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summary of the presentation I gave at this year’s IATEFL Conference in Glasgow (2017) How understanding humour can improve students’ comprehension

April 5, 2017

 

Different types of humour: (1) 

a riddle, irony/dry/deadpan, or slapstick

  1. a) irony/dry/deadpan Saying the opposite of what you mean e.g. when there is a storm saying ‘What a lovely day!’
  2. b) slapstick a clown accidentally walks into a door
  3. c) a riddle a question that has a humorous answer e.g. What is black and white and red all over? Answer: an embarrassed zebra

Different types of humour: (2) 

black humour, innuendo/ double entendre, a pun

  1. a) innuendo/ double entendre suggesting something else, usually sexual or unpleasant g. ‘How do you like it?’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ I mean the coffee, do you have milk or sugar?’
  2. b) a pun an amusing use of a word with two meanings g. 7 days without water can make one weak (1week)
  3. c) black humour deals with the unpleasant things of life in a bitter or ironic way g. If we were on a sinking ship with only one life vest…I would miss you so much.

Different types of humour: (3) 

satire, sarcasm, a joke

  1. a joke A made up story that makes people laugh e.g. While a man was working in a store dressed up as Santa for the little children to tell him what they wanted for Christmas, a small boy asked for a train. The Santa told him he might have to share it with his Dad. After more conversation, the Santa asked the boy what else he wanted. He said ‘another train’!
  2. b) satire using humour to expose silliness e.g. The prime minister is so keen to improve the trains she has decided to drive them herself.
  3. c) sarcasm saying the opposite of what you mean to make an unkind joke, e.g. when a student arrives an hour late, the teacher says: ‘Good of you to arrive so early.’

Another type is anecdotal humour when you tell a true, funny story.

Anecdotal humour involves telling exaggerated, humorous, personal stories.

The longer you stretch them out the funnier they become.

They usually involve laughing at yourself or others.

worksheet: Some different kinds of humour

 

Worksheet:

Fill the gaps. Choose from: anecdotal humour; blue (off colour, risqué); irony; farce; a joke; dry/deadpan humour; pun;  innuendo/ double entendre; parody; play on words; riddle; sarcasm; slapstick; black humour, a lovable rogue:

Smutty (uncouth, crude, vulgar, rude); satire; bawdy (coarse, lewd); clowning; cartoons

­­­­_______________ exaggerated humorous personal stories e.g. ‘When I was working in the supermarket, some idiot took one of the oranges from bottom of the display I had spent hours preparing. There I was, trying to look calm when hundreds of these oranges rolled all over me.’

_______________: deals with the unpleasant things of life in a bitter or ironic way, e.g. A man takes off his belt to hang himself. His trousers fall down.

_______________ deals with humour that is rude or indecent

_______________ someone with a dry sense of humour pretends to be serious when they are not, e.g. I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public. or No not that left hand, the other left hand.

_______________: silly, absurd, ridiculous e.g. a clown deliberately trips over.

_______________: something that makes people laugh, e.g. A man says he has a dog that plays the piano and a snake that sings. His mate challenges him. The dog and snake are brought in and the dog plays the piano while the snake sings. The mate is amazed and apologises. The man pauses saying he feels guilty. When asked why, he explains that the dog was a ventriloquist.

_______________ using words that suggest something else, usually sexual or unpleasant e.g.  ‘How do you like it?’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ I mean the coffee, do you have milk or sugar?’

_______________: using words that are the opposite of what you really mean in order to be amusing, e.g. saying ‘What a lovely day!’ while walking through a hailstorm.

_______________: copying or mimicking something well known for comic effect, e.g. The ten commandments for cooks are …’Thou shalt not ..’

_______________: using a word that is interesting or amusing because it has two very different meanings, e.g. patient: ‘Doctor, doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.’ Doctor: ‘Well pull yourself together!’

_______________: an amusing use of a word or phrase that has two meanings, e.g. Seven days without water can make one weak (=1 week)   Please turn over

worksheet: Some different kinds of humour                                           Page two

 

_______________: a question that is deliberately confusing and usually has a clever or humorous answer, e.g. What is black and white and red all over? Answer: an embarrassed zebra

_______________: a way of speaking or writing that involves saying the opposite of what you really mean to make an unkind joke, e.g. when someone arrives an hour late, someone else says: ‘Good of you to arrive so early.’

_______________: using humour to expose foolishness, silliness or stupidity through ridicule, e.g. The government has appointed a new minister: The Minister for Silly Walks.

_______________: based on deliberate clumsiness or embarrassing situations e.g. a clumsy waiter carrying a cream cake trips and ‘accidentally’ falls unto a guest covering the guest’s face with the cream.

Other common terms associated with humour:

_______________: inspires empathy from us even though he is a character often from the working class who disobeys normal social rules e.g. by using his rough charm he persuades a wealthy lady to give him more money than she may have intended.

_______________ (uncouth, crude, vulgar, rude) e.g.  Two young men calling to a young woman ‘You’ve got a lovely pair, darling!’ (meaning pair of breasts).

_______________, (coarse, lewd) some lines in the poetry of John Donne e.g. the last two lines of ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed ‘

“…I am naked first; why then

What needst thou have more covering than a man.” which has sexual connotations: meaning that the poet is naked and his mistress needs nothing more than to be ‘covered’ by a man.

clowning discomfort embarrassment we laugh at people’s misfortunes the higher up they are the more we laugh. e.g. Trump’s hair shown moving like a caterpillar

_______________pictures that point out something ridiculous, even when it is true

spitting image making fun of the powerful, caricatures of powerful politicians

 

worksheet: Some different kinds of humour ANSWERS

Fill the gaps. Choose from: anecdotal humour; blue (off colour, risqué); farce; a joke; irony/dry/deadpan humour; pun;  innuendo/ double entendre; parody; play on words; riddle; sarcasm; slapstick; black humour, a lovable rogue:

Smutty (uncouth, crude, vulgar, rude); satire; bawdy (coarse, lewd); clowning; cartoons

anecdotal humour: exaggerated humorous personal stories e.g. ‘When I was working in the supermarket, some idiot took one of the oranges from bottom of the display I had spent hours preparing. There I was, trying to look calm when hundreds of these oranges rolled all over me.’

black humour: deals with the unpleasant things of life in a bitter or ironic way, e.g. A man takes off his belt to hang himself. His trousers fall down.

blue, off colour, risqué deals with humour that is rude or indecent e.g.

dry/deadpan humour: someone with a dry sense of humour pretends to be serious when they are not, e.g. I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public. or No not that left hand, the other left hand.

farce: silly, absurd, ridiculous e.g. a clown deliberately trips over.

a joke: a made up story that makes people laugh, e.g. A man says he has a dog that plays the piano and a snake that sings. His mate challenges him. The dog and snake are brought in and the dog plays the piano while the snake sings. The mate is amazed and apologises. The man pauses saying he feels guilty. When asked why, he explains that the dog was a ventriloquist.

innuendo/ double entendre: using words that suggest something else, usually sexual or unpleasant e.g.  ‘How do you like it?’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ I mean the coffee, do you have milk or sugar?’

irony: using words that are the opposite of what you really mean in order to be amusing, e.g. saying ‘What a lovely day!’ while walking through a hailstorm.

parody: copying or mimicking something well known for comic effect, e.g. The ten commandments for cooks are …’Thou shalt not ..’

play on words: using a word that is interesting or amusing because it has two very different meanings, e.g. patient: ‘Doctor, doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.’ Doctor: ‘Well pull yourself together!’

pun: an amusing use of a word or phrase that has two meanings, e.g. Seven days without water can make one weak (=1 week)

riddle: a question that is deliberately confusing and usually has a clever or humorous answer, e.g. What is black and white and red all over? Answer: an embarrassed zebra

sarcasm: a way of speaking or writing that involves saying the opposite of what you really mean to make an unkind joke, e.g. when someone arrives an hour late, someone else says: ‘Good of you to arrive so early.’

satire: using humour to expose foolishness, silliness or stupidity through ridicule, e.g. The government has appointed a new minister: The Minister for Silly Walks.

slapstick: based on deliberate clumsiness or embarrassing situations e.g. a clumsy waiter carrying a cream cake trips and ‘accidentally’ falls unto a guest covering the guest’s face with the cream.

Other common terms associated with humour:

a lovable rogue: inspires empathy from us even though he is a character often from the working class who disobeys normal social rules e.g. by using his rough charm he persuades a wealthy lady to give him more money than she may have intended.

Smutty (uncouth, crude, vulgar, rude) e.g.  Two young men calling to a young woman ‘You’ve got a lovely pair, darling!’ (meaning pair of breasts).

bawdy, (coarse, lewd) some lines in the poetry of John Donne e.g. the last two lines of ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed ‘

“…I am naked first; why then

What needst thou have more covering than a man.” which has sexual connotations: meaning that the poet is naked and his mistress needs nothing more than to be ‘covered’ by a man.

clowning discomfort embarrassment we laugh at people’s misfortunes the higher up they are the more we laugh. e.g. Trump’s hair shown moving like a caterpillar

cartoons pictures that point out something ridiculous, even when it is true

spitting image making fun of the powerful, caricatures of powerful politicians

Humour in the classroom

Use texts that can amuse the reader by making fun of the language.

http://www.learnbritishenglish.co.uk/i-take-it-you-already-know-of-tough-and-bough-and-cough-and-dough/

Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners

I take it you already know …

Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through?
Well done! And now you wish perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird;
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead —
For goodness sake don’t call it ‘deed’.
Watch out for meat and great and threat.
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

A moth is not a moth in mother,
nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose —
Just look them up — and goose and choose.

And cord and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart —
Come come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I’d mastered it when I was five!

Entertain the students by making fun of your weakness, such as being unable to draw. Soon enough one to the students will be willing to do it for you.

Entertain the students further by exaggerating the way you tell facts about British culture. For example the saying that ‘Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow

Set you students home work by asking them to collect a joke or two to tell the class the following day.

Make up puns. Find words that sound the same but have different meanings e.g. week/weak; bat: cricket bat/animal: pun: Which piece of sports equipment uses sonar? (a cricket bat)

Show the students parodies of serious texts. For example:

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;”

Sea Fever by John Masefield

parody:

“I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

I left my shoes and socks there, I wonder if they’re dry?’ Spike Milligan

Students could make up their own parodies.

Introduce amusing sayings:

For example:

Life always offers you a second chance. It’s called tomorrow.

Don’t give up on your dreams so soon, sleep longer.

If only common sense were more common.

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

 

Introduce students to limericks. For example:

A circus performer named Brian,

Once smiled as he rode on a lion.

They came back from the ride,

But with Brian inside,

And the smile on the face of the lion.

 

Choose three jokes and give the students the punchlines. Tell one of the jokes and ask the students to guess the punch line.

 

Use humorous texts:

For example, Beecham speaking to an orchestral player:

‘We cannot expect you to be with us all the time, but perhaps you would be good enough to keep in touch now and again.’

This is a fine example of sarcasm.

Encourage students to read using their imagination. For example if they read ‘The boy went home’, stop them immediately and ask them to describe how they imagine the boy. Suggest ridiculous clothing if the students finds it difficult to think of anything. They should then at least deny your outrageous description.

Share humorous texts with your students and ask why the texts are funny.

Suggested reasons for students to choose from:

  1. because the answer is completely unexpected
  2. because it makes a seemingly serious question much less serious.
  3. it uses exaggerated language
  4. the author is laughing at himself
  5. the author lets his imagination go too far
  6. because it says the opposite of what is meant

For example:

‘Notes from a big Country’ by Bill Bryson (1998) CN 5910

p.16 ‘The other day I called my computer helpline, because I needed to be made to feel ignorant by someone much younger than me, and …

(It is funny because of d) and f))

Second example:

‘A spot of bother’ by Mark Haddon (2006)

p.13 ‘He stared doggedly at the seat-back in front of him, trying desperately to pretend he was sitting in the living room at home. But every few minutes he would hear a sinister chime …

(It is funny because of c) and e))

Tone of voice concerns the way you change the sound of your voice for effect, for example, speaking louder and lower with a commanding tone to instruct a dog to sit.

In reading texts and dialogues, the tone of voice is necessary for the context and the characters to be fully understood.

For example, the following dialogue could be about

business men talking about a business appointment.

adapted from: ‘Ship or sheep’ Ann Baker (1996) CUP p.88

A: Dunstan 238282

B: Hello, this is Chris.

A: Hello __________

B: What did you do yesterday? You forgot ___ _____ didn’t you? …

 

The dialogue actually concerns a boy and his girlfriend:

Girl (Daisy): Dunstan 238282

Boy (Chris): Hello , this is Chris.

Girl (Daisy): Oh hello darling.

Boy (Chris): What did you do yesterday, Daisy. You forgot our date didn’t you?

suggestions for activities for beginners

  • gestures What is wrong with the food? It’s too spicy/it smells bad/…
  • Which is the wrong word?: e.g. I ate my cat because it was hungry.
  • Write down what you hear when the students mispronounce words. e.g. I eat ships. (I eat chips.)

suggestions for activities for intermediate students

  • Learn and create puns, riddles and/or limericks
  • Actions: What is this idiom? e.g. Mime being bored/eating too much = I’m fed up.
  • Students tell short funny anecdotes.
  • Students make up ridiculous situations: If I hadn’t… I wouldn’t have…

suggestions for activities for advanced students

  • select humorous texts to share from a list of humorous authors e.g. Bill Bryson, Shakespeare (‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’), Helen Fielding (‘Bridget Jones’), Jerome K Jerome (‘Three Men in a Boat’)
  • write a funny short story.
  • prepare their own comedy sketch (e.g. like ‘Four candles’).

Good luck!

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workshop on Humour at the IATEFL Conference 2017

April 3, 2017

Hopefully some people will be looking up the internet for more information about me in relation to my workshop at the IATEFL Conference. As well as a summary of the workshop on Humour that I plan to put here after it has taken place, I offer information about my publications:

The speaker: Dr Rosemary Westwell (rjwestwell@hotmail.com)

publications:

  • PhD thesis ‘The Development of Language Acquisition in a Mature Learner’ freely available at http:eprints.ioe.ac.uk/48/
  • ‘Out of a Learner’s Mouth’: an informal diary of her acquisition of Spanish as a mature learner Amazon.com
  • ‘Teaching Language Learners’ a book of ideas for new and experienced teachers of English as a Foreign Language‘ Amazon.com
  • Twenty Tips for Teaching IGCSE ESL teaching ideas for preparation for this examination Amazon.com
  • ‘The Spelling Game’ Amazon.com
  • ‘A Close Look at unseen Poetry’ Amazon.com
  • ‘John Donne Poetic Voices Study Guide for AS/A Level AQA Lang & Lit.’ a study guide for the poetry of John Donne Zigzag Education
  • ‘The Spelling Game’ Zigzag Education
  • ‘John Dementia and Me’ a personal account of her experience married to a man who gradually succumbed to early onset dementia. Amazon.com
  • ‘John’s Shadow’ a murder mystery Amazon.com
  • blogs: http://www.elyforlanguage.wordpress.com; http://www.reviewsrjw.wordpress.com

Review of Ely Sinfonia’s production of ‘Carmina Burana’ Ely Cathedral on Saturday 24th October 2015

October 27, 2015

Carmina Brenda Stewart and Steve Bingham emailEly Cathedral was packed for the production of ‘Carmina Burana’ on Saturday. Steve Bingham, conducted his excellent orchestra, Ely Sinfonia, and the magnificent choirs for this mammoth concert with his usual aplomb, and also managed to save the day at the last minute when the main soloist developed laryngitis. In the true fashion of ‘the show must go on’ a substitute soprano was found for the Carmina Burana, but it was a little late in the day to find someone who had sung one of the major works planned for the first half.

Instead, Steve Bingham and his wife, Brenda Stewart, stepped forward. After Steve conducted the orchestra playing a Verdi’s Overture from ‘La Forza del Destino ((The Power of Fate) played with true Italian passion and gusto, he and his wife entertained us with charming works including duos for violin and viola by Mozart, an amazingly slow tango and four delightfully varied duets by Bartok.

After interval the stage was packed and the audience was eager to hear the primeval rhythms of Carmina Burana. We were not disappointed. The huge choral group was made up of King’s Lynn Festival Chorus, Ely Consort, Ely St. Mary’s Junior School and Ely Youth Choir and they were marvellous. When choir and orchestra were spot on, the effect was sheer magic.

Some of the highlights included the dramatic opening (and closing) number ‘O Fortuna’, Spring: ‘Veris Leta Facies’ (The Merry Face of Spring),’ Olim Lacus Colueram’ (Once I loved on Lakes), ‘Circa Mea Pectora’ (In my Heart) and ‘In Trutina’ (In the Balance). The uninhibited crash of percussion and voices at the opening bars of ‘Fortuna’ wowed us as much as we’d hoped. ’ Veris Leta Facies’ and ‘Trutina’ were quite beautiful and ‘Circa Mea Pectora’ was particularly moving. One of the most spine-chilling sounds of the evening came from Ashley Harries (counter tenor).His resonant, carefully timed lines enhanced the surreal nature of the ‘Olim Lacus Colueram’ perfectly. Elinor Bowers-Jolley, the heroine of the concert standing in as the soprano at the last minute gave no indication of this in her exquisite performance – especially in ‘Trutina’. Baritone Tom Appleton was splendid and really came to his own in ‘Circa Mea Pecta’.

This was indeed a splendid evening. Ely Sinfonia will be next performing Berlioz’s ‘Symphony Fantastique’ and other well known works in their Spring Concert on 12 March 2016.

for more information, contact http://www.elysinfonia.co.uk

Programme for Ely Writers’ Day on 17th October 2015 in Ely Library (Cambs. UK)

October 2, 2015

Here is our Ely Writers’ Day Progamme for 17 October 2015 Ely Library 1000 – 1500

This free event is organized by The Trio of Writers: Rosemary Westwell, Hayley Humphrey and Mary McGuire (pictured)

To book your place (free) contact rjwestwell@hotmail.com

The Trio of Writers 1 email

0930 preparation

0945 coffee and networking

1015 Rosemary Westwell introduction, launch of my first whodunit: ‘John’s Shadow’. How to avoid making the mistakes I had to overcome when writing this novel.

1035 Mike Rouse my personal story: what I write, why I write it and how I research it.

1055 Margaret Brown and/or questions and answers for ‘beginners’

1115 Mary McGuire Tips and cheats for the time strapped writer. If you only get a few minutes a day at your writing desk, how can you make them count?

1135 coffee

1155 Sue Burge Mini-workshop – surprise yourself and produce one or two pieces of guided fiction/poetry in 20 minutes!

1215 Mary Nichols practical guidance on writing and presenting a novel followed by short questions and answers

1240 lunch

1335 Hayley Humphrey ‘Nanowrimo – can you write a novel in a month?

1355 James Steller (Scott) How to get the book to paper back without a publisher via amazon print on demand

1415 Stephanie Hale ‘Advice for first time authors: how to find and approach a publisher and prepare your work so that he/she will be interested in your book.’

1435 Question and Answer session

1450 announcement of short story winner by the Mayor of Ely, (First prize £50 donated by North Staffordshire Press)

1500 networking packing up/coffee to Burrows

Please leave feedback, take a flyer and we would be grateful for any donations towards costs (estimated costs per person is about £10)

Some books mentioned are available to purchase now from Burrows Bookshop, 9 High St Passage Ely (just around the corner)

Note: The next Short Story competition: send an unpublished story of 500 words to rjwestwell@hotmail.com  by midnight on Friday 26th February 2016

The next Writers’ Day will be on Saturday 19th March 2016 at Ely Library 1000 – 150

our politicians need a reality check

September 27, 2015

Cambridgeshire MP, Lucy Frazer’s speech reported in the Ely Standard the other week represents all that is wrong with this country. Fine words achieve nothing: it is efficient action that is needed.

We would all probably agree with what Lucy says: We should care for the vulnerable and provide [real] refugees with advice, homes, and interpretation facilities, that [real] refugees have a moral and legal right to be treated properly, and need integrating into our communities, that something should be done to solve the political crisis in Libya and Syria.

Her words sound very similar to the high ideals of the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. who wants us to  “open your hearts and open your minds and open your attitude towards supporting people who are desperate, who need somewhere safe to live, want to contribute to our society, and are human beings just like all of us.”

However, they both need a reality check. With the clogged up systems that run our country a large number of our poor and needy don’t even get a look in. I can recall countless times I have approached a council for advice and help in the past when the tired voice that finally answered the phone said nothing can be done, the system can’t cope, there are too many people on the books already.

When I arrived in the country I naively asked for accommodation – I was told I had to wait at least seven months. What was I supposed to do in the meantime? No answer was given – I presumed I was expected to live on the streets. (I then arranged accommodation with a private landlord.) When I needed childcare for my daughters, the carer recommended by the council had a broken pane at the bottom of her front door. Any child could have cut themselves but she had no intention of mending it. After the first month of teaching, I received no pay. When I rang up to ask why, I was told I had not filled in the right form. I was told the council would lend me the money. I was speechless.

The final crunch came when my husband needed care. The system again was unable to cope and it was a kind friend who helped us and a lawyer who forced some kind of reasonable care for my husband to be put into place.

There is no evidence that there has been any change, so the idea of thousands of needy refugees coming into the country and getting the help they need is ludicrous.

Yes, we should be kind and help people in real need, but our government and our councils need to get their act together before this can happen. They need to look at themselves before they start pontificating about us doing the work. Billions of pounds are spent by the government on other countries that do not necessarily need it. If India needs monetary support to help their poor and needy – how has this same government afforded nuclear weapons?

It’s the same here as it is in other countries, including Syria and Libya. It’s the government that needs to be persuaded and forced to change its anti-human policies. Until they focus on caring for instead of bullying or even, in the case of Syria, killing their people the refugee crisis will continue.

How many of the refugees we have seen on TV have been fit, healthy young men demanding rights? I know if I was a genuine refugee, I wouldn’t have to strength to create a fuss. Lebanese education minister, Ellas Bousaab, has already warned Cameron that 2 in every 100 Syrian migrants are Islamic-State trained fanatics. Should we open our arms to them?  I think not. Opening our hearts to them would be a disaster.

As for interpretation facilities, and acknowledging that [real] refugees have a moral and legal right to be treated properly, and integrated into our communities. How many of us speak Arabic? How often have we seen people from different cultures gather themselves together in one community and refuse to even try to integrate? Without change, and an efficient system that weeds out the fanatics, and bigots from the real sufferers, this isn’t going to happen. Yes we should receive genuine refugees in our midst, but our government should also put effective, efficient systems into place so that the refugees learn our language, earn their keep and make an effort to integrate into our society

What should we do about the refugees?

September 18, 2015

I asked a friend the other day what she thought we ought to do about the refugee crisis. She immediately said how we ought to help these people. After all, it isn’t their fault their homes are being bombed. They have nowhere to live and there is nothing they can do to avoid being killed except gather together what they can, and leave.  Then where are they supposed to go?

I thought about what she said and of course, she is right, but when it came down to it, what if a family landed on my doorstep wanting food and shelter, what would I do? Suddenly the answer was not so simple. After all, I’d worked hard for years to make my home and I suddenly felt that I wouldn’t want any strangers disturbing my peace.  Then again, the other day a friend rang up wanting help, I didn’t hesitate. So maybe the problem is that we don’t want strangers in our midst.

When I first came to this country I was warned what Fen fold were like. I was told that if you were walking along the road and asked someone the way, the person would look you up and down and say ‘I don’t know who you are or where you come from, so I ain’t telling you.’. I didn’t believe this at first, but as a new piano teacher in the village, I went and knocked on the door of my ‘opposition’.  I thought it would be wise to get to know her and reassure her that I would not poach any of her pupils. Blow me down, she gave me exactly that reaction – not using the same words of course. She looked me up and down and said she didn’t know what I was doing there and shut the door. Bang went the opportunity to sit down with a cup of tea and chat things over. Her reaction made me think that she was just plain unfriendly, but this wasn’t so. Quite soon afterwards, she telephoned to say she had some spare music for me. She wasn’t being unfriendly at all!

So, friendly or not, what should we do about the refugees? I can think of one property that has room for a family or too. It’s been empty for three years and a genuine refugee family wouldn’t give too hoots about it needing tidying up. This is the vicarage in Witchford owned by the church. There’s been a lot of fuss about the vicarage lately because rumour has it, the church are going to sell it, in spite of the locals wanting it to stay as it is. We hear so much about how wealthy the church is, so we ask why hadn’t they rented the place out if they’re so strapped for cash that they feel they want to sell it? Why don’t they open it up to a couple of refugee families? It’s not a matter of religion – it’s basic humanity: treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.

The problem with the refugees is that there’s too much dithering.  While my friend had no hesitation in what the solution is, those who have the power to do something about it, do nothing. They argue back and forth about whose job it is, who should pay for it, where the refugees should end up and so on. Why don’t they just get on with it? If they’d set up a system to register the first lot of refugees immediately, given them temporary shelter and arranged for basic needs, then in a calm less traumatic way they could ask them where they want to go and why, how they are going to earn their keep, negotiate with countries about the number they should take and the problem will be eased. Once people know that they are being treated as human beings and treated fairly, we can all settle down to a peaceful and integrated society. It’s no surprise to read in the paper the other day that 56% of the population in London were born in a different country, so what are we doing being scared by an influx of immigrants?  They are people like you and me and maybe if we let a few of them in, some of them could actually be helpful. Maybe I could get a decent gardener? None of the people I’ve contacted in this country want to do it. They say they want to, but when it comes down to it, they can’t commit themselves, they have no end of excuses – they want the money but they don’t want the hard work. I bet one of the refugees would jump at the chance.

Are we taking exams too seriously? – Are we putting too much stress on exam results?

September 11, 2015

With a new school year starting we need to ask ourselves are we putting too much importance on the results that our young people come out with?

In these days of league tables where the school’s position is often seen as more important than what is actually taught.

Now, at last, our students’ lives are settled and a new term in a different class, school or even university looms ahead.  Most of these new places have been selected solely on the basis of exam results, but are we taking these too seriously?

It is amazing that only a small proportion of our lives dictates our success or failure as a person in later life. One or two sittings at a desk in an examination hall, possibly suffering from hay fever, a summer cold or lack of sleep is all that it takes to determine a single mark that brands us and our abilities for life permanently.

Are we branding them for life with results of a few hours in an exam hall when they could be ill, have hay fever or just not good at exams?

These results are labelling the schools and the child often unfairly.

Not only have students been branded but so have our educational institutions. Schools have had their results analysed and dissected minutely and conclusions made solely on the basis of these analyses. Some schools have been hailed as great beacons of success in the educational world, others, dismal failures that need to be closed down. Playing the numbers game is a dangerous occupation.

Say for example you have three schools, and one of them is judged as failing.  Is it really failing, or are we letting a snap shot: a few days of its year, determine the way the community sees it for the rest of the year.

One of the difficus of judging schools by exams in many respects theyr’e random the totally random it doesn’t just depend on how they st how they’re feeling there are so many more factors that affect their results. a sc that achieve an c a d grade for one child a lower grade for some children may be the equivalent to them it may be a greater teaching achievement than an A level.

When it is stated, for example, that one in three schools in a certain area has failed, the full facts have not been taken into account. To illustrate this, I once saw a photo taken by a student who was also concerned about such superficial judgements having too much credibility. The photo was of three sheep, three completely different sheep—one a white merino with soft white wool, the second an entirely black sheep and the third a rare breed of sheep that looked more like a goat. It would be ludicrous to base any conclusion on a comparison of these sheep. Similarly, it is nonsense that schools are being judged solely on exam results. Of course exam results are going to be higher if a school has managed to persuade the more exam –orientated students to join their ranks. If a school has been through a period of upheaval, has a sudden in-take of non-English-speaking migrants or takes more interest in nurturing those who need more assistance, of course it will not compare well with other more settled, smug places.

On the subject of the examinations themselves, does a GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education), an ‘A’ level, an International Baccalaureate or even a degree in a subject prepare you fully for the rest of your working life?  While certain people may be able to get a job like selling bikinis in Harrods because they have a music degree, (my experience), most rely on their exam grades to prove their worth when applying for a job, but it is common knowledge that having a qualification in a subject does not necessarily make you the ideal person for a job requiring such knowledge. I know for certain, passing an examination in ‘Music and Movement’ (a type of improvised dance) with first class honours never made me an ideal candidate for a career as a dancer!

Looking behind the scenes, when I was teaching, rather than concentrating on educating the students for life, I taught only what they needed to know for the examinations. I did this, not because I wasn’t interested in educating well, it was because the time given to teach the subject was far too little. In English Literature, for example, to read and study the books fully in class was impossible because of time constraints. Students were given summaries of the characters and plot and encouraged to learn about how to answer expected questions by using the internet. None of these activities actually involve sitting down and reading through the whole book for pleasure—the original intention of the author.

While human beings set the papers, mark the papers and sit for them, perfection is impossible. Many students are subject to the whims of the examiners. When I used to mark exam papers in the subject, I would invariably be at odds with the given guide lines for marking. I was frustrated when I could not award marks when I believed the student had a good understanding of the text, but could not express it well enough to gain the marks they deserved. In addition, many questions expected the students to provide extra information not requested. Students were expected to guess what was wanted. Get it right and you got top marks, guess wrongly and you failed.

While it is important to have some measure of ability, sometimes we can put too much trust on exam results. The outside world demands more that the ability to remember and repeat facts!

A fascinating poem by Leo Donnelly

August 20, 2015

When I went to an open mic session called ‘Fenspeak’ in Ely last Wednesday I heard this fantastic poem by Leo Donnelly. He very kindly agreed to let me post it here for you to enjoy. He recited the poem from memory!

(to be read aloud)

Poetry evades me in the same way

The stars dance from the grasps my arms fumble from a cliff face.

The chance of me imparting poetry upon a prim page

Is like

The spliff stains in my ribcage maintaining my body to old age;

Maybe my soul’s sustained.

And it might be the green that grows it,

But the tocking-ticks of age are telling my body I’ve already blown it.

And the game remains the same

And I’ll stay to play I know it,

But I wish these days ablaze man,

I wish I was a poet.

Then no more mundane Monday mornings would I wake to;

From the dawning boredom of the day I could escape to pave my way to

Pastures green, and clean, and blue;

Pastures past and pastures true.

But (alas!)

I work hard at nothing and thus I learn nothing new,

But,

The sweat that squeezes through my pores,

Pours without pausing,

As my ambition, steadily tethered, is applauded.

But it’s scared, teeth bared, and it’s pawing, clawing at the door,

Beneath which,

A line of leaking light is sweeping through into the room,

Bewitching the world with its dance like you

All

Meter and

Grace and

Meaning,

Like feet that run, racing rhyme, through the space in-between beats

That pound upon the furrowed face of the ceiling

Set in place to separate us from Dust.

And it does keep us people all properly in place, disgraced

To the point our hearts break and we weep with restraint,

Ill-equipped to keep pace with the ways our forefathers lay before us,

Now they treat us as polished when truly we’re porous,

And if we raise our complaints they’ll politely ignore us,

And when our rage is ablaze they’ll douse it with boredom

And tour us

Across a blood soaked sea-less beach,

Scuttling over scalding sand that we struggle beneath,

Left suffocating and drowning on a ceaseless, breezeless heat, each

Spluttering cough carving deep scars that creep like stark veins through darkness

Across our shrieking tongues and teeth;

Bleeding gums shred to ribbons repeating the lies that they preach,

Catalysed by distain and pain-stained disbelief,

Whilst

(discretely)

Our minds seek for firm ground,

With firm founded beliefs,

Where amber leaves crunch beneath trusting, thrusting feet;

Where the earthy purchase provided is enough to propel a guided mind skyward,

Towards truth,

No more defined by society’s confinements;

Where violence is despised and not disguised by the violent;

Where the air will set fire to our blindfolds and we’ll find ourselves blinded

By the world,

As it unfolds

Before us.

Enter ending.

Enter chorus.

Enter pumice stone,

Patient and porous.

But alas,

Poetry evades me in the same way

The stars dance from the grasps my arms fumble from a cliff-face.

The chance of me imparting poetry upon a prim page is like

The spliff-stains in my ribcage maintaining my body to old age;

Maybe my soul’s sustained,

And it might be the green that grows it,

But the tocking ticks of time are telling my body I’ve already blown it.

But the game remains the same,

And I’ll stay to play I know it,

But I wish these days ablaze

Man,

I wish

I was Leo Donnelly

A poet.

Leo Donnelly.

IATEFL Conference Manchester 2015 ‘How Poetry Can Aid Students’ Comprehension’ Rosemary Westwell

April 9, 2015

IATEFL Conference 2015 Manchester
Workshop 45 minutes with audience participation for experienced or inexperienced audience BE BEA
‘How Poetry Can Aid Students’ Comprehension’
One of the major problems students have with comprehending written English is the lack of understanding of non-literal language.

This workshop will explore poetic devices, styles and structure and show how an understanding of these can help students’ comprehension

poetic devices: worksheet 1 with answers
poetic styles: worksheet 2 with answers
poetry structures: worksheet 3 with answers
TEXTS: devices, styles and structure in examples of prose
How to use an understanding of poetic devices, styles and structure to aid comprehension at different levels
textbook: ‘A Close look at Unseen Poetry’ by Rosemary Westwell ISBN9781500468453 available from http://www.amazon.com
contact: Dr Rosemary Westwell rjwestwell@hotmail.com 
Work sheet 1 Poetic Devices Fill the gaps by choosing from: alliteration, assonance, simile, contrast, euphemism, hyperbole, imagery, metaphor, onomatopoeia, personification
________: words that begin with the same letter, e.g. Two toads were totally tired.
________: contains the same vowel sounds, e.g. the half-heard word stirred
cohesion : joining aspects of the poem so that the whole poem is ‘one’ expression or idea, often by constant or regular references to particular sounds, assonances, or alliterations in different parts of the poem.
collocation: implied collocation : ‘the tall building’, ‘the high building’, ‘the tall man’ are phrases which contain words that are often associated together i.e. they are common collocations – but ‘the high man’ is seldom used, ‘high’ is not usually associated or collocated with ‘man’ (depending on context). We may think of common collocations with a word or words in the poem that are not present but may be implied by the context.
comparison, ________, e.g. The thief was as cunning as a fox.
Connotations and implied connotations i.e. associated meanings e.g .the word ‘fly’ may remind us of the phrase ‘fly high’ or ‘do well’, or fly away : – run away, or escape. ________: e.g. He was as clumsy as a drunken tramp. She was as dainty as a cat.
________hints at a harsh truth, e.g. saying ‘He passed away.’ instead of ‘He died.’
enjambment continuing a line into the next one without a break sometimes in order to give more weight or importance to the idea(s) expressed
figurative language has a hidden meaning, e.g. he has a finger in every pie meaning he is involved in many different activities
grammar: use of specific grammatical structures for emphasis e.g. in the line ‘The free bird leaps’, the poet uses ‘the’ instead of ‘a’, meaning that ‘the free bird’ mentioned in the poem is not one bird, but represents all types of free birds.
_______ exaggerates, e.g. I drank gallons of lemonade.
________uses words that appeal to the senses: sight sound, touch, smell or taste, e.g. the rosy clouds
literal use of words e.g. He put his finger into the pie to taste it.
litotes, under-statement e.g. He passed with 100 per cent, so he knows a little of his subject.
________e.g. The man was a fox.
________, words sound like the sounds they represent e.g. squelching footsteps
paradox, something true which appears to be a contradiction, e.g. The truer the statement, the more it is disbelieved.
________, like human beings, e.g. The flowers danced.

Work sheet 1 Poetic Devices ‘Answers’
Alliteration: words that begin with the same letter, e.g. Two toads were totally tired.
Assonance: contains the same vowel sounds, e.g. the half-heard word stirred
cohesion : joining aspects of the poem so that the whole poem is ‘one’ expression or idea, often by constant or regular references to particular sounds, assonances, or alliterations in different parts of the poem.
collocation: implied collocation : ‘the tall building’, ‘the high building’, ‘the tall man’ are phrases which contain words that are often associated together i.e. they are common collocations – but ‘the high man’ is seldom used, ‘high’ is not usually associated or collocated with ‘man’ (depending on context). We may think of common collocations with a word or words in the poem that are not present but may be implied by the context.
comparison, simile, e.g. The thief was as cunning as a fox.
Connotations and implied connotations i.e. associated meanings e.g .the word ‘fly’ may remind us of the phrase ‘fly high’ or ‘do well’, or fly away : – run away, or escape. Alternatively, depending on the situation or ‘context’, we may be reminded of a wish to be a ‘fly on the wall’ to hear or see something that we would not expect to be able to.
Contrast: e.g. He was as clumsy as a drunken tramp. She was as dainty as a cat.
euphemism hints at a harsh truth, e.g. saying ‘He passed away.’ instead of ‘He died.’
enjambment continuing a line into the next one without a break sometimes in order to give more weight or importance to the idea(s) expressed
figurative language has a hidden meaning, e.g. he has a finger in every pie meaning he is involved in many different activities
grammar: use of specific grammatical structures for emphasis e.g. in the line ‘The free bird leaps’, the poet uses ‘the’ instead of ‘a’, meaning that ‘the free bird’ mentioned in the poem is not one bird, but represents all types of free birds.
hyperbole exaggerates, e.g. I drank gallons of lemonade.
imagery uses words that appeal to the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell or taste, e.g. the rosy clouds
literal use of words e.g. He put his finger into the pie to taste it.
litotes, under-statement e.g. He passed with 100 per cent, so he knows a little of his subject.
metaphor e.g. The man was a fox.
onomatopoeia, words sound like the sounds they represent e.g. squelching footsteps
paradox, something true which appears to be a contradiction, e.g. The truer the statement, the more it is disbelieved.
personification, like human beings, e.g. The flowers danced.
Worksheet 2 Poetic styles choose from: lyric, Romantic, comical, narrative, allegorical, monologue, low burlesque, classical, elegy, ode, pastoral

e.g. Is it a lyric poem that reveals what the poet is thinking and feeling?
Is it _______poetry that contains personal, emotional language especially about the beauty of the world around us or about love?
Is it an example of Metaphysical poetry? Does it dwell on the magnificence of the universe, infinity and/or man’s undefeatable spirit?
Is it a mystic poem that reaches beyond our normal consciousness?
Is it an intellectual poem that displays the poet’s skill with words and the shape of the poem?
Is it________? Does it try to make you laugh?
Is it a ________poem that tells a story?
Is it an instructive poem that has a lesson for us to learn?
Is it a moralizing poem that exhorts its readers to be good and shun evil?
Is it a fanciful poem that stretches our imagination to the limit?
Is it a symbolic or ‘________’ poem that is about something real that represents something much deeper e.g. a dove that symbolises peace?
Is it a ________in which a particular character is speaking?
Does the poem sound like a letter? Is it an epistle poem?
Is it a burlesque that treats a serious subject humorously?
Is it high burlesque that takes something unimportant and makes it out to be very important?
Is it ___________that takes something important and makes it out to be unimportant?
Is it a Carpe diem poem that is about living for today?
Is it a ________poem that relates to the ideals of beauty?
Is it doggerel or unliterary humorous verse?
Is it an ________that expresses grief over the death of someone?
Is it an epic or a long serious poem that tells the story of a heroic figure?
Is it an epigram that is very short, ironic and witty?
Is it an epitaph that is a commemorative inscription on a tomb?
Is it an epithalamium (epithalamion) that praises a bride and groom at a wedding?
Is it an Idyll (Idyl) that depicts a peaceful country scene or is a long poem telling a story about heroes of long ago?
Is it a ‘lay’ poem or a long mediaeval sung poem that tells a story?
Is it an ________that is a long lyric poem?
Is it a ________poem about peaceful and romantic country life?
Is it a pindaric ode that is a ceremonious poem that is balanced with question and answer-type lines?


Worksheet 2 ‘Answers’

Is it a lyric poem that reveals what the poet is thinking and feeling?
Is it Romantic poetry that contains personal, emotional language especially about the beauty of the world around us or about love?
Is it an example of Metaphysical poetry? Does it dwell on the magnificence of the universe, infinity and/or man’s undefeatable spirit?
Is it a mystic poem that reaches beyond our normal consciousness?
Is it an intellectual poem that displays the poet’s skill with words and the shape of the poem?
Is it comical? Does it try to make you laugh?
Is it a narrative poem that tells a story?
Is it an instructive poem that has a lesson for us to learn?
Is it a moralizing poem that exhorts its readers to be good and shun evil?
Is it a fanciful poem that stretches our imagination to the limit?
Is it a symbolic or ‘allegorical’ poem that is about something real that represents something much deeper e.g. a dove that symbolises peace?
Is it a monologue in which a particular character is speaking?
Does the poem sound like a letter? Is it an epistle poem?
Is it a burlesque that treats a serious subject humorously?
Is it high burlesque that takes something unimportant and makes it out to be very important?
Is it low burlesque that takes something important and makes it out to be unimportant?
Is it a Carpe diem poem that is about living for today?
Is it a classical poem that relates to the ideals of beauty?
Is it doggerel or unliterary humorous verse?
Is it an elegy that expresses grief over the death of someone?
Is it an epic or a long serious poem that tells the story of a heroic figure?
Is it an epigram that is very short, ironic and witty?
Is it an epitaph that is a commemorative inscription on a tomb?
Is it an epithalamium (epithalamion) that praises a bride and groom at a wedding?
Is it an Idyll (Idyl) that depicts a peaceful country scene or is a long poem telling a story about heroes of long ago?
Is it a ‘lay’ poem or a long mediaeval sung poem that tells a story?
Is it an ode that is a long lyric poem?
Is it a pastoral poem about peaceful and romantic country life?
Is it a pindaric ode that is a ceremonious poem that is balanced with question and answer-type lines?


Worksheet 3 Poetry Structure

Fill the gaps: choose from: rhymes, sonnet, a couplet , free verse, Haiku, Name poetry, an ABC, metre, a rondeau, sound poetry, Tanka, ‘Visual’, an acrostic, rhythm, a limerick,

e.g. Is it a poem that rhymes e.g. the last words of the lines have the same vowel?
Is it ________poem that has lines that begin with letters of the alphabet?
Is it ________ poem in which the first letter of each line spells a word?
Is it ________or a poem of 2 lines that may or may not rhyme?
Is it ________ (vers libre) that has no fixed metrical pattern?
Is it ________ that has three lines with 5+7+5 short syllables that do not rhyme?
Is it ________ is a short humorous poem consisting of five anapaestic (two short followed by one long syllable) lines?
Is it ________ that uses the letters of a key word for the first letter of each line?
Is it ________or a lyrical poem of 10 or 13 lines with a repeated refrain?
Is it a ________ or a lyric poem that consists of 14 lines with a special rhyming scheme?
Is it ________or poetry without words?
Is it a ________or a Japanese poem of five lines of 5+7+5+7+7 syllables?
Is it ________or ‘Concrete’ poetry in which the meaning comes from the way the words are arranged on the page?
Does it have a regular ________e.g. ‘If music be the food of love play on’?
Is the ________the most common ‘iambic pentameter’ i.e. the same as in the sentence ‘If music be the food of love play on’?*


Worksheet 3 Poetry Structure ANSWERS choose from: rhymes, sonnet, a couplet , free verse, Haiku, Name poetry, an ABC, metre, a rondeau, sound poetry, Tanka, ‘Visual’, an acrostic, rhythm, a limerick,

Is it a poem that rhymes e.g. the last words of the lines have the same vowel?
Is it an ABC poem that has lines that begin with letters of the alphabet?
Is it an acrostic poem in which the first letter of each line spells a word?
Is it a couplet or a poem of 2 lines that may or may not rhyme?
Is it free verse (vers libre) that has no fixed metrical pattern?
Is it a Haiku that has three lines with 5+7+5 short syllables that do not rhyme?
Is it a limerick is a short humorous poem consisting of five anapaestic (two short followed by one long syllable) lines?
Is it Name poetry that uses the letters of a key word for the first letter of each line?
Is it a rondeau or a lyrical poem of 10 or 13 lines with a repeated refrain?
Is it a sonnet or a lyric poem that consists of 14 lines with a special rhyming scheme?
Is it sound poetry or poetry without words?
Is it a Tanka or a Japanese poem of five lines of 5+7+5+7+7 syllables?
Is it ‘Visual’ or ‘Concrete’ poetry in which the meaning comes from the way the words are arranged on the page?
Does it have a regular rhythm e.g. ‘If music be the food of love play on’?
Is the metre the most common ‘iambic pentameter’ i.e. the same as in the sentence ‘If music be the food of love play on’?*

(Explanation: ‘Penta’ means ‘five’ as in the word ‘pentagon’. e.g. the opening line of ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare: ‘If músic bé the fóod of lóve play ón.’ has a repeated stress pattern (or ‘metre’) that consists of a weak syllable first followed by a strong syllable e.g. u / weak/strong as in e.g. ‘the food’ i.e. The pattern of Shakespeare’s line is u/u/u/u/u/ or ‘dee dum, dee dum, dee dum, dee dum, dee dum’. Five repetitions of the pattern is said to be five ‘feet’. )


We return to the example of prose and explore how and understanding of poetic devices can improve and develop students’ comprehension.
TEXTS
A. What poetic devices have been used in these texts?
B. What styles can you recognize?
C. What exercises can you use with beginners to explore these devices?
D. What exercises can you use with intermediate students to explore these devices?
E. What exercises can you use with adults to explore these styles?
F. What exercises can you use with beginners to explore these styles?
G. What exercises can you use with intermediate students to explore these styles?
H. What exercises can you use with beginners to explore these structures
I. What exercises can you use with intermediate students to explore these structures?
J. What exercises can you use with adults to explore these structures?
K. Discuss how this helps your students’ comprehension

1) Ruth Rendell (2007) Not in the Flesh Arrow Books p.9-10

It was a gentle sunny day, what weather forecasters were starting to call ‘quiet’ weather, the temperature high for September, all the leaves still on the trees and most of them still green. Summer flowers in pots and urns and windows still bloomed on and on, more luxuriantly than in August. Frosts were due, frosts would normally have come by now but none had. If this was global warming, and Wexford thought it must be, it disguised its awful face under a mask of mild innocence. The sky had become the ‘milky blue’ of midsummer covered with tiny white puffs of cloud.’
assonance ‘still on the trees… green’, ‘tiny white’
alliteration ‘mask of mild …’
personification ‘a gentle ..day’
‘it [the weather] disguised it’s awful face’
extended connotation: ‘global warming’ – bringing to mind a mammoth problem that concerns the whole world, rather than Wexford’s small area.
‘milky blue’, ‘milk’ and ‘blue’ are not usually collocated, but ‘milky’ brings to mind ‘milk’ which nourishes us from the time we are first born – thus giving the word ‘blue’ a sense of positive enrichment
onomatopoeia ‘puffs’ – although in this context, it suggests the shape rather than the actions of the clouds.
contrast: ‘temperature high… Frosts’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘a gentle sunny day’; ‘leaves still on the trees and most of them still green. Summer flowers in pots and urns and windows still bloomed’ etc.

2) Val McDermaid (2003The Distant Echo Harper Collins p. 9)

‘His fall was broken by something soft. Alex struggled to sit up, pushing against whatever it was he had landed on. Spluttering snow, he wiped his eyes with his tingling fingers, breathing hard through his nose in a bid to clear it of the freezing melt. He glanced around to see what had cushioned his landing just as the heads of his three companions appeared on the hillside to gloat over his farcical calamity.’

alliteration ‘something soft’; ‘struggled to sit’, spluttering snow;
assonance ‘wiped his eyes’ ‘tingling fingers’
onomatopoeia ‘spluttering’ snow
alliteration ‘farcical calamity’
contrast ‘broken … soft’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘Spluttering snow’; ‘wiped his eyes with his tingling fingers, breathing hard through his nose’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘Spluttering snow’
imagery appealing to touch: ‘pushing against whatever it was he had landed on’
imagery appealing to taste: ‘‘Spluttering snow’’

3) Barbara Taylor Bradford (2001) The Triumph of Katie Byrne HarperCollins p.14

‘Listening attentively, Carly was transported by Katie’s voice, as she always was. There was a lovely resonance to it full of nuances and feeling. … They all knew how serious [Katie] was about acting. [She] was dedicated, disciplined and very determined to succeed. Somehow, Katie knew how to act the parts she had chosen without having had too many lessons, while Denise and she sort of stumbled along as best they could. Fortunately they were improving, thanks to Katie’s relentless coaching and encouragement.’
alliteration ‘dedicated, disciplined and very determined’; ‘sort of stumbled’
figurative language: ‘transported’ not carried away in a vehicle, but ‘carried away’ in thought
imagery appealing to sound: ‘lovely resonance to it full of nuances and feeling’

4) Richard Hammond (2008) As you Do Phoenix p.11

‘We were sent to a ski resort and this was my first ever trip to such a place. I grew up in Birmingham and we didn’t go skiing. Skiing to us back then was like going on aeroplanes, something only for James Bond. We went camping once a year in the Forest of Dean. And there was no skiing there. As it turns out, skiing trips are pretty bloody annoying anyway. It’s mostly about queuing, skiing. You queue to get your breakfast in the stupid wooden hotel, you queue to get on the minibus or find a taxi to take you to the stupid skiing place at the bottom of the stupid hill. You queue to buy a pass, which you lose later in the day and then you get down to the serious queuing, at the point where you get on the lift at the bottom of the mountain to take you to the top. This technically, is not queuing, it’s something more akin to fighting, so I preferred this bit. You hang around in a big crowd on a sort of train platform. Except there are no tracks, just a big wire overhead. Eventually, the cable car device lumbers into view and disgorges a load of really annoying people with stupid smiles under their stupid hats on to the other side of the platform.’
implied connotation: ‘James Bond’, bringing to mind the dare-devil courageous spy in Ian Fleming’s novels.
cohesion: repetition of the word ‘skiing’, ‘bloody’, ‘queue’, ‘stupid’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘the cable car device lumbers into view and disgorges a load of really annoying people’
simile: ‘like going on aeroplanes’

5) P.D. James (2003) The Murder Room p.3

‘There had been no smoking at the meeting but the room had seemed musty with spent breath and now he took pleasure in breathing fresh air, however briefly. It was a blustery day but unseasonably mild. The bunched clouds were tumbling across a sky of translucent blue and he could have imagined that this was spring except for the autumnal sea-tang of the river – surely half imagined- and the keenness of the buffeting wind as he came out of the station.’
assonance: ‘translucent blue’; ‘spent breath’
personification: ‘sea-tang’ ‘keenness’
implied collocation: ‘spent breath’ – the usual collocation is ‘stale breath’ – this collocation brings to mind: used up, old, breath thrown/given away like money when spending
contrast: ‘spent breath and now he took pleasure in breathing fresh air’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘a blustery day but unseasonably mild. The bunched clouds were tumbling across a sky of translucent blue’ etc.
imagery appealing to smell:’ the room had seemed musty with spent breath’
imagery appealing to taste: ‘autumnal sea-tang of the river’
6) Flanagan, Richard (2013) The Narrow Road to the Deep North Vintage Books

‘Why at the beginning of things is there always light? Dorrigo Evans’ earliest memories were of sun flooding a church hall in which he sat with his mother and grandmother. A wooden church hall. Blinding light, and him toddling back and forth, in and out of its transcendent welcome, into the arms of women. Women who loved him. Like entering the sea and returning to the beach. Over and over.’
assonance: ‘Blinding light’; ‘transcendent welcome’
simile:…Women who loved him. Like entering the sea and returning to the beach’
implied collocations: sun ‘flooding’ – water usually floods; transcendent welcome – ‘transcendent’ is usually associated with going beyond the ordinary like the genius of Mozart suggesting a further device of hyperbole – the expected collocation here might be ‘enthusiastic welcome’ or ’very warm welcome’
cohesion: many references to light – in the first sentence ‘light’, then ‘sun’ and ‘blinding light’ associated with brightness and the warmth of the love of the women.
imagery appealing to sight: ‘sun flooding a church hall’ etc.
imagery appealing to touch: ‘transcendent welcome, into the arms of women. Women who loved him. Like entering the sea’

7) du Maurier, Daphne (1938) ‘Rebecca’ Penguin chapter 1 page 6

‘There was Manderely, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the grey stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and the terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand. ‘
alliteration: ‘secretive and silent’; ‘the hollow of a hand’
personification: [the house] being ‘secretive and silent’; ‘Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls’
metaphor: [the house is] ‘a jewel in the hollow of a hand’
extended collocation: ‘jewel’ – the usual collocation is ‘precious jewel’ this house is special, i.e. ‘precious’ and important to the narrator, just as jewels are precious and important treasures for most people.
cohesion: references to light and shade.: ‘the grey stone shining …in the moonlight …the mullioned windows reflecting…a jewel (jewels are often described as ‘sparkling’ in the light,) ‘the hollow of a hand‘ (a hollow brings to mind the darkness of the bottom of the hollow’
contrast ‘grey… shining’; ‘wreck … perfect’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘grey stone shining in the moonlight’ etc.

8) Ustinov, Peter (1977) Dear Me, Penguin chapter 1 page 21

‘I remember my grandmother quite well as one of the simplest and most sentimental of souls, and with the readiest of tears. The story of the Crucifixion was enough to set her off, as though it were not so much a monumental tragedy as a personal misfortune. When it came to the two robbers, the sobbing began. It was her habit to capture me and place me on her knee for the evening recital, pressing me to her ample bosom, and I still remember my striped flannel pyjama-tops dampened by tears which soon grew chill against the skin.’
alliteration: ‘simplest and most sentimental of souls’
assonance: ‘chill against the skin’
personification: ‘readiest of tears’
extended collocations: ‘monumental tragedy’ – the usual collocation is a terrible/awful/great tragedy – ‘monumental’ not only suggests the foundation of the beliefs associated with the Crucifixion that in many cultures throughout the world by also uses hyperbole by exaggerating the ‘greatness’ of the tragedy.
‘capture’ me – also uses hyperbole – his grandmother did not just ‘take him in her arms’ – the usual phrase used in this situation, ‘capture’ suggests imprisonment, Peter went to his grandmother unwillingly which, although true, the underlying meanings implied in the whole of the text suggests that he also loved his grandmother. ‘capture’ can also be associated with the way in which an artist can capture particular meanings/ effects intended in the portrait or piece of music, thus suggesting Peter was fascinated by this experience in spite of his discomfort.
cohesion: references to the story of the Crucifixion and good/evil ‘soul …tears. The story of the Crucifixion …tragedy …the two robbers, the sobbing …capture me …striped flannel pyjama-tops [reminding us of the clothes warn by victims of the holocaust] dampened by tears … chill’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘place me on her knee for the evening recital, pressing me to her ample bosom,’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘the sobbing began’
imagery appealing to touch: ‘pressing me to her ample bosom,’

9) James, P. D. (2003) The Murder Room Faber and Faber chapter 3 p.38

‘Emma loved Cambridge at the start of the academic year. Her mental picture of summer was of shimmering stones seen through a haze of heat, of shadowed lawns, flowers casting their scent against sun-burnished walls, of punts being driven with practised energy through sparkling water or rocking gently under laden boughs, of distant dance music and calling voices.’
alliteration: ‘haze of heat’
personification: ‘flowers casting’
extended collocation: ‘laden boughs’ – a usual collocation of ‘boughs’ is ‘heavy’ which suggests the bough is large and thick – more is added to our impression of this bough by extending it to include a large amount of summer foliage – making it heavy or ‘loaded’ i.e. laden.
cohesion: constant mention of associations with summer: ‘summer … shimmering stones …a haze of heat, … shadowed lawns, flowers … scent … sun-burnished walls, punts …sparkling water … rocking gently … laden boughs,’
contrast: ‘practised energy … rocking gently’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘shimmering stones seen through a haze of heat, of shadowed lawns, flowers … sun-burnished walls’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘distant dance music and calling voices’
imagery appealing to smell: ‘flowers casting their scent’

10) Martel, Yann (2013) Life of Pi Canon books Ltd chapter 45 p.162 – 163

‘Sometime that afternoon I saw the first specimen of what would become a dear, reliable friend of mine. There was a bumping and scraping sound against the hull of the lifeboat. A few seconds later, so close to the boat I could have leaned down and grabbed it, a large sea turtle appeared, a hawksbill, flippers lazily turning, head sticking out of the water. It was striking-looking in an ugly sort of way, with a rugged yellowish-brown shell about three feet long and spotted with patches of algae, and a dark green face with a sharp beak, no lips, two solid holes for nostrils and black eyes that stared at me intently. The expression was haughty and severe like that of an ill-tempered old man who has complaining on his mind.’
onomatopoeia: ‘a bumping and scraping sound’
personification: [the turtle] ‘was striking-looking in an ugly sort of way; [the turtle had] ‘a dark green face with a sharp beak, no lips, two solid holes for nostrils and black eyes that stared at me intently. The expression was haughty and severe’
simile: ‘like that of an ill-tempered old man who has complaining on his mind’
extended connotation: ‘first specimen’ – although specimens are usually associated with ‘first’, ‘second’ etc., in this context, the author is suggesting that he is not so much ‘involved’ with the subject of his interest as an outside observer, like a scientist, but is personally involved in a number of different species that he meets, this being the first. The inference of a scientific observation helps us believe that his descriptions are deeper and more meaningful than might otherwise have been the case. .
cohesion: mentioning the turtle as if it were a newly acquired (human) friend
‘a dear, reliable friend of mine…so close… striking-looking…ugly sort of way, rugged a dark green face with a sharp beak, no lips, two solid holes for nostrils and black eyes that stared at me intently. The expression was haughty and severe like that of an ill-tempered old man who has complaining on his mind.’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘a large sea turtle appeared, a hawksbill, flippers lazily turning, head sticking out of the water. It was striking-looking’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘There was a bumping and scraping’
imagery appealing to touch: ‘I could have leaned down and grabbed it,’

How to use this knowledge to improve students’ comprehension
1. beginners: (words only)
take one noun from the text and ask the students to name other words that they associate with this word. Allow them to use their own language first then translate into English
e.g. day (night, daytime, morning, afternoon, evening …
associated adjectives: In groups, how many adjectives for ‘day’ can they name sunny day, happy day, dull day. …
use the poetic devices for team games:
alliteration, choose a word e.g. day – how many other words beginning with d can you name e.g. day, dog,
assonance, choose a word e.g. day – how many other words that contain the same sounding vowel can you name e.g. day, way, weigh
simile, choose a word e.g. day – how many similes can you make associated with the word e.g. The sunny day was like a smile.
contrast, choose a word each, the other team names an opposite e.g. day – night
(imagery) appealing to what you see: find two example words e.g. ‘sunny day’
(imagery) appealing to what you hear: (+onomatopoeia) e.g. bang, cluck, hoot, giggle
(imagery) appealing to what you touch: e.g. adjectives: smooth, rough, cold, hot
(imagery )appealing to what you smell: nouns: different smells: e.g. curry, scent,
imagery )appealing to what you taste: salty, bitter, sweet
Then look for the poetic devices in texts
2. intermediate: common phrases using the same exercises as above.
Use the poetic devices to learn new figurative meanings:
e.g. idioms e.g. ‘an arm and a leg’, ‘every could has a silver lining’, ‘feel a bit under the weather’
Use styles of poetry to discuss styles of writing e.g. lyrical – writing that reveals what the author is thinking or feeling. e.g. ‘Alex struggled to sit up, pushing against whatever it was he had landed on. Spluttering snow.’ He was: uncomfortable, unhappy, in despair; probably: angry, embarrassed, shocked …
3. Advanced:
Analyse a text’s examples of poetic devices, style, structure and associated effects and meanings
Write paragraphs employing specific poetic devices or write in one of the poetic styles listed.

e.g. show the students a picture of a turtle and after they have attempted a description of their own, show them the paragraph from Martel, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2013) Canon books Ltd chapter 45 p.162 – 163
END

rjwestwell@hotmail.com

Why DID the co-pilot suddenly decide to crash the plane?

March 26, 2015

No one will ever know the whole truth but I may be able to shed light on it from an experience a friend of mine had a number of years ago.
People who know her, know that she’s far from suicidal and she says that if she ever thinks about it now, she’s sure she would never do it, she would never have the courage, for a start. Besides, she doesn’t believe in it, she thinks it is selfish and cowardly.
However, what if…
Years ago there was a moment when life seemed to stand still for her. She was fixed in a cloud of nothingness while she lay in bed, waiting for a wound to heal. Her mind seemed to coagulate into a mulch of shadows. Thoughts faded into an unfocused blanket, She daydreamed, if anything, but she felt she couldn’t be bothered. She really couldn’t be bothered watching TV, reading a book or doing anything, not even thinking. She felt happy, secure and unperturbed as she lay there, doing nothing.
When she did think, the thoughts were shallow, meaningless, lacking any passion or feeling. Everyday, three times a day, she says she took the required number of tablets, had a drink and a meal, answered nature’s call and lay back to enjoy her self-indulgent laziness.
One day, while she was not really thinking about anything specific she thought how life had no beginning or end, it was meaningless, nothing mattered, not her not her family not her friends. She swears she was not depressed or anything. It was as if she was in a vacuum. She thought she may as well finish the pills, after all they were there. There was no drum roll, no sudden desire to do something drastic, the thought just came to her quietly as if it just crept into her mind the same way a gentle breeze might touch her cheek. It was nothing important. It was just something she could do. Fortunately, before she did anything, she forced herself to ‘wake up’, reminded herself that it would have serious consequences if she took all of the pills and stopped herself in time, even though it still didn’t seem to matter.
so the co-pilot?
What if, for him too, he felt he was living in a constant dream. Nothing mattered. He had normal conversations with everyone, he went through the usual motions of his daily routine. He flew the plane as always and then, when the captain left the cockpit, still in a kind of daze he thought, life is meaningless, it just goes on and on, nothing ever happens, what if- what if he just flew it straight into the mountain. It wouldn’t matter, no one and nothing mattered, and then in that daze he simply made it happen, nothing, not even the loud calls and thumping on the door would distract him, It really didn’t matter…