Tuesday, 29 January 2013

World Poetry Day

Every year since 1999, UNESCO has celebrated World Poetry Day on 21st March.  For many of us, 21st March will be the last week of this term, and so this provides an excellent opportunity for a special end-of-term project.  Poetry promotes creativity in the target language, as well as furthering grammatical understanding, extending vocabulary and improving dictionary skills.

Students are often put off writing poetry in the foreign language because they think they will have to write something that looks like the poems they read in English, and that their poems will have to rhyme.  However, poetry is accessible to language learners of all levels.

I once worked on some fruit and vegetable poetry with Year 8 students, using Pablo Neruda's Oda al Tomate as our inspiration.  We noticed how many of the short lines of the poem were describing the tomato, either directly or using simile and metaphor.  We wrote simple poems using the fruit or vegetable name, plurals of it, describing it, using possessive adjectives, prepositions and so on.  Here is an example:

There are other ways of writing poems in the target language.

Theme poems - this website is for English, but will give you some ideas 

Acrostics - these could be on a certain topic, or just using words that the students know

"I am" poem - students don't describe themselves physically but use each line of the poem to give something which represents them.  For example "Je suis le dessin / Je suis la guitare / Je suis le café noir".  This could easily be adapted to writing about a friend or a famous person.

Cinquains - five line poems where each line has a set format:
One word, giving the topic of the poem
Two words describing the topic
Three adverbs
Four verbs
One word to sum up the topic

Shape poems - where the poem is written in the shape of the subject of the poem, a little like calligrams

Diamond poems - Like Cinquains these have a set format:
One word, giving the subject of the poem
Two adjectives describing the subject
Three participles describing the subject
Four nouns, two relating to the subject and two relating to its antonym
Three participles describing the antonym
Two adjectives describing the antonym
One word, giving the antonym

Hello-Goodbye poems - For example "Bonjour les chaussures, Au revoir mon argent".  There are also Down with-Long live poems and No thanks-Yes Please poems that work the same way.

Five sense poems - Each of the five lines starts with a day of the week (usually Monday to Friday) and one of the five senses: I saw, I touched, I heard, I tasted, I smelled.  The senses are followed by an appropriate noun.

Monday, 21 January 2013

There's only One Direction to language learning

It's not often that my Google news alert drops such a gem into my inbox.  Fellow language teachers can only imagine my glee when I read that boy band One Direction are going to learn other languages to "avoid embarrassing moments in foreign countries in the future".  This decision follows, apparently, a particularly disastrous press conference in Japan, when the 1D boys realised that some words in the host country's language and some cultural knowledge would go a long way.  They have vowed to learn "at least 20 of the most common words" of the languages of the countries they are visiting, and are intending to do so via YouTube despite having enough cash to pay for tuition.

Now I don't know much at all about One Direction - I have young daughters who don't like boys and only like girl singers - but I do know how much many of my pupils love them.  This is surely a gift for language teachers:  what language should One Direction be learning for when they go to France/Spain/Germany/Italy? What cultural information would be useful for them?  Make an information booklet for them!

Time to make the most of this golden opportunity!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Lift the flap

Another quick and easy mini-book to make is the lift-the-flap book.  My Year 5 class have just made some to help each other to practise telling the time in Spanish.  The one in the picture above was made by Kate.  She has put digital times on the outside of the flaps and written the times in words inside (except for one where she did it the other way round by mistake!)  She has also presented it beautifully.  Others drew analogue clocks or wrote the times on the outside of the flaps.

Last year my Year 3 class had an experiment with lift-the-flap books.  We made them in a different way that time.  But either way, you start by folding the paper in half.

Can be used for many different things, I'm sure you'll agree, and would make nice displays.