February Post - Lists!

Our obsession with lists!

On Facebook this week everyone I know seems to be finding out how many of the Top 100 influential albums they own (have owned). I managed only about seven! But the point is: we are obsessed with lists. We enjoy making them and checking ourselves against other people’s lists.

I decided to make a few lists of my own this month, so here goes:

Three things I don’t like about travelling:

Packing - need I say more? After all these years, I still manage to forget at least one crucial thing on every trip.

Planes – I know, I travel lots with my job, but I don’t like flying. It’s not natural to be in a heavy metal container in very close proximity to people I don’t know in the sky. I just grit my teeth and wait until we land while burying myself in a good book. But once I am at my destination I am a very happy bunny!
3   Hotel hairdryers – even in relatively smart hotels they so often have these ridiculous contraptions. They may be ok for drying someone’s moustache but I’ll be standing in the bathroom for 20, 25 minutes pointing the silly thing at my head and my hair will still be wet. Fear not, I usually travel with my own hairdryer (and iron!)

Five things I love about travelling:
The smell – although this can go either way. If you have ever been to Hong Kong and had the dubious pleasure of smelling smelly tofu being fried in rancid oil in an old oil drum in the streets, you’ll know what I mean. But the olfactory joys of walking round the spice markets of North Africa, cutting into a watermelon on a Greek beach in August or walking under a frangipani tree in Bangkok are incomparable.

The tastes – of course, the food! I have a very eclectic palette so whether it’s prawns in Costa Rica, camel in Cairo, snake in Hong Kong, tropical fruits in Latin America, curries in India...bring it all on.

The sounds – music – Salsa in Venezuela, Bossa Nova in Brazil, Rai in North Africa, Youssou N’Dour in Senegal and the sheer joy of getting to hear live music on my travels. I managed to see the Dubliners in Singapore one time – brilliant! I have even sat through five minutes of Chinese opera in Hong Kong– definitely an acquired taste.

The sensation of– sun on my skin, exotic silks in my hands, sand between my toes ...

The sights – my favourite is blue sky, closely followed by blue sea. Man-made sights can be spectacular too like Borobodur temple in Indonesia, the opera house in Sydney or the Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza in Mexico. The vision and expertise of the architects and builders leave me speechless.
Did you see what I did there? The things I like are all linked to the senses.

If we like lists, what about using them with students?

At primary level, I get 5-7 year olds to cut out hearts, draw or find pictures of their favourite things on the hearts, write the words if they know them and create love chains to decorate the class with. Before they get pinned up, I encourage the children to tell me about their hearts, producing even short phrases in English. They can invite their parents in to class and show them off. It’s quite a nice Valentine’s day / February activity.
Older primary students can write different lists and decorate them e.g. my favourite toys, food, places, lessons etc as well as things they don’t like. Allow them to choose. It’s not always a good thing to dwell on negatives but I recall 9/10 year olds I was teaching enjoying creating lists on most frightening and also disgusting things!!!

With older students just writing lists can be fun and a meaningful revision of vocabulary .e.g. my favourite films / meals / songs / places / bands /  clothes. Remember writing tasks do not have to long and boring. Encouraging students to write short lists which are meaningful and can be shared with the rest of the class gives them good writing practice. They can also produce lists like I did above based on their senses.

Have a look at this list. they could read it first, discuss if they agree or not, then create their own versions.

Five senses
In Writing Simple Poems by Holmes & Moulton, CUP, there’s a super idea for writing ‘Five senses poems’. They present the following pattern

Line 1: (a thing, an emotion or idea) is (one or two colours)
Line 2: It tastes like...
Line 3: It sounds like...
Line 4: It smells like...
Line 5: It looks like...
Line 6: It makes me feel (like)....

Students are encouraged to create their own poems using this pattern. One of my 
favourite examples in the book is written by 4 sixteen year old students:

My grandmother’s kitchen is shiny as a silver spoon
It tastes like warm bread and homemade apple pie
It sounds like drums playing as she kneads the dough
It smells like early spring when spices are growing
It looks like bright sunshine in the morning
It makes me feel like having a party

Students get to express themselves, work collaboratively practising sensory verbs, basic sentence structures, metaphors and similies and lots of vocabulary.
If you do any of these tasks, I’d love to see what the students produce and I’ll share the work here on this blog.

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