Water, water everywhere….

October 2, 2013

water

Water, water everywhere is the theme of this year’s National Poetry day, an annual “nationwide celebration of poetry for everyone everywhere”.  It falls on the first Thursday in October which this year just happens to coincide with Germany’s National day, or Tag der deutschen Einheit, on October 3rd.

When I was learning German (many moons ago!) both my grandmothers, a maths and art teacher respectively, took great delight in showing me what German they knew by reciting a German poem – Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine.  I’m sure that the reason that they could remember it word perfect years after first coming across the poem was due to the repetition of sounds, rhymes and rhythms. They may even have heard and learnt the words set to music.  If so that too would have helped to fix the words in their mind.

The story of the Lorelei luring the fishermen to their death on the Rhine whilst combing her golden hair fits perfectly with the theme for this year’s National poetry day, so if you are tempted to give it a go here are a couple of videos that could be used to introduce it to students.  The first is a spoken version of the poem showing the text with the music of the song version in the background:

The second version the song version without text but is of a boat trip on the Rhine:

Of course is the weather is not so good on National Poetry day maybe a rain inspired poem might fit the bill rather better?

Having got into the theme of water poetry I had a look for French as well.

For younger and beginner learners of French how about this poem entitled La Mer by Paul Fort?  Paul Eluard’s poem Poisson is also quite accessible.  A wider collection of water themed or inspired poems can be found here as well as this anthology put together by a class  from Grenoble.  Finally I found some examples of water inspired poems written by French school children.

With the requirement for pupils to be exposed to  literary texts under the new national curriculum there’s no time like an occasion such as National Poetry Day to get started…

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Celebrating National days – 国庆节快乐!

October 1, 2013

Today (October 1st) is China’s National Day, marking the founding of the People’s Republic of China.  It will be the start of a week long holiday, the so-called Golden week, when many Chinese go travelling.  The BBC learning zone broadband has an excellent short  introduction to National Day in China and customs associated with it. It’s perfect for showing to beginners as it includes basic greetings.

Talking this video clip as a starting point there are many ways in which the theme of National day could be exploited by linking it to the following contexts:

  • Significant dates, both for and individual and a communities (historical events, birthdays etc)
  • The significance of national identity – flags and anthems
  • Customs and traditions, such as dance
  • Travel and holidays – Golden week is a time when many Chinese go on holiday
  • Food – family get-togethers and meals

For more advanced learners the Confucius Institute online has a couple of dialogues discussing National day and they could even look at the words of the National anthem.


Activities for Chinese New Year – Papercutting

February 10, 2013

Paper cutting charactersThis week I’m planning to do some paper cutting activities with the Chinese club I run. This traditional handicraft is particularly associated with festivals such as Chinese New Year (celebrated today), both as gifts and as decorations.  As ever I will show a video first and there are any number to choose from;  this one from Hello China gives some information about the origins of paper cutting and the cultural significance of them.

Then there are a range of videos on Youtube which demonstrate how to do papercutting.  This one shows some beautiful examples of some paper cuts before demonstrating a very straightforward and easy pattern to follow.   Chinese Papercutting HQ has a wholes series of videos starting with a general introduction to papercutting, followed by specific videos such as the basic equipment needed and simple designs to cut out, such as the classic double happiness character. For the more ambitious there is the Monkey pattern and the Butterfly pattern.


Intercultural understanding – Le Jour des Crêpes

January 31, 2013

Chandeleur2

Here in the UK we are just under two weeks away from pancake day, but in some European countries like France, Belgium and Switzerland they will already celebrating their Jour de crêpes this coming Saturday as this day, 2nd February, is La fête de la Chandeleur. 

Depending on what you read and where, this has its origins both in a pagan festival of light (the roundness of the pancakes bearing some semblance to the sun) and in the Christian festival of Candlemas, or Christ’s presentation in the Temple, the word chandeleur being derived from the word for candle chandelle.

Either way it’s another occasion, like Mother’s day, when different cultures mark events in different ways. This means it’s also an opportunity to develop pupils’ sense of intercultural understanding by drawing out the similarities and differences between what we do and when, compared to other cultures.  A simple activity is to sort some statements into those which relate to Pancake day in the UK, those in France and those which relate to both using a Venn diagram as in this .ppt slide:  Le jour des crêpes.

There’s plenty more information as to the origins of La Chandeleur on Wikipedia as well as on sites like Mômes.  This site also includes some rhymes to do with La Chandeleur and some recipes for crêpes.

For more advanced learners of French there is this video explaining the history of La Chandeleur and another on L’histoire des crêpes.


All you need to know in under 45 seconds!

January 29, 2013

In my previous two posts I wrote about a series of short video clips in French and in Chinese.  Now for German…..this  website has a terrific collection (approx 146,000!) of short video clips lasting a mere 45 seconds or less.

They are principally information videos covering a huge range of topics including famous places, people and events.  The sound is, I suspect, computer generated and uses text from Wikipedia articles (Wikipedia.de).  Don’t let that put you off however,  as each video is accompanied by a selection of images relating to the topic which make it clear what it is about even if pupils are unable to understand all that is said;  these images on their own without any sound are particularly useful for giving a culturally specific angle to a topic

These videos would be perfect for developing listening skills at KS5 – pupils could attempt to transcribe what they hear and then compare with the Wikipedia.de entry for that topic.  Even at KS3 and KS4 there are some that would be accessible with some support, or with a simple task;  for example pupils could be asked to list the order in which the colours blue, green, red, white and yellow are mentioned in this video about Newweling (a traditional candle from Mainz).  In the video about the Oktoberfest they could be asked to pick out numbers and dates.


Le tour de France

January 24, 2013

I’ve just come across a fantastic series of videos about regions in France produced by SNCF voyages courtesy of the J’aime le français page on Facebook.  There are over 100 short videos most lasting under 4 minutes which cover the length and breadth of France.  Some are a “visite guidée” to a town or region, so obviously tie in very well with any travel, tourism and holiday related lesson, but there are a surprising number of other videos that relate to other themes:

  • Shopping – this video introduces viewers to Isabelle, a “personal shopper” at the  Galeries Lafayette and to the language to talk about your clothes.  It then moves to a boutique which sells some pretty wacky glasses and shoes, amongst other things, and finally it looks at some areas of Paris with small “trendy” individual shops.
  • Green tourism – in this series of videos a number of personalities (the singer Nolwenn Leroy, the chef Alain Passard, and the explorer Nicolas Vanier) explain what “green tourism” means for them.
  • Food – Un week-end gastronomique  introduces some of the specialities from Lyon and sees the presenter in the kitchen!

And so much more….

These short videos can be exploited in a number or ways, some of which need not involve too much preparation beyond familiarising yourself briefly with the content beforehand:

  • Give pupils a list of some words in French which appear in the video but which are new to them and which could be useful;  get the pupils to put up their hands whenever they hear one of these words
  • Give pupils a short list of words from the video, ask them if they can work out the meaning from the context
  • Choose a few key words from the video, get pupils to put them in the order in which they hear them
  • Pupils jot down words as they watch the video – these could either ones they can work out from the context, or ones they want to know the meaning of
  • To gauge pupils’ level of overall comprehension – give them a series of true/statements to which they respond on mini whiteboards – these statement could be in English or French
  • More advanced pupils could make up their own questions in French about what they have seen, or produce a brief oral or written summary

Chinese culture unwrapped

January 22, 2013

Thanks to our Hanban teacher I’ve just been made aware of Hello China, a terrific set of short video clips which focus on 100 key words that relate to Chinese culture.  Each video clip lasts two to three minutes approximately and starts with an introduction to the word in question in Chinese, together with an English translation of the word.  This is followed by a commentary in English with Chinese subtitles.  More advanced learners of Chinese could pause the video to see if they can pick out the key characters and compare how things are expressed in Chinese and English.

All kinds of cultural topics are covered by the videos, such as:

  • Festivals (Chinese New Year, Mid Autumn Festival, Qing Ming etc)
  • Chinese inventions (abacus, compass, gunpowder, paper, printing)
  • Places (Beijing, Great wall, Three Gorges, Xian)
  • Food (Roast duck, dumplings, noodles)
  • Dress (Cheongsam, Tang suit)
  • People (Confucius, Lao Tzu)
  • Animals and birds (Panda, fish, dragon, phoenix)
  • Dance, Calligraphy, Feng shui, Beijing opera, Kung Fu, Tai chi

and more….

They are easy to integrate into schemes of work based on traditional topics and make for a terrific starter and/or plenary activity – show pupils the video at the start of the lesson and see what they can recall.  They could also be used as a springboard for an activity such as making fans or doing some calligraphy.