lunes, 24 de agosto de 2009

Quoting Einstein on Imagination

During the past week I have been catching sight of fragments of a quote above the door to one of the many box offices at the 2009 Edinburgh Festival. Finally on Friday 21.08.09 I walked passed to take a closer look and they are the words of Albert Einstein. The quote is wonderful

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited while imagination enriches the world.”

I found these words especially poignant as for the past ten days I have spent a lot of my free time recovering work that I did about fifteen years ago. Being unable to access the material I had assumed it was because of the age of the files. I had tried using data recovery programmes, but with no luck. Then the other week clicking about with the toolbar I discovered that I could access them via note book possibly as the result of a recent Vista upgrade. I discovered that many of the files were empty except their names, victim of some type of virus one supposes so I went into my collection of old 3½ discs and found 3 with the corresponding file names.

The following day I went to the internet café and used an external floppy disc reader which until then didn’t know existed. And voila in front of my eyes were my old files. There followed a personal marathon of several hours over four days between the library and the internet café converting all my files manually one by one into word 2003 which I can read on my latest computer without difficulty. It has been a wonderful sensation after months searching for old documents trying everything I could think and click. I’ve moved on a lot since all this work was created some of the developed concepts have appeared in other work so one wants to go back and track down the original ideas which until last week I have been unable to do. However the mere thought of having to either scan the documents or input them again had me well and truly blocked the relief is most uplifting. It has been a fun refreshing and curious visit down memory lane. The original floppy records are also safely in the hard disc, memory stick and read only CD. What I did find amazing was the files that had been wiped clean were all creative teaching work, publication proposals, manuscripts and teacher training sessions, strange how virus work. All ideas are fodder for the creative mind though the investigation of the type of virus and if in fact it was something other I’ll have to leave for my amateur detectives who belong to another time in my imaginative space.

To celebrate the recovery of this material and in line with fantasy and fairy stories I’m publishing in this blog some of the theory and principles of my teaching ideas. The introduction to an infant course on the use of fantasy in the classroom and the introduction from Playground One @ Julie Ann Thomason 1996.

Fantasy Introduction

*has been developed in response to a need- children need to learn children's language through children's activities.

*It offers a new technique for the pre junior 4/7 classroom.

Fantasy is exploited as an educational concept in the young learners' foreign language class because it has world wide appeal –

"Fables and folklore from around the world provide an excellent starting point for work on cultural variations. Whatever the country of origin, the same personal qualities of honesty perseverance courage and consideration occur."
from "multicultural approaches to reading." 2.

Young learners are able to identify with similar basic principles and values already familiar in their own culture making English culturally more acceptable.

*As a technique it has been designed developed and used by the author in REAL teaching situations.

*It is essentially an enabling technique which facilitates the introduction and exploitation of play, total physical response and task based activities into the young child's foreign language classroom.

As a technique it has been tried and tested by the author and has proved to be very effective in the young children's classroom because-
*it exploits and stimulates the children's imagination letting them discover the language they want to know and use-in effect using the child's imagination as a resource in the language classroom.
* it is flexible and adaptable to different classroom settings especially those with limited budgets and resources.
*it bring structured meaningful play into the classroom.
*it helps overcome difficulties encountered by foreign children with English phonics.
*it facilitates input and helps generate output which is real and meaningful to children.
*it makes the doing and using elements of the course- task based activities. T.P.R. and play -now recognised as essential in primary EFL -more interesting and motivating therefore more effective.

BY MAKING USE OF THE YOUNG CHILD'S ABILITY AND DELIGHT IN CREATING PLAYING AND LIVING IN A WORLD OF MAKE BELIEVE. learning English in part becomes a make believe game-"Let's pretent to be....../ we are in....." says the teacher. Young children know it's not true but are prepared to suspend their disbelief to enjoy themselves. The classroom can then become anything you want it to be, without the need for elaborate visual aids, with THIS tecnique children are usually happy to make their own.

Learning to read
* is a big step forward
* it makes them superior to younger brothers and sisters
* is appreciated even rewarded by parents and teachers
* is a skill to perform when confident
It is only natural young children learning to read in their own language are keen to learn to read "anything" especially this new thing mummy and daddy think is so important.

These young learners of English as foreign language need to be given strategies to deal with the new English words they encounter few course books currently on the market tackle this realistically. Instinctively they will test their growing knowledge of their first language grapheme/phoneme rules. Yet more difficulties are added to the learning of English and its grapheme/phoneme correspondence rules notorious for their complexity.

This course takes a positive firm approach to the teaching of reading employing phonics which are made child friendly through the courses exploitation of fantasy. Phonics are recognised as integral to the structure and effective progression of the course meeting the demands of the pre-school infant learner as their grapheme/phoneme grows and develops. Fantasy also permits varied and creative use of storytelling. Various techniques are used to stimulate reading for meaning and pleasure thus consolidating the work on the mechanics of reading

* ABOVE ALL IT IS FRESH AND EXCITING AS IT GOES FURTHER THAN ANY OTHER EXISTING COURSES IN ITS APPLICATION OF FANTASY, not only in the literary sense but develops and extends FANTASY into a teaching medium exploiting the child's imagination as a resource in the classroom.

Playground One Introduction


Description of the course
is a 3 level course for children from 7 to 10 years of age.
It uses a VAK Visual Audio Kinaesthetic approach to children's teaching.

The course components
Students book
Exercise Book
Teacher's book
Class cassette.

What is VAK Visual Audio Kinaesthetic?
As it's name suggests targets all the senses and how they are used by the language learner .

Why VAK Visual Audio Kinaesthetic?
Studies in Neuro Linguistic programming have shown people learn and acquire language using all their senses. However the senses are not used equally in individuals while in the process of learning; some people have a strong visual sense , others audio while other prefer the kinaesthetic. An approach which targets all three sense areas meets the needs of the differences that are found among language learners.
A VAK approach therefore requires a variety of techniques, activities and topics. As a result Playground is a holistic integrated course making it cross curricular implicit rather than explicit by nature.

Aims and Objectives of the course

children should enjoy their learning experience
to develop an interest in learning languages
that there is a relation between language and communication
to promote realistic child interaction through Play and other child activities.
to give the young learner expressions he /she will realistically want to use.
to help build and develop their confidence as language learners.
to stimulate their curiosity about language

The Syllabus
is lexical with the emphasis heavily focused on meaning. The children are not expected to produce actively the whole lexical content. It is now accepted children need to have a lot of language 'thrown ' at them for a little to stick.
Grammar is not actively taught though certain points are highlighted, when it has been felt appropriate through awareness raising and in the exercises to pave the way for studies in later years

The Lesson Content
Each unit has four lessons explained in notes in the teachers book.
Lessons one and two are the input stages when new vocabulary and structures as lexical units are introduced.

Lesson three is called do you know ? This section's principal function is for children to become aware they can learn through English, it is not just something to learn, it is a vehicle for learning .
It does this by using the language introduced in lessons one and two in a different topic setting, letting the children to see the vocabulary in a different lexical context. At times well known stories are used at others awareness raising techniques and other formulaic expressions related to the topic are introduced.

Lesson four is called Playtime. It recycles the language of the unit using interactive Play. Here the children are taught games, some of which may be familiar to children as games children play have common elements worldwide. The games reflect the four areas of child play traditional, street games, fantasy games and competitive games. Games introduced here are then later used in the course in the other lessons. When this occurs a cross reference system is in operation. It states as at This means the activity was first used in unit three , lesson three point six.

There is sufficient material in each lesson for 60 min. . If you teach in 45 min. blocks do not rush the material but split the lessons in two. All the lessons have logical half way stopping points
E.g. lesson two , unit two, the logical split point would be after point iv the speaking Game. When the class is ready to continue with the lesson use the speaking game as the warmer for the lesson.

The practical application of the techniques highlighted in lesson plans, and are recycled in various ways as mentioned at lesson content lesson four ,however some background knowledge can found to be useful.

T.P.R. Total Physical Response
was first used by James Asher in Southern California.
The principal is based on how babies and very young children learn their first language. They respond to commands given by their mother in a physical non verbal way. In an L2 situation learners can respond without having to produce spoken language as well as developing their listening skills from day one. Classical T.P.R traditional child's games such as Simon Says and integrated it with other EFL techniques are used in the course.

3D Three dimensional presentation.
is a new and refreshing way of presenting dialogues to children. The students of Playground observe and listen to the characters of the course talking about concepts which are concrete for them. In book one the course characters are seen talking, describing , asking questions , about the circus. The students of the course are able to see and hear the new language in a context that is familiar and real to them. The result is easy to implement speaking activities such as role play, surveys and dramas as they can pretend they are the children of the course and repeat the dialogues which the children use.

The Skills Listening Speaking Reading Writing
The main focus in book one is on listening and speaking, with a gentle introduction to reading and writing . Theses will be developed in books two and three
They are taught either by a specific individual focus e.g. the listening activity put your hand up when you hear focusing on listening with T.P.R. or integrated. Integrated skill activities focus on a combination of listening speaking reading and writing.

Making things
Children learn quickly however they also forget quickly. They require some type of personal records. at this stage in their foreign language it would impossible to produce a written record. Their record therefore are more creative and artistic. They make things from simple drawings to play games to more complicated activities.

Awareness Raising
As adults we forget what it was like to be children the no return road of innocence and experience we cannot inexperience what we know. In consequence adults try to make children's language learning easy. The tendency in the past has been to do this not only through have simple vocabulary and structures but by simplistic activities. However, activities must interest and stimulate the child at the same level as they would in their mother tongue. What needs to be simplified is the language, encoded in child friendly concepts E.g. adjectives are defined as describing words and an awareness raising activity in unit 12 lesson 3 do you know describing words. They can classify, be stimulated without knowing the grammatical terms and increase their vocabulary.

Games and Play
are part of the underlying principal of the course. Playing is an everyday activity for children. When they play they experiment, they take risks. Studies have shown that good language learners take risks experiment with new language. By providing them with real play forums, the children can experiment with the new language in a risk taking environment that is comfortable to them. The result is two fold, they can interact in English as part of the game practicing is fun and an a deeper level they are being encouraged to experiment with their new language laying the foundations for a life long confidence in their ability to learn languages.

Supplementary Materials
Pictures are an essential when teaching children. Flashcards can easily be made by cutting pictures from magazines and sticking them on to card. Different coloured card fro different areas e.g. people blue things green, actions yellow is a simple and straightforward coding system to follow.

Use of L1 in the classroom.

L1. Is the abbreviation used to refer to language one, the mother tongue. The use of L1. how much? how often? if? when ? is a contentious issue. However, it is the author's opinion that L2 i.e. the foreign language being learnt, in this case English should be employed when it is realistically possible. Nevertheless there are occasions when it is quicker, more effective and in the long term more beneficial to use L1.e.g. Explaining the rules of a game, in L1 the explanation may take a few minutes, both teacher and pupils are clear what is expected of them. The children play the game, practice their English have fun and feel a sense of achievement. However, if rules are explained in l2, it will take longer, the rules may not be fully understood, resulting in the game being played badly. The children are demotivated because they feel they don't understand the game or the language. My yardstick with children is - if the activity is underlined by a concept it is more beneficial especially in the early stages, to use L1. This philosophy is recognised in Playground. The language required to function, to explain, to play in L2 is actively taught, unit 2 in the classroom, unit 8 game expressions. After they have been introduced it is expected they are incorporated where they would occur naturally in communication. The final decision though will always at the discretion of the class teacher.

domingo, 9 de agosto de 2009

Steps on a Path to Writing 3 Fairy Stories

Having decided to discuss wider influences on my writing I thought I’d continue by looking at fairy stories as the structure of the story is of vital importance. Strangely enough it was teaching children that was to lead me to a whole new field of personal investigation into the Fairy Story. Despite having limited language skills and vocabulary I found my pupils loved hearing stories. When I first began teaching children EFL there was a dearth of didactic material, nowadays there are myriads of resources most of which include to varying degrees teaching based on stories. The Oldest known fairy story is dated 1250 BC on Papyrus in Mesopotamia.

Today most of us reach the fairy story via Disney or something similar. And while one cannot detract from the quality of the production and the work of the graphic artists the modern interpretation has lead us to associate it with simplicity and happy endings. However my intuition told me there was more and my first investigations brought me to the attention of the work of the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim (1903- 1990). His work “The Uses of Enchantment” is his study on the motives, symbolism and deeper meanings in fairy tales on the human psyche. The reading of the book has had a profound effect on me as writer and a person.

Dr Bettleheim was a survivor of the Nazi Concentration camps, and in his barracks they began telling childhood tales at night before curfew and when they could the idea was passed on though the camp grapevines. Moving to the Unites States after the war Bettelheim was to find those who survived contact him and he made an amazing discovery; the people who had told the bedtime stories had survived in better mental health than those who hadn’t. He then dedicated his life’s work to the importance and significance of the story as a healing force working with damaged children.

What he discovered though his investigation and treatment of others confirmed what Jung had said that that symbols and motifs in stories were common to the collective human psyche. Reinforcing universal ethics values, respect your parents, don’t rob, don’t steal, work hard behave with dignity.

Fairy Stories deal with two principle concepts
Deal with inner integration of person at spiritual, emotional and psychological level.
Child’s striving for maturity and independence in a healthy fashion.

However I quote Bettleheim’s own words from the conclusion of

The Meaning of Enchantment

"Each fairy tale is a magic mirror, which reflects some aspects of our inner world and of the steps required by our evolution from immaturity to maturity. For those who immerse themselves in what the fairy tale has to communicate, it becomes a deep quiet pool which at first seems to reflect only our own image, but behind it we soon discover our inner turmoil of our soul- it’s depth, and ways to gain peace within ourselves and with the world, which is the reward of our struggles."

Since Bettleheim I have gone on to read other works in the field and I quote

The fruitful darkness Joan Halifax
“Stories are our protectors, like our immune system, defending against attacks of debilitating alienation. They are the connective tissue between culture and nature, self and other, life and death, that saw the worlds together and in telling the soul quickens and comes alive

“Troublesome Things” A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories.

Diane Purkiss.( fellow of Keble College University of Oxford)

“Firstly common humanity: there are universal cultural archetypes produced by common psychic pressure in every culture.”

“A ceaseless reshaping of old stories to fit new contexts”

“To enter fairyland is to be born again, to go through birth as an adult who is conscious of the dreadful process.”

“They came from deep misery. People whose lives are a perpetual struggle to survive and suddenly faced with one burden too many.”

“A fairy story is about reaching rock bottom, in that sense a story about dying, but it is also a story about finding a way out if only in a story.”

“The stories rich complex often elliptical because to their teller their meaning is very plain because there were always inner stories.”

“If so they could easily become what Haaken calls transformative memories, memories whether authentic or not, that make sense of a life that turns its disorder and fragmentation into meaning.”

Fairy stories like their cousins Myths have a defined structure and order of things and the imposition of a structure like rhyme in poetry in fact guides the creativity, it is the recognition of the structure on behalf of the reader or the listener that gives security and satisfaction. And each person takes from the story what they need and want and that may not be the same on every encounter with the story. The storyteller has existed in all cultures in all times only the form has changed from the medieval ballad minstrels to the author of the novel as a consequence of the printing press to the cinema to the video game. All are stories

While returning to my older notes to prepare this blog entry I discovered reference to my bite plate mentioned in the previous entry. On the same day my bite plate was fitted I came across a web page for creative people whose name I can’t remember something like Get Out There but it was my first awareness as to how important the web was to become for creative people. Quite inspired by what I had discovered I began work on my first modern fairy story I was able complete the first draft in a few days to sustain momentum as I was pain free. It has since gone through various drafts and quite transformed from the original and I have developed and improved my editing and revising skills.

First drafts are curious things it is necessary to leave then and come back later as after a period of time one is aware of the functioning of the subconscious. I have always refered to my first drafts like potters clay, having finally something to work with and the realisation while editing and revising is a much more concentrated and conscious effort to express yourself rather than the outpouring of ideas. You find yourself in your first drafts. I have found them to be cathartic and therapeutic as well as raw material to sculpot with words. Fortunately the importance of stories as a therapeutic tool is becoming greater the work of Jorge Bucay in Argentina in his works such as Cuentos para Pensar (Stories to think) and Deja me te cuente (Let me tell you) and his Camino (paths) series. Though we must acknowledge the greatest and most effective story teller of all time was Jesus Christ who employed the simplicity of the story to embody the greater meaning.

Finally I would like to honour and thank my parents in this entry. As a child Brian my Daddy who I have already named in this blog told me stories from when I was very young, Ann my mum passed on her love of reading she had me enrolled in the library when I was three and her wonderful ability to cook. Thank you I love and miss you both so much

lunes, 3 de agosto de 2009

The Power of Peace

Like a grain of sand
It began.

A painful slow growth,
Taking root,
Forming anchor.

A nurtured irritation,
Connecting with instincts,
Caressing talents.

A warm silk sensation,
Penetrating pain,
Calming the storm.

The light on the inner journey
Blinding even on
The darkest night.

The right of passage
Hard and long, Though peace
Propelled away from wrong.

The essence of power,
A point of return,
A haven safe.

The ecstasy of peace,
Like a bright pearl dawn,
It opens the days,
Guiding through divergent ways

Logroño January 2002.

The Seeds of Happiness

1.Impressions, instincts, embedded.
The strength of decision
At once made at once taken
Rekindling the seeds of clarity.

2. Impressions instincts embedded.
The fleeting of moments
Mentioned maintained
Reviving, the seeds of memory

3. Impressions instincts embedded.
The lack of doubt
Visit booked visit made
Confirming, the seeds of security

4. Impressions instincts embedded.
The glimmer of frustration
Again yet again, yet
Germinating, the seeds of feeling.

5. Impressions instincts embedded.
The return of something
As yet unfound undiscovered
Unfelt, the seeds of awakening

6. Impressions instincts embedded.
The sense of humour
Instantly appreciated, instantly understood,
Stirring, the seeds of fun

7. Impressions instincts embedded.
The strength of something
As yet not realised not
Felt. The seeds of happiness

8. Impressions instincts embedded.
The flight of the arrow
Immediate impact, profound permanent.
Penetrating the seeds of the subconscious.

9. Impressions instincts embedded.
The caress of a finger
At first a doubt, later
Confirming the seeds of tenderness

10. Impressions instincts embedded.
The bubbling of butterflies
At first gentle then
Overflowing the seeds of realisation

11. Impressions instincts embedded.
The joy of realisation
Fearless consequences
Following, the seeds of intuition

12. Impressions instincts embedded.
The security of feeling
No doubt no pain
Laying, the seeds of peace

13. Impressions instincts embedded.
The waves of pleasure
Caressing stimulating
Flowing, the seeds of ecstasy

14. Impressions instincts embedded.
The decision to enjoy
The moments the pleasures
Settling, the seeds of maturity

15. Impressions instincts embedded.
The set of mind
Acceptance possibility
Preparing, the seeds of strength

16. Impressions instincts embedded.
The series of visits
Confirming convincing
Laying, the seeds of foundation

17. Impressions instincts embedded.
The change of appearance
Provoking stating
Visualising, the seeds of change

18. Impressions instincts embedded.
The caress of a voice
Relaxing soothing healing
Penetrating, the seeds of harmony

19. Impressions instincts embedded.
The lightness of touch
Confident reassuring caring
Announcing, the seeds of gentleness

20. Impressions instincts embedded.
The shock of the shyness,
The face, the pain, the panic
Transmitting, the seeds of challenge

21. Impressions instincts embedded.
The significance of the message
The expressions the meaning
Conveying the seeds of solution

22. Impressions instincts embedded.
The verification of impressions
Conversation comments commitments
Highlighting the seeds of similarity

23. Impressions instincts embedded.
The knowledge of how
Direct daring clear but careful
Exploiting the seeds of courage

24. Impressions instincts embedded.
The knowledge of when
Long or little the waiting
The arrival of the seeds of permanence.