Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heritage Day was Fun!!!

Here is a goofy picture of me making grilled cheese sandwiches at the Heritage Day party. I had such a great time at Heritage Day! The food was perfect, and there was so much of it! I was amazed at how much food everyone brought to the party. The only thing is that I found it hard to control myself because all of the food was so good. I felt like I had to try everything. After the party, I felt so full. Naturally, I ate way more than I should have eaten. I'm happy to say, though, that I think everyone really liked my grilled cheese sandwiches - especially Yuri. I think he must have eaten about five of them!

Anyway, I love days like Heritage Day because it is a great chance for us all to get together socially and enjoy some good food. It is also a great chance to try food from all over the world. It is not very often that I get to eat Iranian, Chinese, Polish, Thai, and Arabic food at the same time. I can't wait until our next Heritage Day - it's one of the best parts of our semester!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Postponed Quiz

There is no grammar quiz on Monday. This is the first time I’ve postponed a quiz in years! Usually I like to stick to the scheduled, but lately I’ve started to relax a bit, and I’ve realised that it is more important for everyone to understand the grammar rather than moving through the textbook like a freight train in order to “finish it” before the end of the semester. Now, we have time to understand the grammar a bit more deeply before I move on.

Right now, we are studying adjective clauses (also known as relative clauses). Everyone in the class is really good making basic adjective clauses, but when it gets a bit more difficult, things start to go sideways a bit. The key thing to remember is that when you are making a subject adjective clause, the relative pronoun is replacing the subject of your dependent clause. When you are making an object adjective clause, the relative pronoun is replacing the object of your dependent clause. If you remember that, it will help you to avoid repeating the object twice in the dependent clause when you are making an object adjective clause. It sounds complicated, but don’t worry! I think everyone is getting the hang of it!

Keep on studying!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A question from a student

Today I had a question about why this group of sentences is not correct:

Lindsay had better call me tonight, but that is not okay if she doesn’t. I cannot talk to her tomorrow.*

To the ears of a native English speaker, the above group of sentences sounds strange. The question is why does this group of sentences sound strange. I think the main reason is because of the word “but”. If the word “but” is removed from the group of sentences, then it sounds okay.

Lindsay had better call me tonight. That is not okay if she doesn’t. I cannot talk to her tomorrow.

This new version is perfectly acceptable. Why then is this not correct with the word “but”?

The word “but” in this case is a coordinating conjunction. It joins together to sentenceds. The coordinating conjunction “but” can be used to indicate that two sentences contain opposite or contrasting ideas. “But” can also be used to give a sense a conflict between two sets of ideas, or a sense of negation between two sets of ideas.

The first idea in the example above is “Lindsey had better call me tonight”. The use of the modal “had better” conveys a sense of warning, and implies that something bad may happen if Lindsey does not call.

The second idea in the example above is “That is not okay if she doesn’t [call]. I cannot talk to her tomorrow.”

Does the first idea contrast or conflict with the second idea? Does the second idea negate the first idea? Is the first idea the opposite of the second idea? The answer to all three of these questions is no. The second idea is more of an explanation of the first idea. As a result, the coordinating conjunction “but” doesn’t fit with this group of sentences.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Must versus Have to

The modal grammar quiz is over. Actually, the students did really well on this quiz, but there is still a bit of confusion over some of the subtleties of using modals.

The first kinds of modals we looked at were modals of necessity. Although in essence “must” and “have to” mean the same thing, I noticed that sometimes must doesn’t really work in a sentence, and “have to” is better. There was a question similar to this on the quiz in which the students had to choose between “must” and “have to”:

Murray: I was surprised to see you taking the C-Train this morning. Is your car still not working?
Scott: Can you believe it? It’s still not working. I __________ take it to Canadian Tire to get it checked out, but I never seem to find time.

In the blank, a lot of student put in the word “must” so that the sentence reads:

I must take it to Canadian Tire to get it checked out, but I never seem to find time.

Although, must and have to both indicate necessity. In this case it doesn’t sound right. I think this is because “must” is a bit stronger than “have to”. “Must” really indicates the importance of the act. If you use the word “must”, you are really stressing how much you need to do something. It is absolute urgent and necessary to do it. However, in this sentence, the speaker goes on to say “but I never seem to find time.” If getting the car checked out was really urgent (i.e. “must”), then the speaker wouldn’t have said “but I never seem to find time”. As a result, I think that “have to” is the better choice.

Friday, March 05, 2010

We're Blogging!

Here we are in the computer lab, and everyone is blogging away. I'm really happy. I think we have ironed out all of the problems we were having with the blogs, and now we are ready to blog all of the time. One of the biggest problems I found with setting up the blogs was the passwords. Everyone kept forgetting their passwords! I have learned a real lesson about this. I think from now on, I am going to make the students fill out a form. On the form they will have to write their sign-in email, their blog address and their PASSWORD!!!

Personally, I love blogging. I think it is a great way for students to practice their English writing without having to worry too much about things like spelling and grammar. The amazing thing about blogs is you can see what the students were writing like at the beginning of the project, and then you can see all of their progress by the end of the project.

Happy blogging!