The Senses as Metaphor

Over the Korean Thanksgiving holiday, I had more than a few opportunities to talk with friends and strangers in Korean.  Such opportunities are always a mixture of self-loathing and confidence-building.

I had a thought one night after coming home from a full day of mumbling my way through conversations in a department store, that my level of fluency in Korean is at least 80% determined by the willingness of the listener to try to hear me.  It is amazing what a cooperative conversational partner can do with whatever it is we should call my Korean language ability.

Conversely, it is equally distressing how little I am able to communicate with someone who either chooses not to hear me, or through their own shyness/fear or inexperience, cannot hear me.  Suddenly all those inspirational stories, phrases and advice about “listening instead of speaking” I’ve received have new meaning.  It’s not that someone who listens more is better than someone who speaks, it’s that the vast majority of communication is accomplished on the listening end of it all.  Speech is necessary for listening (though, clearly not for communication), but even the most eloquent speaker can be misunderstood by a poor or inexperienced listener.

And I say inexperienced sincerely.  Listening, while the birthright of most humans, is a skill, chiseled by effort and time into a fine work.  It is not a passive skill nor does a person who listens much more than speaks a passive person.  It is a laborious effort for most and comes easily only to very few people.  I suspect there are a few “good listeners” out there who are really just quiet, which is not exactly the same, though if one wishes to develop listening, being quiet is a place to start.

My thinking about listening led me to this idea: First, sense words (sight, sound, etc) have secondary meanings in English to convey the meaning “I understand”.  The first to come to mind was, “hear”, as in “I hear you.”  A phrase I have come to really like due in small part to the movie, Australia.  My idea being that while many of the words for senses can convey understanding, words for “speaking” could not.  Here are a few:

“I hear you.”
“I feel you.”
“I see.”
“I’m touched.”

I thought I had stumbled upon an interesting phenomoneon (by which I don’t mean to imply I am the first).  However, I soon realized that “speak” can also be used to convey understanding:

“That speaks to me.”

Though I find the structure to be interesting, in a way I’m not particularly clear on yet.  The “speaks” example is slightly different in meaning (they all are) than the others, and “see” is really the only one that strictly conveys the idea, “I understand”.  The other tend to also imply a sense of empathy or other emotion.  “speaks” for example, seems to me to say something like, “I’m struck by this” or some other sense of wonder.  “touch” suggests connection, sympathy or gratitude.

So my idea is wrong, in addition, I can think of no way that the word “taste” is commonly used as a metaphor for understanding. “Delicious” is often used to convey a sense of goodness about something other than taste-oriented senses, but understanding isn’t one of them.  If you’ve got one, let me know.

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The one where I get Final Fantasy VII into a lesson

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In my 7th graders textbook, the reading portion for our current chapter is focused on art history and linguistically on color/feeling words and “makes me feel” type phrases.  They are taught to associate colors with feelings and then make a commentary on a piece of artwork. (“The blue colors in this picture make me feel calm/sad/relaxed.”)

I am reminded of my high school Jazz class where my director tried to get us to develop at least a sense of perfect pitch.  Part of the exercises included listening to notes individually, over and over, trying to associate or think of a color that you identify with that sound.  I never did develop perfect pitch, but that is hardly the fault of my director.  The exercise wasn’t wasted either, as I was recently reminded of it by a ESL Teacher friend here in South Korea, who did a similar lesson with her students.

Since the students are familiar with making associations between feelings and colors, I thought I would add sounds into the mix.  I grabbed four songs from Final Fantasy VII (yes, a video game).  Video game or movie compositions are good because the music generally evokes specific feelings by design. This makes the whole exercise of sound-feeling association less ambigious (while still free and creative).

Using the music from musician Nobuo Uematsu is also wonderful, because he is highly talented and the music is exciting to listen to, even though it is instrumental.  (My students were asking for Kpop by the end of the lesson,  but no one seemed bored by the music).  For my purposes, I used Sephiroth’s Theme, Cloud’s Theme, Aerith’s Theme and the Fighting music.  I tried to pick music that started in one area of the feelings spectrum, but it could be difficult to differentiate the “love” of arieth and “confidence” or “happiness” of Cloud’s theme.

Here’s a little taste of Mr. Uematsu:

I played each song for the students, asking them to just listen and after each song, they told me what colors they “saw” and the feelings the felt.  After the first song, I explicitly reminded them of the phrase “this song makes me feel ______” and asked them to use it.

To reinforce, I used a trick I like to help them remember all the parts of a phrase.  I assign three parts to the phrase,

“this song (1) makes me feel (2) __________ (3)”.  

This draws the students attention to anything they may have forgotten while also covertly teaching grammatical phrases ( ‘this song’ is a noun phrase.  ‘makes me feel’ is a verb phrase and (3) is the object complement).  I then repeat the phrase and with each part, I lift a finger, so that I have three fingers lifted by the end.  Then, when the students practice using this phrase, I don’t have to wait for them to finish, or interupt them to provide meaningful feedback.  As they speak, I lift fingers, indicating that they are on track or if they have missed a piece.

So, for example, if the student responds with “makes me feel sad!” I lift two of the three fingers (each finger maps 1 to 1 with the phrase, so they will know which piece they have forgotten to include).  After awhile, I stop using my fingers and only start doing it again, if they fall back into one word answers.

The students seemed to enjoy the lesson, and at the end we examined the board (now full of feelings and colors) and I told the students that the music comes from a story.  By just looking at the words, I asked them which song they thought represented the main character, the bad guy, etc.  I was sort of surprised that it was pretty clear from their lists that the first song was Sepiroth’s Theme and that the 3rd song was Cloud’s.  I finally disclosed where I got the songs from, but Final Fantasy VII is too old for these youngsters, they hadn’t even heard of it.

Final Fantasy Colors, Feelings and Sounds

Materials Needed:

Pictures to associate colors with feelings (anger  happiness sadness fear warm-up)
Four sample songs (of any genre or type). (Fighting loop Cloud’s theme Aerith’s Theme Sephiroth’s Theme)
Whiteboard, or some way of writing down for the whole class to see
Powerpoint

Performance Objectives:

Students Will Be Able To (SWBAT): associate colorful pictures with feelings.  Students will organize their thoughts and activate their lexical memory by individually writing down as many color words and feeling words that describe the pictures.  They will evaluate in pairs by comparing their word lists and finally class-wide, the color/feeling words will be presented.

SWBAT understand and prepare for listening and associating sounds with colors and feelings by a short introduction by the teacher using language, gesture, and an audio-visual (powerpoint).

SWBAT associate music with colors and feelings without knowing anything a priori about the music.  In pairs students will discuss which feelings and colors they felt and saw and then the teacher or a volunteer will organize the words and write them on the board under “song #1”.

SWBAT express their feelings using the phrase, “makes me feel” to describe their feeling words to the second song.  Before playing song #2, the teacher will write the phrase, “this song makes me feel ________” on the board and says the phrase while gesturing to their heart on the word “feel”, followed by a mimic of any emotion.  Students will repeat the exercise for song #2, making use of the phrase “this song makes me feel _________”.  For the 3rd song, the teacher will erase, “makes me feel” and repeat the exercise.  Finally on the 4th song, “this song” is erased, and the students must perform the communicative act from memory.

SWBAT use the feeling and color words they said to describe the story the songs convey.  As a class, the students will discuss themes like, “fear” and “love”.  When the discussion ends, the teacher will reveal where the music comes from.

Before Class:

Ensure each song is ready to be played and which portions of the songs you wish to play for maximum effect.
Ensure you are familiar with the gestures and miming that you will use to help with student comprehension in the introduction, presentation and evaluation.

Warm-up: (5 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT associate colorful pictures with feelings.  Students will organize their thoughts and activate their lexical memory by individually writing down as many color words and feeling words that describe the pictures.  They will evaluate in pairs by comparing their word lists and finally class-wide, the color/feeling words will be presented.

A.    Instructional Strategy:
individual, pair, class work
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
Following up on prior lessons, reactivate the students memory of color/feeling associations by showing a series of pictures which explicitly express simply feelings (sadness, anger, happiness, love, etc.).  Have the students label a piece of paper on one side as “FEELINGS” and the other “COLORS”.  Draw the students attention to the facial and body language of the pictures and any dominate colors.  Gesture that they should think (point to head, rub chin) of as many colors (point to many colors), and feelings (mimic sad/happy) and then write them down (actually do this on the board).  Give the students 1-2 minutes.After a time, tell the students to work in pairs and grow their list to as many feelings/colors as they think are appropriate for each picture.  Ask for volunteers to describe their color/feelings.  Write them on the board, and give the students a moment to copy any words they may not know.  Clarify any feeling/color that most students may not know (e.g. ‘agony’ or ‘cyan’).

 Introduction: (1-2 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT understand and prepare for listening and associating sounds with colors and feelings by a short introduction by the teacher using language, gesture, and an audio-visual (powerpoint).

A.    Instructional Strategy:
lecture
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
Using a simple powerpoint or other visual, explain that the students will take the words they know for feelings and colors and use them to describe music.  Following the powerpoint, explain that they will listen to four different songs and describe the colors the music makes them “see” and the feelings it makes them feel.  Explain that the songs are related and that at the end they will discuss why or how.

Presentation: (10-15 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT associate music with colors and feelings without knowing anything a priori about the music.  In pairs students will discuss which feelings and colors they felt and saw and then the teacher or a volunteer will organize the words and write them on the board under “song #1”.

A.    Instructional Strategy:
lecture, individual, pair, class work
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
To begin, start with the most unambiguous (in regards to feelings) song of the four.  You are helping the students understand how this activity works.  Tell them to clear their minds, close their eyes and just listen.  Don’t write anything, don’t say anything.  Just pay attention to the music.  Play the song for them and let them be silent for a moment after. And then in pairs discuss/write down what colors they saw and feelings they felt.Ask for volunteers and write their answers on the board under the title “song 1” separated under colors and feelings.  If they seem hesitant, or unsure, give a few examples and maybe a counter-example (if the song is intended to provoke anger or fear, ask the students if ‘happy’ is appropriate).  Be careful with counter-examples, as this activity necessarily depends on the students free-thinking and creativity.  At the same time, the purpose of the activity is language learning.  So dance that dance.

Practice: (30 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT express their feelings using the phrase, “makes me feel” to describe their feeling words to the second song.  Before playing song #2, the teacher will write the phrase, “this song makes me feel ________” on the board and says the phrase while gesturing to their heart on the word “feel”, followed by a mimic of any emotion.  Students will repeat the exercise for song #2, making use of the phrase “this song makes me feel _________”.  For the 3rd song, the teacher will erase, “makes me feel” and repeat the exercise.  Finally on the 4th song, “this song” is erased, and the students must perform the communicative act from memory.

A.   
Instructional Strategy:
individual, pair, whole-class
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
Before moving to the second song, write “this song makes me feel _______” on the board.  Separate the phrase into three parts and label them ‘This song (1) makes me feel (2) _________ (3).  Lift up three fingers and have the students repeat as you lift a finger as they say each phrase.To reinforce, read some of their feelings from song #1, holding your fingers up, say, “This song (lift a finger) makes me feel (lift another finger) nervous (lift the third finger).”  Give another example.  Call on or ask a volunteer to say how song #1 makes them feel.  As they speak, hold up all the fingers that they express. (If they say, “the song makes me feel happy” hold up three fingers.  If they just say “happy” just hold up the third finger.  Prompt until they give the full phrase).
After, play the 2nd song and repeat the exercise.  When working in pairs, circulate and make sure the students are using the phrase, “this song makes me feel” when talking with their partner.  Ask for volunteers and use the finger gesture as necessary to help prompt the students use the full phrase.  After all the feelings/colors are written for the 2nd song, erase “makes me feel” from the board, have the students repeat the phrase and gesture as necessary.  Listen the 3rd song, repeat process.  Erase the phrase from the board before listening to the 4th song.

Application: (10 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT use the feeling and color words they said to describe the story the songs convey.  As a class, the students will discuss themes like, “fear” and “love”.  When the discussion ends, the teacher will reveal where the music comes from.

A.    Instructional Strategy:
pair, whole-class
B.    Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual
C.    Task Description:
After listening to the last song, admire the amount of color and feeling words the students have come up with (the board should be quite full).  Point out to the students that the feeling and color words change from song to song.  Some songs seem to make them feel more nervous or happy or sad.Tell the students that the songs create a story. Ask which song they think represents the protagonist (use simple language “good guy”).  The antagonist? The climactic scene? Love interest?  Allow them to discuss each question in pairs or small groups and then discuss as a class.  This final portion is more free-discussion, try not to limit the students participation or critique language-use.  Instead promote fluency and listening-skills.

Before class ends, reveal where the music came from and see if the students’ guesses about the characters/feelings/music are correct.

Language Exchange Lament (and a lesson plan for Listening)

There is a popular method for informal language learning here in South Korea (and I’m sure other places) that goes by the name “language exchange”.  The name is appealing.  It suggests a business-like approach to the learning of a language, a fair trade in which you give and then take equal shares of a product.

LanguagePartners5

This is what people think is going to happen at a language exchange

Unfortunately, “language exchange” is probably a misnomer for the most part.  Rarely do two people at these events exchange equally and often what is exchanged isn’t exactly a product of the greatest quality.  Most exchanges are, after all, informal events.  So I suppose they can be forgiven on that point.

Language exchanges suffer from two problems, 1) generally one language is favored and 2) if by chance one language isn’t favored, then language acquisition is ignoring a very important piece of the “four strands”, namely, listening.  In language exchanges, what normally is done, is each participant speaks in the target language they are trying to learn to a native speaker of that language.  So I would speak to a Korean in Korean and they would speak to me in English.  This is a fine drill in itself, but it ignores entirely the very important skill of listening and receiving authentic feedback (note: I’m not talking about overt feedback like, “say this instead” or “that was really good!” but covert feedback.  The type where you say something, it is understood and the other person responds authentically.  This sort of feedback is vastly under-acknowledged and far more important than overt feedback).

What actually happens

What actually happens

Of course, other types of language exchange combat this problem by designating a time limit and specifying that during a certain amount of time only English will be spoken and then only Korean in the next time period.  Of course, these events are usually only a couple of hours long and it can be difficult to regulate these periods effectively. If done correctly, this type of language exchange satisfies my complaint.  It is my experience (having visited several different language exchanges around Seoul) that this does not happen regularly.  English is usually the dominate language used by everyone.  I have found one exchange where Korean is the dominate language and I continue to frequent that exchange, though like I noted before, it’s hard to call it an exchange, as I don’t really give anything in return, just take.  I suppose maybe friendship is my gift, not a fair trade, I think!

So what does “listening” look like in a language class as opposed to an exchange?  Well, here’s my go-to method.

Ordered Sentences and Pronunciation Distinguishing

Materials Needed:
pronunciation Powerpoint slides (or pictures that you can hold), listening material (audio or transcript to read), copy of transcript cut into individual sentences for every (or groups of) student(s).

Performance Objectives:
Students will be able to (SWBAT) distinguish between two similar sounds ([i] and [I]).  This is accomplished first by repeating real words after a native speaker.  The speaker draws attention to the position of the articulatory tract.  Using fake words, the speaker draws attention to the sounds by elongating them.  Students mimic the speaker.  Students are then given three minimal pair words (fake or real) one of which does not contain [i] or [I] and the speaker says them one after another.  Students must say which word doesn’t contain [i] or [I].  Students are then given two pictures, each representing a minimal pair of [i]/[I] words.  The speaker says one of the words and the students will point to the picture that represents the word.

SWBAT put the transcript of an audio piece in the correct sequence by listening to a full recording of the transcript.  Students will have a pre-determined amount of times they can listen to the recording. Students will evaluate their performance in pairs, by comparing with their partner how they ordered the transcript.  As a class, the transcript will be read.

SWBAT listen and repeat the transcript (or a portion) from memory.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader) in a rote-repeat fashion once.  Students will repeat again, waiting 3 seconds, then 5 seconds, between hearing and speaking.  Finally, students will attempt to repeat the transcript (or portion) purely from memory.

SWBAT produce the transcript (or a portion) following a native-speaker rhythm.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader), repeating the transcript.  The teacher will emphasize stressed syllables within words and stressed words within phrases.  Students will mimic the teacher’s technique.  Students will produce the rhythm again first waiting 3 seconds, then 5 then 10 between listening/seeing and speaking/doing.

Warm-up: (1-5min)

Objectives: Students will prepare their articulatory tract for correct pronunciation by stretching their mouth.

Instructional Strategy:
lecture, whole class work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, kinetic

Task Description:
Students will follow the teacher (or a leader) in stretching their articulatory tract by alternatingly rounding and stretching the lips, opening and closing the mouth, sticking out and putting in the tongue, moving the tongue side to side and finally by doing a vowel chant (a,e,i,o,u).  Finish with a yell if you’d like!

Presentation: (1 min)

Objectives: Prepare students for what the class will be about

Instructional Strategy:
lecture

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual

Task Description:
Using a powerpoint, or some other material, describe to the students the tasks for that day.  Explain briefly the key objectives, which is successful listening.

Practice: (10-15 min)

Objectives:
Students will be able to (SWBAT) distinguish between two similar sounds ([i] and [I]).  This is accomplished first by repeating real words after a native speaker.  The speaker draws attention to the position of the articulatory tract.  Using fake words, the speaker draws attention to the sounds by elongating them.  Students mimic the speaker.

Instructional Strategy:
lecture, whole class work, individual work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual

Task Description:
Using a text, or a prepared powerpoint, draw the students attention to the specific sound (in this case, the [i]/[I] distinction).  Show them words that change only when that specific change happens (e.g. a minimal pair) such as ‘heel/hill’ or ‘seat/sit’.  Using several examples, have the students repeat after a native speaker (or someone in the class who can produce the minimal pairs well enough.  It might be better for the students to hear a non-native speaker produce the sounds correctly, in order for them to hear or believe they can produce the sound themselves).

From there, move on to made up words (this focuses the attention purely onto the sounds, without any interference from semantic or lexical questions).  Slow down the sound, have the students say just the sound for a few seconds and then finish the word (i.e. siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-t/ seeeaaaaaaaa-t).  Speed up slowly.

Pronunciation Powerpoint

Practice: (10-15 min)

Objectives:
Students are then given three minimal pair words (fake or real) one of which does not contain [i] or [I] and the speaker says them one after another.  Students must say which word doesn’t contain [i] or [I].  Students are then given two pictures, each representing a minimal pair of [i]/[I] words.  The speaker says one of the words and the students will point to the picture that represents the word.

Instructional Strategy:
lecture, individual work, whole class work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, kinetic

Task Description:
Following the powerpoint, show three words which are minimal pairs, two of which have [i] and [I] and the last which does not.  Say the words in order and have the students decide which word does not have [i]/[I].  (Another option is to say the words in a random order and have the students order them 1,2,3).

Finally, show two pictures on the screen which represent a [i]/[I] minimal pair.  A picture of a ‘hill’ next to a picture of a ‘heel’.  Say one of the words and have the students point or gesture to the correct picture. Repeat several times with various word pairs.

Presentation: (10 min)

Objectives:
SWBAT put the transcript of an audio piece in the correct sequence by listening to a full recording of the transcript.  Students will have a pre-determined amount of times they can listen to the recording. Students will evaluate their performance in pairs, by comparing with their partner how they ordered the transcript.  As a class, the transcript will be read.

Instructional Strategy:
whole-class work, pair work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, textile

Task Description:
using a prepared script or audio have the students listen to a conversation or monologue of one or two paragraphs, depending on level.  Have the students listen through once.  Before listening, prompt them with questions to answer after listening like, “what is the main idea?”  “who is speaking?” “what are their names?”  “what is the main problem?”  After that, discuss briefly the answers.  Next, hand out the cut-up scripts to the students.  Have them spread them out and look at them.  They can begin putting them in order if they think they know.  Tell the students they will have 2 or 3 opportunities to listen to the recording before you begin again.

Listen to the audio.  Pause between turns to allow the students to think about the order.  After 2 or 3 listenings, have the students compare their order with a partner.  Have them reconcile any differences.  After that, go through with the class the correct order (have the students read them in order, one student per sentence, for example).

Below is a gallery of my own attempt at using this activity.  I used the Intermediate listening activities from a very useful website for learning Korean called “Talk to Me in Korean“. It is the Iyagi – Intermediate lesson. It is a little bit above my Korean level, so it took me a little longer to get it finished, and I used a lot of dialogue.  For my Middle School Students, I will use anywhere between8-15 sentences, but not more than that usually.

Practice (10 minutes)

Objectives:
SWBAT listen and repeat the transcript (or a portion) from memory.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader) in a rote-repeat fashion once.  Students will repeat again, waiting 3 seconds, then 5 seconds, between hearing and speaking.  Finally, students will attempt to repeat the transcript (or portion) purely from memory.

SWBAT produce the transcript (or a portion) following a native-speaker rhythm.  Students will follow the teacher (or a leader), repeating the transcript.  The teacher will emphasize stressed syllables within words and stressed words within phrases.  Students will mimic the teacher’s technique.  Students will produce the rhythm again first waiting 3 seconds, then 5 then 10 between listening/seeing and speaking/doing.

Instructional Strategy:
whole class work, pair work

Sensory Learning Style:
audio, visual, visual

Task Description:
using the same script the students used for the ordering activity, read the sentences one by one (or choose a couple of sentences or dialogues to work on) with the students repeating. After going through once.  Repeat the activity, only have the students wait 3 seconds before repeating.  Do the activity again with 5 seconds, and then 10 seconds.  If it is a dialogue, you can try to have the students do it from memory (they will have the sentences in front of them from the ordering exercise, if they need them).