Friday, November 29, 2013

Group 301-401 (Evening) Exam results and a hole in the wall

On Wednesday we watched and discussed these two videos. (Note: transcripts follow the second video.)

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate Spoken Word from Richard G on Vimeo.


Transcript for the video by Suli Breaks (introduced by Tarek Chaudhury on Reprezent 107.3):

[Intro: Tarek Chaudhury]
Revolution on Reprezent 107.3 FM
My name is Tarek
Now listeners you may remember not too long ago we had a spoken word artist by the name of Suli Breaks
Came down dropped a live session and a lot of you were excited about that
I was excited this morning when I opened up a package, had no idea what it was
Opened it up, put it in the player, pressed play, and it totally blew me away
It's his brand new piece from his brand new "The Dormroom EP"
I'mma have to let spoken word do what it does best, and let it speak for itself
Brand new Suli Breaks!

[Verse: Suli Breaks]
Right now
There is a kid finishing parents' evening in a heated discussion with his mother
Saying, why does he have to study subjects he will never ever use in his life?
And she will look at him blanked eyed, stifle a sigh, think for a second and then lie
She'll say something along the lines of:
"You know to get a good job, you need a good degree and these subjects will help you get a degree, we never had this opportunity when I was younger".
And he will reply:
"But you were young a long time ago, weren't you mum?"
And she won't respond although what he implies makes perfect sense that societies needs would have changed since he was 16
But she will ignore him, grip his hand more sternly and drag him to the car
What she doesn't know is that she didn't ignore him just to shut him up
She didn't lie because they are just returning him from parents' evening
And an argument in the hallway would look bad on her resume
She won't lie because she had just spent the last one hour convincing a stern face teacher that she would ensure that her child studies more at home
No! She will lie simply, because she does not know any better herself
Although all her adult life, she has never used or applied
Pythagorean theorem, Pathetic fallacy, and does not know the value of "X"
She will rely society to tell her child who has one of the sharpest mind in the school, is hyperactive, unfocused, easily distracted and wayward

How many equations, subjects and dates did you memorize just before an exam never to use again?
How many "A" grades did you get, which were never asked for when applying for a job?
How many times have you remembered something 5 minutes just after the teacher said: "Stop writing"
Only to receive your results a month later to realize that you were only 1 mark short of the top grade?

Does that mean remembering 5 minutes earlier would've made you more qualified for a particular job?
Well, on an application form it would have
We all have different abilities, thought processes, experiences and genes
So why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?
So that means Cherrelle thinks she's dumb, because she couldn't do a couple sums
And if this issue is not addressed properly, it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
Then every school has the audacity to have policy on equality
Huh, the irony!

Exams are society's methods of telling you what you're worth
But you can't let society tell you what you are
Cause this is the same society that tells you that abortion is wrong, but then looks down on teenage parents!
The same society that sells products to promote nature hair, looks and smooth complexion with the model on the box, half photoshopped, and has fake lashes and hair extensions
With pastors that preach charity, but own private jets
Imams that preach against greed, but are all fat
Parents that say they want "educated kids" but constantly marvel at how rich Richard Branson is
Governments, that preach peace, but endorse war, that say they believe so much in the importance of higher education and further learning
Then why increase tuition fees every single year?
I believed Miss Jefferson when she took me into the office, said that my exams would be imperative to my success
Because we were taught to always follow when Miss Jefferson led
Then I took Jefferson out of the equation and learned to think for myself
I realized, we were always taught to follow when misled
Huh, the irony!

Test us with tests, but the finals are never final
Because they never prepare us for the biggest test which is survival!
And what I suggest is fairly outlandish
So I don't expect everyone to understand this
Except for the kid that knows what it feels like to be worth no more than that D or that A that you get on results day
And the ones whose best stories were never good enough for your English teacher
Because apparently you missed out key literal techniques
Did not follow the class plan,
And the language was too "informal" for him to understand
But then he'd reference Hamlet and Macbeth
And you'd fight the urge to express your contempt by partially clenching your fist with only your medius finger left protruding in the middle of your hand
And asking if he was aware that Shakespeare was known as the innovator of slang
Or the kid at the back of the class who thinks:
"Why am I studying something that doesn't fuel my drive?"
But when confronted with a maths problem his eyes come alive

So this one is for my generation,
the ones who found what they were looking for on Google,
the ones who followed their dreams on Twitter,
Pictured their future on Instagram, accepted destiny on Facebook.
This one's for my "failures" and "dropouts", for my unemployed graduates, my shop assistants, cleaners and cashiers with bigger dreams,
My self-employed entrepreneurs, my world-changers and my dream-chasers!
Cause the purpose of "Why I hate school, but love education" was not to initiate a worldwide debate,
But to let them know that whether 72 or 88, 44 or 68,
We will not let exam results decide our fate


Transcript for Sugata Mitra ("The Child-Driven Education")

Well, that's kind of an obvious statement up there. I started with that sentence about 12 years ago, and I started in the context of developing countries, but you're sitting here from every corner of the world. So if you think of a map of your country, I think you'll realize that for every country on Earth, you could draw little circles to say, "These are places where good teachers won't go." On top of that, those are the places from where trouble comes. So we have an ironic problem -- good teachers don't want to go to just those places where they're needed the most.

I started in 1999 to try and address this problem with an experiment, which was a very simple experiment in New Delhi. I basically embedded a computer into a wall of a slum in New Delhi. The children barely went to school, they didn't know any English -- they'd never seen a computer before, and they didn't know what the internet was. I connected high speed internet to it -- it's about three feet off the ground -- turned it on and left it there. After this, we noticed a couple of interesting things, which you'll see. But I repeated this all over India and then through a large part of the world and noticed that children will learn to do what they want to learn to do.

This is the first experiment that we did -- eight year-old boy on your right teaching his student, a six year-old girl, and he was teaching her how to browse. This boy here in the middle of central India -- this is in a Rajasthan village, where the children recorded their own music and then played it back to each other and in the process, they've enjoyed themselves thoroughly. They did all of this in four hours after seeing the computer for the first time. In another South Indian village, these boys here had assembled a video camera and were trying to take the photograph of a bumble bee. They downloaded it from, or one of these websites, 14 days after putting the computer in their village. So at the end of it, we concluded that groups of children can learn to use computers and the internet on their own, irrespective of who or where they were.

At that point, I became a little more ambitious and decided to see what else could children do with a computer. We started off with an experiment in Hyderabad, India, where I gave a group of children -- they spoke English with a very strong Telugu accent. I gave them a computer with a speech-to-text interface, which you now get free with Windows, and asked them to speak into it. So when they spoke into it, the computer typed out gibberish, so they said, "Well, it doesn't understand anything of what we are saying." So I said, "Yeah, I'll leave it here for two months. Make yourself understood to the computer." So the children said, "How do we do that." And I said, "I don't know, actually." (Laughter) And I left. (Laughter) Two months later -- and this is now documented in the Information Technology for International Development journal -- that accents had changed and were remarkably close to the neutral British accent in which I had trained the speech-to-text synthesizer. In other words, they were all speaking like James Tooley. (Laughter) So they could do that on their own. After that, I started to experiment with various other things that they might learn to do on their own.

I got an interesting phone call once from Columbo, from the late Arthur C. Clarke, who said, "I want to see what's going on." And he couldn't travel, so I went over there. He said two interesting things, "A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be." (Laughter) The second thing he said was that, "If children have interest, then education happens." And I was doing that in the field, so every time I would watch it and think of him.

(Video) Arthur C. Clarke: And they can definitely help people, because children quickly learn to navigate the web and find things which interest them. And when you've got interest, then you have education.

Sugata Mitra: I took the experiment to South Africa. This is a 15 year-old boy.

(Video) Boy: ... just mention, I play games like animals, and I listen to music.

SM: And I asked him, "Do you send emails?" And he said, "Yes, and they hop across the ocean." This is in Cambodia, rural Cambodia -- a fairly silly arithmetic game, which no child would play inside the classroom or at home. They would, you know, throw it back at you. They'd say, "This is very boring." If you leave it on the pavement and if all the adults go away, then they will show off with each other about what they can do. This is what these children are doing. They are trying to multiply, I think. And all over India, at the end of about two years, children were beginning to Google their homework. As a result, the teachers reported tremendous improvements in their English -- (Laughter) rapid improvement and all sorts of things. They said, "They have become really deep thinkers and so on and so forth. (Laughter) And indeed they had. I mean, if there's stuff on Google, why would you need to stuff it into your head? So at the end of the next four years, I decided that groups of children can navigate the internet to achieve educational objectives on their own.

At that time, a large amount of money had come into Newcastle University to improve schooling in India. So Newcastle gave me a call. I said, "I'll do it from Delhi." They said, "There's no way you're going to handle a million pounds-worth of University money sitting in Delhi." So in 2006, I bought myself a heavy overcoat and moved to Newcastle. I wanted to test the limits of the system. The first experiment I did out of Newcastle was actually done in India. And I set myself and impossible target: can Tamil speaking 12-year-old children in a South Indian village teach themselves biotechnology in English on their own? And I thought, I'll test them, they'll get a zero -- I'll give the materials, I'll come back and test them -- they get another zero, I'll go back and say, "Yes, we need teachers for certain things."

I called in 26 children. They all came in there, and I told them that there's some really difficult stuff on this computer. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't understand anything. It's all in English, and I'm going. (Laughter) So I left them with it. I came back after two months, and the 26 children marched in looking very, very quiet. I said, "Well, did you look at any of the stuff?" They said, "Yes, we did." "Did you understand anything?" "No, nothing." So I said, "Well, how long did you practice on it before you decided you understood nothing?" They said, "We look at it every day." So I said, "For two months, you were looking at stuff you didn't understand?" So a 12 year-old girl raises her hand and says, literally, "Apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA molecule causes genetic disease, we've understood nothing else."




It took me three years to publish that. It's just been published in the British Journal of Educational Technology. One of the referees who refereed the paper said, "It's too good to be true," which was not very nice. Well, one of the girls had taught herself to become the teacher. And then that's her over there. Remember, they don't study English. I edited out the last bit when I asked, "Where is the neuron?" and she says, "The neuron? The neuron," and then she looked and did this. Whatever the expression, it was not very nice.

So their scores had gone up from zero to 30 percent, which is an educational impossibility under the circumstances. But 30 percent is not a pass. So I found that they had a friend, a local accountant, a young girl, and they played football with her. I asked that girl, "Would you teach them enough biotechnology to pass?" And she said, "How would I do that? I don't know the subject." I said, "No, use the method of the grandmother." She said, "What's that?" I said, "Well, what you've got to do is stand behind them and admire them all the time. Just say to them, 'That's cool. That's fantastic. What is that? Can you do that again? Can you show me some more?'" She did that for two months. The scores went up to 50, which is what the posh schools of New Delhi, with a trained biotechnology teacher were getting.

So I came back to Newcastle with these results and decided that there was something happening here that definitely was getting very serious. So, having experimented in all sorts of remote places, I came to the most remote place that I could think of. (Laughter) Approximately 5,000 miles from Delhi is the little town of Gateshead. In Gateshead, I took 32 children and I started to fine-tune the method. I made them into groups of four. I said, "You make your own groups of four. Each group of four can use one computer and not four computers." Remember, from the Hole in the Wall. "You can exchange groups. You can walk across to another group, if you don't like your group, etc. You can go to another group, peer over their shoulders, see what they're doing, come back to you own group and claim it as your own work." And I explained to them that, you know, a lot of scientific research is done using that method.



The children enthusiastically got after me and said, "Now, what do you want us to do?" I gave them six GCSE questions. The first group -- the best one -- solved everything in 20 minutes. The worst, in 45. They used everything that they knew -- news groups, Google, Wikipedia, Ask Jeeves, etc. The teachers said, "Is this deep learning?" I said, "Well, let's try it. I'll come back after two months. We'll give them a paper test -- no computers, no talking to each other, etc." The average score when I'd done it with the computers and the groups was 76 percent. When I did the experiment, when I did the test, after two months, the score was 76 percent. There was photographic recall inside the children, I suspect because they're discussing with each other. A single child in front of a single computer will not do that. I have further results, which are almost unbelievable, of scores which go up with time. Because their teachers say that after the session is over, the children continue to Google further.

Here in Britain, I put out a call for British grandmothers, after my Kuppam experiment. Well, you know, they're very vigorous people, British grandmothers. 200 of them volunteered immediately. (Laughter) The deal was that they would give me one hour of broadband time, sitting in their homes, one day in a week. So they did that, and over the last two years, over 600 hours of instruction has happened over Skype, using what my students call the granny cloud. The granny cloud sits over there. I can beam them to whichever school I want to.

(Video) Teacher: You can't catch me. You say it. You can't catch me.

Children: You can't catch me.

Teacher: I'm the gingerbread man.

Children: I'm the gingerbread man.

Teacher: Well done. Very good ...

SM: Back at Gateshead, a 10-year-old girl gets into the heart of Hinduism in 15 minutes. You know, stuff which I don't know anything about. Two children watch a TEDTalk. They wanted to be footballers before. After watching eight TEDTalks, he wants to become Leonardo da Vinci.



It's pretty simple stuff.

This is what I'm building now -- they're called SOLEs: Self Organized Learning Environments. The furniture is designed so that children can sit in front of big, powerful screens, big broadband connections, but in groups. If they want, they can call the granny cloud. This is a SOLE in Newcastle. The mediator is from Pune, India.

So how far can we go? One last little bit and I'll stop. I went to Turin in May. I sent all the teachers away from my group of 10 year-old students. I speak only English, they speak only Italian, so we had no way to communicate. I started writing English questions on the blackboard. The children looked at it and said, "What?" I said, "Well, do it." They typed it into Google, translated it into Italian, went back into Italian Google. Fifteen minutes later -- next question: where is Calcutta? This one, they took only 10 minutes. I tried a really hard one then. Who was Pythagoras, and what did he do? There was silence for a while, then they said, "You've spelled it wrong. It's Pitagora." And then, in 20 minutes, the right-angled triangles began to appear on the screens. This sent shivers up my spine. These are 10 year-olds. Text: In another 30 minutes they would reach the Theory of Relativity. And then?



SM: So you know what's happened? I think we've just stumbled across a self-organizing system. A self-organizing system is one where a structure appears without explicit intervention from the outside. Self-organizing systems also always show emergence, which is that the system starts to do things, which it was never designed for. Which is why you react the way you do, because it looks impossible. I think I can make a guess now -- education is self-organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon. It'll take a few years to prove it, experimentally, but I'm going to try. But in the meanwhile, there is a method available. One billion children, we need 100 million mediators -- there are many more than that on the planet -- 10 million SOLEs, 180 billion dollars and 10 years. We could change everything.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sarah Masen, "Carry Us Through"

To listen:

To purchase: Amazon link

Written by Sarah Masen:

I took a train
Headed home
Where the colors stream
And my thoughts they go
I was looking Lord
For the Wind to blow
Come carry us through

Sometimes there's doubts
When the dogs they bark
And you're just not sure
What is in the dark
I start to cry
But then the wind goes by
To carry us through

Carry us through, carry us through
Carry us through, carry us through
Looking for the wind to blow
To carry us through

When we think that it's over
Baby we find new things to be afraid of
We can pray till we're older
And believe that there is hope
Even in the night
There is hope

We grab existence
By our defeats
And somehow laugh
When we are weak
We're being made strong
From underneath
Carry us through
Carry us through

Take off of your shoulders
The burdens that you carry of your own regret
Someone else needs holding
And it's very hard to smile when you are all stuck inside yourself

So we close our eyes
And we see the Light
There are so many
To hold on tight
Don't be afraid
To pray just like a child
Lord carry us through
Carry us through, carry us through
Carry us through, carry us through
I been praying Lord I'm so overdue
Lord carry us through, carry us through
Carry us through, carry us through
Carry us through, carry us through
But Lord come on where are You
You come carry us through, carry us through
Carry us through, carry us through



Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Laying Ghosts" by the Wireless Theatre Company

Linda Mathis (Pearl); Maggie Turner (Connie); source.

You can hear or download the play Laying Ghosts here. Explore the site--there are many other good plays  at the Wireless Theatre Company.

The class did a superb job analyzing and discussing this play. Here are some of the questions we considered in class:

Section one

  1. The neighbor says to Connie, “Could you not find your black [dress]?” Why does she say it? What does it reveal about her character?
  2. What was the man doing when he spoke about Jack having been a supporter of a rugby club and saying “he will be sorely missed?”
  3. Why was Sandra wearing a short skirt to a funeral?
  4. Why did Gary say he was leaving before his mother expected him to? What does this reveal about Gary or his feelings at the moment?
  5. What does Sandra feel about leaving then?
[Ends with “I just wanted to say, 'I miss him,' that's all.” - 5:57]


Section two – several months later

  1. What activities does Val think Connie should or shouldn't take on? Why?
  2. What is the only thing Connie says she really wants to do? Why?
  3. What does the neighbor suggest as the reason Gary said he wasn’t sorry about his father?
  4. Why does Connie talk about the sandcastles and the summer vacation? Is this important?
  5. At the precise moment just before Gary spills beer on his shoes, what did Connie ask him?
  6. After she gets out of the car, Connie says to Gary, “Are you feeling quite yourself?” Why?
  7. Why does the neighbor, Val, tell her she needs to go to the George? What was Connie’s response? Do you agree with Val or Connie?
[Ends with Val saying “Some people don't know when they're lucky.” - 12:50]


Section three

words: to mend, to shove
  1. Why didn't Connie get in touch with Sandra earlier?
  2. Where is Connie when she says, “no need to shove!”
  3. Why did Sandra not want Connie to make the tea?
  4. What was Connie’s response to the messy kitchen? What created the problem(s)?
  5. What did Gary find out a few days before the funeral? Why did Connie think the timing made sense?
[Ends with “Right. That'd make sense.” - 18:14]


Section four

  1. Who is Pearl? What’s the significance of her accent? What does that mean about Sandra, and how she grew up?
  2. Why do they both giggle when Connie says, “I blame the parents”?
  3. What's the difference between Val's approach to helping Connie, and Pearl's approach?
  4. Why does Connie say that it seems like her husband has “simply vanished”?
  5. Connie tells Pearl that when Gary calls, he always rings off at a certain point in the conversation. When is that point?
[Ends with “Gary, ring me, will you?” - 24:11]


Section five

  1. Connie lets herself into Sandra's flat and talks, without seeing Sandra, while she heads into the kitchen to put some buns into Sandra's fridge. What does that say about their relationship?
  2. Why does Pearl have to pay for the funeral?
  3. What does Pearl mean when she says, “Every penny I earn scrubbin' floors has someone's name written on it.”
  4. What’s Connie’s plan for getting Sandra and her mother back to Ghana?
  5. In the next conversation with Val, the neighbor, what do you think Val was about to say about Sandra and her family? Why doesn’t she approve of the way Connie has found to get out of the house?
[Ends with “I don't know, but I'm going to find out.” 28:27]


Section six

words: to try (the patience of a saint), skinny latte, a top-up, to row (phonetic spelling: raʊ), “I'm not cut out to be ___”, bloke, I.T., to muddle along
  1. Who is the receptionist really talking to on the phone when Connie comes into his office?
  2. Why does the receptionist say, “Can I get you some water, Gary? Or something...”
  3. What was Gary's response when Connie says, “Were you sad when your Dad died?”
  4. What was the real reason for Gary’s ambivalence about his relationship with his father?
  5. Why does Gary say, “and then he went and died!”?
  6. What was Gary referring to when he said, “I don’t know how to do this”?
[Ends with “I'm muddling along the best I can, just like any one else” 34:41]


Section seven

words – “to have a little set aside”, washing-up bowl, kip, taps
  1. Has Connie traveled much before?
  2. Who came to visit Connie the night before they all left?
  3. What were Connie, Sandra’s and Pearl’s reactions to the car ride from the airport?
  4. Why are Sandra’s and Pearl’s reactions so different?
[Ends with crowd noises – how was your journey? You're welcome, you're welcome.” 40:25]


Section eight

words: kip, cassava
  1. How are the two funerals in the play different? What elements do they have in common? What do you think of the differences and similarities?
  2. What's the significance of Sandra saying, “Me? I like a take-away.”
  3. Who were the messages from that Connie and Sandra received? What’s the significance of the sandcastles? The p.s.?
  4. What do you think about Gary now?
  5. Connie says, “Do you want to have a little go?” What does that mean?
  6. Why does Connie enjoy the dancing in a strange place so far away from home?

Hot Chip, "Thieves in the Night"


Listen or download Hot Chip Thieves In The Night on Prostopleer purchase link

This track was used in the film Sound of My Voice.

Thieves in the Night, Joseph Goddard, Alexis Benjamin Taylor, Al Doyle, Owen Clarke, Felix Martin (performed by Hot Chip)

My friend once told me something so right
He said to be careful of thieves in the night, oh, oh
Baby i've lost you here in the crowd
Open your arms I want to be found, oh, oh
Maybe I'm calling your name in the night
Open our eyes we'll feel with our sight, oh, oh, oh, oh

A want is a lack but also desire
A need can be nothing but should be held higher, oh, oh
A need is a want wearing disguise
It can be confused if fuelled by desire, oh, oh
Baby I'm calling your name in the night
No reason with need look into my eyes, oh, oh

Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't always want
Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't all want

My friend once told me something so right
he said to be careful of bugs that don't bite, oh, oh
My friend once told me something so right
He said to be careful of thieves in the night, oh, oh

Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't always want
Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't always want
Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't always want
Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't all want
Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't always want
Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't always want

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Group 301-401 (Evening): The Art of Russia, Part Three

This is the last film of this documentary series. Our discussion questions:
  1. How did Russia's leaders use art, according to Andrew Graham-Dixon?
  2. Why was St Petersburg rejected in favor of Moscow as the country's new capital?
  3. What is meant by a "rallying cry"?
  4. Rodchenko was saying "yes" to construction and engineering. What was he saying "no" to?
  5. In announcing the "death of painting," what did artists expect would replace it?
  6. What was Vladimir Shukhov's "forgotten constructivist masterpiece"?
  7. What is the ironic reference in Graham-Dixon's statement, "the word according to Lenin"?
  8. What did the Bolsheviks replace the church with? What bible-like function did it serve?
  9. "That individual voice had to be suppressed" for the sake of what, according to the narrator?
  10. What made Stakhanov a role model?
  11. Who is missing from the Metro's pantheon of heroes?
  12. What is prophetic about Deyneka's decorations in Mayakovsky station?
  13. At the New Tretyakov Museum, what painting was Graham-Dixon looking for in particular? Why does he call it "reactionary"?
  14. How did Alexander Kamensky express his individual viewpoint?
  15. How (in English!) does Nikolas Nikogosyan compare Soviet ideals with today's realities?
  16. What is the "limited thaw" referred to by Graham-Dixon that followed Stalin's death?
  17. Some of the art generated to celebrate the Soviet Union's space achievements remind Graham-Dixon of what earlier period of Soviet art?
  18. Why did Graham-Dixon visit Tatiana Levitskaya? What did he want to see at her home? What was the happiest moment of her life?
  19. The artists on exhibit at Igor Markin's private museum seem to be asking what, according to the narrator?
  20. What does it mean "toe the party line"?
  21. What has Zurab Tsereteli removed from the old Communist ideal of art?
  22. What is the meaning of Andrei Molodkin's use of oil?
  23. What would Molodkin like to do with the world?
  24. What is the historical cycle that helps Graham-Dixon understand Russian history and art?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Groups 201-204 Homework: What happened at that restaurant?!

Here is the situation:
You went out for dinner with your friends to celebrate your birthday. You were very disappointed with the service you received. Write a letter of complaint to the restaurant manager explaining why you were dissatisfied and asking for an explanation and an apology.
Write 100-140 words. Remember the rules of letter-writing. Please be ready to give me your letter at your class next week. Be prepared--I might ask you to read your letter!

  • If you don't know the restaurant manager by name, you can use this format:
Radio Street Restaurant
Attention: Manager
  • First paragraph: Introduce yourself, explain why you are writing.
  • Second paragraph: Briefly tell what happened at the restaurant.
  • Third paragraph: Ask for the action(s) you want from the manager.

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers. 

Image source.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What will you do after graduation? (Groups 201-204 in-class writing assignment)

Source: Ramallah Friends Schools

Most of you will do this task on Wednesday or Thursday during class (in twenty minutes). But in case you are absent this week, or come to class late, here is the task:

You have received a letter from your English-speaking pen friend Steve who writes:

… I can't believe we are finishing school this year! What are your plans after you have finished school? What career interests you? What do most students in Russia do after finishing school? Here in Britain, some students take a gap year before continuing their studies or starting a job. 

I have decided to spend a year volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal....

Write a letter to Steve. In your letter, answer his questions and ask him three questions about his gap year. Write 100-140 words. Remember the rules of letter-writing.

Exercise adapted from Olga Afanasyeva, Virginia Evans, Victoria Kopylova, Practice Exam Papers for the Russian State Exam, 2010 Revised Edition, Moscow: Express Publishing/Prosveshchenie Publishers.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Fray, "How to Save a Life"

Here's a concert version of this song; the official video is at the bottom of this page.

The audio track we played in class: purchase link.

Here are the words:

How to Save a Life, Joseph King and Isaac Slade
(performed by The Fray)

Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it’s just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you’ve told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you’ve followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he’ll say he’s just not the same
And you’ll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Group 301-401 (Evening): The Art of Russia, Part Two

This episode is entitled, "Roads to Revolution." Today (November 13) we will finish this episode and begin part three. Here is the whole video and all of our discussion questions.

Discussion questions:
  1. According to Andrew Graham-Dixon, St Petersburg was part of a great cultural project to do what?
  2. Elizabeth I left her mark on Russian culture--in what way?
  3. “A distinctly Russian feeling of excess” ... what is Graham-Dixon referring to?
  4. If you wanted to experience the “full baroque blast” of Peterhof, where would you go? What does Graham-Dixon mean by Elizabeth’s “Midas touch”?
  5. On the ceiling of her ballroom, Elizabeth had herself painted in whose company?
  6. Who made possible the luxurious life of the elites, according to the narrator? [Judy would add: How did the Russian system differ from classical feudalism?]
  7. What is meant by “a hand-to-mouth existence”?
  8. Did the condition of the rural working class improve or worsen under the reign of Catherine the Great?
  9. “And artists too had to endure their own form of servitude.” What does Graham-Dixon mean?
  10. “Utterly competent, completely derivative”--what is Graham-Dixon asserting about the Russian academic painters?
  11. By the beginning of the 1840’s, “Russian culture was on the brink of a momentous change.” How did writers lead this change?
  12. Why did the censor not allow Fedotov to publish his pictures in the form of engravings or lithographs?
  13. What were some of the Wanderers’ favorite subjects?
  14. What made the Wanderers, as landscape painters, different from the Impressionists of western Europe?
  15. What was Repin's childhood like? Did it affect his art?
  16. In the painting “Religious Procession in Kursk,” is there something--other than his disability--that makes the boy on crutches stand out from the crowd? Is that a clue about Repin himself?
  17. Which of his own pictures did Repin not allow the public to see?
  18. What was the “intensely political purpose” of Repin’s house?
  19. What meaningful detail does Graham-Dixon point out in Repin’s painting of the barge-haulers? Why is it meaningful, according to the narrator?
  20. Graham-Dixon says that the chapel at Abramtsevo represents a “moment of reconnection with Orthodox Christianity”. Is “reconnection” an accurate way to describe it?
  21. What do you think of Graham-Dixon’s portrayal of Vrubel as a kind of “dark prophet”? Was Vrubel’s final Demon truly prophetic?
  22. What questions did Graham-Dixon say were key at the beginning of the 20th century? At the beginning of the 21st century, do you think these questions are less important, more important, or just as important?
  23. Graham-Dixon states that “ancient structures of power had not changed since Peter the Great.” By saying this, he is dismissing Tsar Alexander II’s reforms. In your opinion, was he misleading by leaving that out, or did Alexander II’s reforms leave the power structures essentially unchanged? (hint: I don’t know)
  24. What was the “Hippopotamus”?
  25. In what ways did the city of Moscow inspire Kandinsky? Do you think Pavel Tretyakov had any role in this?
  26. What is Kandinsky’s “Composition No. 7” foretelling his audience?
  27. Speaking of his “Black Square,” how did Malevich respond to his critics? What could he do that they could not?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Groups 201-204 Homework: Sylvia asks about smart girls

You have 20 minutes to write this letter to Sylvia. Please write on a separate piece of paper and bring it to your class on November 20 or 21.

You have received a letter from your English-speaking pen-friend Sylvia who writes:
… I got another good grade on my last biology lab report. My lab partner, Sam, says that I’m fun to work with. He got a good grade, too! But he invited another girl to the school dance. I was not pleased—I thought he might ask me this time. In your country, do girls with top grades get dates? What do boys think about smart girls? Do girls sometimes pretend they are not as smart as they really are?
Anyway, my teacher promised to write me a good recommendation letter for my university applications.
Write a letter of about 100-140 words to Sylvia. Observe the rules of good letter-writing. In your letter,
  • answer her questions;
  • ask 3 questions about her plans for university.
Remember: This week I'd like to receive your letter to Julie and any late homework.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eva Cassidy, "Time After Time"

While I was away in Thailand, Judy played this song for the EGE classes. It's one of my favorite songs, even though its performer became world-famous only after her death. (Read here about Eva Cassidy; here in Russian.) Here is an amateur video of her performing the song at Washington, DC's Blues Alley club, later broadcast on television in several countries (Norwegian television capture below). Below the video and the audio track are the words to the song.

Eva Cassidy - Time After Time silvere_vlc

Listen or download Eva Cassidy Time After Time for free on Pleer

“Time After Time” (Rob Hyman, Cyndi Lauper)
performed by Eva Cassidy, 1963-1996 (1995)

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Turning in circles, confusion—Is nothing new
Flashback to warm nights—Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after—

Sometimes you picture me—
I'm walking too far ahead
You're calling to me, I can't hear
What you've said—

Then you say—go slow—I fall behind—
The second hand unwinds

Chorus: If you're lost you can look—and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you—I'll be waiting
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you—I'll be waiting
Time after time
Time after time

After your picture fades and darkness has
turned to gray
Watching through windows—I'm wondering
if you're OK
And you say—go slow, I fall behind.
The drum beats out of time—
Time after time
Time after time