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Blog For Birthday Week

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This post will be the written manifestation of what my daily life is like here: the first half devoted to life at school, the second half to life outside of school. It will include the same emotional swings as a day in the life here does. And I don't mean that dramatically!

In my Advanced English Bachillerato classes I gave them yet another assignment.  I’m really enjoying creating these assignment sheets.  Probably also am taking some pleasure in knowing I’m not on the receiving end for a change.  For the rest of the year--2017--they're going to develop short stories! My lesson plan (adapted from a creative writing teacher in the US): bring in about 10-12 books, preferably fiction, have each student look through a book to find a word, preferably one they don't know too well, write it down, pass the book to the next person.  In the first group, they wrote 10 words down. The rest of the groups progressively diminished their word count. I felt 10 was a bit much, a bit too difficult, so 5 sufficed.

After writing their words down, they had to stand up (keep them energized however I can) and pick the opening sentence of one of the books. They had to take a picture of it or write it down (some students actually did not have their phones! miracles can happen).  I didn't specify preface, introduction, first chapter, didn't matter. I then asked them what think is a story. Then what they think is a short story. Did not do the genre-explaining justice oops. I'm learning. Then I told them that the opening sentence they chose is the opening sentence of their story and they have to incorporate the 10 (or 5 or 4 or 7) words they have written down into their story. To soften the blow I said “those of you who wrote about wanting to expand your vocabulary on the blog, here you go, take this opportunity to not only learn new words, but also work on incorporating them into sentences.”    

I think they found the task a bit daunting, but I stressed that this isn't "write a story in a week, go!" In one week they have to just have ideas for their stories or some sort of plan. In another week they should have a first draft (they thought this meant a chart or storyboard maybe? That was interesting.  I gave them my definition of a first draft and said it means it can be rough, very rough). In two weeks (another vacation) they'll turn in their revised story. On the assignment sheet I emphasized that what they're practicing is revision: writing, revising, writing revising, etc. I wrote the words over and over so that they'd get the point. At the bottom of the assignment sheet I included my definition of revision: going over something with the intention of making it better. That definition certainly needs revision (I crack myself up!!!!).  

When two students were laughing I asked them what was funny, not as a challenge. They said they'll have trouble STOPPING themselves when writing. Another student stayed after the bell rang to tell me her ideas and chat a bit. I'm pretty lucky with this group of students.

Week after week it becomes more and more clear to me that effusing passion is the most engaging way to teach. When I'm excited, they perk up; if I'm just plowing ahead, trekking through the mud, and avoiding quicksand, they feel the tense, rough road ahead. What a performance teaching is. Very funny to experience as someone who never liked the spotlight, kind of :)

As for the second half here, it was my birthday this week.  Did I give that away already?  I had a wonderful birthday even though I'm far away from most people I love.

I went to see Cyrille Aimee as part of the Madrid Jazz Festival. Aimee is a French jazz vocalist who won a Montreal vocal competition that put her on the map. Her set was awesome and the venue was awesome. Sala Clamores felt just like a jazz nightclub should: dark lighting, red lighting, a bar with overpriced cocktails that take a long time to make, the logo of the place in bright lights behind the stage, a middle-aged male owner running around in a t-shirt that says "give all" or something motivational like that.

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I went to the bar to order cocktails and they were delicious. Aimee's set was a lot of fun. It was the first stop of this tour for her and this band (a female pianist!).  They started with a great rumba version of “I Could've Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady.  Perfect opening number for a set. Later on, Aimee showed some serious vocal and arranging chops on a solo number where she looped her voice using that machine that I don't know the name of. Ed Sheeran uses it too... You sing or play a phrase of music that the machine records and can play aloud while you record the next part you want to play with that first part.  Even more people took out their phones for this number; everyone perked up and realized they were witnessing something special.

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Other fairly well-known songs performed: “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Off The Wall” (Michael Jackson), and “Oye Como Va.”


I also, on my birthday, went to one of my favorite cafes. This is part of wonderful life in Madrid: I get home with enough time to turn the day into something totally different if I so choose. On the Monday of Birthday Week, the second half of my day involved cappuccino, truffle mortadella, manchego cheese, churros y chocolate (birthday week, bear with me here).

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Only in Madrid.

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