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Amparo Bertram

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05:22 am: More progress than expected
I meant to post yesterday, but I, um, fell asleep.

In the morning, I was approached by the head of the English department. There was a policy change at our school to make one class a week for the seniors major-specific. So the information/business major students will take a class related to their major, the fashion design/service majors will take something in their field, and of course the English majors will take an English class.

The English teachers were kind of upset by this, because the English students are *already* steeped in English to the point it makes them crazy sometimes, so adding yet another on top of this seems like overkill. (It's part of a national initiative to stop student performance from dropping the way it has been recently.) They thought it would be more helpful to give the students an extra class in their *minor* subjects, the ones they *don't* spend enough time on, like math or science. But no dice. The best we could do was modify it to be "International Awareness" rather than just "English."

So they're planning on making a couple different optional classes based on topic, which the students can select depending on their interests. The head of the English department came to ask if I'd be willing to handle one of the sections. He thought I might want to do a section on ASL, since I had mentioned that I thought it would be helpful to teach the students to sign the alphabet (it would help them distinguish hard-to-differentiate letters like B and D, plus it might help their spelling retention if they are actually moving their hands--hard to mix up R and L that way), though I told him that the alphabet was really all I knew.

He mentioned that there are only 7 teachers total in the English department, and the ones who are already homeroom teachers are excluded to avoid overworking them. (It didn't occur to me until later that he may have been asking if I wanted to teach the class *solo*...I'll have to clarify that.) In any case, I started to give him a list of specific topics I would feel comfortable teaching (e.g. public speaking), but he cut me off before I finished; I guess he was in a hurry. We'll see how this shakes out.

In the afternoon, I worked on my yukata for a couple hours and managed to finish hemming the body. It seems the exchange student has already finished hers, leaving the sewing teacher at a loss as to what to do with her for the next term. (The yukata project is supposed to last through June.)

When my hands started sweating buckets (as is inevitable), I used one of the rubber grippy things that amilyn suggested and megory mailed to me, and it worked like a charm. After I finished, I showed it to the sewing teacher, who was fascinated by it. They don't have such things here. People who sew here use thimbles that are metal rings intended to fit around the middle finger just above the knuckle; you bend your finger and push the back of the needle with the thimble. It never occurred to her that one might *pull* the needle.

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From:amilyn
Date:March 4th, 2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
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Aren't those rubber thingies the Best Ever?

And good quilting thimbles...the ones with a ridge around the outer edge so the needle won't slide?

Also glorious.
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From:mvrdrk
Date:March 4th, 2005 05:11 pm (UTC)
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There are all kinds of cool thimble like things out there. I think the one that looks coolest is the one that slips on a long fingernail and looks like a nail ornament.

Personally, I stick with the soft goatskinned ones, but the rubber pull ones are great too.
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From:wiliqueen
Date:March 4th, 2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
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Best to only teach the alphabet anyway. ASL is a whole different language. :-)

And I never thought of using a rubber grippy thing to pull a needle either. Although I'm more comfortable pushing anyway. And my plastic thimble with the open back doesn't cause too much problem.
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:March 5th, 2005 12:53 pm (UTC)
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Best to only teach the alphabet anyway. ASL is a whole different language. :-)

They already have Chinese and Korean as third-language options...maybe he was thinking something along those lines?

The students in the Service major already take Japanese sign language, so he might have been thinking as a parallel to that.
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From:wiliqueen
Date:March 6th, 2005 07:50 am (UTC)
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Which would be really fascinating, and most likely useful to those students. The Deaf community tends to get multilingual even more quickly than hearing folks when the come in contact with foreigners.
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From:basicblack
Date:March 5th, 2005 02:58 am (UTC)
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The ASL thing is certainly an interesting idea. It would broaden their education, and you put forward a convincing argument for how it could be helpful.

I do wonder why students who are otherwise extremely talented at English don't seem to have been much taught about the correct pronounciation of Rs and Ls. Being out there you're undoubtedly in a better position to mull on that one than I am! Hitomi said they mainly focused on reading when she was learning though, and speaking wasn't a priority...
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From:spacealien_vamp
Date:March 5th, 2005 01:02 pm (UTC)
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I do wonder why students who are otherwise extremely talented at English don't seem to have been much taught about the correct pronounciation of Rs and Ls.

It's not that they aren't taught. They are. It's that they can't hear any difference. The two literally sound exactly the same to them. They can't tell when they're doing it right, so they definitely can't tell when they're mixing them up. Even the teachers, who have been studying and practicing English for years, often can't hear the difference. (I had a very difficult time once trying to describe to a teacher--one who had spent a significant amount of time in the US--that there was a difference between "crash" and "clash.")

Hitomi said they mainly focused on reading when she was learning though, and speaking wasn't a priority...

Speaking is, unfortunately, not emphasized. The most practice they ever get is repeating in chorus individual words or sentences after my example. That's one of the reasons the head of the English department is thinking of making one of the new Wednesday classes an oppurtunity for speech practice.
[User Picture]
From:basicblack
Date:March 6th, 2005 01:14 am (UTC)
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Hopefully then it would at least be enjoyable for them, even though it means more work.

One of my friends who I was recently talking to about pronounciation has got it absolutely nailed now. When we're talking she corrects herself if she says r instead of l because she's been practising. I hope I can get good enough in Japanese so all she needs to do is help me with my pronounciation... :)
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From:megory
Date:March 5th, 2005 11:18 am (UTC)

What about TPRS?

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Total Physical Response Storytelling is a method I keep hearing about in world language teacher conferences, textbooks, and other teacher resource communications. I watched a video of a Milwaukee inner city Spanish teacher using it with his students. It was amazing how involved the students were! The student comments to the interviewer included thoughts like, "The class goes so fast!" or "It really helps me remember."

It's not exactly any sign language in particular, but the class uses agreed upon signs to represent words. Then they can make up stories or sentences and use the signs with them. Sometimes the teacher speaks and the students "sign" what the teacher is saying. Sometimes the students make up the story. It was a very interesting video.

On March 10 and 11 I'll be taking workshops on TPRS. Maybe then I'll know what I'm talking about.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:March 5th, 2005 01:11 pm (UTC)

Re: What about TPRS?

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It's not exactly any sign language in particular, but the class uses agreed upon signs to represent words. Then they can make up stories or sentences and use the signs with them. Sometimes the teacher speaks and the students "sign" what the teacher is saying. Sometimes the students make up the story. It was a very interesting video.

I think just the fact that they'd be moving would interest them.

Add to that the curiosity due to the "secret code" factor. (I occasionally use some alphabet signs while I'm spelling something out--"V" is especially helpful, because the Japanese pronounce it "bui" [bwee] and can't understand when I say "vee." Afterward, the students sometimes confer secretively with each other..."So *this* must mean B...")

Plus, I think it would also help the students who are too shy to raise their voices in class to answer. We have a lot of multiple choice problems in the book. If they can answer by raising their hands with the right letter sign, it might help them be more willing to participate.
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