Happy New Year!

新年快樂 (Xīn Nián Kuài Lè)!  Happy New Year! 

I had gotten myself into quite a bind about how to spend New Year’s Eve here in Taiwan.  Part of me wanted to go to Taipei to see the fireworks at Taipei101.  The pictures and videos I have seen in years past have been amazing, and to date I have never seen fireworks launched off the sides of a building before.  However, with such spectacle comes crowds, an overloaded public transit system and expensive hotel rooms.  Friends suggested we go into the mountains for a view from above, but Mike and I just were not sure.  In the end we procrastinated until the only rooms left in the city were many hundreds of dollars a night, which was beyond our budget.  We thought about taking a taxi or the train up for the evening and then going home in the wee hours, but it had too much potential to go sour.  Plus, we had another, fantastic offer, right in Hsinchu City!  We decided to catch the celebration at Taipei101 on the news and see what our own town had up its sleeve.

Our fellow Canadian friend, Cynthia, just happens to live right downtown, where Hsinchu’s New Year celebrations were set up.  There was a huge stage with live music, a night market and lots of commotion in the hours prior to the stroke of midnight.  She has access to her roof, so we gathered with a bunch of other foreigners up there with a bag full of bottle rockets and some Gold Medal Taiwan beer to toast the New Year.  We had been told that Hsinchu’s fireworks display is none-too-shabby, and when the clock struck midnight, there were explosions EVERYWHERE!  The city provided a very nicely choreographed display of some huge fireworks, set off from 3 different locations behind the stage, and everyone else had brought some too.  Our building was literally surrounded by booms, sparkle and the smell of gunpowder.  The city display went on for about 10 minutes, and those lit off by other revellers continued late into the night.  What an awesome way to ring in the New Year!

Games for EFL Classes

My awesome co-teacher Erica shared a new game with me. Games are a great way to reinforce learning in a fun way.

The new addition to the arsenal is The Pizza Game.

Draw a big circle and then another just around the outside (to mark the crust). Divide the pizza into wedges, one for each child. Write their names in the wedges.

Have the children take turns. They must answer a question, and then get to throw the ball. If it lands in their wedge, they get an extra line (extra topping). If it lands in someone else’s wedge, the student gets to “eat” some of the pizza (erase a line). Two bites and the student’s wedge is out (but they can to continue to throw). The last one with a wedge wins!

Spelling Battleship and variants

The easiest way to play spelling battle ship is to split the class into two teams and have the children take turns answering a question or reading a passage before they can make a guess. You can either use a battleship game if you have it, or make a board and photocopy as needed.

If the children are unfamiliar with the game, you may choose to have the class simply try and find all the hidden “ships” as a group.

For older students, I like to play the following variation:
List 8-12 words on the board. Each student or team must choose 5 or 6 of the words and place them in a battleship grid (backward and upside down are ok but no diagonals). They then take turns guessing, and can fill in any letters they can figure out themselves. The first to find all the words must verify them and provide definitions to be the winner.

The Piggy Game
This is the absolute favourite game of my class of 7 year olds. Create a 4×4 grid on the board. In this grid are hidden the following objects:

  • Pigs
  • Switches (two arrows pointing at each other)
  • Bombs
  • Super stars
  • Stars
  • Money ($)

The super stars, stars and money are all worth positive points. The finding a pig results in a loss of points, and the bomb resets the player to a score of 0. The switches allow the player who finds it to swap their score with someone else’s.

As always, the students must answer a question before being able to choose a location on the grid.

Bingo and a variant
You can make up bingo cards ahead of time with vocabulary words. I like to have the students take turns pulling a word out of a hat and reading it to the class. To make the game last longer, we play until someone has 3 or 4 “Bingos”.

Especially with older students, you can play this game on the fly. Have them draw a 5×5 grid and then as a class come up with 25 words (put them on the board). Then each student may write these words anywhere they want on their grid. Finally, each student takes turns calling out a word (instead of pulling them from a hat). It adds some strategy to an otherwise simple game of chance!

A Quick Musical Note

I have come into some free time recently, and have been loving it! In addition to polishing off Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass), I unpacked the bamboo flute (Sogeum) that I bought at the Korean Folk Village in Yongin. When Mike was out of the house, I took advantage of the solitude to continue to improve my sound on it. After a while I even got a pretty good handle on “Arirang”, a well known Korean folk song. Fun stuff! Perhaps after a few more practice sessions, I’ll post a little video!

Lessons Learned from My Master’s, Part 3: Writing

When I started my master’s degree I had envisioned 3 experiments, each taking up a chapter. My plan was to write up the results of the first experiment while performing the second and so on until I had the bulk of my thesis written. It seemed easy, but it did not turn out that way! The combination of the traveling required to do some of my analyses, and a rocky start to a few of my first experiments resulted in the axing of my seemingly straightforward writing plan before I could begin. Rather than my nicely timed data flow, I ended up having a massive data set that came in all at once, which left me with lots of writing all piled up at the end of my time as a student.

Although it did not go as planned, I still learned a lot about managing a huge writing task. I figured out some things that kept me writing even when I had no data yet, and also discovered some strategies later on that I wish I had enacted right from the beginning. So without further ado, here are some ways to keep on top of things, even when it doesn’t end up going as planned!

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Manuscript Accepted!

I am pleased to announce that Chapter 2 of my master’s thesis has been accepted for publication in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. It will be published in a special issue dedicated to the application of hydrogen isotopes as environmental recorders sometime soon! The title of the paper is Variable δD Values Among Major Biochemicals in Plants: Implications for Environmental Studies. I will post a link to the special issue once it is available.

Lessons Learned from My Master’s, Part 2: Good Weekly Habits

Last installment, I touched on 3 ways to improve data organization. Today’s theme is “good weekly habits”.

I always found my weeks filled up quickly in graduate school. There were always experiments to set up and execute, results to analyze, and don’t forget your coursework! However, there are a few things you can do that demand less immediate attention, but have big pay offs in the long run. Attending seminars and other departmental gatherings, keeping up on the literature, and making sure you’re on track are all things that are easy to put off, but you shouldn’t let them fall by the wayside.

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Lessons Learned from My Master’s, Part 1: Organizing Big Research Projects

One of the big reasons I wanted to complete a Master’s program rather than embarking on a Ph.D. immediately after my undergraduate studies was to get a handle on managing big projects. Everything in an undergraduate program is necessarily limited in scope to either one or two terms, and you don’t have to be particularly organized to get through that amount of time.

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Friday Night in Downtown Hsinchu City

Outside of the train station in Hsinchu there is a great public area, where there are often performances going on. Two weekends ago we drove past a very professional looking choir in tuxedos and evening gowns. This past weekend we decided to drop by, grab baked potatoes with all the fixings (cheese sauce, broccoli, bacon, ham and the ubiquitous canned corn) from a nearby street food stall for dinner, and watch whatever was on that night. We arrived to a big gathering with many young student dance groups. After the dancing ended, balloons were handed out to the crowd for this….

There’s always something interesting going on in Hsinchu City!