Archive for the TV Category

Gareth Malone – Extraordinary School For Boys

Posted in ESL, TV with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by EslImaginarium

When I returned to the U.K. I decided I would not have a t.v in my new apartment as I find it provides a distraction from our thoughts and is usually full of throwaway entertainment, clichéd food programmes and posh people with excess money looking for a new plot of land.  This mission to refrain from the background noise and altar of the living room did not last long and due to the package with my internet provider there was no avoidance of purchasing an HD TV and an accompanying TV licence.  Having avoided tv for 3 years and only watched HBO box sets, it was time to sit back and channel surf.  I was apprehensive about this exploration into the world of subliminal advertisement and pointless soaps and wondered if it was really worth purchasing a tv licence for unlimited access to trashy tv.

I’m amazed that people just put the tv on for some background noise to fill the void.  The tv provides comfort to people and a focus for their livingroom.  I always remember the genius of the tv programme, ‘the royal family’ where we sat down as a family to watch the tv and ended up  watching a family who were also  watching a tv in their living room.

I intend to avoid the spontaneity of channel surfing and adopt a more focused viewing schedule. There is nothing worse than stumbling across ‘the Jeremy Kyle’ show and wasting an hour of your day watching the depressing drama unfold.  I believe that the British public pay for a tv licence and thus it is important that the BBC provide quality programming for the tax payers viewing pleasure.  Recently I have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of challenging and enjoyable documentaries that have been on offer.  Last week I watched a new documentary about the challenge of  re-engaging boys who don’t like school and who, like many across Britain lag behind their female peers.

Based on the most recent educational research, Gareth introduces his pupils to the concepts of unbridled competition, risk and adventure. His aim is to harness the power of boisterous behaviour and challenge the boys’ apparent aversion to standing out from the crowd so that they feel more confident about aiming for better grades.

Here is a an article about this programme:

Gareth Malone – Extraordinary School For Boys


Gareth Malone with some of the boys from his class

In the summer term of 2010 I was welcomed by Chris Thurgood, the head teacher of Pear Tree Mead Primary School, to teach a class of 39 boys. Since arriving at the school two years previously, she had been aware of the discrepancy in educational achievement between boys and girls.

Quite simply the girls were doing better and they couldn’t seem to get the boys to knuckle down. She made an unlikely choice: She accepted my offer that I, a choirmaster, might be able to help her sort out the problem.

I was advised that boys need to know who’s in charge, what the rules are, and if they will be applied fairly. With that simple adage I progressed. I can’t say I always prevailed but you have to show the boys that you are not to be trifled with.

At the same time, boys can be very sensitive and when they are scared or not getting their own way they can lash out. Training the boys to listen to each other and be respectful of each others’ feelings is the work of a lifetime.

I was amazed how often boys cry over tiny things. We have this image that crying is for girls but, wow, the boys could cry at anything: Falling over, petty injustices in the playground, or just because they were not able to do something.

From talking to the experts, teachers and parents, I’ve become convinced that modern life is pulling boys in directions that don’t necessarily help the basic skills of reading and writing.

Many boys play hours and hours of computer games every day which can be over-stimulating. By contrast a book can seem rather dull and that too much effort is required for not as much reward. In addition, children aren’t allowed to roam as freely as they were in the past.

There are obviously real safety concerns about letting kids out unsupervised but too much‘cotton-wooling’ is damaging for a boy’s sense of self belief, and I found that if I gave them responsibility to step outside their comfort zone they really rose to the challenge.

Some of the boys were very behind in their reading. It was deeply affecting and difficult to know how to help. Several times I wondered if my approach was having anything but a detrimental effect, because as a new teacher you measure your success minute by minute.

If an activity goes well then you are elated. If it doesn’t go according to plan it can leave you feeling pretty dejected and make you question yourself constantly. I think that over time teachers learn to roll with the punches.

But over the course of the term we did make a difference. I’m really proud that I tackled something that is of real importance. I’m proud of what I achieved with the boys and that the school will be taking some of my ideas forward.

I loved the excitement of the boys debating with the girls in the first programme, but camping in the school grounds was the most memorable experience. Tending the fire in the dead of night whilst the boys slept under the starlight was magical.

This has been a very busy year for me and I’m looking forward to a bit of a break. My wife – who is a teacher herself – is about to give birth to our first child and I’m absolutely convinced it’ll be a boy!

Your thoughts?

It will be interesting to see how the show progresses and if he does make a lasting impact.  I was wondering how other teachers find the problem of engagement of students and if you have any tips on how to encourage and motivate boys in the classroom.  If you have watched this programme I would like to know what you thought.  Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

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Step Right Up!! The Big Brother Circus has Arrived

Posted in ESL, TV, you tube with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by EslImaginarium

The UK summer has begun and as always it’s accompanied by the cultural phenomena known as ‘Big Brother’.  The funeral has started as we joyously  say goodbye to Big Brother while trying to avoid the addiction of watching the  Final season.

I have to say that I’m pleased to be far away from the hysteria of Big Brother.  Although I admit to being an avid follower of the show in its early days.  However, over the years it has become a desperate and trashy reality TV show which is responsible for a splurge of similar hideous incarnations.

Ask your students if they know about ‘Big Brother’ and if there is a version shown in their own country.

The History of Big Brother:

The Big Brother TV Show is produced in 42 territories and has been a prime time hit in almost 70 countries. The first Big Brother show broadcast was in the Netherlands in 1999. This mould-breaking series was the UK’s first fully interactive mass TV experience and has been hailed as the ‘godfather of reality shows’.

Click here to view Big Brother worldwide

Here is a cut ‘n’ paste from ‘Wikipedia‘:

Big Brother is a reality television show in which a group of people live together in a large house, isolated from the outside world but continuously watched by television cameras. Each series lasts for around three months, and there are usually fewer than 15 participants. The housemates try to win a cash prize by avoiding periodic evictions from the house.

Activity – Judging a book by its cover:

Below are the pictures of the new contestants and a ‘wordle’ of the jobs they have.  Students have to try to match the job with the contestant.

The contestants

The jobs

Please click on the title below for a worksheet of this activity

Big Brother jobs WORKSHEET

Activity – Judging a book by its cover part 2:

Students form groups.  Each group is given an envelope with the contestants pictures and an envelope with their personalities.  The students race to match the pictures with the personalities.  When they think they are correct they ask the teacher to check.  The teacher will tell them how many correct answers they have.  The group is given time to try to change their choices.

Please click on the title below for the pictures and personalities.  Print copies for each group.Cut out the pictures and personalities and put them in separate envelopes.

Big Brother WORKSHEET 2

Lets watch a BB video clip to see what all the fuss is about:

Please click on the title below for questions about the video clip:

Big Brother Video WORKSHEET

Who would you like to live with in the Big Brother house?

Please click on the title below for Big Brother discussion topics

Big Brother Questions

Extra activity:

Predictions: Create a Big Brother poster with all the contestants.  Ask the students to write their predictions of who will win the competition.  Each week remove the picture of the contestant who is eliminated.

Who am I? – Students write out a paragraph of their own personalities.  The teacher collects each students paragraph.  The teacher randomly reads out one of the paragraphs and the students have to guess which student wrote the paragraph.

Reality TV

The reality tv debate

Is reality TV a waste of time?   Students have a debate about their opinions on reality TV.

Students who think reality TV is a waste of time go to one side of the classroom and the other students go to the other side.  Both sides think about what they can say to support their arguments in a debate.  Each side is given a time limit to present their ideas.

Please click on the title below for a reality TV worksheet:

Reality TV WORKSHEET

I hope you liked the above activities.  If you have any other suggestions then please write a comment below.

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