Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Trivial pursuits: embrace the extraordinary

I will call this trivial pursuits as I feel it encapsulates my philosophy of learning and teaching.

Every single idea or brainwave – no matter how small and insignificant it might appear at first sight --contributes to the big picture of learning and shaping one’s teaching methodology.

The top to bottom approach of teaching has its value as teachers, especially inexperienced ones, need a framework to guide them in their first uncertain steps. Adopting a methodology should be the springboard for trial-and-error. Whatever works in one’s reality might not work in another’s. Theories are there to test and adopt creatively or turn down.
This goes together with my motto ‘embrace the extraordinary and build solidly on gossamer’. 

Children and -- I dare say -- many adults too are eager to follow the teacher’s forays into the realm of the imaginary and the unreal. Somehow the unreal and imaginary can provide the basis for real language input and practice.

I will illustrate both concepts with a painting I took to the moment I set eyes on it.

Houses in Motion by Jennifer Bartlett

You could build a series of lessons on this at any level you choose.
·       Elementary level: adverbs of frequency, present simple vs. present continuous
Ø Do houses normally move?
Ø Houses do not normally move, but in this image they are moving.
Ask your students to draw pictures of “out of the ordinary” and write their own captions.
Ø Cats do not usually bark, but in my picture the cat is barking.
Ø Birds hardly ever roar, but in my picture the bird is roaring.

·       You could use a different pattern for intermediate level:
Houses are not supposed to hover, but some houses are hovering in this picture.

The image lends itself to speculation too as it is unclear – at least to my mind – what everyone is doing in this topsy-turvy universe.

You could ask older and more advanced students to look for the cause of the commotion:

A whirlwind has torn off houses sending them in different directions or causing them to stand on their side. This in turn has set in motion a chain of actionspeople running after their houses, cats in mid air in hot pursuit of their miniature houses, cracks slicing through houses, people throwing their hands up in despair.

If your students fail to come up with the items you are trying to elicit, you can provide them asking the students to write a paragraph using some or all of the lexical items given.

For homework you could ask your students to look at the following image of houses and think of a caption for it.

Waiting Houses by Friedensreich Hundertwasser

The actual name of the painting is Waiting Houses so if they fail to come up with it, you can provide it and ask why ‘waiting’ or what suggests in the picture that they are waiting for something or someone.

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