Friday, January 18, 2013

I'll Take Soul Force Every Time!

Yesterday's two lessons were on the topic of Martin Luther King, in preparation for the holiday on Monday.
thanks to DiscoverBlackHeritage
In the morning class, we had a number of activities including reading and responding to a short biography. After that, I read two brief quotes from King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Of course, I'm no great orator and I felt that I didn't do them justice! But the group was very interested. I asked them if they wanted to hear a recording of the actual speech and they were greatly enthusiastic. I warned them that the speech is over 17 minutes long and that the language would be very challenging, but I also mentioned that they might "hear" a lot from his tone of voice and the responses of the crowd. We reviewed some key repeated phrases and I noted that the speech refers to other texts that his audience knew well (the Bible, the Gettysburg Address, and the song "My Country 'Tis of Thee"). This is a group of high beginners and low intermediates from countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. I propped my iPad up so everyone could see it (we don't have access to a projector) and sat down to listen with the group. They were rapt and I could see that some were moved. There were sincere thank-yous as the class ended. I think we all walked out with a sense of inspiration! How nice to have access to the Internet for this spontaneous activity ...

My afternoon class of strong intermediate and low advanced learners is currently very small. Yesterday, there were two from Italy, one from Syria and one from Spain. After spending about 30 minutes on a topic brought up by one of the learners (about dating customs in the U.S.!), I turned to the topic of Martin Luther King and invited the group to comment. We then listened to a recording from VOA about the early part of King's life and the influence that Gandhi and Thoreau had on his thinking. Since the recording is 15 minutes long, I paused it at around the 5 and 10 minute marks so they could ask questions about the language and comment on what they had heard so far. I also invited discussion during each of these pauses (I had open-ended questions prepared, but was ready to follow on whatever comments came up.) At the end, I noted that both Gandhi and King died from gun violence and asked if that meant their efforts toward nonviolence were in vain. This lead to some talk about whether nonviolent tactics such as theirs could play a role in addressing gun violence in the U.S. today, a very hot topic right now. The four had generally the same views, though there were some minor disagreements. I shared my opinions to some extent, but I tried to leave the floor open to the others most of the time. We did pause to examine language several times, especially when I noticed myself using more casual language ("a whole bunch of", for example). Again, I walked out at the end of the lesson feeling quite energized!

I've had bad luck with embedding YouTube videos here, so I'll just share a link to the video we watched.  Here's a link to the text and audio used in the afternoon class:

Part 1  (15 minutes, heard in class)
Part 2  (15 minutes, which learners are invited to listen to on their own)

Here's a favorite snip from King's famous speech to end the post. The phrase "soul force" is directly from Gandhi's teaching:

"We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. "

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