Saturday, July 31, 2010

This Lesson in Dogme

Yesterday was supposed to be my first Dogme lesson.

(Not a very encouraging start, is it?)

Unfortunately, as a result of a number of pressures--incidental, external, but most importantly internal--the end product was a 'neither here nor there' lesson that rested a bit closer to the 'familiar' end of my teaching spectrum than the 'Dogme' direction I was aiming for. Quite simply, rather than go 'full-Dogme' I instead elected to play it safe. The result was one messy hybrid of a lesson. However, before getting into this point in greater detail, I'd like to discuss some of sources of pressure previously mentioned.

#1 - The Build-up: In the days leading up to the class there was quite a lot of attention placed on my lesson, both online and within the teaching center. I was the first DELTA candidate to attempt a Dogme-style lesson at this school and it attracted a bit of attention. This attention fead into point two...

#2 - You do it to yourself: Remember that Radiohead song 'Just'?

You do it to yourself, you do
and that's what really hurts
You do it to yourself, just you
you and no-one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself

There's a lesson in there somewhere, I think. To say that some of the pre-lesson buildup went to my head would be an understatement. The buzz in the center, the exchanges with co-workers back in Korea, even the attention of the illustrious Mr. Thornbury (courtesy of my tutor's omnipresence online). Oh yes. By this point I was quite clever in my own mind. Quite clever indeed.

#3 - The Final Countdown: (No, not that countdown.) Input sessions finished early on that fateful day (wait, it was just yesterday) and I was left with about 2.5 hours worth of sitting around prior to my lesson. This afforded me the opportunity to a) stew in the juices of my own creation and b) be approached by CELTA candidates every 20 minutes asking to observe my lesson because they'd "heard so much about it." My downfall, dear reader, was by this point fully in motion.

So what happened? Well, as mentioned above, I played it safe. Rather than open the topics of the day to plenary discussion (a hallmark of Dogme teaching) I instead got the learners working almost exclusively in pairs, hacking away at the topic to the best of their individual abilities. This is not to say that pairwork doesn't apply in Dogme, but the net result was that rather than creating a bonfire of emergent language from which we could all draw our language focus, the classroom dynamic more resembled isolated groups of learners huddled around their individual pairwork campfires. In the end, the language focus that came at the end was of interest to some, but not the group as a whole. Not everyone was on the same group-assembled page and my attempts to consolidate and extend their language were largely unsuccessful.

What brought this about? All of the pressures listed above, to start. Also, having a number of fellow candidates in the class observing, people whose opinions I've come to value over the last six weeks, compelled me to hedge my teaching bets. (Play it safe! Looks who's watching!) The last minute decision to record the lesson didn't help. (Oddly, visions of Scott Thornbury watching your lesson on Youtube can be quite distracting mid-lesson.) Finally, the ghost of CELTA-Past definitely paid me a visit during the lesson. The words of my tutor, six years ago now, rang clear in my mind: "Learners have more speaking opportunities in pairwork!" "Watch your TTT!" Looking back now, I can't help but think that this was a real shame. This group of learners have excellent rapport with each other and wonderful cohesiveness. If I'd had the guts to let them loose, who knows what they could have produced.

Anyway. Was the lesson a disaster? No. Was it a roaring success? No, not that either. Did the learners have a lot of opportunities to practice their speaking in an enjoyable atmosphere? Yes.

Did I learn something from this lesson in Dogme?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Top 10 Books

In no particular order.

Jon's Top 10 Non-fiction
The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollen
The Botany of Desire - Michael Pollen
The Future of Freedom - Fareed Zakaria
Uncovering Grammar - Scott Thornbury
Diplomacy for the Next Century - Abba Eban
Freakonomics - Steven Levitt
I'm Just Here for the Food - Alton Brown
The Complete Joy of Homebrewing - Charles Papazian
A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
Modern Trends in Strength Training - Charles Poliquin

Jon's Top 10 Fiction
World War Z - Max Brooks
Any Conan Book - Robert E. Howard
The Mars Trilogy - Kim Stanley Robinson
The Princess Bride - William Goldman
Battlefield Earth - L. Ron Hubbard
Team Yankee - Harold Coyle
Sphere - Michael Crichton
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Foundation Series - Isaac Asimov
Hyperion - Dan Simmons

I must admit, I struggled with this. Also, I'm not sure it is entirely accurate, as beer has destroyed my memory and I do not have access to my library at home for reference.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Went to a new Thai place last night. The food was better than the menu let on.

(Credit to Jen for the photo.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mass Effect

It's sucking me in.

Yesterday I finally caught up with Sarin at his research colony on Virmire. Turns out he's come up with a cure for the genophage and is breeding an army of Krogan to supplement his Geth (synthetic lifeform) forces. This wouldn't be a problem, if it weren't for the fact that my buddy Wrex (a Krogan Battlemaster) sees this as the salvation for his people. (You'll recall that the genophage was deliberately designed by the Salarians to inhibit Krogan birthrate after the Rachni Wars, 2000 years ago. After the Krogans defeated the insectoids, they got a little over-zealous with their colony/empire building and had to be stopped. The genophage renders 1/1000 Krogan births viable.)

Anyway, things got pretty dodgy for a minute there. Wrex and I had weapons trained on each other, but with my charisma (and intimidation) meters maxed out, I was able to talk him down. Tense moment, though.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Countdown to "The Turning"

The Zombie Bite Calculator

Created by Oatmeal

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Main Entry: relief
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English relef, relief, from Anglo-French from relever to relieve
Date: 14th century
1 : removal or lightening of something oppressive, painful, or distressing
2 : coming home to a warm house after spending all day at work not knowing if your heating has been fixed

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Richards & Rogers Strike Back" or "Why Translation is Risky Business"

The following extract is taken from "Approaches and Methods" by Richards & Rogers. It is from the section related to the procedures of the Whole Language method. First, have a read. My commentary to follow.

Parallel Texts: Opening sentences from two translations of a Korean short story.

1a. "Cranes" by Hwang Sun-Won (translated by Kevin O'Rourke)

"The village on the northern side of the 38th parallel frontier was ever so quiet and desolate beneath the high, clear autumn sky. White gourds leaned on white gourds as they swayed in the yard of an empty house."

1b. "The Crane" by Hwang Sun-Won (translated by Kim Se-young)

"The northern village at the border of the 38th Parallel was ever so snug under the bright high autumn sky. In the space between the two main rooms of the empty farm house a white empty gourd was lying against another white empty gourd."

For me, this is a pretty good example of a few things: first, that translation into a language should probably be done in collaboration with a native speaker of the language you're translating into. I think this accounts for the mechanical feel of the second translation--poor Hwang Sun just doesn't have the English to do the translation justice, though he surely has the Korean! Second, that translation in general is a super-slippery affair and the the more disparate the languages (be it by language family, time, or both), the more grains of salt should accompany the "literal" interpretation of a text. This applies to all translations, particularly texts which are quite old and have been translated through several languages. No matter how 'good' these books claim to be, I remain wary.

Now, on a less heretical note, I hereby ofter my kidney to any who can find me the original Korean text of the extracts above. Takers?