Friday, August 27, 2004

Love and Life and the Experiental Metafunction

I've now been teaching English classes at work for over six months. Many of the students in the advanced class are the same ones that I started with and I'm having to become very creative in order to come up with new course content.

When I did teacher training we were repeatedly reminded of the importance of teaching language in context. A 'whole text' approach aims at studying and producing chunks of language with real meaning. Studying isolated sentences or (gasp!) words was strictly frowned upon.

One major advantage of this approach is that it makes the lesson more interesting for the teacher as well as the students. Role-play is a fun way of doing speaking activities. Reading is much more rewarding when the focus is on meaning rather than grammatical form.

After completing a unit on Hong Kong history I felt completely emptied of ideas. The survival English that the class needed for different scenarios in Hong Kong was acheived long ago. That's when I decided that we should take things easy and do a couple of weeks of study of pop song lyrics.

We started with Dionne Warwick's 'The windows of the world are covered with rain' which was very relevant to the student's experience of war and suffering. We then moved on to 'A house is not a home' which lent itself well to an introduction of functional grammar, an incredible theoretical framework for analysing language invented by Macquarie Uni linguist, Michael Halliday.

From there we have now moved on to my all time favourite, the Queen of hip-hop and soul, Mary J. Blige. We continued our exploration of functional grammar with 'Ultimate Relationship', a cool song about time that Mary spends in prayer and meditation each morning. In the last lesson we played a poker type game with cut out pieces of the song. Students got hysterically excited as they tried to collect lines from the same verse. After a couple of listenings the class was like a group kareoke session with all eleven students singing along.

I'm so glad I don't use the grammar translation method of teaching!

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