A perfect lesson

Many moons ago, when I was at teacher’s college, we were taught to write lesson plans, and given the theory of what makes a good lesson. Of course, once I graduated and got into a real classroom, like every teacher I rapidly gave up on writing the lesson plans, partly through lack of time, and partly through having acquired enough experience that I applied many of the principles automatically, without having to sit down and work them out every time.

It’s a long time since I was in a classroom, but now that I’ve been doing this ESOL tutoring, I’m finding those principles are starting to come back, and even when I depart from my lesson plan, they’re sneaking into the lesson.

Tonight was a great example of that. Although I’d worked out a lesson, we ended up doing something completely different as the lesson grew organically out of the conversation N and I were having. We started off playing with some word cards, making simple sentences. N would come up with an idea for a sentence, and we’d work together to find the right words and put them in order. A few of the sentences she managed to do all by herself, so I wrote them into her workbook so she could copy them out. Then we talked about the sentences, and she came up with some more on her own, and (with a bit of help from me with the harder words) she wrote them down. A very simple little lesson, but it kept us occupied for the whole hour.

It wasn’t until I was walking home and was mentally reviewing what we’d done that I realised it was a theoretically perfect lesson. The different parts of the lesson had each built the same basic skill, but between them had covered all the different learning styles: kinaesthetic (arranging cards into sentences), oral/aural (verbally creating sentences), and visual (writing the sentences). Plus because N was creating sentences about her own life, it gave her ownership of the lesson. And best of all, it was a huge boost to her confidence, because she discovered she was able to spell so many of the words all by herself, or with just a little prompting from me.

I’m sure next week I’ll revert to my usual chaotic teaching technique, but isn’t it nice when things all come together nicely, even if it was totally accidental! :-)



Oh, and another nice thing about tonight’s lesson. One of the sentences she came up with was “My husband talked to his sister.” Not very exciting, until you hear the back-story to that sentence. MrPloppy has been helping N’s son with his computer, and at the weekend went round there and installed some software he needed to get his webcam working. After N came up with the “My husband talked to his sister.” sentence, she told me the sister was in Afghanistan, and they’d used the computer to talk to her. And because the webcam was finally working, her husband and his sister had seen each other for the first time in 27 years. Isn’t that cool? I was able to come home and tell MrPloppy that his tiny favour helping get the software installed led to such an incredibly important moment for a brother and sister separated for all those years.

Bit of a catch-up

Sunday’s breakfast meetup was rather poorly attended – just me, lytteltonwitch, and awhina. I suspect everyone else is just meetup’d out – we have had rather a lot of them lately. There wasn’t much book-swapping going on either – I’d only brought along a couple of books I’d promised to lytteltonwitch (Wicked by Gregory Maguire and There’s No Toilet Paper… On the Road Less Travelled edited by Doug Lansky), and she’d brought Stonehenge: The Secret of the Solstice by Terence Meaden and another brochure about Stonehenge for me. I think we’ve both been doing the same thing at the moment and only reading books about the places we’ll be travelling to :-)

Of course, we also spent a lot of time talking about our upcoming adventures – lytteltonwitch had just booked her flights to Crete for the Greek convention, so was excited about that, and I of course had just paid for Otakuu and my tickets, so was equally effusive. I think awhina was feeling a bit left out.



The rest of Sunday I spent stewing fruit. Not really the ideal activity for a stinking hot summer’s day, but dad had brought up a couple of boxes of fruit for us (nectarines, plums and apricots – yum!) and the sudden hot weather meant that they were going bad quicker than we could eat them.

If I was properly domestic I would have bottled them, but that would have involved too much effort trying to dig out the right sorts of jars and lids (and probably having to go and buy more of each, as well as vast quantities of sugar), so I took the lazy way out and chopped them up roughly and stewed them, then froze the resulting pulp in small quantities. It won’t be much good as a dessert on its own, like preserves would have been, but it’ll make a good base for crumbles and things over the winter.

We tested a bit of it out in a spicy fruit sponge pudding on Sunday night (despite it being way too hot a night for a heavy winter pudding!) and the combination of fruits tasted great, so they’ll be even nicer in the depths of winter.



Last night was chick flicks movie night. We went to see The Bucket List, which I had mixed feelings about. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman gave superb performances, but the overall production values were pretty second-rate, I thought. The scenes in exotic places all looked to me like they’d been filmed in a studio with very faked backdrops and mixed with a bit of stock footage (of course, I have actually been to quite a few of those places, so the faked bits were probably more obvious to me than to the average cinema goer), and the plot was so full of holes it would have made a good colander. Not to mention the clichés… If it hadn’t been for the acting, it would have been an awful film, only fit for Sunday night TV, but the two leads lifted it above that and gave it real emotional impact (yes, I’ll admit it, I was crying by the end). So, like I said, pretty mixed feelings about it.



The university term started this week, so I’ve been releasing books around the campus, trying to catch a few students. A couple of themed releases (A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor on a bench that has a geocache hidden nearby, and The Money Movers by Devon Minchin in the commerce department) and the rest just randomly released around the campus (Angel by Elizabeth Taylor, Death Wore a Diadem by Iona McGregor, and Star Rider by Doris Piserchia).

Actually, I’ve been doing quite well for releases in general this week – as well as the campus releases, I left The Siamese Twin Mystery by Ellery Queen in a park, Tales of a Man Called Father by Ronnie Knox Mawer at the doctor’s when I went to get a medical certificate for my travel insurance, and The Silk Mill by Jay Allerton at the picture theatre last night.

No catches from any of them yet, but I’m still hopeful.

Extreme cuteness

I’ve had a very productive day today. I spent most of the morning and a large chunk of the afternoon making a present for TheLetterB, whose sproglet is due any day now (which is why this post is friends-only – I’ll make it public once the sproglet has made his/her appearance and received the present). I was inspired by something I saw while wandering around the Arts Centre the other day with Sherlockfan and discoverylover. There was a stall selling patchwork things, and one of the items was a baby’s stuffed toy in the shape of an elephant. We commented on how cute it was, and that it would make a great gift for TheLetterB, and on closer inspection, I decided I could probably make something similar myself.

So I got some nice fabrics, and designed my own patchwork elephant. It’s not quite the same as the one on the stall, but I’m really proud of how well it turned out – even MrPloppy thinks it’s seriously cute!



The rest of the day was spent wandering around various shops looking for something (or a lot of somethings) for our latest secret project. I eventually found what I was looking for at a price I liked (for lytteltonwitch: I got 15, for $4 each – thought that was pretty good!). And while I was searching, I released a few books: The Clothes in the Wardrobe by Alice Thomas Ellis in a clothes shop (well, I had to, didn’t I?), and I’m Not Complaining by Ruth Adam and Dina’s Book by Herbjørg Wassmo dropped around Riccarton Mall.



Kimi alerted me to a mention of Bookcrossing on National Radio the other day (click on the link at the bottom of the list, called “The Panel – Part Two” – the Bookcrossing mention is in the first few minutes). Michelle A’Court (a NZ comedian) found a book in Christchurch (I think this one, released by awhina (and which she got from gwilk at my Christmas party last year, so I can claim a connection to this famous book :-))), and was really excited about the idea of Bookcrossing, raving about it on the programme – great publicity!

Hmm, wonder if she wants to come to the convention? :-)

I’m going to London!

Yes, I know, I’ve mentioned that a few times before 😉 but it became all the more real today, because I went and paid for the tickets! And what a scarily large cheque that was to write, even though it wasn’t my own money I was spending.

Of course, I gave the travel agent a book: Around the World in 80 Days by Michael Palin – she was really pleased with it, and agreed it was most appropriate :-)

All the other planning elements are falling into place, too – I’ve almost finished putting together our presentation, lytteltonwitch has got a really good quote for some printing we need done (for a little surprise we’ve got planned ;-)), Dad found me a great daypack to use for my carry-on which fits the laptop perfectly, I’ve sorted out most of the books I want to take… there’s still a lot that needs to be done, but finally the done list is starting to get longer than the to be done.



Dad was in Christchurch earlier in the week. He had to bring his car up here to get something fixed that his local garage couldn’t do, so while they were fixing it, he had a couple of days’ holiday with us. Of course, this is Dad, so his idea of a “holiday” involved doing a huge amount of work in our garden, even going so far as to hire a skip to take away the massive pile of garden rubbish that has being growing behind the garage for years (one of the few real downsides to not having a car is that you can’t take stuff to the dump, and burning garden waste in Christchurch is seriously verboten, so what used to be a normal sized compost heap had grown into a bit of a mountain). We’ve been talking about doing that for about a year, but it was on the one day list, and we never seemed to get to it. Dad isn’t good at making one day lists – he just sees something that needs done and does it.

I was just glad I had to work, so I had a good excuse for not helping 😉 When I got home, poor MrPloppy was totally shattered!



A few recent catches:

The Snare of the Hunter by Helen MacInnes – a release from our Show Weekend expedition found a month later and journalled after another two months. And now on its way to Auckland.

A History of the United States by RB Nye and JE Morpurgo, a book that’s done a bit of travelling already, is now going from Victoria University in Wellington to Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. (This book is actually a great example of why no book is unbookcrossable: It was an utterly boring looking book, one of those academic softcovers printed in the 50s or 60s with just the title written on the front and no picture or anything – completely unattractive, and you’d think nobody would ever pick it up. Yet it’s been through at least three pairs of hands after mine (two of whom journalled it), and is off travelling again!)

And another book from the Wellington YHA, Flickan som Uppfann Livet by Johanna Nilsson, caught in Queenstown this time. That bookshelf has got to be my best release spot ever!



Currently reading: Duende by Jason Webster
Currently listening to: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M Auel (still only on disk 17…)

47 sleeps to go!

Release walk

After a couple of miserable days of rain (one of which I spent sitting in my office with damp feet because the @#$% of a bus-driver stopped the bus in such a position that I could only get on by wading through a huge puddle), the sun finally came out today, so I decided to make the most of it and go and deliver some more flyers for MrPloppy, and maybe release a few books. Of course, that meant actually labelling some books first (my to be released box seems to be full of either books I’m reserving for various themed releases, or books that I registered but never got round to properly labelling – doesn’t really make spontaneous releases easy!) but eventually I got out and started dropping flyers in letter boxes, on a circuitous route through the streets (my mathematical brain loves the challenge of coming up with a route that will cover both sides of every street with the minimum of retracing my steps).

My route took me past one park, Halifax Reserve, so I released a couple of books there (A Book of Dwarves by Ruth Manning-Sanders and John David by Paula Milne). There were a few kids playing in the playground, and later when I was coming down another street that took me past the other side of the park, I saw a couple of them looking at the Dwarf book.

By the time I ran out of flyers, I was nearly at Edgar Macintosh Park, so I carried on, releasing Necessary Treasons by Maeve Kelly on the way, and released a couple more books in the park (The Call of England by HV Morton, and Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman. Again, as I walked away, I saw someone pick one of them up (I think it was The Call of England) and look inside.

I had one last book left (The Taxidermists’ Dance by Richard Lunn), so on the way home I dropped it in a phone box.

I’ve found myself avoiding themed releases lately, and just enjoying doing good old random book in random place type releases. I’m sure I’ll get bored with them again soon and go back to trying to match book to location, but for now it’s fun to just get back out there bookcrossing again. I really must do it more often :-)



Currently reading: Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawkes
Currently listening to: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M Auel (which, with 20-odd CDs, seems interminable!)

52 sleeps to go!

What day is it?

I always have great plans for special date themed releases. I look ahead on the calendar and see Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day, or Waitangi Day, and decide that *this* year I really am going to get organised, and collect up suitable books to release on the day. But I never quite seem to manage it. I either forget to stock up on suitable books, or I have got suitable books but don’t remember until several days after the fact (there’s a book called On Mother’s Day that I’ve had sitting in my release box for several years now, but I forget every year). It probably doesn’t help much that my family never celebrated Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and MrPloppy and I similarly avoid Valentine’s Day as a commercialised rip-off that’s only an excuse for florists to hike their prices, so those dates don’t impinge on my conciousness much.

This Valentine’s Day’s themed release opportunities were doomed to pass me by in much the same way, except that just as I was about to leave for work I saw some release alerts pop up in my email – the ever-organised lytteltonwitch was busy releasing perfectly themed books. So I dove into my box of release-ready books, and miracle of miracles found two romances, one of which even had “Valentine” in the title (I obviously bought it with today in mind, even if I promptly forgot its existence): Forever Mine, Valentine by Vicki Lewis Thompson and The Elusive Flame by Kathleen E Woodiwiss. By then I was running late, so didn’t have time to think up anywhere special to release them – I just dropped them on benches on the park I walk through on my way to work.

But at least I managed a Valentine’s themed release this year!

Testing, testing…

7.59 am Christchurch

Ok, this is the first test of the system I’m going to use to write my blog while I’m travelling. My internet access is going to be pretty limited, and if I wait until I do get on the internet, I’ll have so much to write about that I’ll forget half of it, or worse, feel so intimidated by the amount of catching up I need to do that I’ll just let it go and never keep up. And that just won’t do!

On the other side of the equation, I’ll be spending a lot of time sitting on planes and hanging round in airports with nothing much to do, but no internet.

So the plan is this: I’ll have MrPloppy’s laptop with me, so when it’s got battery power or I can plug it in, I’ll type entries in Word then upload them to LJ and DD later on.

And when I don’t have power for the laptop, I’ll do what I’m doing now: write my blog into my trusty travel journal. The ultimate blogging tool: no power source or internet connection required, completely portable, and can even be used during take-off and landing. And when I get to a power source (or in today’s test run, to my work computer – I’m writing this sitting at the bus stop waiting for my bus (I overslept this morning so left too late to walk to work)) all I have to do is type out my ramblings (not too much of a hardship – I’m a reasonably fast copy typist), and upload them. Easy!

[END OF TEST. NORMAL BLOG TRANSMISSION WILL NOW RESUME]

Well, that worked ok. I could read my writing (even the stuff I wrote actually *on* the bus!) well enough, and it didn’t take long at all to type it out. I think this system may actually work!



In other trip news, something exciting I completely forgot to mention last night: we’ve got somewhere to stay in Perth!!! Libertine101 emailed me yesterday and offered us a bed. Yayy!!!!! She’s going to be working, so won’t be able to meet us from the airport or show us around, but I’m not really worried about that – we’ll be quite capable of finding a shuttle or something from the airport, and I’m sure we’ll be quite capable of exploring the city on our own. Having somewhere to sleep is the main thing.

And bookczuk has found us a bed in Charleston: brownwhitetan is willing to host us.

Oh, and miketrollstigen has confirmed we can stay with him in Cardiff. Not only that, but he’s got us tickets to see Nutcracker! at the amazing Millenium Centre. I’m so looking forward to that!

So that just leaves Dallas/Fort Worth to find accommodation for.



A couple of recent catches:

One of the books I registered with pre-numbered labels in Wellington, The Venetian Affair by Helen MacInnes, was caught by someone from Belgium, and re-released in the Peel Forest.

And Shadows of Yesterday by Sandra Brown which I released only last week, has also been caught.

Two catches, two new members. Not bad going :-)



Currently reading: Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Currently listening to: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M Auel

56 sleeps to go!

Stationery Pr0n

As predicted, I was incredibly tired yesterday after the busy weekend and late nights. The warm muggy weather didn’t help much, either – by mid-afternoon I thought I was going to fall asleep at my desk. I did manage to last out until 5 o’clock, though, and raced home to heat up the leftover chinese because lytteltonwitch, Sherlockfan, and discoverylover were stopping off here for tea on their way to the airport.

I tagged along with them to the airport to say goodbye, then lytteltonwitch came back for a coffee, but it wasn’t a late night this time, as we were both flagging. Once she left, I didn’t last long before heading to bed for some much-needed sleep.



I probably should be having an early night again tonight, because I’m still not completely caught up on my sleep, but it was meetup night tonight (yes, I know it’s only two days since the last one, but that was a special meetup, and this is our regular one), so I haven’t been home long. I did manage to take a couple of books along this time: I Couldn’t Cry When Daddy Died by Iris Galey and The Insatiable Moon by Michael Riddell. And wonder of wonders, I didn’t pick any up (well, apart from one book that awhina wanted me to release for her at the university). It was quite a big group for a change: me, awhina (sans family for a change), lytteltonwitch, keenreda, angela7715, and two new members, Bluecod and Shalomar. I don’t think Bluecod really knew what bookcrossing is about and I got the impression our group wasn’t quite what he expected, so I don’t know if we’ll see him back again, but Shalomar seemed really keen.

No sign of our two women from the Arts Centre, though :-(



When I got home, I found a big box waiting for me, from Skyring. And what a treasure trove when I opened it! All sorts of goodies from Levenger (Warning: Link contains stationery pr0n. Do not open if you are easily tempted.) to make myself a travel journal for my trip, plus some other bits and pieces – tim tams (of course!), bookmarks, a few photos, and a book: the highly appropriate The Riddle and the Knight by Giles Milton – that has just got to go travelling with me!

I spent the next half hour or so oohing and aahing over the goodies, and am already in love with the Circa system. I’ve heard people raving about it for ages, and now I can see why – it’s one of those amazingly clever products that works exactly as it should. And it’s so incredibly flexible!

I can see a lot of playing with it over the next two months while I design (and test!) the perfect bookcrossing travel journal :-)



Currently reading: Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Currently listening to: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M Auel

57 sleeps to go!

The visitation continues

Another busy day showing our visiting bookcrossers around Christchurch. Way too early this morning discoverylover and I walked over to Trattorie, where we met lytteltonwitch and Sherlockfan, and shortly after were joined by awhina and family, rarsberry and VivaRichie, and TheLetterB (looking very bumpy) and her mother. The table was positively groaning with books (even though I hadn’t managed to contribute any – I wasn’t organised enough this morning to locate the ones I was meaning to take along), and I ended up coming home with Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence, The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory, and Wicked and Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire.

After a lengthy brunch and much chat, lytteltonwitch, Sherlockfan, discoverylover and I headed into town, to the Arts Centre. We were all wearing our bookcrossing t-shirts, of course, and it paid off. First we were asked about them by a woman who told us she was planning on returning home to Samoa next year and wanted to set up a school library at her local school. We all exchanged glances, and immediately offered to collect books for her as a special project at the 2009 convention. She was thrilled, and is going to come along to the meetup on Tuesday night to discuss it further. I gave her A Suitable Job for a Woman by Val McDermid.

We wandered round a bit more, until our t-shirts (or rather, Sherlockfan’s earrings) caught the eye of another stallholder, who turned out to be a bookcrosser, nutmeg40. We chatted with her for a while, and gave her a book of course, plus I gave one (Mood Indigo by Mandy Sayer) to the woman at the neighbouring stall who got drawn into the conversation.

We released a few more books around the Arts Centre (Wings 2 by Charles Anthony) and then retired for a late lunch and to rest our feet at Le Cafe (Pamela by Samuel Richardson). After lunch, we went for a stroll around the gardens, where I managed an inadvertent themed release in the rose garden, where I left Neither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes on the sundial, the gnomen of which had broken off, so it was showing neither five nor three :-)

Then we went for a quick look around the museum (Bandersnatch by Desmond Lowden, and Sphere by Michael Crichton), until they kicked us out because it was closing time. So we headed back to my place, picked up chinese takeaways for tea, and spent the rest of the evening making release notes (at one point all three of our computers were in use at the same time) and chatting.

A fun day, but tiring!

Visiting Wellingtonians

Sherlockfan and discoverylover are in Christchurch this weekend, taking advantage of cheap flights for a quick South Island adventure. They arrived at lunchtime yesterday, so lytteltonwitch and I went out to the airport to pick them up, and after a stop back here for a quick lunch, we decided to take them out on an adventure.

First stop, after battling the traffic delays caused by the Coast to Coast race, was the kidnapping of rarsberry, then we somehow all managed to squeeze back in the car (lytteltonwitch’s back seat really isn’t designed for three people, and every stop involved a lot of groping of poor discoverylover as we searched for seatbelt connectors) and headed up to the Port Hills to show off the views (or what views there were, seeing as it was pretty overcast – normally you can see as far as Kaikoura, and have a magnificent view of the Southern Alps, but yesterday even the far edges of the city were lost in the haze) and of course release a few books. An ice-cream stop at the Sign of the Kiwi had books sprouting from all sorts of unlikely nooks and crannies (Whitefire by Glover Wright and The Beautiful Mrs Seidenman by Andrzej Szczypiorski), and I think every other viewpoint we stopped at ended up with at least one book left behind. The shelter at the top of the Bridle Path was positively overflowing with books (Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard). Then we descended into Lyttelton, so lytteltonwitch could show us where she grew up (and demonstrate her prowess at hill starts when the car stalled).

By this time it was starting to get late, so we headed back through the tunnel, managed to avoid most of the Coast to Coast route, and found a supermarket to stock up on wine and nibbles (and so I could release Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe, which lytteltonwitch insisted had to be a themed release in the meat section), then back to my place to eat, drink, and chat about 2009 – a very pleasant evening, made even better by managing to get through to otakuu via Skype. The connection wasn’t the best, but it was great to be able to talk to her like that – the next best thing to actually having her there (even if she did get jealous every time she heard a wineglass being filled :-))

Eventually tiredness got the better of everyone, so I set up a bed for discoverylover and the others headed home (Sherlockfan is staying at lytteltonwitch’s)… and then the idiots across the road started letting off very loud fireworks! They eventually stopped sometime after midnight. So I’m not feeling all that awake this morning.

And now, I must sort out some books for today’s adventures (a breakfast meetup, then off exploring whatever parts of Christchurch the visitors want to see). Ah well, this is all good practice for April 😉

59 sleeps to go!