Sunday, 10 November 2013

Testing a wordsearch maker


Make Your Own Word Search

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Aesop’s Fables - Machinima to aid language learning


Just recently I have been working with Hazel Workman to  create  whole new set of machinima based on Aesop’s Fables. We both love second Life and it has become great fun to see how we can be portray the characters, as there are just two of us so some crowd scenes have had to be done with various chroma key techniques, these are Hazel’s speciality!  
Machinima is such a new form of video we have been trying to think of new ways to engage language learners with them to enhance language teaching.
See the ones created so far:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTC04DLQU3U - The Bear and the Two travellers
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCeFESuaEdg – The Fox and the Woodcutter
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SFuZKtvDhk – The Milkmaid and her Pail
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3mTRcmS5bM – The Dog and his Shadow

So what can we do with these machinima in language classes?


First thoughts:
·        To start with there is lots of discussion in these stories, there is unfamiliar, maybe old fashioned language to be investigated.
·        The quality of English is poor, it is hard not to improve it whilst recording them – advanced students could work to improve the language of the tales.
·        Students could do their own retelling of the story. Project the machinima, without sound into the classroom and allow students to relate their version of the story to their peers.
·        As a longer project allow students to use the video footage and make a new soundtrack and thus produce a new machinima.
·        Students could do a complete re-write of the story set in current times with two people instead of two animals, act them out in class, and possibly make a video of the new story.
·        Investigate how some of the morals have become everyday idioms, this could lead to lots more work on idioms. Following are the morals and a few idioms that I consider possible offshoots or at least would make good discussion openers in brackets.
o   Misfortune tests the sincerity of friends. (A house divided against itself cannot stand.)
o   There is as much malice in a wink as in a word. (A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.)
o   Not everything you see is what it appears to be. (All that glitters is not gold or aA Leopard can't change his Spots. )
o   Do not count your chickens before they are hatched. (Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.)
o   Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon. (Better to be safe than sorry.)
o   Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow. (A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)
o   We can easily represent things as we wish them to be.  (Sail under false colours, or, Something is not be what it is cracked up to be.)
o   Cunning often outwits itself.  (As cunning as a fox, or too clever by half, too clever for your own good.)

If you are able to use the machinima please share you experiences. To check on the rest, there are more in development, subscribe to my You Tube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmTOaApJW37OjkBmtkGw3xw

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Minehead and Estate Agents all over the place

One day we crossed the peninsular and went over to investigate all along from Minehead. We drove around looking at houses, eventually about 2pm we drove along the front, right out of the main area there was plenty of roadside parking and we came across a space right outside a pub with gardens. They were happy to have the dogs and we were happy to eat. We climbed the steps up to the beer gardens, ordered dinner chatted and looked around, it was lovely, lively, and there was lots of music at ground level. We did not spot any houses that we wanted to visit for a second time and returned to the caravan.

I was looking at houses on the web and spotted a house in Minehead that we had not seen. It was a good write-up, sounded like it had potential, looked nice, so we decided to go back and see it and another one on the Wednesday. Armed with the post code we retraced our steps and parked outside the house, it was right next door to the pub, the pub’s garden was adjoining the house garden, but none of the high level gardens showed in the picture! When we got back and looked at the picture on the web there were blue sky and clouds where we could see gardens… hmmmm – what a waste of a journey! The second house which we wanted to see, rural, large gardens etc looked pretty on the picture, no-one mentioned the electric pylon on the edge of the land overshadowing the house and garden – again it was not shown in the photos – what is the point, some of what I have seen goes beyond poetic licence and in my opinion is verging on blatant dishonesty.

I put a couple of requests for info in, stating quite clearly there had to be an acre of land or more, the condition of the house did not matter and it had to be rural and subsequently got blasted with hundreds of houses none of which had land or were rural… I think everything in my price range had been sent.

So far the British seaside around the areas that we have visited have been a huge disappointment. It is true that we have not been around the coast much in the UK in recent years. When and why did all the beaches ban dogs? That seems sad to me. Things have changed become more commercialised than ever and have largely been spoiled (IMHO) I am sure that others will disagree. 

Broad Haven Beach

Boton Haven - a pretty but tiny bay


Charmouth allows dogs after 6pm so each evening we drive the 13 miles there to walk along the beach and looked for fossils or just looked at what the children there had found as they walked along proudly clutching their finds. 



 As well as the beach there is the actual river mouth too.






Surprise in Weymouth

We searched along the coast towards Weymouth for suitable houses to buy and approached Portland towards lunchtime. We stopped to eat and were suddenly surprised by seeing The Red Arrows - it was a festival day in Weymouth! So from the suburbs we had an amazing presentation. Sadly most of it was behind houses and telephone wires, we had been totally unprepared to take photos, we never knew it was happening!

A friend posted this video link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRaK2ni9UAg&feature=youtu.be thanks Hazel :-)












The joys of caravanning

Cooking in a caravan is an art form – I have not mastered it. There is nowhere to put anything! It is a nightmare. The most success that we have had is to barbecue any meat and veges suitable for cooking on the bbq and cook rice, potatoes etc on the small stove.

We did have a lovely lunch, it was glorious sunshine so we sat outside, it was hot so I had a Crabbies – I love ginger beer! I had not realised that there was a tiny drop left in the bottle, so when washing up after dinner H picked up the bottle and told me I had not finished my drink, I had already washed the glasses so I tipped the bottle into my mouth, there was less than a mouthful – and a wasp! So now with a smashed up toe and severe limp I had a swollen tongue having been stung in the mouth – the joys of caravanning.

Another joy of caravanning - where did all of the laundrettes go? We have searched the web which lumps laundries and laundrettes together - and gone to laundries... travelled miles to wash the laundry!

How I long to soak in a hot bath - showers are fine for getting clean but I consider my bath an essential part of the night time ritual - relaxing! No bath in three weeks equates to not much sleep in three weeks, that failure to relax along with the fact I can't have all of the windows wide open is not good and apparently I had conversations out loud with unseen people every time I dropped off to sleep last night :-(

Also if one uses a multi plug for charging phones and a laptop the resulting buzz for people listening to me in Second Life, where I teach for two days a week is a nightmare - so no charging phones or ipad or anything else whilst trying to teach - I am learning!!

One funny moment - was when approaching the Severn Bridge I put on the iPad to see how much the toll was going to be - it asked beautifully whether I wanted to link to my own network, I had left the phone providing data access on whilst it was packed away in the caravan which we were towing :-)


The sites which we have been on have cut the field grass, but not picked the grass up, so every time one of us or one of the dogs comes into the caravan,  especially when it is wet, we bring soggy grass cuttings in. We must hoover up about 6 times a day just to keep it bearable.

I can't, for the life of me, understand why anyone would ever want to go caravanning. The only joy so far has been meeting some lovely people.

Starting the search

We started searching went all around Lyme Regis, Bridport, across to Weymouth – all around that area and saw two delightful building plots, sadly beyond our price range once you have taken actually putting a house on the land.

We soon discovered that most beaches have banned dogs so it is really difficult to find somewhere for the dogs to have a good run and ours are used to space. Charmouth beach, which has rapidly become one of the places I love most in the world allows dogs on after 6pm, so each evening we headed to the beach to take them for a lovely long walk. Neither had seen the sea, so it was interesting at first, now as soon as they spot it they think we are going for a walk - a nightmare once we got to Wales and started touring the coast!

video




We did a little fossil hunting, but, sadly after smashing a rock with a bigger rock, the bigger one glanced off the one I was trying to break and hit my toe - I now have a self-inflicted black, swollen toe and am likely to lose the nail :-(






Starting in Somerset

We left Phillip's for a two hour drive to Somerset, but never took into account Stonehenge - a ten mile traffic jam - so it was a  four hour journey!


We arrived at Forton House in Chard, Somerset about late afternoon and the owner directed us to a hard standing pitch, and told us where to plug in the electric – great! It was raining and chilly. We got water, made a coffee and sat, with two dogs, in the fully loaded caravan, the awning taking up all of the middle ground, and contemplated our next move. To put the awning up was pointless in the rain, we thought we should put all of the stuff for the awning (camping chairs, table, the awning itself in the car and just settle into the caravan for the evening when we got a knock at the door. Two mobile homes had pulled in and one had no power as we were plugged into the only socket which they could reach…. So we moved! The site is tiny, enough room for 5 caravans, a toilet block and electric and water, the main reason we chose it was for the dogs. The house has four dogs, the site and all of the grounds are dog-proof and the owners were happy for our dogs to roam free. Finally we piled most stuff into the car and settled down in the caravan for the evening. The whole caravan system is computerised – with a wonderful book of instructions, I followed them to the letter about 5 times, we eventually got heating about 11pm – overnight when we did not want it, but I thought I had cracked it, thought the next evening would be sorted.
Sunday morning was lovely, sunshine, once everything had dried up we pulled out all of the awning poles, set it all up, introduced the dogs to their beds in the awning, I set up my computer ready for teaching and all seemed well.  Evening arrived and it began to feel cool, and cooler, and cold, did the heating come on?? No, despite my best efforts, not until 11pm… we began to think there must be a timer somewhere – but no, this is an on-going problem.





We went out looking at areas and for houses, spent ages trawling estate agent sites, I really and truly decided that estate agent sites are very poor. Some we printed off, those of houses we were interested in lacked house names and addresses, not even having reference numbers so that when we phoned it took the agent ages to find out which house we were wanting to see. 

Selling up


With an acceptable offer on the house we said “yes,” they said “great” followed by “is about 6 weeks to move out okay?”  We said “yes,” they came back and said “can you move in three?” :-) That is where the story starts. The following Saturday we bought a huge trailer, started to pack and move the stuff we wanted to keep to our son’s very large garage, we started selling and giving away much of 25 years’ worth of unneeded household items. The following week, after a quick investigation we bought a huge caravan and awning, kept packing, picked up the caravan, loaded it up, kept moving stuff and finally almost three weeks later I spent my usual Friday teaching on the internet sat at my desk in an empty room, almost no other furniture in the house and just about ready to leave. However we were not completing the sale until the following Tuesday so we decided to take advantage of the weekend to attend Cropredy festival, a long-time favourite!!
Cropredy was lovely, great music, lovely weather and very relaxing after the hectic preceding couple of weeks.

Also a wonderful video clip!

After returning home and packing the last few bits, including our mattress on the Sunday, we had to sleep in the caravan in the drive for the Sunday and Monday nights. The trailer, with the last few bits in, was taken and unloaded and then left at our son’s house and, Tuesday, moving day, dawned. I sat on the floor in a completely empty house, near the hub to teach until 5pm, when we loaded the dogs and computer into the car, hitched up the caravan and set off. First stop for a few days was our son’s house, the first caravan place that we booked had managed to double book so there was not going to be power or hard standing until the following Saturday. We spent the five days getting used to living in the caravan – not easy – especially since we could not put up the awning. However it was made much easier by the use of a nice bathroom, washing machine, space for the dogs, fields for the dogs to walk in etc. Actually looking back after two more weeks this was luxury.



Driving round the estate with Phillip we saw fields of sunflowers, they were beautiful!