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Now's Co-operative Newsletter
10 February 2001, #16

Brhh, it’s cold!

January has disappeared in a whisper of snowflakes. Or perhaps I should write whispering for Snowflakes. I haven’t even seen a flake yet, though the picture to the left shows what’s in store for me when I move later this month.

A new life, a new job, newly married – do changes always come in threes? Anyway, the next couple of issues will be compact (read short). I’ve got a lot on my plate – which brings me to the theme for this month – pancakes! (hands down if you thought it was going to be Valentine’s Day).



Who wants a pancake,
Sweet and piping hot?
Good little Grace looks up and says,
" I'll take the one on top."
Who else wants a pancake,
Fresh off the griddle?
Terrible Teresa smiles and says,
" I'll take the one in the middle."

by Shel Siverstien
Where the Sidewalk Ends

Deja View?

We are what we eat. Anyone who has over-indulged during the Christmas season will realise this. We are also what we don't eat. Babies denied adequate food grow up stunted with lower IQs. Eating is an experience. We are the totality of our experiences. Anyone who has read this before may well remember what came next and that means…..

I often present students with copies of what they’ve had before. Review is important. But perhaps more so is the opportunity to tell the student’s that if they recognise that they’ve seen material before then they must have learnt something. In NLP terms this is planting a presupposition. It is also reframing, that is changing the meaning of information. I link the idea to the student’s noticing that they have seen material before to the idea that they are learning. Actually there is no proof that the statement is true. But it has a high degree of congruity. It feels right. Get students to believe that they are learning and they will actually learn.

When students do realise they have done material before decide what to do about it. One idea is to put them into pairs and get them to reformulate the material. They can both do this ‘blind’ and then check the material or one student can look at the material and coach the other. If the material involves answers or input from the students get them to answer against the clock. By changing the nature of the challenge students won’t feel bored by repeating material. In fact when children are left to choose their own worksheets they will often choose to do one that they have done before. This is in no way a waste of time. It is valuable checking. Some students need more reassurance than others. Sometimes it’s best to avoid a new challenge and play it safe. Trust your own feelings – and let the students trust theirs.

I can do it with my eyes closed

When my brother taught English he was always looking for a way to go beyond the classroom, even if he was stuck in one. He would look for ways to get students doing things. For example, he once organised a tea party in with a class of adults. He gave the students cups and saucers and had them walk around the room drinking tea. His rule was that the students had to remain standing holding their cups and saucers. Similarly, when I was teaching at a high school my colleague and I organised English only breaks. We provided really refreshments – our rule was that the students had to stick to English. The idea was to create an environment that facilitated the use of English.

The environment may be ‘real’ or completely artificial. My brother created an artificial environment once when he made pancakes. He told the students he could make pancakes. He told them it was so easy he could do it with his eyes closed. To demonstrate this he wore a blindfold and began trying to make pancakes. This forced the students into very accurate use of directions. He – they managed to make pancakes without making a mess. I was once less fortunate when I tried to juggle an egg during a pancake making class. Juggling it wasn’t a problem. But after I’d stopped I forget to keep holding it and it smashed on the floor. Finding cleaning materials to wipe away the mess was a lesson in itself.

I’ve made pancakes with classes of all ages, even kindergarten. When students are big enough I always get all of them to have a go at tossing it. Sometimes some students are reluctant to try. Probably the best strategy in this case is to toss a pancake and drop it. Although I’ve never done this I say this because in one class of adults I once had really difficulty persuading them to toss the pancake. I finally persuaded one student to have a go and she missed the catch and dropped the pancake on the floor. I just picked it up and put it back in the pan. The worst had already happened and after that everybody had a go with the ‘practise’ pancake. Eventually we wiped the pan and made some to eat. I made a point of thanking the student for dropping the pancake. It got everyone involved.

Pancake Puzzle?

As much as possible I like to get students to experience the meanings of the vocabulary I introduce. It give students confidence when they can work out the meaning of vocabulary without translation or explanation. In the past when I've done a 'pancake lesson' I've introduced the term ingredients. The attached word file contains flashcards I used for reading practise with beginners. To get learners to understand the term ingredients we played a game. I gave out the cards and showed them this simple game board:

Pancake Puzzle Board

In turn the learners had to decide whether an individual card was an ingredient or equipment. After the cards were put down I'd tell the group how many points they'd scored. I gave them one point for each correct card but I didn't tell them which were right and which were wrong. We would play several rounds. The students would start to figure out the meaning of the two words. As a follow up I'd ask them what equipment was needed to play various sports. Then I'd return to cooking and eventually we'd get down to the actual ingredients required to make pancakes. When I was a child it was traditional to have lemon and sugar on pancakes. I quite like the taste of honey and lemon.


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Note: Now's Co-operative Newsletter used photos to link to other sites. Some links have been replaced as the original websites have disappeared. Accordingly notall photos lead back to the sites they came from. Spelling has been left as was - ouch!

getfile:Pancake Cards

Word Document A4, 4 pages, 106 KB

For the record:

Pretty much as was - just a couple of links not quite the same.

last updated: 4th August 2005

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