Category Archives: Teaching

English Camp II: Success!

I am on “cloud nine,” as we colloquially say: last weekend marked the second successful realization of the English Immersion Camp at Treasure Island (see our fairy tale from last year for more pictures). This year, while much of the programming was similar, I made a big change to our leadership structure: namely, this time I wanted to integrate local Brazilian leaders into the planning process so that the camp can be realized again in future years without my (or Cara’s) help.

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I remained on as one of the Camp Logistics Coordinators, in partnership with Wanderson Kassius (soon to study abroad in New Jersey through Ciência Sem Fronteiras!). Lia Moraes and César Ribeiro (with the help of Rafael Maynart, also soon to study abroad in England through CsF) planned two brilliant All-Camp Activities: a screening of “The Lion King” (in English and with sing-along lyrics, of course) and a Treasure Hunt, which ended up being the most popular event of the weekend. Alicia, this year’s English Teaching Assistant at UPE, partnered with UPE English student Jessica Sena to find and train our Club Leaders, who led four separate activities over the weekend in their designated Clubs. Thanks to our outstanding Club Leaders: Neuza Lantyer (Lion Club), Bruno Amorim (Rabbit), Emerson Lima (Zebra), Sara Lisboa (Bee), and Davi Tavares (Panda)!

It was extremely gratifying to be at camp with all these local leaders, and not only because I got ample chance to relax in my hammock and leave the work to them. It’s because the biggest barrier to learning English, or achieving any goal, isn’t English itself—it’s having the determination and skills to see that goal through. These leaders, in addition to our superstar campers, all proved themselves extremely capable of not only surviving, but actually coordinating, leading, and inspiring—all in English. If they can do that, I’m pretty sure they can do anything.

All this is to say—and I’m talking to you, campers—I know the camp can happen next year, without me and without Cara. The next time, there will be another ETA thrilled to help out, but you’ll have to be the ones showing him or her the ropes. After that, who knows whether there will be an American grantee in Petrolina whose job is supporting regional English programming. But that shouldn’t be a problem for you, because the island will be there, you have all the right contacts, and you all know how valuable the experience is—and it isn’t all because of one or two Americans. Let’s commit to English Camp 2014! (I want video proof, ok?)

In case you need a little inspiration, here are your brilliant skits showing why Petrolina needs English.

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Happy April Fool’s Day!

I’ve never been much good at April Fool’s Day jokes, but today I think I pulled off a pretty nice one.

Jónsi, the Icelandic musician, was asked a few years ago to write a theme song for the animated movie “How to Train Your Dragon.” The song, “Sticks and Stones,” is catchy and good for driving fast. The first few verses plus the chorus are in English, then he switches to Icelandic for the third and fourth verses–but the key (for my purposes, as you’ll see) is that both the English and Icelandic parts could believably be English. The English verses are fast and hard to understand in the first place, and even as a native English speaker, if you told me the Icelandic was English, I might believe you.

With this in mind, I copied a sheet of lyrics for the students and we listened to the song. The English parts had a few words missing here and there (“Orange and white, dark red, green and _________”). For the Icelandic verse, I left only four blank lines on their sheet.

Of course, they wouldn’t be able to understand enough to fill in the blank lines just from listening, so I used a technique from the wonderful English Fellow Laura Mihuza: leave a large-print master copy of the lyrics on the floor on one end of the room, and conduct a “lyrics relay race.” One student from each team is a “writer,” and two are “runners.” The writers sits on the opposite side of the room as the lyrics, and the runners must run to the lyrics sheet, memorize a word or two, then run back to communicate them to the writer, who fills in the students’ lyric sheet (the one with blanks) appropriately. If someone doesn’t understand, they must express that in English: “Can you say that slower?” “How do you spell that?”

Of course, in this case, the last verse is in Icelandic. (Inn um ermar, upp hryggjarsúluna is just an example.)

It was so funny to watch them running frantically, successfully carrying English words and phrases back to their writers–until slowly they all begin to look at the Icelandic, make outraged noises, and panic. “Is this English?” “I’m so confused!” My answer, of course: “Well obviously it’s English! Have you been paying any attention in class? These are words we use every day!” (In one class I even pulled in one of the school’s directors to corroborate–“You guys obviously have to study more, because this is definitely English!”)

After an appropriate period of outrage on my part, I said “Ok fine–I’ll tell you what chapter all this vocabulary is in,” and wrote on the board, “Happy April Fool’s!” After we all cleared up what that meant (in Portuguese it’s “Dia da Mentira,” Day of Lies), I was rewarded with some very satisfying sighs of relief and exclamations of offense/delight. Especially when a class curriculum is based out of a book, it’s always important to throw in some silly moments.

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Student Projects from Petrolina´s First English Immersion Camp

We waited to show our student´s creative and brilliant projects from the English Immersion Camp held back in October until the closing night of the Petrolina International English Fair.  Now that these films have been shown in Petrolina, they are ready for their international debut via ensinapetrolina.com.

The first are a compilation of songs:

And the second is a selection of skits about why English is important:

If we didn’t include your piece, it’s only because the sound was bad– all of your projects were amazing and we would have loved to share all of them.  Next time we will be sure to secure a less-windy location.

C² hopes you enjoyed watching as much as we enjoyed making!

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Sneak peak into an English Fair project!

I’m excited to post a little preview of one of the Petrolina International English Fair student projects, produced by the second semester English students at UPE! Here’s what they have to tell you, written by themselves, about their stand:

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Hello, welcome to the English Fair!!

We English students of the second semester from UPE invite everybody to an amazing multicultural trip!

Our central objective is to present the irrigated fruticulture from Petrolina-PE to the world from the angle of the cultivation of the grape. We will be offering to the public a tasting of grapes, a chocolate waterfall with fruits, among another activities and games.

Searching to understand grape cultivation, the group counted on the support of Miguel Cappellaro, administrator, who showed us the way patiently during the visit, teaching us all the process of cultivation of the grapes, from plantation until harvest. We were fascinated with the plantation–it’s a lovely experience, one we recommend.

Miguel further told us about the importance of knowing English in the work market, which always needs a professional with this knowledge. In addition, learning another language can also help with personal growth.

Cappellaro Fruits, a company that has worked in the region for twenty two years, is formatted on a family base, contributing to development of the city generateing hundreds of job, making donations to the municipal nursery and also participating in the return of packaging recyclable and toxics.

Come visit the English Fair and let yourself take in this multicultural trip!

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TOEFL Test 1- Success

The first TOEFL test in Petrolina was administered on Saturday, October 27, 2012.   It was a total success!

Be on the look-out for more dates to be set in December 2012.  There are only 14 seats available for every date, so make sure and get yours quickly!

Many thanks to Alexandre Correia, Computer Science Professor at the IF-Sertão, who helped with all the IT and graciously did all the preparatory tests, the set-up and the take down.

Congratulations to the students– Wandersson and Bruna– who took the test; you are now officially Petrolina TOEFL pioneers   🙂

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An English Immersion Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a group of daring young students set out to master a foreign tongue on a magical island.

They departed from the kingdom of Petrolina, traveling merrily over land until arriving at the massive hydroelectric dam of Sobradinho, where the noble Noah boat awaited them.

Disembarking from their trusty transport, the travelers received their first surprise: a magic amulet, called a “rubber band,” which forbade the wearer from speaking his or her native tongue. Immersion in the foreign tongue, the most used language in all the world—English—had begun!

Armed with their challenge, the valiant voyagers boarded the Noah, where there was much merrymaking and singing.

By the time the sun was two hours lower in the sky, the boat full of adventurers scraped the sands of Treasure Island (Ilha do Tesouro in the local language). And there were treasures aplenty, just waiting to be discovered.

After settling in their cabins, appetites were worked up over tournaments of tetherball, volleyball and soccer until the first of many great feasts.

Bellies filled with American fare, the campers tackled group tasks for a great festival in their kingdom, whose goal is to share English with all the dwellers of the land (the Petrolina International English Fair).

Later, leaders helped the students climb new heights; daring was unburied from deep within.

As the weary travelers trooped back to their cabins, the first glimmers of all the riches to be had were fresh in their minds.

With the rising of the sun, the campers set off on a quest to explore the island.

Not only did they discover a beach full of gleaming crystals…

…but they also uncovered their own bravery and strength, hiking up mountains…

…jumping off cliffs and climbing up steep rocks.

Over the next few days, uncountable treasures were discovered. Participants explored the island as they explored their own daring, testing their abilities at kayaking, archery, zip lines, swimming, horseback riding and more—all while communicating in the strange sounds of English.

 

The linguistic conquerors showed their mastery of the foreign tongue by creating songs, dramatic works and dances (to be shown to all the townspeople during the great PIEF festival).

They even fell in love with the adventure of tasting strange new foods such as marshmellows and peanut butter!

Around a blazing fire on the beach during the last night, the adventurers bid their adieus over sweet melodious campfire songs and sweeter s’mores.

Merrymaking continued until the parting of ways, a day’s journey later. Just as diamonds are indestructible, the richness of getting to know new worlds and all that they entail (friendship, understanding, and a new language) will be forever with all those adventurous enough to take part in the First English Immersion Camp in the North-East Interior at Treasure Island!

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Caution: Autonomous Learning in Process

A few weeks ago I completed my Autonomous Learning lectures in UPE English classes, and then met with over 15 students individually to discuss their personal goals and strategies when it comes to improving their English. The lectures and workshops were extremely rewarding, and I even met with a few students who had never come to my classes before. The whole experienced reinforced the concept that the most effective goals in language learning are short-term, specific, and evaluable. This way, they are all that much easier to achieve!

Here is my powerpoint from the lecture:

And here is the Personal Goal Setting handout I asked my students to fill out before meeting with me.

But the process is never over! For those who met with me, I’ll be setting up meetings in another few weeks to help them evaluate where they are in their goal process. For those who haven’t yet made goals and would like to talk more about how to do it, I’m here–get in contact!

Thanks to Christina Lorimer, ETA in São José do Rio Preto, for her consultation about autonomous learning and goal-setting. Another great web resource from an avid autonomous learner is Innovation in Teaching.

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Take me home, Northeast Roads

Our English Immersion Camp at the Ilha do Tesouro was a grand success! We want to share two special items: first, a heart-warming video of our campers singing “Northeast Roads” (a version of John Denver’s “Country Roads” that we invented at camp); and second, some inspiring quotations from our camp evaluations.

The goal of our camp, ultimately, was to provide something that doesn’t exist in the sertão of Brazil: a full immersion experience in English. Our students were challenged to speak English the entire weekend; each one had a bracelet that could be taken away by another camper or teacher if the student were heard speaking Portuguese. (Needless to say, many bracelets were lost and gained again.) We are thrilled that many of our evaluations point to the importance of this immersion experience, as well as other benefits of the camp: motivation to study, learning new vocabulary, and good new friends.

“I would recommend this camp because there isn’t this kind of experience around here, and it’s really important if you want to learn English.”

“I know myself better. Now I know what I have to do to improve.”

“It couldn’t be better, I learned so many expressions I didn’t know yet. I spoke 90% in English and as I wanted to do a trip to the USA but I don’t have enough money, it was an exchange program in Sobradinho!”

“My English was automatic, even when I forgot that I should speak English, my mind was ready to speak.”

“I am only a beginner in English and this camp was very stimulating for me. I will definitely study with more motivation now.”

“I would definitely recommend the camp because it is an incredible opportunity to meet new people, improve my English, and develop various skills!”

“It is an opportunity to learn English while having fun.”

“This experience helped me a lot because it made me practice my English, which I had left to the side for a long time.”

“It was a great experience, aside from being an opportunity to grow intellectually, the camp transformed unknown people into good friends.”

Up next: a special Treasure Island fairy tale (nonfiction!)

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Free Conversation Course and 4 Minutes of Fame

Free Conversation Course at the IF- Sertão in Jõao de Deus (2101-4300) every Monday and Wednesday (TOMORROW) from 11-12 or 13-14 in classroom H27.  All are welcome and encouraged to join!

For more info, or just for kicks, see my live interview (four minutes of fame) with Grande Rio TV:

Translated Script:

Female Anchor:  An opportunity for those who would like to work on their English, a free conversation course here in Petrolina with a North American professor, and here she is live with Juliano Roque. Juliano, I think you must have at least knowledge of English to participate in this course, right? Good afternoon…

Juliano: Good Afternoon (in English).  So, yes you do have to have some notion of English to participate, but as Professor Cara Snyder, the Professor of the course, and I were just talking about, it’s not outlandish for people today to know English.  In reality, English is a very much a part of our reality—someone may know a word, a phrase from a song, this also facilitates [English language learning]. 

Cara, good afternoon.  Besides having some notion of English, or for those who don’t, what will this course be like, how will you give a conversation course for people?

Professor Cara:  Well, that will depend on who comes, but it will be just an hour.  We’ll play games, learn songs, chat… it will be as challenging as possible within in hour.

Juliano: So would this class be good for people, say, who are wanting to travel outside the country and don’t want to arrive not knowing what to do.

Professor Cara: That too, but it’s also for people, I hear a lot of people say that they need to learn English, they need to practice, they’re a little rusty, so this will be a good chance for them once or twice a week as a sort of “refresh”… a sort of…

Juliano: As a reminder for people to remember the things they learned during x course, etc.

Now, who can participate in this course, is there an age limit for instance?

Cara: No, there’s no age limit. People from the community are welcome to participate, students from all schools, I want everyone to participate!

Juliano: Do you have to pay anything to participate in this course?

Cara: No, it’s totally free

Juliano:  The course will be held at the IF- Sertão in the Jõao de Deus neighborhood, is that correct?  Is there a certain time people have to register by?  When does the course begin?

Cara: Yes, you can register, or not, I just want lots of people to come and participate so COME, come and join us the course begins tomorrow so come, see what you think and then keep coming. 

Juliano: What times are the courses held?

Cara:  You can either come from 11-noon, before lunch or from 1-2 pm

Juliano:  I see that you have an excellent accent.  Now you’re from Washington (she was telling us that she’s from Washingon, D.C.), you’ve been here for one and a half years, I’d like to know—is it more difficult for a Brazilian to learn English or for a North-American to learn and understand Portuguese as you are doing so well?

Cara: I think it’s much more difficult for a North American to learn Portuguese.

Juliano:  What were the most difficult aspects for you to understand, speak and write in Portuguese?

Cara: Humm… I think the accent is probably the most difficult part.  As I told you, I arrived already speaking Spanish, so that helped a lot, but there are some sounds in Portuguese that are extremely difficult for us to master like aeroporto (airport), pão, cão: these sounds are difficult. 

Juliano: Cara, thank you so much.  According to Cara there’s no reason why anyone can’t learn English.  The number to the IF- Sertão in  Jõao de Deus is 2101 4300 and now for…

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Coming Up: Autonomous Learning at UPE

One of the things I’m emphasizing this semester at UPE is that language learning requires independent initiative. You’ll learn a language best not only by going to class, but by setting goals for yourself, learning the way you learn, and practicing effectively on your own.

However, it can be hard to know how to start this independent work. To this end, when Cara and I come back from our English Camp (for which we are inexpressibly excited) next week, I’m kicking off a two-week series on Autonomous Learning at UPE. In Week 1, I’ll give a half-hour lecture to each of the four periods (freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in American terms) during scheduled class time. At the lecture you’ll discover what Autonomous Learning is all about and receive a questionnaire to begin your “journey.” In Week 2, I’ll teach a workshop to follow up on the lecture, where we’ll talk personally about your questionnaire, set some goals, and design strategies for moving forward.

Week 1 begins on Tuesday, October 2. UPE English students will get the lecture in their classes; students from other courses or outside the school should contact me to get a schedule. Week 2 will have two identical workshop slots, so choose which one works best for you. They will be October 9 and 10th, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 5:30-7pm.

Stay tuned for a post-Camp post (hah) in the beginning of next month!

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