHING. We played a game of 'telephone' (Chinese whispers) the other day, and they were all trying to break rank to tell the writer at the board what the phrase was.

One particularly odd incident happened when a student was handing me back a marker pen after finishing writing. She took the lid of the pen, looked me straight in the eye, held my gaze and took a deep sniff of the nib.
"Well that was weird" I said, turning to the class.

What have you never done?

I set this homework task last week and it turned up some interesting results. I left the structure of the answer open. They could write basic sentences, say what they would like to do in the future, or even use abstract answers.

I was expecting them to write things like "I have never travelled in an aeroplane", and to be fair, some did. Here are some of the more interesting responses though:
  • "I have never danced with a bug"
  • "I have never watched a alien because I have fear"
  • "I've never eaten mouses" What, the computer controllers?!?
  • "I have never uploaded in dragon"
  • "I have never eaten suckling pig, because I have thought it have been a little baby" What about the beef tacos you just ate?
  • "I have never grugged" Me neither, what is it?
  • "I have never done a cake because my mother is a very chef."
"I've never sung in public because I'm scary"
  • "I have never cooked because my mother never taught me" A brilliant abdication of responsibility.
  • "My mom says that I should eat garlic but i have not tastes it because it smells ugly"
  • "I have never eaten monkey in Chiapas" which was wonderfully detached from the preceeding sentence of "I've never been to a concert".
  • "I have never fallen in love. I prefer eat pizza" Finally, something we can agree on!
What with the students' limited experiences, it would certainly make for a very boring game of 'I have never'. No one would get drunk! 

It's always interesting gaining an insight into their lives although it's a shame that they are so insular. Most answers were centered around having no money or putting off doing things until they had a job. If you really want to travel, you can hitch hike and couch-surf for free. 

One student did write a good essay on copying others in society and how he hadn't lived. I guess you only need to get through to one of them to make a difference.

Bits and Bobs:

A few miscellaneous things which have brought a smile to my lips recently are:

1. Telling the students that they have one a 'special prize', then giving them a handshake and a sincere "Well done" after rummaging around in my bag pretending to look for the prize.

2. Seeing how they spell my name on exams. This time we had 'Feel', 'Fillp' and my personal favourite 'Philly'.

3. I have enjoyed countering the daily cries of "Movie teacher? Movie teacher?" with this (which I say in Spanish)

"If you can ask me if we can watch a movie correctly in English, we will watch a movie". . . student thinks for 60 seconds.
"We can watch movie in class today?""NOPE - incorrect, it's can we watch a movie in class today. Better luck next time!"

4. Taking the piss out of my 9a.m. class who always bring breakfast to class. I always go around the class asking them how their food is.

"Have you got your vanilla milk today Irais? Yep, she's got it!"
"Apple yoghurt and a torta for Misael again? Of course . . ."

One of them even sells homemade pancakes at 5 pesos a pop which is very industrious and useful if I've missed my breakfast!

4. Three students in my 1pm class who are course mates and friends always squeal on each other.

"No copy! she copy teacher!!!"
"Cellphone teacher!"

I call them 'Los tres soplones' (the three snitches), which they seem to find funny, although it only encourages them to squeal even more.

5. One of my classrooms adjoins the bathroom and you occasionally get loud water-based hisses through the wall. One of my students convinced my that there was a snake in the classroom and I bought it because she was acting so concerned and pointing to my bag. I've had enough experience with creepy crawlies in the Istmo to not take this threat too lightly so I carefully peered into my bag.

Que the laughter . . .

I guess you can't wind them and win ALL of the time.


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