Saturday, May 24, 2008

Leaving for Vietnam tomorrow

Tomorrow I leave for a week to go to Vietnam on an academic exchange with 11 of my colleagues. We are going to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho to visit 7 Vietnamese universities. Each of us will give a 20 minute presentation on teaching English and the Vietnamese teachers will also give presentations. The idea is to build stronger contacts between our Center and other tertiary English teaching institutions in the area and find out more about Vietnamese students since a lot of Vietnamese come to NUS for post-grad studies.

My presentation is about slightly different way to teach process writing. Process writing is basically teaching people to write in a systematic step-by-step fashion. A lot of students don't do it though because they think it is time-consuming. It is, but then good writing takes time and the process writing approach almost always improves an essay's organization and development while limiting writer's block. My idea is that the students would be more motivated to write and better understand the benefits of process writing if the teacher models it for them by writing her response to the assigned prompts. I tried it out a bit last semester with 200-300 word mini-essays and it seemed to be a more effective way to explain process writing. I haven't finished my research into this but since the presentation is short, I plan to use what I have anyway.

The trip is jam-packed with 3 cities and 7 universities in a week but fortunately almost every evening is free and my work friends and will get a chance to try all the Vietnamese and French food. One of them used to work in Vietnam before so she knows several good places.

Urban hiking

Every Thursday some colleagues from work and I go walking. This Thursday we decided to try a new park connector that opened a week ago. The total length one-way is 9 km but we only did about 7km. Most park connectors seem to be a designated sidewalk with a few trees planted alongside. This one felt like a long narrow nature preserve. The only times we could really see buildings were when we were on top of a hill or crossing a road on an overhead bridge. The overhead bridges even seem natural. On the Henderson Waves bridge we walked on wood planks that were built to mimic gently undulating waves. One of our favorite connectors is Hort Park. It is more cultivated than the rest, but it is designed to show people how they can bring more green into their homes. One feature was a giant putty wall covered with ferns, orchids and other crevice plants. Most people think of Singapore is a very dense urban environment. It is but with park connectors like this I experience more of nature than I did in any other city.