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Julie Blake

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  • Location
    Eastbourne, East Sussex
  • Interests
    Teaching A Level English Language (and a bit of A Level English Literature when they let me out of the Linguistics cupboard)

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  1. I'm still investigating the options but am working on the idea... For AS/A2 English Language podcasting seems to have much potential for giving students better access to spoken language data, and for encouraging them to save and store the data they collect themselves in a format they can share more easily than with nasty cassette tape retro-tech.
  2. I think that one of the impotant things that we teach students is how to use the internet, and for what purposes it is best suited. I find they tend to think rather indiscriminately that everything in the known universe can be accessed immediately and in a wholly digestible form entirely suited to whatever purpose they have. Whilst I think I would actually shrivel up and die without an internet connection, their perception is clearly not always true. So, I've devised a lesson that I'm really looking forward to teaching, based on an article I read in the newspaper (The Guardian, in case you're interested) before Christmas. In this article, two journalists raced against each other to find the answers to a number of questions, one using the internet, the other using a pile of standard printed reference books and/or 'phone a friend'. The findings were very interesting, and much more varied than I'd predicted. So, my class are going to need to do some work reading about different dialect studies that have been conducted. I'm going to give them a list of studies, and a short set of questions that they have to answer about each one. In pairs, one will use a computer, and one will use a pile of standard A Level English Language text books and reference books, and they will time who gets the answers the most quickly. Then we will evaluate what we have learned about internet VS book-based research. I've set the studies and the questions up in such a way that it should bring up useful points of discussion about accessibility of information, how recently the information was produced, control by publishers, quality of information for purpose, skills needed to access information efficiently, etc. Not only should this develop their research skills, and help them to be more critical about different sources and the benefits of using multiple sources, but it should also engage them in exploring dialect studies in a really fun hands-on way. Well, here's hoping, anyway!...
  3. Of course I missed you! Hope you enjoyed inspection... I think I am the only mad crazy fool in the world who ever has enjoyed it, but I thought it was fun! However, it should be noted (a) that we had a fantastic inspector for English that we all wanted to join our team and ( she gave me the correct grades for my lessons and © I am the most competitive person in the world and I thought it was just like playing a really hard, wily game of tennis. I know, I need certifying... Anyway, thanks for the stuff on Old Bailey et al - I hadn't seen that site so was well chuffed to be pointed in its direction. I've started working on new ideas for teaching with ICT - check out my post on the E-HELP bit of the forum (under international projects on the main page) for details of what I'm up to with an online forum for supervising my A2 coursework projects. Only time will tell if it succeeds, cos we only started coursework last week, but the students think it's very groovy, and I find it a zillion times more effective than trying to have corridor conversations. Technically speaking there is no need for either me or my students to go in for lessons, but I think even my lovely boss would struggle to let me get away with that one!! Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who posted ideas - really really helpful!!
  4. The other experiment I'm conducting at the moment, in using ICT for teaching and learning, is in using the blog format (it's so easy to do!) as an online mechanism for supporting my A2 English Language students' individual coursework projects. It's too early to say how successful it will be, as we only started it two weeks ago, but early indications are that the students really enjoy using it, and it increases the quality of what I'm able to do. Each student is required to produce a 2000-4000 word report on an investigation into a specific aspect of language. I have 21 students in the class and they are all doing individual projects, and all need individual advice and guidance. I only have 2 lessons a week, one of an hour and one of an hour and a half. That gives me the grand total of slightly less than 7.5 minutes a week with each student face to face - nowhere near enough!! So, I've set up a team blog. Every student is a member of the team. We started off with each student posting his/her initial ideas. Then we used the comments function. Mostly this has been used for me to engage in dialogue with the student, but I'm hoping to encourage them to comment on each other's. This is something that would improve their learning, I'm sure, but they are a bit hesitant to do this at the moment. Since then, I have posted a list of links to useful websites, and the task they need to do next. This will require them to post their finalised research question, and an outline of their proposed methodology. Again, I will comment and encourage mutual problem solving. The great thing is that I can give students who engage as much individual feedback as they ask for. All of them are keen to engage at the moment, but I'm keeping a close eye on who is posting, to make sure no-one slips through the net. The other thing is that I don't waste time repeating task instructions to each person individually, or having to remember them if a student is absent - it's all there on the blog. I can't let you see the site in action at the moment, because I told the students it was for their eyes only - with the proviso that I may invite one or two special "guest speakers" to post on it. This is to encourage them to "talk" freely, as I learned from the Langauge Legend that they are very shy if "strangers" are involved. However, it is my plan to seek their consent to use this material once the coursework project is completed. They are likely to give me that, but I don't want to change the nature of the interaction while we are doing it. If anybody's interested to see the outcome later, do let me know...
  5. Here is my offering, though I'm a little uncomfortable about holding my own work up when its quality is a matter for other people to judge... http://languagelegend.blogspot.com I created this blog as an experiment to see what would happen. I teach A Level English Language (and Literature) in a sixth form college, and we are always trying to impress upon our students the value and importance of wider reading. I had long felt that although many of my students were perfectly keen, they didn't really know where to start with this kind of directive because their independent study skills are generally rather squashed by the GCSE experience. Also, Language is such a huge area that it can be rather difficult to know where to start. Also, English Language students often choose the course with a vague idea that they want to "do" English, but they don't want to read any books. That's fine with me as I don't read enough books either, though the reasons for this are probably rather different! However, like my students, I do read a lot of material online, and my hunch was that if I gave them an online gateway they probably would read around the subject. I was also rather interested in the blogging phenomenon, as my experience of setting up a class website before had been very time-consuming. Blogging is much more rough and ready - look, here's something interesting - and so easy just about anyone can do it. So, I set up the Language Legend, and directed my students to using it. Twice a week I write a post introducing hyperlinks to articles in the media on some aspect of English Language. These are generally linked to topics on the AQA B syllabus, because that's what I teach, but if there is something of a wider interest, I'm not averse to posting that too. There are links to useful websites, and a comments box to add a bit of interactivity. I have once or twice set them homework to read something and post a comment, so that I could see they'd done it, but generally I just leave them to get on with it. In class I refer to articles that have featured on it, and usually about half of the class show recognition, and often want to engage in debate about the ideas raised. I am now working with them on their A2 investigation coursework, and it has had three key benefits. (1) Overall, their ideas for coursework projects are far better than in any previous year simply because they have clearly read more. Though the spread of grades is likely to be similar, they have come up with much stronger starting points, and they have genuinely been able to identify real interests that have developed from their reading. (2) I have an archive of articles from the media about language that they can draw on in developing their ideas. (3) I would say that it has contributed to a high level of motivation in the class - partly because most of my students like doing things with ICT, and partly because it helps them see the connection between their academic study and the everyday world around them. When it was clear from my class experiment that this was quite A Good Thing, I made the address available to users of an email discussion forum for UK English Language A Level teachers. It's now averaging 5-600 hits a month, so somebody must be finding it useful! What I am interested to explore further is the whole business of interactivity. I have saved every comment posted in the comments box so far (I wipe it every now and then). It has surprised me how little the users engage in discussion. One of my vaguely realised goals was to encourage students not just to read but also to engage in this kind of discourse, and this has been much less successful. As soon as I get a little more time, I plan to explore this and try to make some adjustments to the format to encourage it. All suggestions gratefully received.
  6. I'd have most of the songwriters nominated on the other thread (Johnny Cash is definitely in despite being a bit dead, plus we need a few women so let's add Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams for a start) then after dinner they could whip out their guitars and we could have an unbelievably cool session with no political/philosophical argument whatsoever but very very groovy music. I'm not going to get invited to this party again, am I??!!
  7. Ah well, being an English teacher, I have a whole head full of favourite quotations, with a definite penchant for the truly heartbreaking moments, but in this season of goodwill and sherry-fuelled merriment, my choice would be from F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night, when Dick Diver declares, "I want to give a really bad party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there's a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see." "'Teehee', quod she" to sneak a quick one in from Chaucer before the end... Julie
  8. Ah, the splendid Leonard Cohen, though I'd nominate Bird On A Wire myself. Hmm, now I'm thinking of a category, into which LC clearly belongs, of songwriters you can only listen to while lying on the floor with a bottle of Jack Daniels...
  9. We definitely need a category for greatest writers of most hilarious bits of lyrics. My votes go to the following: Warren Zevon for Werewolves of London and sheer audaciousness! "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein Ah-oo, Werewolves of London" John Prine for Speed of the Sound of Loneliness and coming home curly! "You come home late and you come home early You come on big when you're feeling small You come home straight and you come home curly Sometimes you don't come home at all" Kirsty MacColl for managing to get chip shops and Elvis into the same line "There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis Just like you swore to me that you'd be true There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis But he's a xxxx and I'm not sure about you" Now that is true greatness! E-Julie
  10. I was on the phone this week to a very helpful soul from one of the nation's new and exciting e-learning resource suppliers. She was taking me on a guided tour of the features and facilities I might want to buy. I've promised to give my full verdict later, but when I said my immediate response was that it was all a bit flat - just chunks of text on a screen instead of a page, she replied "well, you can't do very much with English" and went on to explain the greater suitability of science to this medium - animated diagrams of the heart pumping, etc. I told her I didn't agree, and it's certainly a "debate" I've had with my colleagues, who mostly think that digital resources are only of very occasional use in English teaching. They concede the exalted virtue of Andrew's website for revision purposes, but apart from that, see it all as over-hyped gimcrackery. It doesn't, of course, help that we teach in a shed where multi-media is a set of exploding sockets that make showing a video a major technological challenge, but I'm interested to explore this. I'm perfectly fine with using presentational tools, and can no longer imagine lesson preparation without the internet, but what I want to get to grips with is creating materials for my students to use in English that are more than chunks of text on the page. So what I'm asking is, is there a set of tools one can purloin for the job? I'm familiar with hot potatoes, but what else is there? Are there more sophisticated ways of assessing learning than this? I don't want to learn really techie stuff with code, though I don't mind manipulating it - I want off the peg mini-gizmos I can play about with and adapt to my own ends. Can anyone point me in the right direction? Preferably without running amuck with my credit card!... I'm just not sure where to start looking... Maybe a course (though preferably not...)?....
  11. Well, I was going to say that I now feel a bit less like a freak as a result of these responses, but then I remembered Andrew Brown's piece from last week (he writes a column for subscribers to The Wrap, the Guardian's email news service). In it he argued that the internet was the greatest threat to global security, providing disaffected second generation immigrants with the opportunity to find an outlet for their disaffection in online communities that encourage terrorism. The problem, he suggests rather sweepingly, is that online communities do not have the same checks and balances that "normal" communities have, allowing like-minded people to express shared views in language that none find at all alarming or odd. So where does that leave us, I wonder?.... I didn't know I had terrorist potential...
  12. What me?... I teach English at A Level in a sixth form college. I specialise in English Language, but I'm a happy all-rounder who also enjoys teaching literature for a change. Though my teaching partners would tell you I'm not that much of an all-rounder as I always make them do the plays and I never teach child language acquisition. But apart from that... I maintain an English Language blog, posting twice a week in term time (a bit less in August) on stories in the news that raise language issues - http://languagelegend.blogspot.com.
  13. Hmmm, I always feel strangely as though I'm barging in on someone else's conversation here, but maybe that's just me getting to grips with the conventions of online discussion... Anyway, I'm sufficiently interested to get over myself in order to comment on one of the threads in Andrew's guide, this idea that the degree of openness and privacy in communication is shaped or supported in different ways by different technologies. This kind of line of enquiry is far more interesting than the "new words and smileys" approach that was putting me off teaching this topic. (NB "smilies" just looks all wrong to me and appears, besides, to be current orthographic practice amongst teenagers for the word previously spelled "similies"... ) I'm thinking a lot about this at the moment having been brutally savaged in conversation at a dinner party last weekend. These were some of my oldest and dearest friends, but whilst I see communications technologies as a hugely liberating source of good, they regard them as little short of pure evil. This made conversation a bit tense when they asked "so what have you been up to". Not wanting to talk about work, and knowing their current child-rearing activity rules out all conversation about films, books, or music, I picked what I thought was an innocuous topic - "I've been having fun catching up with some long lost friends, and getting to know some new ones". Much interest was expressed at first, until they asked me what I'd been doing with all these buddies, and I said "talking", and they said "yes, but where". After I'd explained what i-messaging was, they went for me. It was an interesting experience in the hostility that technology can arouse... What they were arguing so vociferously was that the relationships that this kind of communication produces are not real. Though none of them have used i-messaging, they were able to cite several articles from the broadsheets along the general lines of "how email ruined my life", Friends Reunited reunion orgies, etc, etc.... Their argument rested on the idea that computer mediated communication creates a false sense of intimacy because (1) it can be very private and (2) there is no social mediation of conversational openness. People say things they wouldn't ordinarily say, using language they wouldn't ordinarily use. This is clearly a lazy red wine generalisation. When emailing my (distant, little known, power-crazed) Principal I deliberately express myself in a very guarded way, using very formal means of expression. As with anything to do with language, it's all about context. However, in computer-mediated communication with friends, I do use language differently, it's true. I shall have to get my class to investigate this properly because it's too methodologically dodgy to investigate myself, but these are my observations so far based on all kinds of computer mediated conversations with many friends. They are vague "thinking aloud" generalisations at this stage. 1) Less frequent swearing than in face to face speech - something to do with writing it down, maybe, but also related to the next point... 2) A much less combative style. It's weird, and I don't quite know how to explain this yet, but I feel far more able to articulate myself in the gentle, cooperative manner much attributed to my gender than I do in any face to face situation - indeed, even with the same friends. 3) An ability to do "small talk" that I find very taxing in face to face conversation with new people. This may be because there is less opportunity to lose face. 4) An ability to strike up conversation because all I have to do is log on and say "hi"; it doesn't matter that I have nothing in particular to say. It's a bit like sitting in the common room of your hall of residence, and you just chat to whoever walks in. This is a very different dynamic from ringing someone up when you just feel like a chat. Though other people, especially women, seem far more comfortable with this, I never quite know how to start this kind of conversation. This gives rise to far more interesting and philosophical issues about what kind of crazy screwed up world we live in where communication has become so fraught with difficulty. So, yes, I think the interaction of language and these technologies does create a greater intimacy between people, but this, to me, is a huge improvement! It only has as much potential to cause pain and heartache (cue David Beckham's text messaging...) as the people who are using it. We make choices... In terms of teaching this stuff, I now have an interesting idea for a mini-investigation, but can anyone point me to some decent secondary material? Have Tim's book, which will be very useful, though the bit about the language of cyberpets and furbies did nearly kill me...
  14. You can get a "word of the day" by email from the OED without being a subscriber. Sometimes these words are useful teaching material for language change, sometimes they're not, but if you sign up for the free email you can pick and choose.
  15. I answered Sian's original question about this on the English Language list offlist, which was really funny (and a bit sad) cos she only teaches down the corridor from me!! Haven't taught Lang & Lit for a while now (thank heavens, as I hate it...) but suggested the following light reading to her to help with the language change part. Crystal's encyclopaedia of the English Language pp83-97, and Robert McCrum's Story of English chapters 6 and 7. There's other stuff but that's a start on issues of development of American English, and Black English Vernacular. E-Julie
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