Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vance Joy in the Classroom

         The EF "mission" in the classroom, as I understand it, is not simply about teaching English as a language, but also includes instilling ideas regarding the culture that is inherent in the language. Due to the fact that English users around the world represent varying and distinct cultures of their own, I cannot pretend to be an expert representing the entire gamut of English speakers (that would be both silly and foolish). However, I do my best to bring my culture to the table, and to explain that this is my perspective and not necessarily hard truth that encompasses all native English speakers. After all, I am only one American, and we are all so different. Moreover, English speakers do not only come from America! While these facts may seem fairly obvious to my readers, the concept of culture and variety is not something my students necessarily understand (yet!).
       The picture above is from one of my HF classes-- roughly 10-12 years-old. We are learning about movies and movie genres in class right now; comedy, action, cartoon, etc. I thought long and hard about the best way to explain the emotions, actions, and movie types, to a group of children that not only crave stimulation, they wont listen if they aren't interested (yes, this is the grand age at which students will literally yawn in your face if they are bored-- the pressure is on!). After some deliberation, I decided that the best way to explain movie genres was to first show them (shout-out to ZV for an awesome Comp-I course that doubled as a film class-- you inspired this lesson).
          Currently making waves on the radio in Denver is Vance Joy's, Riptide (as a side not,  if you haven't watched the music video for this song, I highly recommend it, as it mixes a very literal representation of the lyrics with a classic but twisted movie style).  Lights out in the classroom, children confused, and Riptide on the projector! Over Joy's voice, I can hear the students squeal, laugh, and gasp as they watch and listen. Afterward, we talk about what they saw in the music video that matches up with their vocabulary words. Was there a gun? Who shot the gun? Cowboy!? Which genre of movie is this? Western! What about escaping, did we see someone escape? Which genre of movie do people escape in? Action! Yes, they get it!
        "Do you like this movie?" I ask them. Noone speaks.
      "Do you not like this movie?" Still silence.
    "Do you like what you saw?"
                             All together, "NO! I do not like!"
"Do you like what you heard?" All hands up, "YES!!!"
                      Okay Vance Joy, your music is safe; the children of China say, "yes." And while your music video has excellent value as an example of film genre and culture (two thumbs-up for cinematography and mise en scene that mirror distinct periods in American film history), the meaning might be lost on my young students, who think that smeared lipstick and "black down under eyes" is, "wrong." In my next lesson, I'll have to try and explain that sometimes, a little "wrong" is alright.

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