Camille Pissarro – Toits rouges, coin d’un village, hiver Côte de Saint-Denis, Pontoise, 1877

14 08 2011

Camille Pissarro - Toits rouges, coin d'un village, hiver Côte de Saint-Denis, Pontoise, 1877

Pissarro has always been one of my favourite impressionists and this is one of my favourite works of his.  For starters the colours are full of life the reds of the earth and greens of the grass speak much more of life than the barren browns of the trees, but the patchwork effect of the fields bending up the hill and the criss-crossing branches seems to ooze life from even the bleakest season of the year.  The parallel patchwork of the rooftops hints at a harmony between man-made and nature-made whose logical manifestation are the ploughed fields – man and nature in creative union.  

The colours are vivid and vibrant but the overall effect is one of serenity, of a world at peace and in which we can appreciate the beauty of nature and the life of man together.  The bushes that protect the house mirror in form the trees atop the hill, which frame (and protect) all we see below them.  What would reward us were we to climb such a steep and curving hill?  Another blissful scene of village and valley?  

And looking at the green going up the hill, are they the three prongs of the fork used to plough the field?  Is the earth asking for man to give it back what it’s ceded in kind?  I have looked hard and long for signs of people in the picture, but I’m pretty sure there’s no one there.  And yet in the solidity of the buildings, buried staunchly in the centre of the picture by man and by the artist, there is a human presence with almost as much of an eternality to it as the seasonal landscape that surrounds and caresses it.  Perhaps Camille was trying to warn us that our environment will only last as long as we do, or was he giving us the confidence to think we’ll last as long as the earth itself? 

A picture to come back to again and again, it soothes the eyes but energises at the same time.  How I’d love to be able to wind my way between the trees and discover the village pub (for me the steep green roofed building, just in front of the mansion at the back of the village), slip inside and discover the artist having a well-deserved lunch break with the picture almost finished beside him.  


Massacring Masterpieces

14 08 2011

Camille Pissarro - Toits rouges, coin d'un village, hiver Côte de Saint-Denis, Pontoise, 1877

I love visiting galleries and enjoying works of art.  I’m not even an amateur connoisseur of art however, I just look at whatever is put in front of me and have a think about it.  Massacring Masterpieces is where I share those thoughts, hopefully giving you another angle on my Loving Life, and at worst adding some classy colour and impressive images to the blog.  Would love to hear your thoughts on the masterpieces I choose as well as your thoughts on on my thoughts.  Enjoy. 

One way or another

14 08 2011

Another short, sharp punky riff I guess.  Good for pogo-ing to if you use the tune I’ve got going for it in my head.

One way or another

you remind me,

of another

The sparkling smile

the wondering why

the softest skin

as I welcome you in

One way or another

you remind me

of another

The glittering smile

the reasoning why

the cleanest skin

as I suck you in

One way or another

you make me,

lose another

The breaking heart

the falsest start

the wondering how

I could be here now

One way or another

you make me

lose another

The screaming heart

the stuttering start

the presuming how

I could see you now

One way or another

you will find me

with another

The chance to be

 your mystery

the freshest face

 of your latest taste

One way or another

you will find me

with another

The hope to be

your eternity

The purest face

of your fated taste

There’s only one way

I know no other

I know no other

I know no no no…

A brilliant feeling of fulfillment

13 08 2011

I’ve just spent the last two weekends in Montevideo, Uruguay, a three hour ferry ride across the world’s widest river from my home town, Buenos Aires.  They have been a hugely rewarding, fun, stimulating, knackering two weekends full of new faces, interesting ideas, invigorating enthusiasm, knowledge retrieval,  developing teachers, welcoming smiles, new learning, lovely lunches, three-hour wifi-less ferry crossings, delightful dinners, unwanted 5am car alarm wake-up calls, and informative note-swapping with like-minds in different contexts.  Challenge, creativity, responsibility and learning were all there in abundance.  And they will continue to be there for the next four months of this blended Delta One preparation course (mostly the next two months with a lull before the mock in November and the exam itself in December).  A veritable fulfillment fiesta!

I have been challenged to prepare 22 teachers of varying backgrounds, experience, knowledge and motivations to take the Delta 1 exam in December; to design a course that suits their varying needs and wants, to deliver that course in a short timeframe with only two weekend visits available for face2face sessions; to design a blended learning support system from scratch wihout incurring costs; to organise and motivate the teachers to continue with the course through to the exam.  And I love it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled. 

I created an entire Delta One course, 12 face2face sessions and 9 weekly exam practice modules.  Ok, that’s not strictly true.  I adapted the face2face sessions from the face2face course we ran here in Buenos Aires 18 months ago, stripping down the super sessions created by my colleagues to 90 minute mosaics of Delta Module mayhem, attempting to introduce, remind, extend and exhume the candidates knowledge and experience of the Delta syllabus.  Pretty creative stuff, nevertheless.  A challenging and enjoyable jigsaw where I had to throw away half the pieces and add in a few of my own to complete the picture as best I could.

Mangling the raw material of a past paper and welding it onto an online wiki space to create the Delta One online exam practice equivalent of a Michaelangelo was an entirely different creative kettle of fish, but just as fun in its unique and unruly manner.  And I loved it.  And I’ve been feeling fulfilled. 

I am now deeply immersed in the responsibility of giving these teachers the best possible chance to do themselves and their uncountable talents justice in the pressure cooker of a Cambridge-invigilated exam hall.  I’m responsible for keeping them on track, for covering the syllabus, for supporting and facilitating and guiding and cajoling and pushing (and maybe shoving?) and relaxing and invigorating and picking up and adjusting and entertaining and…and I love it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled.

And, my oh my, am I learning and learning and learning.  Almost certainly learning more than my charges are.  Had to learn the wiki back to front in no time.  Had to learn how the charges learned and where they were at and how they’d get to be in next to no time.  Had to learn how to deal with my fast-fading memory of all things organisational in I can’t quite remember how much time.  Had to relearn all I’d learnt while on the Delta myself and while last doing the course all those months ago (a great gorging of gratitude to Jim (R.I.P. wherever you are, you live on within so many of us) and Dana in Prague and my colleagues here in Buenos Aires for all the knowledge I’ve acquired from you) in a matter of days.  And I’ve loved it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled. 

But I also feel human and I know it’s only part of my work and while I’m involved in the doing and the challenge it brings and the creativity it demands and the responsibility it brings and the learning it offers I feel fulfilled.  But I’m still left wanting something more.  What’s wrong with us humans? 

All in

12 08 2011

Actually a new song I whipped off on the ferry last weekend, hence the waves and the horizon.  It’s a shape song, like many of them seem to be.  Perhaps short a verse or two, what you think?

Waves crash down as I try to run

Heart beats fast under the setting sun

Horizon shrinks as I push on down

Spinning around can’t make a sound

I’m sinking

I’m thinking

I’m drinking

You all in

Lights flash round as I cry for fun

Legs leave last as the day is done

Horizon shrinks as I rush around

Dancing in town can’t bring me down

I’m thinking

I’m sinking

I’m drinking

You all in

I’m drinking you in

I’m taking you out

I’m thinking you’re skin

I’m sinking your doubts

I’m thinking

I’m sinking

I’m drinking

You all in

You all in

B2 Listening & Vocab Lesson Plan – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

11 08 2011

B2 Listening lesson – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

This is a lesson I’m teaching Monday morning as an observed lesson on the CELTA.  It’s based on Unit 3A of Straightforward Upper Intermediate (Kerr & Jones, Macmillan 2006) – an excellent course book, as course books go.  

The worksheet provides a lead-in and a test-teach-test vocab pre-teach stage. 

The second page is a word grab which can serve as both the freer practice for the vocab and the gist task for the listening.  If you don’t have the Straighforward book for the detailed listening, I’m sure you’ll find the links online.  

Enjoy, and as always if you do use the materials please let us know how you get on.

Post-Lesson Update

The lesson went well this morning and the students did lots of talking, learnt some new idiomatic (and I think quite useful) vocab and did some intensive listening practice.  They said they enjoyed the song and their continued exploration of British tribal culture (I wonder if the Celtees will mention the riots at any point?)

The level was actually more challenging than I’d thought it would be, for quite a strong Upper Intermediate (B2) class.  The vocab was mostly new, as expected, and they were motivated to learn it and try to use it.  In the teach stage we looked at flatter and flattered as well as flattery – all useful stuff.  Some fun drilling ensued, with me giving them compliments or criticisms and them replying I’m flattered or reacting angrily to criticism.  

The listening was challenging.  The vocab grab was fun,. but there was a lot of misgrabs (probably because of all the f-words), so it needs careful monitoring.  They were able to decide on the correct part of speech successfully most of the time but had quite a bit of trouble deciding which words went in which gaps – this needs plenty of time and careful monitoring to be successful, but it’s a more worthy exercise than just listening and filling – it really gets them to think about the meaning of the vocab and how to decide what goes where through context.

Just wish I’d got through the warmer quicker and left more time for feedback after the detailed listening, but at least I know now this will be a whole 90 minute lesson with my Advanced Ones tomorrow.  

Post Advanced One Lesson Update

As suspected, this material easily filled up an hour and a half at Advanced One level (C1).  They had a lot to say about the best brands and why they liked them and we corrected their pronunciation of a few labels and clothes words.  I was surprised to find they didn’t know any of the pre-teach vocab words except one student who knew flatter, so the test stage was a tad demotivating for them.  But they enjoyed learning the new vocab and we had lots of personalised examples of flattery and flitting and fads (apparently fur-lined boots are the fad of the moment?). They were able to do the part of speech exercise very well and that helped them a lot to predict which words went in which gaps, but it took them time and they didn’t get them all, but once they listened most of them were able to fill the gaps correctly.  Definitely a challenging listening, motivating vocab and it fitted in nicely with a word formation exercise in their course book (Advanced Expert – Page 61) about fashion and buying trends.  All in all a fun and useful lesson – I recommend it!

C2 Lesson Plan – London Riots

10 08 2011

C2 Reading London Riots Independent article

Read this great article after a twitter recommendation from @harrisonmike and immediately thought it would make for a better lesson for my Prof Twos this evening than what Proficiency Gold had in store for them.

It’s a reading lesson, that leads into further reading, summary writing and then full-blown article writing.  It’s in first draft mode at the moment, will update it after the lesson and following on from your comments.

Just a worksheet for now, reflective lesson plan to follow tomorrow hopefully after the lesson.  I realise there’s no vocab focus in a lexically rich text, but I only taught this class twice so not got much of a grip on what they’ll know or not, so will let them lead me on that – opening that can of worms I always tell my Celtees to leave on the shelf.

Wish me luck with the lesson and I hope it’s helpful to some of you too.

Post Lesson Update

A stimulating lesson – the students hadn’t heard much about the riots and were surprised such things were happening in the land of five o’clock tea.  They have much more experience of this type of thing happening much closer to home.  

In the lesson we did Task 4 before Task 3 – when creating the worksheet I was thinking the paragraph exercise was more gisty than the detailed task, but before class I decided they needed to understand the text in detail to be able to do this task justice and that was borne out in the lesson.

They were surprisingly critical of the article and the paragraph summary led to the realisation that the author was narrowing down the argument to promote her charity (paragraph three got particular criticism – mentioning social media just to sound trendy and cool?).  Having said that, it was interesting to see the students tended to summarise the paragraphs rather than discuss what their purpose was.  This will definitely lead in to a writing lesson where they try and emulate the paragraph model.

My worries about the vocab challenge of the text ended up being unfounded, they didn’t have problems with it all.  There were a couple of phrases (e.g. insidious flourishing) they didn’t quite get but nothing that detracted from their understanding of the article.

Am looking forward to their summaries – getting into the mind of the mob mentality was the follow up article they chose.  What about your students? Which article did they chose?