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Sep 21

First blog from WordPress app

Posted on Friday, September 21, 2012 in General

I finally joined 2012 and downloaded the WordPress app. Thus, I can blog from everywhere. Life is awesome. Happy Friday!

Sep 20

This song is me

Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2012 in Life

Every time I hear this song it connects with me, the journey I’ve been on since February of 2010, in a profound way. Mumford & Sons – The Cave – YouTube.

Sep 20

Chik Fil-A and positive reinforcement

Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2012 in Life

Exactly this regarding Chik Fil-A changing the way they position themselves in the market:

If someone does wrong – and Chik Fil-A’s done a lot of wrong to gays – then you want to give them encouragement for doing the right thing, however grudgingly it may be.  Otherwise, what you’re telling them is, “If you screw up, double down!  Because it’s not like there’s forgiveness in this world anyway.  You’re gonna be punished for your past, so might as well keep committing the sin!” 

via Forgiving, But Not Forgetting, All This Gay Chicken | Ferrett Steinmetz.

Positive reinforcement folks, otherwise there’s no motivation to change. At its essence, it’s all behavioral psychology. Thanks B.F. Skinner.

Again, thanks to Eric for pointing me to all the interesting reading.

Sep 20

The stories we tell ourselves

Posted on Thursday, September 20, 2012 in General, Life

My friend Eric tweeted the link to this blog today and it was the first thing I read upon waking up (I was exhausted and had a lie in, slept til 8:30!)

… following my own theories (well, to be fair, other people have them too, and had them first) about how cognitive behavior can be shaped by the stories we tell ourselves. Sometimes this is not a good thing – in fact, I think often it’s not, because we go from just a story into a long-running sitcom (or worse, a telenovela) about the way our lives are. That becomes a very comfortable place to be, or even an exciting place (think about how awful and compelling some of the shows on TV can be) and so we return to it, again and again. It may be living in a world where you can’t trust anyone. Or a world where there’s never enough love or money or bacon to go around.

These words about what stories he told himself about how life was instantly associated themselves in my head with with Chimamanda Adichie’s amazing TED talk about the danger of single stories and the stereotypes that spring to life because of the stories we tell ourselves about other people.

The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” — Chimamanda Adichie

There are differences in what he is saying and the intention of Adichie’s speech, but it’s similar enough that it connected with me. And even if you go read the very interesting blog at the Love. Life. Practice. site and see absolutely no connection with Adichie’s talk, I think her talk is incredible and you will benefit from watching it regardless.

Sep 19

Mystery, art and feelings

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 in Life

My friend Kristy did this project in 2011 and I think it’s magical. She made and hid a jar into the wild for people to find and keep. It was a year long art project and I wish I wasn’t so far away so I could have found a jar. Go and take a look at 365 Jars.

I have a fondness for hidden, magical things. Mystery. Scavenger hunts, seeking what is hidden, an adventurer at heart. In another world I’d be an archaeologist, Dr. River Song. A researcher, a scholar. Taking on the study of people, finding artifacts. An anthropologist, archaeologist, engaged in immensely complex scavenger hunts.

Instead I’m just here. A bit blank this morning, just feeling.

Sep 18

Teacher Expectations and Student Performance

Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 in Education, Teaching

Really interesting article on NPR about how teacher’s expectations can affect student performance.

7  Ways Teachers Can Change Their Expectations

Researcher Robert Pianta offered these suggestions for teachers who want to change their behavior toward problem students:

Watch how each student interacts. How do they prefer to engage? What do they seem to like to do? Observe so you can understand all they are capable of.

Listen. Try to understand what motivates them, what their goals are and how they view you, their classmates and the activities you assign them.

Engage. Talk with students about their individual interests. Don’t offer advice or opinions – just listen.

Experiment: Change how you react to challenging behaviors. Rather than responding quickly in the moment, take a breath. Realize that their behavior might just be a way of reaching out to you.

Meet: Each week, spend time with students outside of your role as “teacher.” Let the students choose a game or other nonacademic activity they’d like to do with you. Your job is to NOT teach but watch, listen and narrate what you see, focusing on students’ interests and what they do well. This type of activity is really important for students with whom you often feel in conflict or who you avoid.

Reach out: Know what your students like to do outside of school. Make it a project for them to tell you about it using some medium in which they feel comfortable: music, video, writing, etc. Find both individual and group time for them to share this with you. Watch and listen to how skilled, motivated and interested they can be. Now think about school through their eyes.

Reflect: Think back on your own best and worst teachers, bosses or supervisors. List five words for each that describe how you felt in your interactions with them. How did the best and the worst make you feel? What specifically did they do or say that made you feel that way? Now think about how your students would describe you. Jot down how they might describe you and why. How do your expectations or beliefs shape how they look at you? Are there parallels in your beliefs and their responses to you?

via Teachers’ Expectations Can Influence How Students Perform : Shots – Health Blog : NPR.

Sep 16

The Genre of Narrating

Posted on Sunday, September 16, 2012 in Education, French, Linguistics, Teaching

I had a fairly hard time getting through the first few chapters of one of the textbooks for my Educational Linguistics course but chapter 8 has blown me away and now I can say that it’s awesome. The book is Genre, Text, Grammar: Technologies for Teaching and Assessing Writing by Peter Knapp and Megan Watkins. Chapter 8 is The Genre of Narrating.

Narratives are one of the most popular genres of texts used in the classroom. But direct instruction helps students develop their narrative writing skills better than just assuming they will “pick up” how to write a narrative.

Narratives do not have one purpose, like some genres. They can be used for entertainment, but to also provoke changes in social opinions through telling stories.

This chapter discusses how to teach basic techniques to students can write effective narratives. What I love most about this chapter and other chapters in this book is that it provides actual activities to do in a classroom, graphic organizers for scaffolding and even assessment rubrics.

Narratives have distinct grammatical features:

  • Narratives use past tense, action verbs and temporal connectives when people and events are sequenced in time and space (whenever I hear “time and space” I think of the Doctor, I am such a Whovian)
    • Action verbs in the past tense: went, did, ran, drive
    • Temporal Connectives: then, after
  • Action sequences use action verbs, mental verbs are used in evaluations or reflections.
  • Action verbs are used metaphorically to create imagery.
  • Sentence structure can be played with in narratives.
  • Rhythm and repetition are also litarary devices used for effect in narratives.

Now all that seems easy to understand but students are often understood to just naturally know the parts of a narrative. In my language classroom, telling students the structure to follow can help them focus on their L2 development instead of being unsure about how to go about writing a narrative. How many times have you seen a student staring at a blank piece of paper because they didn’t know how to start?

Narratives have a structure. They need to orient the reader, present some kind of complication, and there needs to be a resolution. There can be a coda or evaluation at the end. This basic structure can be played with and extended. Novels are complex narratives. But this basic structure is present in all narratives, from simple recounts to full length novels.

When students get older, about high school age, their written language skills expand and they can produce narratives that are more literary and less like spoken language. Since I want to teach at a high school level I will have students who are able to create imagery and write in a literary way in their first language, while they are developing their second language, their written proficiency will likely mirror younger students L1 production. Providing them scaffolding like that is shown in the chapter to help them develop narratives in their second language will help them focus on form instead of text type structure. But teaching them to write a narrative in a second language from the very start will be amazing. There is quite a jump from the written output expected in the high school language class to university level language courses, especially if a student is majoring or minoring in a language. Having these tools at their disposal will be valuable to students.

I am most impressed with the assessment rubrics provided by this book. I love rubrics!

Knapp, P. & Watkins, A. (2005) Genre, text, grammar: Technologies for teaching and assessing writing. Sydney, Australia: University of New South Wales Press Ltd.
Butt et al. (2005) Towards a functional grammar in Using Functional Grammar, An Explorer’s Guide, p 22- 44.

Sep 15

Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy

Posted on Saturday, September 15, 2012 in Doctor Who

Not really spoilery but if you’ve not seen the series so far, I can’t promise anything. So this semester I am taking a course about language and culture so of course I dissected it in terms of cultural relativism and moral ambiguity. I really liked it. I miss the overarching story but I think I see what’s going on stylistically in terms of the Doctor traveling alone and only seeing the Ponds in random, spaced out encounters. Thus we have the one-shot story lines. I think it’s a conscious choice on the production team.

Sep 13

Rank Scale

Posted on Thursday, September 13, 2012 in Linguistics

Langauge cannot be explained by giving words classes. How a word functions can tell us more than just it’s classification. So because we need to look at functionsa s well as classes, then we also need to look beyond just words. Language is more than stringing together of words, there are patterns of langauge at many different levels.

That’s where rank scale comes in.

Rank Scale:
Clause Complex
Group or phrase

Sep 13

More functional grammar rambles

Posted on Thursday, September 13, 2012 in Linguistics

Systemic functional linguistics is a proposal for language description that is consistent with the aim of linguistic philosophy dating back to ancient times. Times have changed, the modes through which people communicate were once unimaginable, but the challenge is the same: explain how people make use of language across various contexts (field), tenors (relationships) and modes (mediums).

Grammar is implicitly learned quite early in life according to functional grammar linguists because it is not prescriptive rules. Grammar is the way in which a language is organized. It is patterns of language. If you are a native English speaker, you know how to follow patterns of language construction that “seem right”.

People who look at language are interested in how they can get things done with the language, how they can make meanings, get attention to their points of view, how they can influence their peers, how they can make friends and maintain their friendships, The grammatical structure is only a way to get their desires fulfilled, this is functional grammar.