Friday, September 27, 2013

Week 39; teaching well on the way

This week we dealt with news, and particularly good news, in my Coffee mornings –groups. Last week I asked people to bring  to class a newspaper clipping that had a piece of good news in it. It was quite interesting to see that we all had chosen different news items even though almost all of us had been reading Savon Sanomat. The pieces of good news included for instance a story of a man from Suonenjoki who has solar panels on the top of the roof in his house and also in his yard, and who doesn’t have to buy electricity but who is able to sell it back to the electricity company. There was also a story about an activity club for little children, which has started running in the hinterland of Suonenjoki. Also an article about immigrants and their Finnish studies was very interesting. Another news item that had to do with children was that of a new playground that features Moomin –characters. This playground has been opened in Suonenjoki, and one of the participants has tested this place with his children. He told us that the children have approved of the place, and like it a lot.
I chose a small article on Stephen Hawking, who said that love was the main reason that kept him going when he was diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disease as a young man. He also said that because he knows that any day could be his last, he tries to get the most out of it. Quite a good motto for anyone, I would say!

In Write it down the topic this week was sports that we like. Each participant was supposed to write about his or her favourite forms of physical exercise, and we really got some interesting results. Some like hard physical exercise like running, whereas others prefer for instance taking long walks. For some the aspect of fresh air is important, and somebody wrote that in her opinion physical exercise is the best way to forget your troubles. In this course the main aim is to get people to write about different topics, but I think that we’ll be able to have fruitful conversations during this semester. Looking forward to reading next week’s texts!

Friday, September 20, 2013

New semester; new groups!

First of all: sorry for having such a long break between writings on this blog, but I've been having some technical difficulties over the past few weeks and haven't been able to write anything here. My intention was to start writing on this blog regularly again at the beginning of our autumn semester, but due to these problems I just mentioned I'm only getting started now. But anyway, a new autumn term has just started, and I’ve had a chance to meet my new groups and students. Many of the students are people I already know from the previous school year, but there are plenty of people who were new to me. It’s really refreshing to meet so many people who are interested in the English language!

I’m also pleased to notice that my new ideas were –for the most part- received very well. For instance, courses like Matkustan ympäri maailmaa and Write it down got enough people in them, so they started running. Matkustan ympäri maailmaa (Travelling around the world; the name taken from a Finnish children’s song) deals with travelling in different ways. Write it down is a course with no specific times, dates or even classroom interaction, because people take part in it via the internet and e-mail. The very idea behind this course is to offer a language course also for those people who don’t or won’t or can’t come to class every week. Like the title suggests, we mainly discuss interesting topics that change weekly, and we exchange ideas in our own discussion group I've created on our website. 

I also had a course called Rakastan rakenteita! (I love grammar!) on offer, but it didn’t have enough people to enroll in it, so it didn’t start. Too bad, but I can understand why just a few people like grammar. I suppose us language teachers are a different breed; we just simply love complex structures and try to find the logic behind them. We are convinced that difficult grammatical structures and exceptions to the rules are not made just to harass language learners, but that there is actually some reason for them. Having said that, I still think that the English language is a challenging one. For instance, a langauage learner might be a bit puzzled having heard that English phrases like a fat chance and a slim chance mean the same thing... or that if Peter owns something, the correct genitive form is Peter's, but if he has something, it is not he's because he's means he is. Small things for a language, sometimes overwhelming things for a language learner. Well, us Finns should not complain; our mother tongue is grammatically quite difficult and has many features that drive learners of Finnish mad. For instance, in English you come from London etc., but in Finnish you might olla kotoisin Lahdesta, Helsingistä, Tampereelta, Kälviältä. Four different endings -sta, -stä, -lta and -ltä and they all mean the same thing! And why is it Lahdesta; why not Lahti + -sta = Lahtista..? Talk about illogical languages...