Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Questions about Class Observation

A university student majoring in Education who observed one of my classes wrote me an email with questions about my teaching.  Here are her questions and my answers.

1. why did you do repeat "it's got be somewhere" and "the beaches of mexico" at first?

I didn't have much time to explain before class, but those are called Jazz Chants and written by Carolyn Graham.  One description is that “Jazz Chants are Carolyn Graham's snappy, upbeat chants and poems that use jazz rhythms to illustrate the natural stress and intonation patterns of conversational American English. Jazz Chants provide an innovative and exciting way to improve your student's speaking and listening comprehension skills while reinforcing the language structures of everyday situations.” (Multilingual Books, 2009)  I use them for the following reasons:

1. Students can learn the pronunciation of American English, especially intonation and stress as well as reductions.

2. Students can learn natural expressions such as, “Where did you put it?”

3. Using jazz chants gets everyone talking in English at the beginning of class, and it's comfortable because they're talking in a group rather than individually.

4. They're fun!

2.I think your lesson is more communicative than grammatical.
Why did you lesson such as?

The class is called Gaikokugo [foreign language] Communication.

3.I felt your lesson was main of conversation.
Do you conscious to make your lesson like a speaking lesson.

Do you mean that the focus of the lesson was speaking?  Yes, that's true.  It's mainly because the students have had very little chance to speak in the 6 years that they've already studied English.

Students always tell me that they're happy they get to speak a lot in this class.  The conversation is often something that may be useful for them when they meet visitors from others countries or when they travel abroad.  I hope they will grow in their confidence to be able to use English.

Sometimes students tell me that they didn't like English before but that they like it now!  That makes me feel as though I've succeeded in my teaching.

Students Playing Charades in Class

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How Do Factory Farms Affect Us All?

Farm factories are taking over livestock production.  This interactive map shows how your community may be affected, if you live on mainland U.S.  You can also learn facts such as “U.S. factory-farm dairies added nearly 650 cows every day between 1997 and 2007.“

Friday, October 08, 2010

Adam Lambert in Tokyo (and I was there)

I was really concerned about Adam's voice because he sounded hoarse when speaking and avoided a lot of high notes (and was also singing in lower keys).  However, I'm totally impressed how a 28-year-old can put together such a show and tour world-wide with it.

The JCB stage was too small to contain him!  He is so powerful (and that includes his entourage, both musicians and dancers) that he could easily have filled a stage twice as large.

CA with Other Glam Girls
The audience wasn't dressed as wildly as I had expected, with some exceptions, but a sign of how totally they were into Adam is how, on one of his quieter pieces, there was complete silence when he paused.  He had them completely in his grasp, jumping when he told them to and screaming back, “Yes!” when he asked, “Are you having fun?” (5 times).

The question is whether Adam was having fun.  The concert started about 20 minutes late, and the problem seemed to be something technical to do with the sound.  He rushed backstage between numbers, gesticulating at the crew, and he kept fiddling with his earpiece.  That and his vocal problems (a cold or just an extremely demanding schedule?) detracted from the performance as a whole.

Adam Look-alikes
However, he really connected when he sat and just chatted with the audience.  Although I’m sure it was patter he uses in almost all his concerts, his words were beautiful and genuine as he talked about love as being more important than anything else [including the kiss that got all the headlines], and there was an intimacy in that moment that the audience, even though there was a sell-out crowd of 3,100, truly responded to.

The versatility in his performance in what I really admire – from the flamboyancy, the glam, and the strut to the softer moments, including the cute, spontaneous grins when he senses it went well.  Adam being Adam – that’s what we love.  The songs are still ringing in my head, and I’m still grinning.  It was worth losing an ear (from my flashing cat headband) over!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Le peuple migrateur

I just fell in love - with Le peuple migrateur (The Traveling Birds), an exquisite French documentary that needs no narration.  Ranging from pelicans to penguins, from seagulls to storks, the stars of this film travel over vistas from all over the world.  On land, they touchingly take care of their young ones and struggle for survival under all conditions.

The film is so full of humor and wonder.  (I myself wonder, first, how migrating birds can possibly flap their wings for hours after getting no exercise for months, and how the photographers managed to have the viewer flying right along with the feathered miracles of nature.)  The soundtrack captures and enhances the movement, with humor and pathos. 

Warning: The film does contain violence!

The music includes:

One of the more poignant scenes in the film, out of many. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Opera Around the World

This afternoon I went to a recital of several operatic pieces, both solos and ensemble pieces.  Frankly, I could have done without the prolonged narration (in Japanese, of course) explaining the background for each of the pieces.  Perhaps it helped some of the audience appreciate the recital even more, but I would have enjoyed a simple hour and a half of singing rather than the two and a half hours it got stretched to.

Moreover, although two of my friends who sang solos are particularly good at acting, most of the staging on the group numbers was wooden with certain members of the chorus who had zero stage presence looking particularly uncomfortable.  It made me so aware of what the judges are often saying on the competitive TV shows I enjoy watching about the music and dance having to come from the heart.

Two of the pieces were outstanding, including "Queen of the Night" from Mozart's Magic Flute, and one from Donzetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (can't say which aria since the program was all in Japanese).  There was only one particularly painful performance, interestingly enough done by the Soprano with the gaudiest outfit of all.

I wish I could give the names of the soloists who did outstanding performances, but translating names from Japanese is particularly difficult for me.

As usual, I became aware of how much more I enjoy performing myself rather than watching others perform!  However, it was not altogether an unpleasant afternoon.  I just would have enjoyed being able to experience only the highlights more.