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Messages - Cogliostro

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General Writing Resources / Re: Using language corpora
« on: November 19, 2009, 12:50:41 PM »

The Corpus of Contemporary American English does lock you out after about 10 searches, but you can register for free in order to avoid that from happening.

Google Scholar is really dense. I haven't really looked at it in depth, but the few times I've used it, it's been a little intimidating. How do you tell your students to use it?


General Writing Resources / Re: Final Review Game in ESL Writing class
« on: November 19, 2009, 12:48:05 PM »
Way to go, Taboo!!! I love that game.

We actually played it a while ago with a group of low-intermediate students... they loved it as well. We played it at the end of the course, and we reviewed words that we had used throughout. It yielded really good results, since students were able to remember and apply the vocabulary that we had used in class.

Did you try it already in an actual class? How did it work?


Vocabulary / Re: vocabulary game for younger kids
« on: November 19, 2009, 12:45:08 PM »
I think this is AWESOME!!! I really like this spelling bee thing! Although, I input some words that didn't show in the database:



But other than that, it's a really well made page. Nice interactive format. I can see why your kids would like it!


Compare & Contrast / Re: Rhetorical Analysis over hundreds of years...
« on: November 19, 2009, 11:46:22 AM »
By the way, if you get a chance to check out the "Popol-Vuh", please do. You'll know what I meant!!

It's really interesting, though. Lemme know if you have already come across this book, or if you have read similar texts.


Compare & Contrast / Rhetorical Analysis over hundreds of years...
« on: November 19, 2009, 11:19:22 AM »
Thinking about Contrastive Rhetoric today, I remembered a piece of literature that is required reading in most of the high schools in Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua) and that finds origins in pre-Columbian culture. The title of it is "Popol-Vuh", and it is a mythology-based text, with a cosmogonical overlay. Basically, it is known to us today because of the Spanish colonization of the Americas, during which, European friars and scholars interested in the incipient field of Americanism studies gathered popular stories and translated texts and folk tales into Spanish in order to take them back to the universities in Europe.

Now, if we consider that these early creation myths and folk stories were primarily told in oral form, and that Spanish scholars were forced to translate and transfer them to their own rhetorical conventions, we are looking at a potential mess of comprehension, interpretation and understanding. We still give them the benefit of the doubt over the fact that they did a good job, because they were there at least a century before these studies began to really make headway. But still, in my opinion, these differences in storytelling styles could have accounted for some misinterpretations in the text.

Now, if to that we add the fact that the first translations were made 3 centuries ago, we come to a place where reading that text today seems like a really taxing endeavor. I mean, come on! It talks about things which have been lost in the memory of a dead civilization, PLUS, it is rendered in 17th century Spanish!! Seriously, I don't know how 13- and 14-year-old kids in Central American schools are required to read this stuff, when I know for a fact that they are the subject of no small scholarly research and debate!!

My point is this: considering the MESS of rhetorical transformation that these stories had to go through (from oral tradition to written form, and from 17th century Spanish to today's rhetorical conventions) it is not a surprise that the Popol-Vuh is a difficult text to tackle (not to mention the subject-matter with which it deals).

In much the same way, our ESL students have been tainted by all this MESS! Think about the language socialization practices that our students have been exposed to since childhood... in some cases they are DIAMETRICALLY different from ours... And if to that we add the YEARS of indoctrination, un-learning and struggle of having to adopt a different set of rhetorical conventions just to cope with our ESL composition courses, it's no surprise that the texts that our students produce sometimes seem to be a total chaos of information organization, misplacement of topic sentences and thesis statements, verbosity and irrelevant information. Think about what they have gone through!

I know that trying to equate 3 centuries of language change to a couple of decades is not exactly an equivalent comparison, but I think considering these issues might put some things into perspective. If you think that as native speakers it is sometimes difficult to put your ideas into writing, think of the incredible MESS that your students need to make sense of just to get an acceptable grade on an argumentative essay.

Just my two cents...

Pedagogy Issues / Re: Powerpoint for Visual Analysis Activity
« on: November 02, 2009, 06:50:38 PM »
 :notworthy :notworthy :notworthy :notworthy

Beginning Readers / Re: Wikipedia for Beginners!!
« on: November 02, 2009, 06:44:29 PM »
That's a really good idea! Summarizing and paraphrasing Regular English Wikipedia articles and submitting them as Simple English articles!!

Although, I have to say, I worry that they might "cheat" on this by going to the corresponding entries in their own native languages... and get most of the information there, without having to actually read the Regular English one... but still, they would have to write a synthesis of the major points, and best of all, using short and simple sentences!


Beginning Readers / Re: Wikipedia for Beginners!!
« on: October 27, 2009, 09:56:31 AM »
Hey Randall,

I've actually looked at quite a few of these, comparing the "regular" Wikipedia entries vs. the "Simple English" entries, and what I have found as a common trend is the articles do tend to be shorter, sometimes significantly. I would attribute this to the fact that less people are dedicated to these Simple English versions, thus leaving the work to only a handful of editors.

Still, it would be very interesting to use these with actual beginning students, and record their reactions to the simplified syntax and lexicon used in the Simple English entries. I recommend searching really large articles, such as the entry for the United Nations, the entry for Star Wars, Star Trek, or Lord of the Rings, the biography of Gandhi or Desmond Tutu, or something of the sort.

Give it a go! As with any web resources, it requires a bit of time to explore the possibilities, but it may yield very interesting results.


Beginning Readers / Wikipedia for Beginners!!
« on: October 22, 2009, 10:04:50 AM »
Hello everyone,

I have known about this for a while (about a year) but it seems that not many people know about this incipient language that's beginning to make its way into Wikipedia. We know that students love Wikipedia (who doesn't?) but maybe students at lower levels of proficiency feel a little discouraged about their lack of linguistic resources to access the vast amount of information on "the world's most complete encyclopedia ever".

Now, there's a Wikipedia for them!!

Ok, ok, it may still need to boost the number of articles, but still, your lower level students may start to wonder into Wikipedia through this resource. Take a look at it... if anything, it's really, really interesting to compare articles in regular English and "Simple English".


Persuasive Paper / Re: Mini-debate session
« on: October 21, 2009, 08:50:38 PM »
Nicely said, Heejeoung. I've actually done this too in one of my classes, but I remember it being a Conversation class, not writing. Nevertheless, your idea makes total sense: Students can hear pros and cons and structure their argumentative essay based on those ideas. They might even get some thoughts that they hadn't considered before, either to support their claim or to predict the counter-arguments and tackle them effectively.

Nice! ;)

Vocabulary / Re: Dictionary Dabble
« on: October 21, 2009, 08:45:20 PM »
Sounds like a lot of fun!!

I wanna play this!!

Getting to Know You Activities / Re: "Do You Love Your Neighbor"
« on: October 21, 2009, 08:40:50 PM »
This sounds like a lot of fun! Although, it might work more as an ice-breaker or an energizer activity than a get-to-know-you activity.

Getting to Know You Activities / Re: Get them talking and LYING!
« on: October 21, 2009, 08:37:40 PM »
This is always fun. I remember I did this in my German 102 class, and people shared interesting things about their lives. Then when they revealed the lie, it also sparked conversation and a little bit of interaction.

A little problem is that it might take a really long time if the class is large, so a possible variation with large groups would be to divide the whole class into smaller groups and do it there. They will not be able to hear from everyone in the class, but it would take a little less time for tight schedules.

Harry Potter Lessons! / Cultural comparisons
« on: September 10, 2009, 10:20:43 AM »
In the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, we are introduced to Mrs. Dursley, whom the author describes essentially as being the neighborhood's gossip lady. I remember MY OWN neighborhood's gossip lady from back home, and how that image or stereotype not only exists, but also is very prevailing in my culture.

Perhaps as an alternate activity for your own students, you can prompt them to compare this stereotypical image of the "gossip lady" and how it is viewed in their own cultures. This can lead to discussions and potentially a writing assignment.

Some questions that may guide the discussion/writing might be:

1. Do you know anyone like Mrs. Dursley back home?
2. What is your opinion of her "gossipy" behavior?
3. How would she "fit in" in your culture?
4. Why do people gossip? What do you think?

Additionally, students could provide examples from their own experience to illustrate how Mrs. Dursley would fare in their cultural contexts.

How about giving students a bank of choices from which they can select the answer they prefer? This could be modified further by including distracters in the choices, which do not fit the grammatical environment of the passage, so giving the students a chance to practice grammatical knowledge.

Postreading Activities / Re: storytellers!
« on: August 27, 2009, 09:07:45 AM »
Hello Nagham,

Would it be possible for you to post some pictures of these "storytellers"? I'm very curious about this.


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