Szkoła w Finlandii, USA i Polsce i małe rekomendacje

PORÓWNANIE SZKOŁY W FINLANDII Z TĄ W STANACH ZJEDNOCZONYCH I POLSCE.

Główne założenia wynikające z filmu:

  1. Każdy w Finlandii chciałby pracować jako nauczyciel.
  2. W Finlandii jest dobrze, bo tam nauczycieli się szanuje.
  3. Nie ocenia się ich tylko za wyniki uczniów na testach.
  4. W Finlandii nauczyciele mogą dostosowywać swoje programy nauczania oraz indywidualizować pracę z uczniami.
  5. Nauczyciele mają własne biura.
  6. Zawód nauczyciela jest traktowany prawie na równi z zawodem lekarza i prawnika.
  7. Co z tego wynika? Ok. 90 % nauczycieli przychodząc do tego zawodu pozostaje w nim przez całą swoją karierę.
  8. Poza tym uczniowie w Finlandii mają jedne z najlepszych wyników na międzynarodowych egzaminach.

A jak jest w Stanach Zjednoczonych

  1. Nauczycieli się nie docenia.
  2. Nauczycieli dopada zjawisko wypalenia zawodowego – myślą, że uczą nieskutecznie.
  3. Nauczyciele muszą dostosować swoje programy nauczania do wymagań egzaminów państwowych (czyli odpowiedników polskiej matury czy egzaminu gimnazjalnego)
  4. Klasy są przepełnione.
  5. Pani na ulicy, chyba rodzic twierdzi, że w klasach jest od 40 do 60 uczniów w szkołach średnich, co nie jest w porządku.
  6. Wielu nauczycieli jest zmuszana do tego, aby podejmować dodatkowe prace, aby móc związać koniec z końcem.
  7. Co z tego wynika? 50 % nowych nauczycieli rezygnuje z tego zawodu po 5 latach pracy.
  8. Stany Zjednoczone w międzynarodowych rankingach plasują się na 28 miejscu pod względem wyników z matematyki i przedmiotów przyrodniczych (po ang.: science, czyli fizyka, biologia, chemia itd)
  9. Eddy Downey, konsultant od spraw oświatowych twierdzi, że 85 % dzieciaków czyta poniżej poziomu, który jest akurat wymagany w danej klasie, czyli na danym etapie edukacyjnym. (Na nasze to można przełożyć, że ok. 15% Amerykanów czyta książki i je rozumie – z Polakami jest podobnie, ale proporcja jest pewnie inna)
  10. W podsumowaniu dowiadujemy się, że kiedy docenia się nauczycieli, to uczniowie również odnoszą sukcesy (ang: thrive – prosperują, dosłownie kwitną)

A jak jest w Polsce?

1. Każdy w Polsce chciałby pracować jako nauczyciel. Nie każdy, ale wielu nauczycieli w Polsce (w tym ja) chce być jak Ci w Finlandii. Ale po co? Przecież się nie da. Należy dążyć do tego modelu, czyli do doskonałości, ale przecież w Polsce mamy swoje metody, które też się sprawdzają, mamy świetnych nauczycieli, którzy bardzo dobrze pracują. Można ewentualnie zmienić troszeczkę mentalność, oraz starać się odchodzić od modelu pruskiego i PRL-owskiego.

2. Szacunek. Ależ u nas też nauczycieli się szanuje. Nie wierzę, że wszystkich nauczycieli w Finlandii szanuje się tak samo  – tam też są przypadki nauczycieli, którzy źle pracują, ale tam kwalifikacje się sprawdza przed dopuszczeniem nauczycieli do zawodu. Poza tym na studiach kształci się ich do tego zawodu właśnie – nie tylko kierunkowo, tzn. nie tylko poprzez kształcenie specjalizacyjne (do konkretnego przedmiotu), ale także pedagogiczne (aby nauczyciele wiedzieli, jak kształtować odpowiednie postawy wychowawcze)

3. Testy! Ależ testy są potrzebne, przecież zawsze były klasówki. Więc po co się opierać? Świat się po prostu kurczy – jest nas coraz więcej, mamy też mniej czasu. Poza tym świat się specjalizuje, lub mechanizuje, a to znaczy, że potrzebujemy więcej zawodów specjalistycznych, a więc inżynierskich, a to należy sprawdzać poprzez formalne testowanie, bo więcej jest w nich matematyki. Tak też jest w przypadku przedmiotów humanistycznych. Matury z języka angielskiego i polskiego nie piszę się już 5 godzin, bo nie ma na to czasu. Poza tym należy sprawdzać wiedzę, która przyda się w zmieniającym się świecie, czyli do specjalizacji, a więc 5-godzinne pisanie wypracowania po angielsku lub po polsku nie jest potrzebne. Nie twierdzę, że humanistyczne podejście jest niepotrzebne, ależ oczywiście że jest – bo maszyny produkowane przez inżynierów będą bardziej zhumanizowane, czyli np. ergonomiczne, ale teraz świat idzie właśnie w kierunku technizacji, bo trzeba wszystko poukładać, uporządkować, dlatego potrzeba więcej zawodów specjalistycznych, a nie humanistycznych. Poza tym testowanie i egzaminowanie nie jest takie złe i warto je stosować, bo TESTY również UCZĄ.

4. Programy nauczania. Przecież w Polsce też należy dostosowywać programy do potrzeb ucznia i polscy nauczyciele tak robią, cały czas to robią i świetnie im to idzie, bo indywidualizacja się sprawdza. Poza tym nauczyciele w Polsce traktują swoich uczniów podmiotowo. Poza tym każdy uczeń tak jak nauczyciel swoje ułomności ma. Jeden ma dysleksję, inny jest kulawy, jeszcze inny niedomaga  w inny sposób. Należy tylko to wszystko wyważyć. Inteligencje wielorakie chyba do końca się nie sprawdzają, bo jak nauczyciel ma poradzić sobie z grupą 15 uczniów, w której jeden woli matematykę, inny wiersze, jeszcze inny zbiera rośliny i kocha zwierzęta. Nauczyciel języka angielskiego ma najgorzej, bo musi się dostosować do wszystkich upodobań uczniów. Jak jest w przypadku innych przedmiotów – trudno powiedzieć.

Ale:

— Na pewno warto odkrywać talenty.

—- Warto też zadbać o uzupełnienie wiedzy ogólnej, czyli wyrównać szanse edukacyjne i postarać się, aby zaniedbany uczeń ze środowiska, gdzie nie było odpowiednich wzorców (w domu nie czytało się książek) dorównał do średniej klasy, albo przynajmniej do niej się zbliżał.

—- Na pewno warto tez odciążyć nasz mózg. Daniel Willingham w swojej książce „Dlaczego uczniowie nie lubią szkoły” „Why don’t students like school” twierdzi, że ewolucyjnie nasz mózg nie jest przystosowany do myślenia. To może być kontrowersyjne. To znaczy, że na pewno jesteśmy gatunkiem Homo Sapiens i na pewno potrafimy myśleć, czyli poznawać świat (Homo Cogitus), ale ciężko nam to wychodzi. Bez myślenia na pewno nie dokonalibyśmy tego wszystkiego i nie mielibyśmy tak wspaniałych osiągnięć cywilizacyjnych, ale to nie przyszło bez wysiłku. Dlatego warto często odpoczywać, bo mózg nasz musi odpoczywać – tak jak inne części naszego ciała. Dlatego też w szkole dzieci powinni często odpoczywać. W szkole polskiej tak jest, ale po co 35 godzinny (około) plan lekcji w tygodniu (5 dni x 7 lekcji) w szkole średniej. W Finlandii podobno mają tylko 20 godzin formalnej nauki, a reszta to zabawa, czas na zajęcia kreatywne, kontakt z nauczycielem, który pełni rolę przewodnika i który pokazuje uczniom świat.

5. Warsztat pracy. W Polsce nauczyciele też mają własne biura – na przykład w niektórych szkołach są zaplecza przy klasach – tam można urządzić sobie biuro i zorganizować swój warsztat pracy.

6. Szacunek. Zawód nauczyciela też jest już wyżej traktowany i poważany niż było to kiedyś. Za PRLu było wyżej, później to spadło, a teraz uważam, że jest lepiej. Tak samo było z policjantami – kiedyś było bardzo wysoko za PRLu!?, później niżej, a teraz jest troszeczkę wyżej. Tak uważam, ponieważ nauczycielstwo to służba i powinna być doceniana, doceniana, ale nie tylko przez uczniów, młodych ludzi, ale też przez wszystkich odpowiedzialnych za system edukacji w Polsce. Poza tym należy sprawdzić, gdzie zawód nauczyciela plasuje się obecnie w jakiejś klasyfikacji zawodów. Można sprawdzić w klasyfikacji zawodów i specjalności. Myślę, że tam nauczyciele są wyżej i nawet całkiem blisko lekarzy i prawników. Poza tym warto stosować klasyfikacje stosowane przez instytucje Unii Europejskiej, bo w krajach chyba starej Unii zawód nauczyciela wypada lepiej, a my mamy do tego standardu dążyć. I po co próbować wychodzić z Unii Europejskiej tylnymi drzwiami. Przecież tam nauczycieli doceniają!

7. Kariera. W Polsce chyba też tak jest, ale należy się szybko decydować, czy na stałe czy na chwilę tylko. Jeżeli chodzi o nauczycieli języka angielskiego, to przecież wiemy, że angielski jest w szkole najpopularniejszym językiem obcym dopiero od ok. 26 lat. Więc nauczyciele tego języka muszą się jeszcze dotrzeć, a później na pewno zostaną przez całą swoją karierę w tym zawodzie.

8. Przecież uczniowie w Polsce też mają dobre wyniki w PISA.

Małe rekomendacje

  • Warto posyłać 6-latki wcześniej do szkoły – niech się szybciej socjalizują, tylko szkoły należy przystosować
  • Szanse edukacyjne należy wyrównywać – czy to w gimnazjach czy w podstawówkach. Żadna reforma tego nie przyspieszy, zmieni, czy ulepszy, bo dzieci się nie zmieniają. Naprawdę! To nie dzieci, które należy chronić się zmieniają, tylko my nauczyciele, którzy są odpowiedzialni za zmiany w oświacie.
  • Nie należy dzieci dyskryminować i należy NIE mówić o różnorodności i odmienności innych osób. Więc inaczej: należy uczyć tolerancji wobec innych!
  • Przemoc w gimnazjach zawsze była i nie zmieni tego nowy budynek. Dzieci zawsze były wredne.
  • W kontekście tego, że nasz mózg musi odpoczywać, może powinniśmy odejść od 45-minutowych lekcji – czasami tak jest, że nauczyciele przeciągają lekcje do następnej godziny w innym dniu, lub 45-minutową lekcje skracają. Bardzo dobrze!
  • Poza tym może próbować odejść od grupowania uczniów w tym samym wieku, niech starsi uczą się z troszeczkę młodszymi. Przecież to mogło by rozwiązać problem powtarzania klas. No ale znowu pojawia się problem z tym, że jest nas coraz więcej na świecie. Chociaż tymczasowo przy niżu demograficznym można by przy tym poeksperymentować. Przecież młodzi uczą się od starszych. Tak jest przecież w rodzinie. Młodszy brat od starszego.
  • Nie tworzyć lekcji ściśle przedmiotowych, takich naukowych jak biologia, przecież mamy geologia, filologia, ekologia, antropologia, archeologia. To brzmi jak na studiach. Niech zostanie geografia, język angielski, przyroda, wiedza o człowieku, historia. Po pierwsze uczniowie muszą poznawać świat, a przy tym powinni się bawić. Więc geografia to od poznawania ziemi (GEO), język angielski od zabawy z językiem (ęzy), przyroda to na pewno o zwierzęta i rośliny chodzi, wiedza o człowieku – ah, co można się dowiedzieć o człowieku? Historię się opowiada (hiSTORIA, ang „story”). Poza tym przedmioty się nakładają na siebie. Może wróćmy do nauczania międzyprzedmiotowego. O nakładaniu się przedmiotów warto przeczytać tekst Daniela Willinghama o redukcyjnym podejściu do podziału dziedzin naukowych.
  • Po co propedeutyka? Kto z dzieciaków to wymówi? Poza tym nauczyciel sam zrobi wstęp do swojego przedmiotu, wprowadzając ich do specjalizacji, a następnie zrobi swoje, czyli będzie historię opowiadał, a językiem angielskim będzie eksperymentował.
  • Poza tym sprawdzajmy, co się w oświacie dzieje na poziomie akademickim, a na pewno tam, gdzie się wszystko sprawdza poprzez doświadczenia i eksperymenty, czyli badania naukowe. Tam ludzie na prawdę wiedzą, jak z góry na to wszystko spojrzeć i bardzo często mają rację. Zobaczmy, co Instytut Badan Edukacyjnych sprawdził i powiedział, że to działa.
  • Poza tym dajcie nauczycielom autonomię, niech swobodnie pracują, bo to oni wiedzą, co się najlepiej sprawdza.
  • Poza tym niech nauczyciele współpracują ze sobą – i to robią, ale nie bójmy się powiedzieć, że nauczyciel X zrobił, źle a nauczyciel Y dobrze. Poza tym podglądajmy tych, co robią dobrze.

Dictum sapienti sat est.

Pozdrawiam wszystkich nauczycieli!

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Etnonimy, czyli jak Litwini mówią o Niemcach.

flagsEtnonimy (ang: ethonyms) https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etnonim

etnonim [gr. éthnos ‘lud’, ‘plemię’, ‘naród’, ónyma ‘imię’], etnograficzna nazwa grupy etnicznej; wśród etnonimów rozróżnia się endoetnonimy (nazwy własne), czyli nazwy, którymi członkowie danej grupy sami siebie nazywają, oraz egzoetnonimy — nazwy nadane grupie etnicznej przez członków innych grup etnicznych. (Powszechna encyklopedia PWN © Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN SA)

Vokiskas – What?, Saksalainen – Qui?, German – Tak!

Jak różne narody zwracają się w swoich językach do Niemców, tzn. dokładnie jakiego wyrazu używają, aby mówić o narodowości niemieckiej i skąd ta nazwa pochodzi?

Więc Polacy do Niemców mówią „Niemcy”, że niby od wyrazu „niemy”, bo jak ich spotkali, to pewnie ówcześni Niemcy nie potrafili mówić czy cuś. No nie będę się upierał, czy potrafili mówić czy nie, ale stawiam na to, że głośno krzyczeli i energicznie machali kijem. Raczej nazwa narodu Niemcy z polskim wyrazem „niemy” ma nie wiele wspólnego i pochodzi od nazwy jednego z plemion, które zamieszkiwało ówczesne tereny Niemiec, na pewno gdzieś bliżej Polaków. (Gdzie dokładnie – zapytajcie historyków, bo na razie tylko o języku, który nie zna granic czyli „keine grenzen” 🙂 – i to nie miał być żart, bo tak było i jest)

Jak było i jest w kilku innych językach?

W litewskim – vokiskas od litewskiego wyrazu „lud”. Litwini musieli się po prostu natknąć na jakąś grupę (pewnie Niemcy ich pierwsi znaleźli), której nazwy nie znali, więc po prostu użyli swojego, litewskiego wyrazu, który oznaczał „lud”

fiński – saksalainen (od przymiotnika saski, lub saksoński ewentualnie, bo chodzi o nazwę)

angielski – German (też taki lud Germanów był)

francuski – allemand (od nazwy Alemanów, plemienia niemieckiego, które francuzom najlepiej było znane)

niemiecki – deutsch (diutisc – od wyrazu ludowy)

Więc patrząc na to z innej perspektywy: gdybyśmy byli na bodajże pierwszej lekcji języka litewskiego, to Pani powiedziałaby nam, że po litewsku „Ja lubić Niemców.” To „Ja lubić Vokiskas”. Na języku niemieckiego w Niemczech, maluchy, które niedawno poszły do szkoły nieskromnie mówią i piszą: Ala i Helga ma kota i Ala i Helga lubić Deutsch. Albo jakoś tam inny przypadek.

I po co się kłócić teraz o to, że Niemcy be, że niedobrzy, że Litwini Biedronkę nam wykupują, że coś tam coś tam. Przecież jesteśmy jedną wielką rodziną i nie tylko językową.

Aha: można „vokiskas” wpisać w Googlu, gdy czegoś szukamy – od razu pokazują się litewskie strony i nie trzeba Googla przełączać na język litewski 🙂

Napisane trochę w uproszczeniu i bez szczegółów, ale uważam, że trafnie.

Źródło: Językowa Wieża Babel, Witold Mańczak

Some musings on the Present Perfect tense

The aim of this article is to consider a variety of problems with the application of the Present Perfect Tense, perfect constructions in English, constructions that have arisen from Present Perfect and so on. The issues dealt with here are seen from the perspective of users of English as a Foreign Language.

Most of the text is made up of questions which claim to be hypothesis concerning the use of the Present Perfect.

I acknowledge that the statements made here reflect the personal, biased opinion of the author and are usually not supported by scientific facts or opinions by other experts, unless otherwise indicated.

Some pedagogical implications have also been considered.

1. Is Present Perfect tense or the constructions, formulas, idioms etc. based on the tense used statistically more frequently than the Past Simple, a tense which is by some users easily confused when compared with the Present Perfect.

Is it more common in American English, in other varieties of English such as Australian, Canadian or the international version of English?

2. Which tense is more common in written and spoken form?

The question of frequency can have possible implications for treating one tense as more important in English language teaching and as a result shifting the methodological perspectives in grammar or course books. That’s why below I argue that teaching Present Perfect before or along with Past Simple could be considered.

3. Hence, one of the complications here concerns the subject whether Present Perfect is used more frequently in everyday acts of speech which, when looked back, span a short time period, not very remote from the time of speaking (or from the mental space in which the time (or linguistic construction) has been conceived). The time usually spans only a recent day, the day which is still running or the present week. Such situations are more realistic or palpable especially for younger learners of English who are hesitant to talk about the past (especially the historical events).

The question of frequency (if it turned out that it is a more common tense in the above act of speech) would render Present Perfect a more important construction in English language teaching methodology. It could change the perspective of teachers; that is, would oblige them to give it more priority, and introduce it in the learning process before Past Simple.

4. Is Present Perfect as a form a more easier construction to master?

Using Past Participle form in statements, questions and negatives is relatively easier than the Past Simple form. The learner needs to make familiar with auxiliary verb “have” and the relatively easy formation of a sentence as compared to Past Simple where the learner has to remember the rule of using an infinitive in questions and negatives and the past form of the verb in statements.

Can the learners’ familiarity with a similar construction “Have you got” be favourable to mastering the construction and hence the application of Present Perfect.

What is the origin of the construction “have you got” ?

Have you got a pen? – Do you posses it?

Have you got a pen? – Have you acquired it?

Is the possessive use of “have” akin to the Perfect construction?

5. Can we argue for any relative merit of the two constructions? That is, is one of them more important, usable or doable for the speakers (especially native speakers) of English? Which tense has in the speakers discourse a more frequent rate of occurrence? See also point 3 and 4.

6. What would happen if we could miraculously fashion the grammatical construction of Present Perfect into a lexicalized matter, regarding the tense as a set of formulaic language, lexical construction or even idiom rather then treat it as a hard-as-rock grammar phenomenon? Do the native speakers of English with some linguistics awareness (or without it) consider the tense as a grammar rule or rather as a meaningful piece of language only to get a message across?

7. What response would be to a following linguistic provocation?

I haven’t seen Mary yesterday.

Have you worked in this factory in 2001?

In other words, what would the response of native speakers be if they encountered or happened to be using the constructions above with the adverbials of time which are usually affiliated with the Past Simple actions. The aim of such experiment would be to elicit some of the following statements:

  • the sentences in question are wrong, incorrect etc.
  • the sentences in question are wrong, but when I hear them I understand what is said.

8. What is the origin of the Past Participle form? Is it an independent, lexical category or has it been formed on the basis of the infinitive? Did it arise autonomously or has it shifted from the infinitive form?

What about the need to make new parts of speech?

For example: adjectives from verbs: do – done, e.g. The meat is well done.

Nouns from verbs, e.g. a set (eel-set, TV set, onset, tea set, on the set (=scenery in a theatre)). From ‘to set’ (to put something (down)) and etymologically from ‘to sit’

other examples:

“to take” for “a taken seat”

“to read” for “a good read”

“to order” for “a well ordered society”

etc.

9. Comparison of the possessive “I have got” with a similar construction “I have got / I have done something”

I have a broken leg.  vs. My leg is broken. vs.  I have broken my leg.

I have a written book. vs. My book has been written. vs.  I have written a book.

Although some of the above sentences may sound unnatural, what they all have in common is that they resemble a prototypical Present Perfect construction and as a result may help build a picture of what the nature of Present Perfect is.

Also, it is worth comparing a specific occurrence of Present Perfect in Polish, as illustrated below:

P.Perfect.in.Polish

Source: The Changing Languages of Europe by  Heine, B. Kuteva, T. Chapter 4: The Rise of Possessive Perfects p. 159

10. Why do linguists from the so called structural or formalist traditions derive conjugated forms of verbs from the infinitive? Is it an advisable approach to introduce students to Past Participle forms as those arising from the infinitive? Is the tabulated approach in which verbs are presented in three columns: first the infinitive, second the Past Simple form and third the Past Participle a viable and natural way of verb teaching?

INFINITIVE PAST SIMPLE PAST PARTICIPLE
be was / were been
go went gone
set set set
make made made

 

Isn’t the label “Past Participle” a little bit confusing in the context of Present Perfect teaching?

11. Consider the following experiment. In English language teaching environment, the order of the second and third verb forms in the table is reversed. First goes the infinitive, second the Past Participle and the Past Simple gets the last place.

INFINITIVE PAST PARTICIPLE PAST SIMPLE
be been was / were
go gone went
set set set
make made made

In this example, limited to four instances of very frequent verbs only, the infinitive and the Past Participle look very similar to one another. Would such order be favourable to language learning? Would it be favourable especially in the rote memorization of verbs as it often takes place in foreign language classrooms? What about the rest, 300 or so irregular verbs? Do they also come in the similar arrangement when the Past Participle and the Past Simple have a very similar form?

12. What is the relationship of English Present Perfect to German Perfekt Tense.

  1. Es hat gestern stark geregnet.
  2. It rained heavily yesterday.
  3. * It has rained heavily yesterday.
  4. It has rained heavily today.
  5. Wczoraj padał duży deszcz.

Why is it possible to say a. in German but not c. in English? Is there any evolutionary or historical relationship between the English and German tenses?

13. How many Past Participle verbs are similar in form to the infinitive. See also point 11.

14. How many Past Simple verbs are similar in form to the infinitive? See also point 11.

15. What about the timelines used in the presentation of Present Perfect? Is it helpful to conceptualize the time span of Present Perfect? Does this practice visualize the use of the tense?

 present-perfect-diagram_1  present_perfect3e_2
1. http://rickzullo.com/present-perfect/ 2. http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/grammar/present_perfect_diagram.htm
 present-perfect_3  present_perfect-01_4
3. http://myenglishspot.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/present-perfect/ 4. http://www.focus.olsztyn.pl/present-perfect-zastosowanie.html

What can I write about today?

Today’s post is concerned with the writing topics or to put it in a question:

 What can I write about today?

Are you a beginning writer or are you one of those who are struggling with the writing block and don’t know how to counter it? Hopefully here you will find some ideas for your writing spree.

  1. First, you can write about the composition process itself; that is, to put it in my favourite language terminology, the writing metaprocess. This usually includes the issues writers face: creativity problems, writer’s block or the time when you are sucked out of inspiration.
  1. Write about the books you have read and you are planning to read. Pen a review, write recommendations for prospective readers, reflect on what you have read, what have you gained from your reading. Did it help you to expand your worldview? Are you a faster reader now? Share your knowledge with reluctant readers.
  1. Pen some words on the texts and articles you have made familiar with recently. Reading books is this big idea today, but many people neglect the importance of reading just anything. Newspaper or scholarly articles are just as well profitable. The more diverse reading sources you use the better off you are. Share your heterogeneous reading habits with your audience.
  1. Write about the books that are lingering on your bookshelves. Start with sketching the picture you have when you face your bookshelf. Is it disorderly or are the books neatly arranged in rows? Do you organize your books in categories or do you let your library be an inspirational mess? Take a picture of your library, post it to your blog and provide appropriate captions.
  1. Draw up a short resume about the breaking news that emerged in the headlines today. If you are not in the journalistic mood, pick one subject that has been skipped by web or TV news channels. Or take up a historic event that happened two hundred years ago and write an account of it.
  1. Write about the annoying TV shows you’re roommate is watching behind your back right now. Write what makes you cross: is it the volume, brainless dialogues from a soap opera or is your roommate flipping through channels without the intention to watch a programme for more than one minute?
  1. Go about your room, have a close look at the things you have ignored for a long time: your photos, dusted plates, pictures on the wall, a broken alarm clock, …..write a story about them.
  1. If you feel like telling the whole world what you are planning to do today, don’t hesitate, look through your schedule and tell everybody what you do and what people can learn from you.
  1. Have you delayed writing that important article? Why don’t you look at it from a different perspective? How about pooling new ideas, having somebody proofread the draft? Why don’t you arrange the references in order? Use a citation manager, read an article that is close to your subject. Take copious notes from it and use them in your writing.
  1. Do you take notes regularly? Pick a few random notes and write a snippet article on each. Whether it is just a new word, or a new health condition you have not known about before, elaborate on the notes, research them in an online encyclopedia or a specialist forum, and finally share with the world what you have written about them.
  1. Share with the world what your fields of interest are. Even if it is not very likely that you have found a niche nobody else is interested in, it is still worth making publicly available what hobbies you pursue. You can always be from that rare part of the world where people have a different outlook on things, where people have different insights and knowing them can benefit everybody on the planet.
  1. Make the world a stakeholder of what is of concern to you right now. Share with people what worries you and makes you happy.
  1. Act like a business insider. Browse the areas of interest that are of relevance to you and have a go at writing an expertise article on the domain that is closest to you.
  1. Browse a dictionary – write a new dictionary entry about a rare word and publish it on the web. As a language aficionado, I suggest that you study the etymology of the world, its pragmatics, examples of use and its frequency.
  1. Browse an encyclopedia – write a new entry on the subject that is missing. As a language enthusiast, I choose topics from the realm of linguistics, then research a problem that have not been covered by grammar books yet and write an article that suits my interests or can be useful for a wider audience, for example Foreign Language Learning population.
  1. Or write a new article for Wikipedia or other peer-reviewed websites. In this case it is very likely that your output will be criticized by native speakers and that’s an additional bonus you cannot overlook.
  1. Write a movie review you have watched recently. Give it a new twist and when focusing on the plot, give more attention to the stage directions. If in trouble, try to download the screenplay of the particular movie and discuss some of the scenes which have a complicated character. Focus on the movement, position, tone of an actor, the sound effects and lightning. Write a new narration of a scene that is interesting for you, comment on the camera angles that could have been directed differently. Contact the directors and tell them about your innovation. If lucky, you may get some useful feedback or praise.
  1. Criticize a movie that is a far cry from the Academy Awards. Examine the movie under the microscope and try to squeeze out of the movie’s flesh what is likely to be useful and what could have otherwise rendered it an art-house.
  1. Produce a short piece of writing on the smells you are feeling at this moment. As it is very likely that your writing process may span an entire day (and I encourage you to write as much as possible), you will perceive smells of the morning coffee, of the dew on the grass, your dinner spices, and that long forgotten smell from youth you remembered after you had looked at the photos from that period.
  1. Take a picture of what your pet is doing at the moment and complement it with a relevant caption. For a change, take more pictures and produce a series of slides or a Powerpoint presentation. If you are a computer geek, make a more advanced animated presentation, infographics or something of that sort. Remember to prepare enough textual information to enrich your graphics.
  1. Comment on what made you laugh today. Did you see an entertaining text on the back of someone’s car? Has your boss cracked a good joke today? Or have you recollected something funny from yesterday’s movie? Maybe a demotivator from Facebook made you chuckle. If you experienced at least one of the above, please share it with others in writing.
  1. Put your bookmarks in order, do a review of them or just skim through your bookmarks repository. Looking at your bookmarks in a casual way is like scanning the depths of your memory. And publishing your memoirs will certainly attract a few nosy readers :-).
  1. Spy on what other people are doing today. Be careful not to scare away the people you are watching furtively. Watch what the crew of workers is doing outside your house. Look carefully where your neighbour is walking today. Is the shop assistant in a good mood? What is she doing to do her job right today. Write a short text about it.
  1. Study something new or try a new experience, the more unconventional it will be, the better. Do something totally out of your professional scope. Keep a daily log of what you do. Write a short report and share it with your friends, colleagues or wider audience.
  1. Go for a walk, take pictures and make an album. To each picture write a short description or provide captions.
  1. Go for a walk around the city. Talk to 5 strangers, make sure that each person comes from a different walk of life, different background, age and sex. Take notes of what you got to know about the people. Write a report about the experiences and conclusions you have drawn from getting to know those people. Publish it and wait for comments.
  1. Plan writing a serious article – something you have always wanted to write about, pool your notes about it, read relevant articles, consult people with expertise on the subject, hold a brainstorming session on the article, sketch a writing plan for doing the final draft.
  1. Dig out your old notebooks from school or college, think how you can tap on the knowledge and experience from your past. Take notes, make a collage out of the notes, stick it on your wall or noticeboard. Take a picture of the whole thing, post it on the social media website and explain to your friends what you have produced.
  1. Short of ideas for your next blog post? Find out what you can find on the web. For example see this. Use an idea in your next post but please remember that the advice from this article is to write about what you have found. So make a meta analysis of the ideas you have made yourself familiar with and write  a short report on this.
  1. One of the new ideas that inspired me and which I remember at the time of typing this is that it is a good idea to change the mode of delivery of your ideas. One way of doing this is to fashion your written matter from a continuous script into a multimodal slides or multimedia presentation. See this for more stimulation.
  1. As a non-native speaker of English I find myself compelled to experiment with the language on the daily basis. That is why my suggestion for new inspirations in writing is to try out different ways of learning English and subsequently reporting on what you have learnt.
  1. Read as much as you can on the subject you are concerned with now. Note how others do it well. Write down every useful expression used by expert writers and try to imitate their style – it is no sin to steal a bit from the performance of giants in writing. As a foreign speaker of English your are entitled to imitate writing techniques. Just avoid the sinful “copy and paste” method and invent a new context for the application of the style you “have stolen”.

More on the acquisition of the foreign manners of language in a future article.

  1. Think of how you are going to sell yourself. You may write just for your own pleasure and without hope of your publication going viral, but if you come up with an idea to get a wide audience of viewers who may support you, comment on your work and eventually help you earn for your keep, then the better off you will be. Think about it and take meticulous notes of what comes to your mind on that issue.
  1. At the end of the day reflect on the writing process you have done today. What conclusions have you drawn, what do you plan to write the next day? Have you learned a new style by reading and then writing? How many new words or expressions have you mastered? Keep a reflective diary of your writing process.
  1. Write a letter to a friend and let them know what you have written today.
  1. Lastly, just let your imagination run riot and write away.

Collocations of “to combat writer’s block”

collocations of writeThe following are some of the collocations I’ve found on the internet when researching for my article on writer’s block. (The picture above shows collocations of “write” from Much Ado About Nothing, excerpted from a corpus of Shakespeare’s works)

You can

overcome, combat, get past, prevent, get over, counteract, counter, outsmart

your writer’s block.

or

You can get to know how to cure your writer’s block forever.

How to overcome a writer’s block or what happens when I don’t feel like writing.

In the following article I would like to expound 10 or 11 things that hamper my writing process and what I can do to combat them. Usually when I cannot overcome writing-related inhibitions this is what happens:

1. Sitting at the keyboard or getting things down in paper is prevented by an unidentified emotional problem.

Solution: You should take care of yourself. If possible talk to someone who has a similar problem. Confide with the people you trust and tell them about the setback. Compassionate friends will understand your situation and may give you a lot of useful advice. Moreover contact your writing buddy – he or she must have come through the same difficulty and may have a ready solution.

Quick advice (effectiveness not guaranteed :-)) : Think of something positive, don’t treat your writing as too personal.

2. Impossible to overcome anxiety and fear of writing comes just out of blue.

Recently I have heard of  graphophobia or scriptophobia, other sources tell of metrophobia. No matter whether these medical conditions are plausible, one thing is sure, writing process is complex and calls for a lot of emotional engagement, it requires a lot of mental effort – it is a complex enterprise which involves cognitive skills to verbalize in script what you have in your mind. This process comes in leaps and jumps, it is very discontinuous and disorderly and that’s why many beginning writers have a fear of it.

Solution: Why don’t you take a deep breath and look on the bright side of it, disconnect from writing whenever you come across an obstacle – walk out your dog. That’s what I have just done to encourage inspiration and come back to writing.

3. Is writing block activated? What is a writing block, anyway? How can I get past it?

Solution: Conduct a research on the Internet. Have a look at these websites: 7 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Bloc  or 27 Wacky Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

4. Every time I try to write something I am tricked not to write anything by the ubiquitous distractions, which coerce me to do something else e.g. make a cup of coffee, have a sandwich, browse a website, check my status on Facebook, chat up with a friend, text someone.

Solution: Remove all distractions, clean up your desktop, remove all unnecessary clutter, stick to the writing schedule, draw up a writing plan, stick to it and be consistent in what you do, find a writing buddy who will check on your progress.

5. Memory and concentration problems

Solution: Remember to have enough sleep, start writing early in the morning when your brain is in the writing mood; go for a walk; leave the writing place for a second, stand up and have a stretch, air your room

6. Dyslexic-like nature of writing inhibitions is favourable to inducing writing block.

If you have been self-diagnosed with dyslexia, don’t worry, there is an array of solutions. Meanwhile bear in mind the quick-fix medication provided below.

Solution: write in chunks, record all your ideas on your mobile phone, take notes wherever possible and then use them to write up your piece, have somebody to proofread your drafts.

7. Creativity problems or how to come about a new solution to scarcity of ideas in your writing.

Watch this inspirational video clip on the ingredients of creativity. More on creativity in future articles, I hope.

8. Exhaustion : after writing a short paragraph I feel as if I have ascended and descended Mount Everest at least twice.

People suffering from writing block and experiencing obstacles in writing discourage easily. After composing even a small piece of writing they feel as though they have accomplished an extraordinary thing and this brings about physical weariness. Things such as these may happen. Don’t worry – take a panoramic view of what you have in front of you and simply take a break.

 9. Irresistible urge to edit and rewrite every sentence again and again… might be a sign that you are being a perfectionist. If you experience a writer’s block, take an easy approach on your writing.

Quick advice: start with simple sentences – at the beginning moderation in all things is the best attitude.

10. Reluctance to motivate oneself by inspirational writers’ words of wisdom.

Well,  I have chosen only one writer’s words of wisdom and for the brevity of it I append it here.

“The only way to find out if you can write is to set aside a certain period of time every day and TRY … work every day and the pages will pile up.”

Judith Krantz

I hope this helps.

11. Last, but not least – do a lot of free voluntary reading

More on that in another article.

English is Fun – a book review

My first blog entry starts with a review of an old coursebook which I used as a student in elementary school.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAEnglish-is-fun-ONE_bound

ENGLISH IS FUN

Anna Zawadzka

Elżbieta Moszczak

Wydanie dziewiąte

Wydawnictwo Szkolne i Pedagogiczne

Warszawa 1991

The other day I spotted this tattered, dog-eared, English book bound in a sheet of a magazine for gardeners (“Działkowiec” in Polish). It has lingered on my shelves for over twenty years, unmoved and not tickled by my curiosity until recently when it somehow drew my attention and I hit on an idea to use it as a background for (hopefully) a series of reviews of old books for learning and teaching English. That’s getting a little bit too sentimental, but I think it’s worth seeing how these old texts contributed to my language education back then.

The book is the first of a three-part series of coursebooks for teaching English that were widely used in Polish schools in the 80s and early 90s. It is made up of 26 lessons, each lesson introduces new language through language skills. There are, however, no tasks for building up and consolidating writing skills.

What I like this book for:

A personal touch or feel of Polish coursebook writers from the 80s or 90s. Initially I was going to assign most of the writing exclusively to this aspect as what drove me to write this review was the charm and appeal that old coursebooks had in my opinion, but later I got a little disappointed and I dropped this intention when it turned out that English is Fun hasn’t got much more to offer than ordinary coursebooks written in the same fashion or for the same mould as most of the coursebooks in the Polish EFL market in that period. Most likely I have also mistaken this book for the self-study texts such as English at Home by Andrzej Kopczyński and Zofia Jancewicz or Meet this Challenge by Janusz Vobożil, which are more individualistic in character and which are still awaiting reviews.

Nevertheless, what singles this book out is

  • The phonetic transcription of full proper names provided at the end of the book in an add-on dictionary of proper names, the thing which you cannot normally find in coursebooks available on the market now. For example I couldn’t find the transcription of some of the compound place-names like the Statue of Liberty or St. James Park as whole phrases in the pronunciation dictionaries such as Longman Pronunciation Dictionary or English Pronouncing Dictionary

proper-names_cropped_2

  • Provision of new vocabulary from reading texts in the form of full sentences with their complete translation into Polish, a feature which the publishers of most of the coursebooks today abstain from. This particular feature is all the more helpful with the authors’ focus on idiomatic or semi-idiomatic expressions such as

He is with a ……….. firm – pracuje w firmie …

Phillip is still at school – Philp jeszcze chodzi do szkoły

I hear they do a lot of maths here – Podobno jest tu (robią tu) bardzo dużo matematyki

That put us on the right track – to naprowadziło nas na właściwy trop

  • The no-glare, no-glossy clear to read layout of the pages. Only black, white and sepia colours for the print have been used
  • The reproductions, albeit not so successful of authentic materials or realia, that is theatre posters, shop ads, company posters. The art of these features leaves much to be desired but with the publishing industry back then in Poland at the beginning of the 90s the job done seems quite a feat. Personally I like them very much as they contain a lot of useful cultural information and idiomatic expressions presented in context that are ready for the students to pick up if the teacher dutifully draws students’ attention to them. Moreover, they are especially useful bearing in mind the fact that it is a coursebook for beginners. Some of the reproductions have been adapted from English coursebooks of Mary Glasgow Publications Ltd. And they include the following examples:

“admission” on a poster to the youth club

“proceeds and jumble sale” on a jumble sale poster

“require furnished flat” on a flat ad

“Fish and Chips to take away. Fried while you wait”.

special-features_rooms_to_let_rotated

  • The layout is linear, each lesson is spread across many pages. This leaves the teacher a choice to decide how to divide the material into lessons
  • Grammar is explained in clear, legible Polish, which is advisable at the beginning level. This feature is usually missing in the English coursebooks used now which resort to grammar expounded in English metalangue, difficult to understand for the begining students
  • Special features: magic squares that I found when leafing through the book. These are squares or grids that look like those for playing Noughts & Crosses game, or resembling small crosswords with 3-letter words to be filled in, which when read horizontally or vertically give the same words as solutions to the clues

magic_squares_cropped

  • Many of the questions to exercises are in the open-ended format. This encourages the learners to write full, well-thought-out and carefully constructed sentences instead of filling in the blanks, the tasks that are so pervasive in the modern coursebooks
  • Questions in Polish checking understanding of some of the items dealing with the pragmatics of language

pragmatics_of_language_parrot_cropped

  • A seven-part kidnap story that students might enjoy
  • Crossword puzzles or odd-man out exercises strewn here or there that make learning more enjoyable

What I don’t like this book for

I would do a disservice comparing this book to the modern coursebooks used in the classes now but there are some elements that are missing in English is Fun. Moreover, the ELT publishing industry has made a major step since the nineties so for the benefit of comparison and contrast I thought I might point out a few deficiencies of the book in this review.

  • The learning objectives of the units are not laid out at the beginning of the lessons
  • Scarcity of the listening material
  • Artificial, non-authentic dialogues
  • In view of the fact that the lessons are longer, the number of grammar exercises, vocabulary tasks and reading texts allotted for one lesson unit are usually fewer than in the usual, contemporary coursebooks
  • I haven’t got to see the teacher’s guide to this book but although I know that one exists, I cannot say how this supporting side of the coursebook fares.
  • The reading texts and the dialogues seem a little old-fashioned, with some simplifications and stereotyping about the British culture
  • The book may not live up to the learning objectives that some teachers and their students may have: it is far from the communicative approach that is the mainstay of most of the language programmes nowadays
  • It doesn’t contain periodic language roundups, summaries, consolidations or revisions
  • Although the approach to the use of the book is fairly straightforward, it doesn’t contain any walkthroughs at the beginning guiding students and teachers to the content and structure of the course
  • For the generation of students accustomed to the attractiveness of the coursebooks provided for them now, I suppose this particular coursebook would not look interesting and fun
  • As an advocate of self-study books containing supporting materials for independent study, I don’t think this book would be suitable for students with the inclination for autonomous learning

Would it be a good idea to adopt such a book today for the classes you teach now?

With the inventiveness and resourcefulness of English teachers, I am sure that anyone would cope with the coursebook of that sort no matter what. However it’s apparent that with the requirements of curricula and examination boards in Poland nowadays, the teachers would be obliged to supplement their work with a lot of additional materials taken from other coursebooks, websites or would have to design materials of their own.

All in all

This was one of the first coursebooks which I used in the elementary school at the time when learning English was a drudgery for me, a scourge. I didn’t like learning English then, because it was difficult and painful. That’s why I am now paying tribute to this book by writing a review, I’m giving it its due to show that nevertheless English language learning efforts paid off. Coming back to those days in the elementary school I remember my classmates who somehow learned English at a much more faster rate than me, they simply enjoyed it – I didn’t. Now I can openly say that I caught up with the average at least.