Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Film Festival: The Second Installment...

Visit the film festival blog over here to see this week’s entry, which comes all the way from sunny Spain and is from learner Susana Ferrer Renovell, facilitated by tutor, Richard Gresswell.

Richard says:

“The Fallas Voices channel is a series of 4 films made by Susana Ferrer Renovell and family documenting the Fallas festival held in Valencia city and region, Spain. This digital storytelling reveals insider perspectives of the Fallas festival while engaging Susana and other English languge learners in personal, enjoyable and empowering processes of language learning. The creation of these remarkable films took place as part of an English langauge teaching project at the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas, Quart de Poblet, Valencia, Spain between February and June 2011.”

Monday, 27 January 2014

Farewell to winter: Up Helly Aa

The Up Helly Aa Tradition

 
It's dark, it's cold and it's utterly miserable. Due to the days of strong gales and rough seas our shops haven't seen fruit and vegetables for days (I keep checking myself in the mirror for signs of impending scurvy) and I am starting to hallucinate about salad.  I have forgotten the feeling of air on my skin, so wrapped up in wool and waterproofs have I been for what seems like an eternity now...

For these reasons, I am delighted that Up Helly Aa is here and that winter's stranglehold can only weaken.

For the northerly town of Lerwick glows on the last Tuesday of the month – even on the darkest, coldest January day. 

Today, Shetlanders celebrate the highlight of their year: Up Helly aa: the largest fire festival in Europe. The festivities last a day, but the event takes a whole year of careful planning. 

On the night of Up Helly Aa, a torch lit procession circles the streets of Lerwick. Whether the town is buffeted by gale force winds or lashed by horizontal rain the show must (and always does) go on.  Flaming torches are carried by squads consisting of groups of men in fancy dress (guisers). The most important squad in the procession is the Jarl Squad, consisting of a group of men who are heavily bearded and dressed in Viking finery. The main man in this squad is the Guiser Jarl. Having waited at least fifteen years for this honour, Up Helly Aa is the proudest day in any Jarl’s life. You can read my interview with this year’s Jarl here.

The highlight of the night is the ceremonial burning of a lovingly built and hand painted Viking galley boat which is gradually consumed by the flames of the hundreds of torches which are thrown on it by the town’s guisers. In this way, we bid farewell to winter, hopeful that his dark and icy power is now on the wane.

So why blog about Up Helly Aa? Well this blog post has come about as request from fellow blogger, Clive Elsmore who suggested that the festival might make for an interesting lesson. 


If you think your learners would be interested in finding out more about the festival, the following short video clips are a good introduction.



This is a slightly longer documentary on the subject of Up Helly Aa. It is from 1998, but I think it is fair to say that nothing (apart from women's fashion) has changed all that much!
















 Ways to explore Up Helly Aa in class


Show learners one of the short films and ask them to predict where the action is taking place.
 


  • Ask learners to google the words “Shetland”,”Lerwick” and “Up Helly Aa”. Working in groups, they should present five key facts about each.  Round off their presentations by showing the class an extract from the longer documentary video  above (but be aware that this contains quite a bit of heavy drinking and possibly inappropriate horseplay) and discuss


  • Why do you think this festival is so important to Shetlanders?


  • Do you think it looks interesting?


  • Why do you think that only men are allowed to take part in the squads (while women group together in public halls and make the tea)?  Is this an interesting tradition or blatant sexism? (For my own take on this, you can read the article I recently had published in The Shetland times here.)

Farewell to winter around the world



Of course, people around the world are glad to see the back of winter.  Perhaps you and your learners have similar festivals in your own countries. Here are some of my favourites:

You can find out about some more UK winter festivals here.  I do like the sound of the Straw Bear festival.  There is also the wonderful Busojaras  festival in Mohacs, Hungary and the Japanese festival of Setsebun.

In a multi lingual class, ask learners to tell each other about winter festivals they have experienced. Alternatively, you could ask learners to work together to design their very own winter festival. What would happen? What would happen to symbolise the death of winter?

 

Writing Seasonal Poems


A discussion on Up Helly Aa and other winter festivals could lead onto a tried and tested creative writing activity: writing seasonal poems.  Divide your class into two groups: winter and spring.  Ask your learners to imagine their chosen season as a person, and ask them questions about it, e.g.:



  • What does s/he look like?


  • What clothes does s/he wear?


  • What colour is s/he?


  • What music does s/he like?


  • What does s/he eat?


  • Where does s/he shop?


  • What makes s/he happy?
 
Learners then form their answers into a simple poem, where each line begins with the name of their favourite season, e.g.:
Spring is round faced and rosy pink
Spring wears a moss green cardie and stout wellies,
She is jade, lilac, and blossom pink
 
 
 Happy Up Helly Aa day to one and all: let us hope that spring is on her way!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The ESOL Film Festival

I begin my year of blogging with an announcement: over here the 2013 ESOL Film Festival is under way! Take a moment to view CRASH: the action packed offering from Bradford

Over the next few weeks we will be showcasing our entries on a weekly basis: so stay tuned! After all the entries have been uploaded onto the site viewers will have the opportunity to vote for their favourite.

See you there, I hope!


Monday, 30 December 2013

Questions, Answers and Random Facts: My Response to the Challenge

Last month I was nominated by Rachael Roberts to take part in this blogging challenge.  As my poor blog has been neglected of late, I was delighted to accept the challenge, and get into the blogging habit once more.

The challenge requires me to:

  • Provide 11 random facts about myself.
  • Answer the 11 questions posed by Rachael.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers to take part in the challenge (I wasn’t allowed to pick Rachael, as she nominated me).
  • Think of 11 questions to ask my nominated bloggers.


So, here goes...

11 Random facts

1
When I was growing up (this was in the days before the internet) I used to think that I must be the only person in the word called Genevieve White.  However, on my first ever Google search of my name, I discovered that there are in fact, many Genevieve Whites out there.  The one who comes up first in all the searches is a New York based performance artist. Another namesake writes Biblical fiction.

2
I live in Shetland, where at midnight in midsummer you can read a paper outside without the help of torch or candle light. And if the newspaper doesn’t blow out of your hands and end up in the North Sea, all the better.

3 Before turning my hand to ELT writing I used to write one act plays. Most were miserablist dystopian fantasies set up in the near future and were performed to an audience of two (including my Mum) in a draughty local theatre. 

4
I like glamorous, retro coats. If you wear a nice coat and smart boots it really doesn’t matter if you are dressed like a scruff underneath. 

5
 Most of my coats are dry clean only and would not last a day in typical Shetland weather.  So sadly, they are mostly worn around the house.

 6
I once read somewhere that Roma brides get married in blue to symbolise the fact that the ceiling of their future home will be the sky they sleep under. I liked this idea very much and also got married in blue hoping that it would set my husband and I up for a life time of wandering and freedom. This worked well… up to a point.

7
My longest ever hitch hiking adventure was from Aberdeen to Barcelona.

8
 I am a fresh air fiend – I get very grumpy if I am cooped up inside for long.

9
I feel very happy when I am in the garden with my hands covered in earth. I don’t have a lot of success with growing food, but I have produced some quite nice rhubarb.

10
“I can handle bars and cycle paths but I can’t handle cars and psychopaths.”

11
 I love a good party game. I love inventing new party games. I love parties too. (Sorry, I think that was three facts).


My 11 questions from Rachael
1 Why did you start blogging and how has differed from your expectations?
I didn’t have any expectations. It was just an experiment, really. I suppose I didn’t realise it would put me in touch with such a kind, supportive community, some of whom I have now met in person.
2 What’s your earliest childhood memory?
The scent from a lilac bush on a summer’s day.
3 Tell us about someone you admire, and say why.
My Mum. She looks like a puff of wind might blow her away, but she is as tough as hobnailed boots.
4 What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?
Philip Pulman’s retelling of Grimm Tales. I read them aloud to my children. Some of them were incredibly gory and disturbing but my kids laughed through the scariest bits. I thought the introduction was fascinating.
5 Do you prefer walking or running? Why?
People seem to find my running style very amusing (I have been compared to Phoebe in Friends if that explains anything). I can only think of a few situations where I might want to run and these usually involve packs of rabid dogs.
6 What was your first paid job?
Washing dishes in a pub when I was fourteen for £1.75 an hour.  Scoundrels.
7 What five famous people would you invite to a dinner party, and why?
I’m not interested in celebrities, so I would rather invite my family. However,  it would be nice to resurrect the Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel for the occasion. I would feed him moules et frites and some good red wine and he might reward us with a few songs.
8 What’s the first website you check/go on each day? Why?
The BBC weather site to see if our house will last another day.
9 What can you remember about the first class you ever taught?
The dreadful sick feeling as I realised that my boss was not just escorting me to my classroom, but planned to observe the lesson too. The massive relief when it was over.
10 Flowers or chocolates?
Could I be cheeky and ask for cheese and biscuits instead? 
11 How do you feel about reality TV shows?
 I don’t have a TV so mostly manage to avoid them. I did however spend a lonely night in a hotel room recently and decided to watch the X factor. It made me very glad I don’t have a TV – I thought it was awful.
My nominated bloggers

@breathyvowel

@pysproblem81

@samshep

@CliveSir

@leoselivan

@yearinthelifeof

@theteacherjames

@NicolaPrentis

@AYSUN_GUNES

@phil3wade

@sbrowntweets

Questions for my nominated bloggers

1 When and where are you happiest?
2 What makes you want to cry?
3 Do you think Scottish independence is a good idea?
4 What is your unsung talent?
5 What is your all time favourite ELT activity?
6 Where do you write your blogs?
7 With which literary character do you identify most?
8 If you were an ELT teaching approach which would you be and why?
9 What would your last ever meal be?
10 Where do you think you’ll be ten years from now?
11 Who would play you in a film about your life?

 

 


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Perks of the Job

School Dinners, anyone?
What my work lacks in terms of financial reward and job security it makes up for in fun. This thought occurred to me this morning as I stirred green food colouring into noodles and ransacked my house for plastic arachnids.

These goodies are for the second part of our film, where our bewildered new pupil experiences the trauma of having to eat in the school canteen.  The pupils contributed red looking gore and thick tomato juice and ladled the concoction onto the plate you see pictured.The festering eggs were donated by my colleague, Jenny, who is working on this project with me. Or perhaps I should say Jenny's hens.

All lots of fun, but it does bring home how scary the whole experience of arriving in a new school in a different country must be.





We got through a lot of filming today! As well as the canteen scene we filmed our opening sequence in which the reluctant pupil is escorted to school by his mum.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Who needs zombie make up?

video 


We have just over five more lessons allocated to our film project - so time is truly of the essence.  Filming starts tomorrow: we plan to film the first couple of scenes of the movie in under an hour!

As time and money are equally tight, today's lesson had to broach the subject of costumes.  The pupils were keen on full zombie regalia for the second part of the film and were beginning to envisage rather a big budget affair with make up and ghastly robes.

I showed the pupils this very short film clip I had taken of myself the night before. Using imovie the pupils had to render their fluffy and approachable English teacher in as terrifying a way as possible. I think they did quite a good job!

My aim was to show them that a little special effects wizardry can do away with the need for fancy costumes and make up. I'm not sure whether this aim sunk in or not- they were having far too much fun distorting my face.

As you can probably tell, I'm still getting to grips to working with a Mac! Hopefully my pupils will be able to help me out here...

Friday, 19 April 2013

From Concept to Storyboard

The last couple of sessions with my teenage film makers have been busy and productive.  At the beginning of Thursday morning's class I drew a mountain on the board as a simple visual representation of a story with a beginning (the bottom), a middle (the summit) and an end (the other side of the mountain.)

Starting at the beginning, we wrote up an outline for the film, guided by questions (from me) and discussion with each other.  The learners were keen to contribute their ideas, especially to the rather gory middle section (yes, I know - it is supposed to be a welcome to the school film for new EAL pupils, but please rest assured that it has a very happy ending!)

At the end of this session I showed the group one of my favourite short films, The Black Hole.  This was partly to reward the group for their hard work, but also to show them how a very short film can have a beautifully crafted plot, and how a perfectly thought out shot can reveal a character's inner life in a couple of seconds. I love the simplicity of this film's soundtrack too.


Today the pupils story boarded their ideas.  We used the free printable templates from
http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/myplacemyspace/promote-your-day-out/with-film/storyboard-template.shtml which have enough space underneath to include information about camera angles and dialogue.

I also showed pupils this clip about camera techniques. After one viewing I asked pupils to tell me what terms they remembered and when they might use these different techniques in their own films. For example, they might use a close up of their main character's face to show his feelings of anxiety on the first day of starting a new school. Or they might use a point of view shot as the central character walks through the school.


By the end of the lesson pupils had story boarded the film's first section. We have six more sessions to complete this film, so I hope they do their homework over the weekend!