In School in Germany/ Genre of the Week: Pelmanism- From the Novel: Don’t Try This At Home by Paul Reizin

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This Genre of the Week looks at a novel that may look ordinary to some readers who go through the whole book (or even half of it before putting it down for another one) and judge it as textbook style- where the protagonist gets caught in a situation where he has to find his way out.

The novel “Don’t Try This At Home,” by Paul Reizin looks at the protagonist from a first person point-of-view, who ends up being entangled in a mafia, getting in trouble with the law, and in bed with several girls in the process. All of these are by accident; all of these despite his attempts of getting himself out of the situation, only to end up digging himself even deeper in a hole until his wit, quick thinking and a little romance got himself out in the end.  How it all happened and what his personal life was like is worth reading and interpreting yourself. 🙂

Yet Reizin’s novel also features a few unconventional games that are worth trying, if you knew how they were played and done it wisely. Pelmanism is one of those games mentioned and described in the novel.

And while in the book Pelmanism had experiments with different types of alcohol while guessing what they were without looking, the game itself can be a useful one that provides the players of all ages with valuable learning experiences in all subjects of study.

Especially, when learning foreign languages!!!! 😀

I’ve been using this game for all my English classes since 2004- most of the time when we have our last course meeting as a group before the semester ends and we part ways for other commitments in life- and the game features words that are sometimes forgotten by some and unknown by others. It also presents some of the typical things and characteristics of some students. All it takes is some guessing what the objects are and who they belong to.

 

The object of the game is simple. You need:

A sheet of paper and a writing utensil

A timer

And a bag with ten personal items- the items should be small enough to fit in a cloth bag (not a see-through plastic one)

 

How the game is played goes like this:

One student grabs a bag and places the contents on the table in the middle, while other students close their eyes and/or look away as the contents are being taken out. Once all the items are on the table, that student signals the rest of the group to open their eyes and look at the table and the objects.  At this point, students have one minute to identify the ten items on the table in their working language, namely the foreign language they are learning. At the same time, they should guess who these objects belong to.

Once the teacher, who runs the timer, says “Stop!”, the students are called on upon random to name the objects and who they belong to. The student, who gets all the objects right as well as the correct person, will be the next one that chooses another bag, and repeats the same procedure.

This whole process continues until all the bags are used up or the teacher ends the game for time reasons.  There is no clear winner, but the objective of the game is to get the students to “reactivate” their brains to remember the words they learned in the past. At the same time, they also have an opportunity to learn new vocabulary- much of which may need to be listed on a sheet of paper with the native language equivalent, should the foreign language level range from beginner to intermediate (A to B level, according to the Common European Framework). In some cases, small devices that are new to the students will need to be explained by the person who brought it with the other objects.

 

I’ve had some weird but interesting examples that warranted explaining, for instance:

A can of deoderant that is actually a capsule for fitting a small object for hiding in geocaching, a pen that functions as a light, laser pointer and hole puncher, small books full of quotes, USB-sticks with company logos, stuffed animals (also as key chains), pieces of raw material (wood, rock, metal), postcards, pictures and poems. If you can think it, you can present it and be genuine at the same time. 😉

As mentioned earlier, Pelmanism can be played by all ages, regardless of language knowledge, and if you can have at least four participants (the more, the better), you can treat yourself to an evening of fun for either the whole family or friends. If you are a teacher in an English class, you will find this useful and fun for the students; especially if you participate in the game yourself.

Pelmanism is one of those games found in a book, where if modified for use in the classroom and mastered properly, it can be a fun experience for those learning new words, especially in a foreign language. It reactivates your brain and gets you reacquainted with words learned in the past (but seldomly used in the present), while at the same time, encourages active learning and acquisition of new words into an ever-expanding vocabulary. It is a fun game for everyone, and if you are as lucky as the protagonist in the story, you might come out with more than what words you learned in the game. 😉 ❤

Thanks, Paul!

 

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Genre of the Week: What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali

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Typical one-room school house and church in Iowa. 

Teaching:  A profession that is undervalued, underappreciated and underloved. Teachers: People who enter the classroom with one thing in mind: to teach people the basics for real life and skills for their dream job. To teach people means to show them not just how to communicate and obey the structures of our society, but also how to be decent to others, how to be tolerant towards people from different backgrounds, and lastly, how to understand the feelings and reactions of others as well as adapt to different backgrounds.  Some people perceive teachers as travellers with a backpack full of books going from place to place to teach students. Others, like Pestalozzi, taught in empty buildings, where not even the basic necessities, such as a chair or table, or even a chalk board existed, and therefore they were forced to be creative and vocal in teaching their students.  In either case, the teacher brings out the best in each and every student, by finding and developing their talents, showing them how life works and people should be treated, namely, with decency and respect.

Many people enter the profession with high expectations, only to quit the profession after 10 years for the following reasons: lack of pay and benefits, lack of available resources (esp. with regards to technology), lack of respect from the students or other members of the faculty, but most importantly, lack of support from family and friends, claiming that teaching is a “loser job” that pays “Hungerlohn!” (German for salary that is barely enough to support even one person). This explains the reason behind schools closing down due to too many students, too few teachers and too little pay.  This goes beyond the bureaucracy, test guidelines and the political talk that makes a person want to write a novel series about this topic.

And for the record, coming from a family of teachers and having taught English since 2001 (all in Germany), I have experienced enough to justify even a mystery series in a form of Tatort, exploiting the ways to anger students, teachers and even parents. 😉

But what we all don’t know is why we teachers choose this profession to begin with, let alone stay in this profession for as long as the generations before us. From a personal point of view, if it has to do with money, you would best be a lawyer, lawmaker or litigator. You’re best needed there. If it has to do with status, you would best work in a corporation. If it has to do with family, you would best be a scientist, like Albert Einstein.

You should be a teacher because you have the creative talents, ideas, character, dedication and most importantly, the heart to make a difference in the lives of others. Plus you should be a story-teller, an example for others, funny, chaotic, crazy with ideas but cool under pressure and able to handle the stress like nerves of steel.  And lastly, learning from my father (who was a teacher), you have to strategize like you are playing chess- and actually have played chess. 😉

If you are looking for more reasons, then you should take a look at this Genre of the Week entitled “What Teachers Make,” by Taylor Mali. A 12th generation of the original Dutch immigrants of New York City, Mali once taught in the classroom, having instructed English, History and test preparatory classes before finding a niché as a writer, a slam poet and a commedian. He has written six anthologies full of poems and narratives, several audio CDs and three books, one of which is entitled What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the Worldpublished in 2012. The poem presented here comes from this book. Mali nowadays offers seminars and lectures to teachers and other professionals, providing them with an insight into the profession that is sometimes highly disregarded, yet one that is highly needed and, if one does make a difference in the lives of others, most loved.

So watch this audio by Mali and look at the comic strip provided by Zen Pencils, and then ask yourself this question:

  1. Why do you want to be a teacher?
  2. What aspects of teaching do you like?
  3. As a teacher, what difference can you make for the students? Yourself? Your institution?
  4. If people play down your profession, how would you convey and convince them that you love your job and the reasons behind it?
  5. Do many students come back to you years after you taught them? Why?

For nr. 5, it is very important for if you are in touch with them even today or come to you for a visit/help, then you definitely belong to this profession because you are doing a damn fine job.  🙂

And if you have the urge to write about it in your later life, then you really should stay in that profession until Jesus Christ tells you otherwise. That will definitely be my destination and my advice to all teachers out there, young and old. 😉

 

Link to Taylor Mali’s website you can find here as well as via youtube.

Video with soundbyte from Mali:

 

Image courtesy of Zen Pencils:

124. TAYLOR MALI: What Teachers Make

 

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Genre of the Week: Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp

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This genre of the week looks at a customary that celebrates the initiation of children becoming adults. In Germany, we have what is called Jugendweihe. First established in 1852 by Eduard Balzen, Jugendweihe is mainly a non-Christian event where a child is officially initiated into adulthood come the age of 14 years. Prior to that, the youth can participate in events that focus on history, culture, politics, work, sexuality and independent living, just to name a few. By the time a child reaches the age of 14, celebrations take place, marking the initiation into adulthood; some organized by the Humanist Association of Germany and the Association of Worker Welfare, others by the schools and families. The youth has a first-hand experience at what adult life is like. The only exception is of course, driving. That happens 5-8 years later- much later than the youth in the United States. There, having a driving license and a car at the age of 16 marks the beginning of the stage to adulthood, which ends by drinking legally, five years later.

I kid you not on this one, especially as I’m an American expat! 😉

Jugendweihe runs parallel to its Christian form, known as confirmation. For church-goers in the United States and in some pockets of Germany, confirmation also marks a stage going into adulthood. Yet with confirmation, regardless of which religion, it is the third and final stage in being united with Jesus Christ as well as being part of the religious denomination, after baptism and the first holy communion. It is the first of two graduation ceremonies in America’s schools, where the names are announced and the blessings and sacraments are given. The second is of course, high school graduation, where the diplomas are received and the graduates proceed to move into a new chapter in their lives.

While confirmation usually occurs at a fixed date by the churches of different denominations, Jugendweihe usually occurs at different times between March and June. The dates vary based on the projects and schedules issued by the schools, the aforementioned associations and lastly, the families of the child who is going through the initiation. Still, as a general rule, the age of 14 is the magic number signaling the departure of childhood into adulthood. It is the third most important phase in a child’s life after Zuckertüten Fest and the Graduation from Elementary School going into one of the three forms of high school in Germany.

A while back, I was asked by my students if there is an English equivalent to Jugendweihe. We do but in Christian terms but really, without a name. That is unless you listen to John Mellencamp. 😉

Jack and Diane was produced by the rock singer in 1982, and it focuses on the two main characters growing up in a rural community in America. While they develop differently going from boy and girl to a man and woman, they fight to stay young as long as they can, yet they soon realize that they are becoming adults and pursue their dreams together. The scenes in this video are typical of American culture during that time, yet you can find similar ones in Germany as well, with the discotheks, soccer, hanging out in shopping centers and even biking down trails and bikeways. In either case, this Genre of the Week looks at Jugendweihe from a musician’s point of view. One could go as far as proclaiming Jugendweihe as Jack and Diane Day in English! 😀

Still, I don’t think it would go down that well because of its age and the cultural differences. 😉

Or would it?

You decide as we dedicate this song to the 14-year olds that have celebrated or are about to celebrate Jack and Diane Day.  Enjoy! 😀

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Born in Seymour, Indiana in 1951, John Mellencamp has been coined as one of the 10 best singers/ musicians of all time in the US by many critics and colleagues. Jack and Diane made it to the top and stayed nr. 1 for four weeks in 1982. That and Hurt So Good came from the American Fool soundtrack, which is considered the best of his 23 albums he’s released since 1976. He still resides in Indiana but in Bloomington. You can find him online by clicking here as well as through World Cafe. An interview on how he’s opened up on music and arts with Forbes Magazine can be found here.

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In School in Germany: The SWOT Analysis, Nostalgia and Football

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You don’t know how old you really are unless you look at your birthday card and see the hits from the 70s, the time you were born! 😉

Youtube has become the hub when it comes to finding some interesting videos for you to see. There are millions of music videos, episodes of TV series, amateurs performing experiments, and even tour guides that people can find and watch to their amusement. This also includes documentaries on historic events, and even sporting events of the past that we rarely see on TV unless you subscribe to Netflix, Uber, Hulu, or cable channels provided by networks charging people high monthly rates.

A couple weeks ago, as events in the United States with Donald Trump as President was beginning to unfold (which has to do with my silence from writing columns), I stumbled across full-length American football games dating back to the 1970s, featuring commercials, commentary by sportscasters and the like. It just so happened that I spent my Sunday evening, absent from watching real football games and Tatort on TV, watching a 1977 playoffs game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams, in what was dubbed the Mud Bowl. That game was televised in full length, which included the pre-game, the commercials and the play-by-play. The Vikings won 14-7 in what was one of the sloppiest game in the history of the National Football League and would advance to the NFC Championship game, losing to the Dallas Cowboys in the end. This Vikings’ victory was revenge for an earlier loss in the season.

Here’s the entire game in full length:

 

When watching this game, I came up with a grand idea that might be useful in any classroom setting. Both in America as well as in Europe, we have a sense of nostalgia, where pieces of our past are kept and cherished, while others that disappeared for a long time are recovered for rememberance purposes. Be it an antique cup, a historic building or place of interest, a lost recording of a film, old 70s style clothing or even music, we all have a sense of nostalgia, which we sometimes go back to look at what was then in comparison with what is today- right now. And this media-laden exercise takes us back to the past so we can talk about certain events, what we used to have and should have back at any cost, and what which ones were better off being a fad of the past and not of the future. 😉

SWOT:

Created by Alfred Humphrey in the 1960s, the SWOT Analysis is based on a strategy used by companies and institutions to determine their health and better plan for the future. The letters stand for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat, each one looking at the capabilities that a person and/or institution have so that they can see them as assets and not as liabilities. 

This activity has a sense of SWOT in there but shaped somewhat differently than what was developed by Humphrey because it focuses on the past-present comparison instead of the present-future scenario.  For S, we would have the assets of the past that were of great value and wish we should have kept; For W, we would have the aspects that were only good for the past and cannot be compatible for the present or future. For the O, we would have the question of whether some aspects of the past could still be instilled in the present or future. And lastly, for the T, we would have anything either from the past that could pose a threat to the future or from the future that would have altered the past had it happened. 

So, use this SWOT analysis and watch this game from start to finish, including the pre- and postgame shows AND ESPECIALLY the commercials. If you use it for a class, you can divide the segments up and give one to a group to analyse.

When watching the game, keep the following aspects in mind:

  1. What were the surroundings? Most football games were played outdoors in the 1970s, and having an indoor stadium (or dome) was considered a luxury compared to today’s games.
  2. How did the people dress and how did they act, behave and communicate with each other and indirectly during those days?
  3. How was the game structured then in comparison to now? Here, some research may be needed to help you answer the question.
  4. How were the commercials marketed? The products featured? The product facts? Would they still be useful in the present?
  5. How were the products and TV show previews presented? 
  6. How was the graphics of the game, the TV shows, the commercials and previews shown?
  7. What controversies in the sportsworld existed during the time of the game. Again, some research may be needed to help support your arguments?
  8. What was the overall environment of the game in the past, compared to the present? 

You can use any full-length game to conduct this SWOT analysis and talk about what was good and should’ve been kept and what still exists today but in altered form. This focuses on not just American football, but soccer, boxing, basketball and even Wide World of Sports.  Most of the games can be found on youtube, just by typing in the key words plus full length. Keep in mind that some leagues, like the NFL, may have their own copyright laws and have pulled full-length classics from these platforms. But not to worry, there are enough full length games to watch and conduct this exercise.

It will take some research but in the end, you will have a chance to enhance your knowledge of English, while learning about the aspects of history, culture, business, media and technology, entertainment and marketing and even the sport itself.  😉

So sit back, have some popcorn and a good Löwenbrau in your hand and enjoy this classic, while using the SWOT to look at the what ifs and what nots. Enjoy!

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The Shunned: A guide to suffixes with -ion, -ial, and -ian

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The word “shun” is one of the worst words a person practicing Christianity can say when practicing their religious faith. To shun someone means to exclude him or her from a religion or club for actions considered a violation of the code of conduct. Martin Luther was shunned by the Catholic Church for his publication of his 95 Theses in 1517, questioning the Pope in Rome about the way people believe in Christ, the sale of Indulgences, and excluding people from the Church, giving the rights to read the Bible in Latin to the privileged ones. In other words, his accusation against the Church for its exclusion ended in his own excommunication.

Look at the last sentence closely: accusation, exclusion and excommunication. While the first word means to defer responsibility to the Church for its actions, the last two mean the same as shun. However, in grammatical terms, they all share one common denominator: they all ended in “-shun!”

It is sometimes difficult to find out the rules involving suffixes for all words in the English language because even though they change the grammatical function of the words (derivation between nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs), the rules of pronunciation and the meaning of the words after adding the suffixes are different, thus making it difficult to work with this topic.

 

There are some suffixes, like the “shunned ones-” the theme of this article, where one can look at the pattern behind the spelling of the words and how they are pronounced. This is the case here. The “shunned ones” feature words, whose suffix endings consist of the following:  -tion, -sion, -cation, -zation, -sation, -cial, -tial,  -tian, -cian,  and in a couple cases, -science.

Examples of such words are found below:

special, nation, technician, organization, realisation, and conscience

Note the endings marked in cursive.  With the exception of nation, all of the aforementioned comprises of a root word, plus a “shunned” suffix, whose pronuncialtion starts with an “sh-” sound. Hence the word shun.  😉  As a general rule, regardless of the number of syllables in each word with a shunned one, the stress is always at the second to the last syllable, as seen in the examples below:

special, technician, organization, communication, commercial

In German, because many words have similar meanings, especially with those with “-ion”, the stress is at the end of the word. However, as some words have -sierung- as equivalents, the “-sier-” portion is stressed, not the “-ung.”

Here are some exercises that will help you practice your pronunciations with the “shunned ones.” Enjoy! 😀

 

Exercise 1.  Practice pronouncing the following “shunned words” and determine the meanings in your own words, and (in some cases), your own native language. Notice the difference?

-cian/-tian:  physician, pediatrician, mathematician, logician, politician, electrician, mortician, optician,  magician, musician, Christian

Note: These endings indicate that they represent personal nouns.

 

-tion:  evolution, emancipation, citation, devotion, emotion, station, annexation, devastation, commotion, procrastination, affirmation, confirmation, explanation

-sion:  confusion, inclusion, exclusion, expulsion, introversion, conversion, inversion, diversion, division, recession, procession, percussion, concussion, collision, commission

Note: These endings indicate that they are nouns that represent events.

 

-zation:  utilization, organization, memorization, internationalization, localization, regionalization, urbanization, McDonaldization, rationalization

-cation: classification, clarification, gratification, personification, unification, implication, medication, fortification, identification, modofication, vacation

Note: These endings deal with nouns representing process. The German equivalents are mostly -sierung, but there are some that end with -barkeit.  A link to McDonaldization is highlighted. 

 

-cial: beneficial, special, social, crucial, official, judicial, psychosocial, facial, multiracial, spacial, financial, glacial, artificial, provincial.

-tial: confidential, spatial, celestial, preferential, presidential, essential, exponential, torrential, potential, residential, martial, differential.

Note: These endings function mainly as adjectives, although a few of them function as nouns. 

 

Exercise 2. Tongue Twisters:

The emancipation, regionalization, localization, annexation, proclamation, creation of a nation creates great communication.

The obsession of a procession makes a concussion caused by collision due to inclusion by the commission.

She was essential, she was special, she was residential, she was social, she was an official.

Vacation is the best medication against gratification of the mummification not mortification nor gasification nor petrification nor personification of the co-worker.

The unionization of an organization makes rationalization an Americanization through the categorization of the barbarianization of the generalization of the republicanization of this country.

How many physicians, pediatricians, mathematicians, logicians, politicians, electricians, morticians, opticians,  magicians, beauticians, and musicians do we need to make a good Christian?

Evolution makes pollution; revolution makes execution; prostitution makes prosecution; distribution makes resolution; dillusion makes institution.

Shunned means the exclusion, expulsion, excommunication, circumvention, polarization, isolation, decomission, rejection, elimination of a person from an institution because of a revolution, insubordination, insurrection and damnation of its organization.

 

And for the record, that was what happened to Martin Luther in 1517. But he lived to start the revolution that led to the establishment of the Lutheran Church. 😉

God bless that man. Amen!

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In School In Germany: Inventions

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Look at the picture above. In your opinion, what materials were used to create:

a. The lighting            b. The bridge            c. The church (in the background)?

 

Name an inventor you know and his/her invention.

What you are going to watch is a presentation by journalist Steve Johnson about the origins of inventions. There are some questions and other activities that follow. 🙂

  1. What musical instrument was made out of bones?    a. French horn  b. flute    c. violin

 

  1. Inventions are made because of the need to s_________e (verb), but others are made for the purpose of f_______ (noun).

 

  1. What was the origin of the computer? (Think carefully!)

 

  1. What was the origin of the typewriter? What was it first called?

 

  1. The Music that Plays Itself was an invention by three brothers in ___________, but in reality, it is known as _______________.  How does this work?

 

  1. That device was replaced with a robotic flute player by Jacques de Vaucanson. True or False?

 

  1. Punch cards were invented by Babbage and was made with papyrus.  True or False?

 

  1. Music is one of the key founding aspects that has played a substantial role in inventing other devices. Do you agree or disagree?

 

  1. Origin exercise:  Look at the following devices and objects below. Trace its origin as far back as you can, using the arguments presented by Steve Johnson.

a. Computer      b. tuba       c. basketball (both game and ball)     d. bicycle       e. paper               f. Smartphone    g. insurance      h. school/education      i. coffee cup      j. clock

 

  1. Future exercise: What inventions do you think will come next? Look at what you have and brainstorm some ideas?

 

Author’s Note: This video and exercise is suitable for all classes, including foreign language classes as a way of broadening one’s imaginary thoughts and foster ideas and communications. Other activities by teachers and educators can be supplemented to this one. Any ideas of how you furthered this exercise are welcomed. Just add them here or on the Files’ facebook page so that others can have a look at and use for their classes. 🙂

 

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The Electoral Vote in the US: How it Works.

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The US Presidential Elections is one of the most complicated forms of democratic elections in the western world. Since the signing of the US Constitution, which led to the country’s establishment in 1787, the President is elected based on a system that fosters equality among states, known as the Electoral Vote. There, the voters elect their president through a set of electoral votes, a process that is much different than the popular vote, which is the more universally chosen approach to electing the leader of a country. Even the election of the political parties to rule the country- either solo or with a coalition- a practice that has been used to elect their chancellor in Germany since 1949, is considered a popular vote as the people vote for which party should rule the country.

However, people in the United States are pushing for the abolishment of the electoral vote and replacing it with a popular vote system for several reasons. Two of which include its antiquity and the change in demographics. Originally designed to favor smaller states, the shift in population towards metropolises along the coastal regions and the Great Lakes Region has made the system quite ineffective, especially when dealing with swing states- states that alternate votes between a Republican and a Democrat pending on voter preference. Furthermore, with a candidate winning the electoral vote but not the popular vote, the system seems to be unfairly favoring regions with a minority population that are sometimes ill-informed of how the system works.

This was the case with the latest elections in 2016, when Donald Trump won solely by electoral vote but lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, as seen in the map below. Even interesting is the fact that even though the elections in November have passed, there is one more hurdle for Mr. Trump to jump through, which is to occur in December, according to law.

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Results of the 2016 US Presidential Elections based on the Electoral Vote. Source: JFG via Wikipedia

Confusing isn’t it?  🙂

The Electoral College is a complicated system which is best served with a quiz. Have a look at the following questions below- all of which are true and false- and decide what you think. Click on the results once you have completed the quiz and if you are still not so sure about it, check out the links below.  You’ll be surprised at how the system works. This quiz is for all involved- from people learning about American culture and politics to those who deny the fact that there is no other process other than the Presidential Elections. There are enough people in both camps to go around. 😉

In either case, enjoy and feel free to use it in your class or in any discussion to learn more about this unique system America has to elect its leader of the country.

 

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Link:  Electoral College via wiki;  Electoral Voters

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