The fun of misnegation

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“The author never fails to disappoint” – can you imagine that a phrase like that ended up on the cover of a book? And yet it happens, and there is an explanation for it in this post by Stan Carey about the issue with several negatives in one sentence and how our brain sometimes fails to process them correctly. It can be particularly useful when you’re teaching students with a negative-concord native language – though I suppose words similar to ‘overestimate’ and ‘understate’ can be tricky regardless of how many negatives your language allows you to have in one sentence!

 

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Should or must

Warning: this is a rather touchy-feely post, and it’s not really about grammar rules! Nevertheless, I think it builds quite nicely on the idea of Do-Nothing Teaching, and the questions the writer asks are very close to my heart. It’s actually a book summary, and it seems that the whole book is a worthwhile read. Call me an idealist, but isn’t this a great quote? 

“When you follow Must every day, you impact not only what you create for your work, but also who you become in your life. This is how your work and your life become one and the same.”

That said, you can also use the article for extra noticing practice with higher-level students 🙂

P.S. My ‘Listening to now’ widget has stopped working, so here is a nice song I got stuck on as an illustration: 

Language, literally

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Did you know that the Oxford Dictionary has acknowledged the figurative use of ‘literally’? The author (Fiona McPherson) goes on to explain why and how certain word uses tend to irritate speakers, and even quotes Chaucer and Shakespeare to illustrate the history of other contentious language phenomena like double negation,  ‘sick’, ‘wicked’ and ‘non-plussed‘. A riveting read (not literally)!

 

Teaching with telescopic texts

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I have found this really cool educational tool in Ozge Karaoglu’s blog: when you click on a part of sentence, it unfolds into more words and you end up with a huge sentence that is almost like a text. You can write your own sentences, or use the little demo about tea.

I recommend checking Ozge’s post for more links and examples of its use in teaching – really good stuff!

Learners as illustrators

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A very useful post from Jade Blue about using student-generated visuals. This type of fun is actually justified: students’ comprehension and retention improves because they are engaged cognitively and affectively and have an opportunity to build new patterns between what they know and what they don’t. The post describes grammar-conceptualising activities, sentence-structure activities and idea sculptures – not only with pencils and paper, but also with Cuisenaire rods. I particularly like the illustrations – makes you want to start generating your own visuals right now!

Home-made jazz chants

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If you haven’t read this post by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto yet, you are in for a real treat. It features a video with none other than Carolyn Graham, who is showing conference participants how to make their own jazz chants. You don’t have to watch the video to get the idea, but those 10 minutes will be worth it, especially the live performance at the end. There are a few well-chosen links for extra reading at the end of the article, but I am already convinced: this is the perfect drill.

Simpler language for the masses

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Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

The more people speak a language, the simpler its grammar – does this ring true to you? Here’s an article about fairly recent research at Cornell University (and a link to the original paper if you don’t mind academic reading) which states that the apparent simplicity of English grammar is explained by the sheer number of its speakers: complex grammar points just cannot be learned without a lot of exposure, and exposure is gained only in a small group, where you can hear the new grammar point more often. New vocabulary, on the contrary, is acquired more easily without the need for much exposure. Hmm… As a language teacher, I find some of this counterintuitive, and you?