Monday, March 5, 2012

Multimedia Monday: New York, New York

The first chapter in my advanced classes' new textbook is on New York city. Unfortunately, The Daily Show's 2009 clip about "the douchiest sports fans" isn't entirely appropriate for a classroom setting—much as that impotent, forgotten-middle-child rage that is peculiar to natives from the Philly metro might have tempted me otherwise. Instead, I decided to go with Ol' Blue Eyes.

(I considered a scene from On the Town, because more than anything else I love Gene Kelly, but unfortunately there's none of his trademark choreography during "New York New York.")

My eldest and most cynical, burnt-out class hated it. Enough that I'm rethinking doing anything with it in my other two classes, but they're so much more open-minded and mellow than this particular class that I'll probably push ahead with it anyway.

Sometimes English teachers here are accused of having agendas and of overreaching their purview as teachers: as far as our work is concerned, we're not here in Korea to address social issues or "fix" whatever we may think is "wrong," our job is to teach English. Some teachers forget that, the argument goes, and they spend too much time thinking about how to address beauty or gender roles instead of infinitives and gerunds. 

Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. You could accuse me of the same, I suppose: why should I expect Korean pre-teens to go wild over Frank Sinatra? Why is it at all important to their language acquisition? The honest answer is that I can't really justify it pedagogically. I like music, and I like listening to music, and I like sharing music with other people, so whenever I have the chance, I use pop music in class. Same goes with movies. There's a whole academic debate over whether learning a language necessitates learning the culture, or the pop culture, but I just do it because I like to. It's fun for me

I'd like to think that at least one of my students, years from now, will hear this song at a bar when some asshole New Yorker expat requests it, and they'll think: "I know this! One of my English teachers at my hagwon used it in class!" If it hasn't been replaced by Empire State of Mind by that point.

The other thing about this song, and older songs in general, is that the lyrics are really great for language instruction, as they tend to be written in complete, grammatically correct sentences and what not. You could totally do a lesson with this song comparing simple future to present continuous verb tenses, for example: hand out the lyrics and have students underline actions happening in the present, circle actions happening in the future. Or helping verbs ("going to" and "want to"). Or personification ("city that never sleeps," "these vagabond shoes are longing to stray").  Or the difference between spoken and written English (how we write "going to" but often say "gonna"). Or idiomatic expressions ("make it" in the sense of being successful, or "king of the hill" and "top of the heap").

Beyond the words, there's the option for really high level conversation about cities and their personalities and meanings to people. New York has a certain aura of mystique around it, hence why we keep writing songs and making movies about it. What about Korea, what cities are very popular? What characteristics does Seoul/Uijeongbu/Kimhae have?

For other videos I've shown in class (and their various rates of success), check out the Multimedia Monday tag. If you want to use YouTube videos but don't have Internet in your classroom, I recommend using YouTube Downloader HD to save any videos you want to show.

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