This week, students of the ongoing CWW batch tried their hand at creating poems with interesting silhouettes. Shape poems create a shape thematically connected with the subject of the poem. One of the many strategies where structural constraints result in lexical innovation! That is to say, restrictions don’t limit you, but rather, enable you to be even more creative.
Poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea, but a great advantage of this kind of poetry is that is facilitates the development of vocabulary. When you’re forced to write within that shape, you start to think outside the box! Sharing a couple of lovely creations from this class!
Try it yourself! Select an easily recognisable silhouette like a cloud, a droplet or a moon or a house, and pen your poem within its borders. When you’re done, erase the outline. In a matter of minutes, the poem comes to life.
The Glottal Stop Workshop helps students re-imagine language as a science and explore English pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar through this unique perspective. In the two-day workshop conducted in Bangalore in February 2020, participants explored how language may be acquired and stored in their minds and how our brains process this information. Through activities and many, many word games, they learnt different ideas in linguistics or language science, from the phonetic script to to the mental dictionary. The aim of this workshop was to build an unconscious awareness to grapple with challenges in communication and improve spoken and written English.
One of the activities included asking students how language may be stored in the minds. Draw the language cupboard, I told them. The responses I got were delightfully creative. My favourite was how intuitive it was for this one kid that the mind is a computer. I was working my language as a cupboard metaphor to get them to think about how much we have in our minds and how it may be organised, and he kept telling me, no problem.. it’s like Google. Note the “formal” and “informal” buttons! Just goes to show the level of exposure these kids have to something as abstract as technology, and how their imagination benefits from it.
Some Student Feedback (I’ve saved the best for last!)
“My overall experience in this workshop was really great. It improved my English. I learnt many things which many won’t learn in their actual English classes. The class was interactive and fun. I would recommend this workshop for my friends as well.” – S., Age 13
“Amazing. I learnt how to improve my grammar , the IPA and many other things.” – K.D., Age 10
“My overall experience in these two days was very nice. I understood a lot about pronunciation, even my mom didn’t know some of the pronunciations. From today onwards, I’ll use these pronunciation skills.” – R.K., Age 11
“My overall experience was very good. I enjoyed it a lot and the food was tasty!” – S., Age 10 (Needless to say, a sure shot way to someone’s heart is through their tummy!)
The idea for the Glottal Stop workshop was conceived way back when I was finishing my Master’s in Linguistics. In just two years, I had developed a whole new perspective on language, and found myself wondering why this treasure-house of insight wasn’t carried into the language classrooms. As an amateur linguist-turned-teacher, I saw my classes as a petri dish for all the theories I’d spent two years poring over. The first Glottal Stop workshop, conducted in 2018, was my effort at bridging the wide gap between language acquisition theory and middle school language teaching. And what a successful couple of days!
From learning the 44 sounds of the English language, to using the phonemic script to learn pronunciation, from figuring out the possible grammar and phonology of Parseltongue to creating your own language – the results were fantastics. These group of kids surprised me by truly thinking outside the box. We invented a language of pigs called Oinkio, a lyrical song-language spoken by phoenixes and a Minion language called Pocoloco.
By the end of the workshop, the kids were experts at basic syntax trees and left with a unique understanding of phrase structure and grammar. As I explained it to a parent, these strategies are for English what Vedic Maths is to Math. Through activities, games and projects, we covered the six main branches of linguistics and without even realising it, these young linguists were all set to explore language on their own.