dimarts, de febrer 27, 2007

BRAINY BROOKS’ PRESENTATIONS! Wicked!

Last Tuesday 20th February was the first session devoted to books’ presentations. Pilar, Carolina, Rosa and Maria pioneered the novel’s reviews . Their wonderful presentations were intermingled with other activities related to relaxing and energizing exercises and to UK slang top favourites. We started the lesson by playing pictionary! Tim drew on the board a brain with its two hemispheres. Then, we brainstormed about the functions of our brain’s left and right hemisphere. Basically, we agreed on the fact that the left hemisphere was responsible for the areas of movement, language, mathematics and logical problem solving. The right hemisphere, in its turn, performed our brain’s abstract thinking, spatial representations, creativity , imagination, visual imagery and movement.

Left side processes: Speech - Analysis - Time - Sequence

It Recognizes: Letters -Numbers - Words
Right side processes: Creativity - Patterns - Spatial - Awareness - Context
It Recognizes: Faces - Places - Objects
Fig 1. based on Sousa (1995, p. 88)

Out of that, we concluded that since movement was present in both brain’s lobes, incorporating movement activities was a must if we wanted to catered not only for auditory and visual students but also and most importantly for kinesthetic pupils. Tim told us about an extremely relevant piece of information: nearly 70 % of prisoners in British jails were predominately kinaesthetic people!! In short, both hemispheres communicate constantly, that is why doing two activities at the same time, namely cooking and listening to music, can be proved more productive and stimulating than for example cooking in deathly silence. The same can be applied to learning a second language.

Afterwards, we moved onto a practical task. We were given some cards containing some relaxing and exercising activities taken from the book Brain Gym. After having memorized individually the exercise, we formed two big groups: the inner group which was going to move clockwise and the outer group which would remain static. In pairs, we explained each other’s exercise. My exercise was called BELLY BREATHING, it was a relaxing technique for improving digestion or even for calming down when you are feeling tense and nervous. Here you will find the instructions for a deep belly breathing:
- Blow out all the old air in short, soft little puffs ( like keeping a feather airborne).
- Take a slow, deep breath, filling up gently, like a balloon.
- Your hand softly rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale.
-I f you arch your back after inhaling, the air goes even deeper.

Following this group activity, we continued with Pilar’s impressive and power-point based presentation on the novel The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas by the Irish writer John Boyne. Pilar insisted on that we had to feel relaxed. She illustrated some beautiful sea-landscapes from Punta Negra (Murcia), and afterwards, Pilar playing with the surprise factor, passed around the class a pic-nic basket containing the novel and some volcanic pebbles. In the background, Tim was the one in charge of the sound effects, with the help of an unknown and long object ( at least for me!!! ) he reproduced the waves’ resonance.
Here is a summary of Pilar’s novel taken from John Boynes’s website:

Nine year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution or the Holocaust. He is oblivious
to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he
knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a
desolate area where there is nothing to do and no-one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel,
a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence
and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.

Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring
what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

After Pilar’s presentation and of course after her well-deserved clap, we commented on the importance of ART in our teaching life. Basically, we all came to the conclusion that new and unexpected things bring enthusiasm and a great deal of satisfaction both to our students and ourselves. Then, we moved onto Carolina’s resentation.

We all know from Carolina’s session or week 5 report that she is really good at storytelling, and right from the beginning she caught completely our attention. First, she explained why she had chosen the novel Black Girl, White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates. She told us several reasons, first of all she had studied in Ohio, and furthermore she was really interested in ethnic issues as in her days in Amercia she used to share her flat with Afro-american people.
Here is a summary of Carolina’s novel.

Fifteen years ago, in 1975, Genna Hewett-Meade's college roommate died a mysterious, violent, terrible death. Minette Swift had been a fiercely individualistic scholarship student, an assertive—even prickly—personality, and one of the few black girls at an exclusive women's liberal arts college near Philadelphia. By contrast, Genna was a quiet, self-effacing teenager from a privileged upper-class home, self-consciously struggling to make amends for her own elite upbringing. When, partway through their freshman year, Minette suddenly fell victim to an increasing torrent of racist harassment and vicious slurs—from within the apparent safety of their tolerant, "enlightened" campus—Genna felt it her duty to protect her roommate at all costs.
Now, as Genna reconstructs the months, weeks, and hours leading up to Minette's tragic death, she is also forced to confront her own identity within the social framework of that time. Her father was a prominent civil defense lawyer whose radical politics—including defending anti-war terrorists wanted by the FBI—would deeply affect his daughter's outlook on life, and later challenge her deepest beliefs about social obligation in a morally gray world.
Black Girl / White Girl is a searing double portrait of "black" and "white," of race and civil rights in post-Vietnam America, captured by one of the most important literary voices of our time.

Carolinas’s presentation was followed by an interesting debate on Books Clubs. Some people in the class have taken part of this type of reading groups and told us their experience there. Apparently, reading groups are motivating ways of reading together a novel. They are opened to all ages, the perfect number should be around 8 to 15 people. The most interesting thing about Books Clubs is realizing that books are opened to endless interpretations and each individual comes to his own conclusion. Normally, Books Clubs sessions meet once a month, and as any other kind of social gathering they tend to include a special and sometimes thematic big meal.

After the break, we listened to Rosa’s presentation. Rosa had read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho; so she moved towards the board, wrote the title and explained that her presentation was based on it. Once the title was clear and in order to explain us the plot, setting and characters involved in this tale; playing with words, she , little by little unfolded the underlying message in Coelho’s fable: the importance of following our dreams in our pursuit to happiness. As you can see this is an extraordinarily optimistic book, as the following quotation from Coelho illustrates: “When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true”. Rosa expained as well, that she was really fond of doing acrostics, and taking advantage of this medieval technique she used every single letter in Coelho’s title to introduce an important detail in the book. At the end, she drew a big G
Standing for the metaphysical journey the protagonist took from Andalusia to Tarifa. Next, she added the letter O, referring to the omens we receive in our lifetime and the letter D standing for the dreams we have to follow to reach to Gog and to happiness. Here is a short summary of the book:
Dreams, symbols, signs, and adventure follow the reader like echoes of ancient wise voices in "The Alchemist", a novel that combines an atmosphere of Medieval mysticism with the song of the desert. With this symbolic masterpiece Coelho states that we should not avoid our destinies, and urges people to follow their dreams, because to find our "Personal Myth" and our mission on Earth is the way to find "God", meaning happiness, fulfillment, and the ultimate purpose of creation.


Maria’s presentation was based on Steven Berkoff’s latest play Sit and Shiver. First of all, she explained us how she came to read this play. Maria had been asked to buy a play for a friend who works in a prison teaching English. The play tells the story of a Jewish family and more precisely about the Jewish religious tradition of Sitting Shiva: a seven-day period of mourning for a dead patriarch. During this week, the furniture is covered to show respect to the late father and husband. Mr. Green had apparently been the perfect husband, the perfect father! Visitors including Debby,Sam, and of course Mrs Green got involved in funny Jewish and cockney conversations.

The session ended up by learning some UK’s slang favourites. Here is a list :
O.T.T. over the to – excessive; Naff- in bad taste; Hype-false publicity; Dosser- lazy person
div- idiot; whiz kid –somebody who is very young and very successful; wimp – a weak and feeble person; and a long, long, long list!!!! A wicked and brainy session!
By Begonya Martí

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