Saturday, May 25, 2013

Do some of your students have a difficult time starting to write? How about FILL IN THE BLANKS? An example from National Geographic Magazine and tips from my mentor Cary Elcome in Japan

Look at the style of this blog.   The blog's owner, National Geographic magazine, has some stock phrases (in BOLD) and the guest is invited to complete the sentences.

Albuquerque is My City 
When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is ______________
Fall is the best time to visit my city because ______________
You can see my city best from  ______________
Locals know to skip  ______________ and check out  ______________ instead. ______________
 ______________ is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.  ______________
In the past, notable people like  ______________ have called my city home.
My city’s best museum is  ______________
If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that Albuquerque’s not a place you’d want to rely on public transportation. But there are wonderful bike paths and trails.
The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is at one of the city’s many golf courses, including the high-end Sandia Resort course. Or at Tiguex Park downtown on a summer night when live music is being played next door at the Albuquerque Museum.
My city really knows how to celebrate beer at our awesome Beer Week festival.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they finish sentences with “eh” and everything they say sounds like a question.
For a fancy night out, Iprefer the Bien Shurrestaurant at the Sandia Casino for drinks and food, followed by a concert at the casino’s spectacular outdoor amphitheater.
Just outside my city, you can visit    ______________
My city is known for beingt     ______________  , but it’s really    ______________
 ______________ are my favorite places to grab breakfast, and  ______________ is the spot for late-night eats   ______________

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read  ______________
My city’s biggest sports event is  ______________ Watch it at   ______________
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I   ______________
To escape the crowds, I  ______________
If my city were a celebrity it’d be  ______________
The dish that represents my city best is  ______________  ,and  ______________is my city’s signature drink.
 ______________ is my favorite building in town because  ______________
The most random thing about my city is ______________

 ______________ is the best place to see live music. If you’re in the mood to dance, check out    ______________
In the spring you should    ______________
In the summer you should     ______________
In the fall you should  ______________
In the winter you should     ______________
If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss  ______________
The best book about my city is  ______________   
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is     ______________

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because    ______________    Keywords:    ______________

To see how this could look, visit this blog.

REPLY BY Cary Elcome in Japan


I've been doing things like this in small chunks with my once-a-week older students here. 

My starting point is:
"I cannot read Japanese. Please tell me what this is all about"
"Can you give me the major points from this?"
"What's this line / symbol / name / picture?"
"A foreigner is looking lost, but has this [map, guidebook] in his/her hand. Can you help him/her?"
"You have volunteered to help non-Japanese-speaking tourists in your home town. Can you prepare a short talk using this leaflet?"
"I'm thinking about going to (place). I've got these leaflets. Can you put together a programme for me?"

In fact, I collect all kinds of tourist fliers, train timetables, menus and other free bumf and distribute them either individually or in groups (for instant on-the-spot work or as homework preparation) get them to tell me about them (as I cannot read Japanese, this is an authentic exercise!!) I can isolate a grammar point or two and practise it/them, plus the students gain real, practical, LOCAL vocabulary. They also have to explain and/or translate... that's a useful skill!

If you have ENGLISH fliers, and you don't want to waste paper and photcopying, here's a way to develop your use of this material:
you need some fliers and post-it strips to hide certain expressions. Students write (on a piece of scrap) the missing words they hear when you read the text to them, then peel off the post-its. Another way (if you have an OverHead Projector) is to make an acetate of the original, then Tippex out certain words and phrases from ANOTHER copy and make an acetate of it. You're set up for life!

This all leads on to an essential feature of (language) teaching in a poor country. 
a) DON'T bombard (children) or learners with global coursebooks full of European / American / "White" faces, kids with mobiles, smart cars, houses with TVs and AC. We immorally introduce a nasty, insidious Western bias into a fragile cultuure which may be very ancient and interesting, deserving of our attention and usefully practised (tourism, commerce, school). 
b) Let's take our cue from LOCAL circumstances and lifestyles and base our lessons on what is immediate and relevant, at hand in the area, rather than arrogantly assuming that our learners should implicitly learn about our nonsensical accoutrements and time-wasters! 
(I have used this approach quite successfully in Laos. I believe it's crucial.)


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