Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Neighborhood Tour and Grammar Activity

LIEP Instructor Karen Greenstone
in her Halloween outfit
Many people in the neighborhood around Loyola University New Orleans decorate their houses and lawns for Halloween, sometimes quite elaborately. On Thursday, October 27, the Pilot Program students of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) took a walking tour of the neighborhood to observe and photograph these Halloween decorations. Upon returning to the classroom, the students used their observations and photographs in a grammar activity created by LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone.

First, we will show you some of the decorations in the neighborhood. Below are some photographs we took as we walked from house to house.

Nightmare on State Street
Spider in a tree
Halloween graveyard
Pumpkin in a pumpkin patch
Tree covered with a spider web
One lawn was filled with over two dozen skeletons, each with a creative name. Below are some of these interesting skeletons.

Bone Dry Skeleton
Deadly Glare Skeleton
Lazy Bones Skeleton
Till Death Do Us Part Skeletons
Skeleton Keys
After observing and photographing these Halloween decorations, the students returned to the classroom for the grammar activity. LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone asked them to write a description of what they had seen, using as many full and reduced adjective clauses, or relative clauses, as possible.

Below is the description composed by Pilot Program student Damesh Kirabayeva of Kazakhstan. The full and reduced adjective (or relative) clauses are underlined.

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By Damesh Kirabayeva

Pilot Program Student
Damesh Kirabayeva
of Kazakhstan
This morning, my classmates and I had a walk along St. Charles Avenue. We saw a lot of houses decorated for Halloween. The first house that we saw had a gigantic spider climbing down from a tree and many old tombstones. Almost every house had a web covering the fence and trees and looking very scary. The most unusual decorated house we found on St. Charles Avenue. It was full of skeletons, and each one had a particular meaning. The skeletons, lying, sitting, or standing, all had a label with a description. Some of the descriptions had humor in their meaning, adding a little bit of fun to the scary creatures.

I noticed that almost every house looked similar to the previous houses, with hanging spiders, scary skeletons, screaming witches and their loyal black cats--and of course a little bit of humor in every front yard.  The only difference those houses have is the amount of money the owners spent on decorations. Obviously bigger houses needing more decorations must have required thousands of dollars to make their front yards look scary. Many of the owners seemed to have started preparing weeks before Halloween begins. Overall, this morning's walk made me realize that Halloween is taken seriously in New Orleans. I can't wait until the night when I will see all those kids wearing costumes and scaring everyone. Let Halloween begin!

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Thank you, Damesh Kirabayeva, for sharing your description of the Halloween decorations near the Loyola campus and for using so many excellent full and reduced adjective clauses in your description. Thank you, also, to LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone for this fun and educational activity.

Our next post will return to our reading of ZEITOUN by Dave Eggers. We will tell you about an event related to this reading -- a panel discussion with three people who remained in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. These three Hurricane Katrina survivors will describe their experience for our LIEP students.

Halloween Pumpkin Carving

Pumpkins are a common sight at Halloween, often carved with scary or funny faces. On Wednesday, October 26, the students of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) prepared for Halloween by carving their own pumpkins.

Each student chose a pumpkin and a face pattern, drew the face pattern onto the pumpkin, carved the face, and scooped out the pumpkin's interior. Below, you see the students at work!

The students carve pumpkins together
Coco Zhang of China prepares to draw her face pattern
Luis Morales of Venezuela prepares to carve his pumpkin
Graciela Rodriguez of Venezuela gets ready to carve 
Elodie Lesage of France scoops out her pumpkin
James Zhang of China (left) and Edilberto Reis of Brazil (right) carve their pumpkins
After the work of carving, the students displayed their completed pumpkins. Below, you see the students displaying their work!
Coco Zhang of China with her carved pumpkin
Raul Amado of Panama with his carved pumpkin
Marietta Rivero-Quintal of Mexico with her carved pumpkin
Olena Kashirny of the Ukraine with her carved pumpkin
LIEP students with their carved pumpkins
Clockwise from top left: Kevin Li of China,  Luis Morales of Venezuela, Raul Amado of Panama,
Olena Kashirny of the Ukraine, Jinhee Lee of South Korea, Coco Zhang of China,
Edilberto Reis of Brazil

A huge thank-you to LIEP instructors Christina Indovina, Jess Haley, and Karla Sikaffy, who planned and oversaw the pumpkin carving. Christina and Jess also shopped for the pumpkins and carried them safely to our LIEP lounge on the third floor of Mercy Hall on Loyola's campus!
LIEP instructors Christina Indovina (left), Jess Haley (middle), and Karla Sikaffy (right)
Thank you to Christina, Jess, and Karla for creating this educational and fun pumpkin carving event and to the LIEP students for their enthusiastic participation!

Our next post will describe a Halloween grammar activity involving the home decorations in the neighborhood surrounding Loyola's campus.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Visit with Chief Meteorologist Carl Arredondo

As mentioned in our previous post, our three reading classes -- Intermediate, Advanced, and Pilot (those students taking courses at Loyola University New Orleans as well as two credit-bearing intensive English courses) -- are reading the book ZEITOUN by Dave Eggers. This book tells the true story of the Zeitoun family of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina.

To gain a better understanding of hurricanes in general and of Hurricane Katrina in particular, we at the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) invited Mr. Carl Arredondo, Chief Meterologist at WWL-TV in New Orleans to visit us on Wednesday, October 26, and talk with us about hurricanes.

Mr. Carl Arredondo,
Chief Meteorologist
at WWL-TV in New Orleans
Mr. Arredondo told us that he was fascinated with weather even as a child. When a television meteorologist visited his sixth-grade class and talked to the students about forecasting the weather, Mr. Arredondo knew that this would be his career choice, too. Accordingly, Mr. Arredondo studied meteorology in college and eventually came to New Orleans in 1991 as a meteorologist for WWL-TV, where he is now Chief Meteorologist.

Mr. Arredondo explained that we are now in a cycle of greater hurricane activity that began in 1995. When asked how long we could expect this cycle to last, Mr. Arredondo replied that no one knows but that the previous cycle of greater hurricane activity lasted over forty years. Mr. Arredondo explained that, even within cycles of greater hurricane activity, there can be an odd year of lesser hurricane activity, and vice versa.

Mr. Arrendondo told us about two currently-used systems for predicting hurricane activity. One is the system used by Dr. Gray at Colorado State University. Dr. Gray makes his yearly predictions based on hurricane activity in years with atmospheric conditions most similar to those in the current year. This system is best at predicting numbers of hurricanes in a given year. The other is the system used by the Hurricane Research Center in Houston. This system makes predictions based on sun activity and is best at predicting where hurricanes are likely to make landfall in a given year.

Mr. Arredondo talked about the length of the yearly hurricane season -- June 1 through November 30, with the peak on September 10. He emphasized that storms can occur at any time, though, even outside the official hurricane season. He also showed us the six rotating lists of alphabetical hurricane names. Every six years, we use the same list of hurricane names, but when a hurricane is particularly destructive and memorable, its name is retired and replaced with a new name beginning with the same letter. This year, 2011, we are using the same list of hurricane names that we used six years ago in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina. However, there will never be another Hurricane Katrina! The name Katrina has been replaced with Katia.

Hurricane Katrina
Mr. Arredondo shared his own Hurricane Katrina experience with us. He showed us a video of his first return to his flooded home in Slidell, Louisiana, soon after the hurricane. He explained that the flooding of Slidell, a city to the east of New Orleans and of Lake Pontchartrain, was due to the tremendous storm surge. Mr. Arredondo told us that, just because a hurricane's strength lessens (Hurricane Katrina, at one time a Category 5 hurricane, had lessened to Category 3 when it passed through the New Orleans area), the storm surge does not lessen. After the storm surge pushed into the western part of Lake Pontchartrain, it slashed back forcefully into Slidell, flooding many homes there, including Mr. Arrendondo's. Mr. Arredondo said that one of his most difficult tasks after the hurricane was explaining to his children that all of their toys and belongings were gone.

Mr. Arredondo emphasized the importance of good preparation for the hurricane season. He stressed the importance of evacuation, of planning where we will go, and of giving that contact information to our family and friends. He also said that we should keep any important hard-copy documents in a case ready to take with us on evacuation.

Thank you, Mr. Arredondo, for giving us interesting and important information about hurricanes and for sharing your own hurricane experience with us.

In our next post, we will share with you our Halloween pumpkin carving!

Reading ZEITOUN and Watching STILL WAITING

This month at the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP), all three of our reading classes -- Intermediate, Advanced, and Pilot (those students taking two courses at Loyola University New Orleans as well as two credit-bearing intensive English courses) -- are reading ZEITOUN by Dave Eggers.

ZEITOUN by Dave Eggers
ZEITOUN tells the true story of the Zeitoun family during and after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian, is married to a U.S. American named Kathy. Together, Kathy and Zeitoun run a house painting business. In 2005, at the time of Hurricane Katrina, they had four children: Kathy's son from a former marriage and three daughters of their own. The family practices Islam.

Before Hurricane Katrina, Kathy and the children evacuated to Baton Rouge, but Zeitoun stayed in New Orleans to protect his home and to oversee his clients' houses. About a week after the hurricane, he was arrested because, with his Arabic accent and swarthy appearance, he looked suspicious. He was imprisoned, with no way to let his wife know what had happened. All Kathy knew was that her husband's daily telephone calls at noon suddenly stopped. Zeitoun had been calling everyday at noon from a working landline in one of the Zeitouns' rental properties in the flooded city.

Zeitoun spent about three weeks in prison, undergoing sub-human conditions and humiliating treatment. He and Kathy tell their story in Dave Eggers' book ZEITOUN.

Members of the extended family
featured in STILL WAITING
To prepare for reading ZEITOUN, the three LIEP reading classes came together to watch the documentary STILL WAITING: LIFE AFTER KATRINA on Thursday, October 20. STILL WAITING shows how Hurricane Katrina has affected one extended African American family in St. Bernard Parish, the low-lying and heavily flooded parish just east of New Orleans. This extended family, with over 150 members, was left homeless after Hurricane Katrina. They received help from the one member of their close-knit family, Connie Tipado, who lived elsewhere -- in Dallas, Texas. The documentary shows the family's determination to return home and rebuild despite tremendous odds -- the complete destruction of their homes and towns and the slow response of the government to provide promised assistance.

After watching STILL WAITING, the students formed small groups composed of members of each of the three LIEP reading classes. Each group focused, first, on vivid imagery from the documentary. The students were especially impressed by these images:

  • Houses completely submerged in water up to the rooftops
  • The interior of a flooded church, with overturned pews, moldy bibles, and a grimy altar
  • Home-cooked food -- gumbo, jambalaya, sausage, sea food
  • The tiny, cramped kitchen in a trailer provided by FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) as a temporary home
  • The family tree of this extended family, with branch after branch showing mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins
  • The large crowd of family members gathered for a meal at Connie Tipado's home in Dallas
After exploring these images, the students examined the forces pulling this extended family apart:
  • No homes to which to return
  • No services, such as police, fire fighters, mail service, banks, hospitals, schools
  • Fear that such a hurricane could happen again
  • Racism in St. Bernard Parish
  • Better job opportunities elsewhere
  • The lack of government help
Finally, the students explored the forces uniting this extended family:
  • Their love
  • Their habit of frequently visiting each other's homes
  • Their common faith and church community
  • Their many meals shared together
  • Their very desire to continue the unity built up by generations of togetherness
The documentary STILL WAITING gave us all a clearer picture of what people in and near New Orleans went through during and after Hurricane Katrina. With this in mind, we began our reading of ZEITOUN.

Our next post will describe our visit with Mr. Carl Arrendondo, Chief Meteorologist for WWL-TV, one of our local television stations in New Orleans. We will share with you how Mr. Arredondo gave us a better understanding of hurricanes in general and of Hurricane Katrina in particular.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reflections on Race

LIEP Instructor Christina Indovina
LIEP Student Grciela Rodriguez
The Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) Culture Class, taught by LIEP instructor Christina Indovina, has been exploring the various cultural groups that make New Orleans such a culturally rich city. The class has explored the early inhabitants of New Orleans--French, Spanish, Native American Indians (largely of the Houma Nation), African Americans (both slaves and free people of color)--as well as the current cultural communities of such groups as African Americans, Native Houma people, IsleƱos, Latinos, Vietnamese, whites of European ancestry.

As part of this on-going theme, the Culture Class has looked at race and what race has meant in the United States. As Christina says, "This topic is of particular importance in New Orleans because not only did the city once support a large slave population, but it also was home to large communities of Creoles and free people of color. As part of this exploration, our Culture Class went to the U.S. Mint in the French Quarter to view an exhibition titled 'RACE: Are we really so different?'" The exhibit contends that there is no physiological or DNA evidence for race, but that race is an invention of human minds. Race is a way that humans assign meaning to certain differences in physical appearance.

Below, LIEP student Graciela Rodriguez of Venezuela shares her experience of the exhibit: "RACE: Are we really so different?"

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REFLECTIONS ON RACE by Graciela Rodriguez

History has shown us that people are different, so different that we had a world war because one person thought his race was better. Countries have fought bloody civil wars because of these differences, and many people have died. But are we that different? Who was the first to say that some race is better than another? What is race?

I don't know. We might look different on the outside because of the color of our skin or the shape of our eyes but we are all humans. Sometimes we forget that we already belong to a common group when we segregate ourselves. What we are doing is separating each one of us from the others. It is like a bag of candies--all the pieces are candies, different colors, different flavors, but all candies from the same factory.

* * *

Thank you, Graciela Rodriguez, for these important thoughts about race, and thank you, Christina Indovina, for raising this important issue in the Culture Class and for arranging this visit to the exhibit "RACE: Are we really so different?"

Our next post will introduce you to the common book that all three LIEP Reading Classes are currently reading--ZEITOUN by Dave Eggers. ZEITOUN tells the true story of the Zeitoun family during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. To prepare for reading this book, the LIEP Reading Classes recently came together to watch the Hurricane Katrina documentary STILL WAITING. The book ZEITOUN and the documentary STILL WAITING will be the subject of our next post.

Friday, October 21, 2011

New Orleans Architecture Scavenger Hunt

LIEP student Andy Uscilowski
LIEP Instructor Christina Indovina
Houses in New Orleans are different from houses in other cities in the United States. Christina Indovina, an instructor in the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP), recently took her Culture Class on a scavenger hunt to discover various types of typical New Orleans houses in the Marigny, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.

Christina's class chose the Marigny because it is filled with brightly-colored typical New Orleans houses and because it was populated by Creoles and free people of color in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The students found Creole cottages, shotgun houses (with rooms directly behind one another so that you could shoot a bullet straight through the front door and out the back door), camelbacks (shotguns with an additional story toward the rear of the house), and houses that did not fit into any specific category.

Below is an account by LIEP student Andy Uscilowski of Poland about his architectural findings on the scavenger hunt.

* * *


I chose this house because it is original and because it reminds me of a Polish house. Also, I like huge houses, so this building caught my attention. This building doesn't fit into any classification: it's not a shotgun or a camelback. It's just a huge unique house. Houses on the other side of the street are small. Most are just single shotgun houses, so this house "stands out from the crowd."

This house is big and unique as well. I like it, not only because of the size, but also because of the bright blue color. Once again, this house doesn't fit into any classification. The surrounding houses are pretty big, like this one, but none are so colorful.

The last building I photographed is a typical shotgun double. These colors remind me of a house from a fairy tale. I think that  the colors -- blue, white, and red -- are harmoniously arranged. Almost all of the houses on this street are single or double shotguns.
* * *
Our thanks to LIEP student Andy Uscilowski for sharing his architectural scavenger hunt findings with us and to LIEP instructor Christina Indovina for initiating this project.

Our next post will reflect on the Culture Class's visit to the U.S. Mint in the French Quarter, where they explored an exhibit titled "RACE: Are we really so different?"

The "Words to Live By" Project

LIEP instructor Jess Haley
Throughout the semester, students in the Advanced Listening & Speaking class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) are exploring the English language through a vocabulary-building photography project called "Words to Live By." This post shares with you one segment of the project -- the segment focusing on Jesuit values.

Loyola University New Orleans is run by an order of Catholic priests called the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola in the 16th Century. A Jesuit education seeks to instill important values--the twelve ideals of a Jesuit education-- in the students. LIEP instructor Jess Haley offers this explanation of her class's project and of the project segment focusing on Jesuit values.

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By Jess Haley and Her Advanced Listening & Speaking Class

All of us live in a world built of language. We are surrounded by words that guide us both physically (such as those found on traffic signs) and mentally (such as those found in advertisements). As members of our own culture, we largely take these messages for granted. Inundated with them as we are, we don't even consciously see them. But for visitors and learners in a new culture, these everyday symbols of our social grammar can become confusing.

In the "Words to Live By" project, students chronicle -- photographically, literarily, and verbally -- their exploration of this language. Students seek out, photograph, present to the class, and then discuss the words we live by this semester. Each week the project has a different theme, for example, Jesuit values, the Intensive English Program experience, traffic jams, humorous words, and New Orleans through adjectives.

Jesuit Ideals Marker
For their first "Words to Live By" project, the students visited Loyola's Peace Quad, located in front of the Danna Center (Loyola's student center). After a brief lesson in photographic composition, they were asked to look around for language. They identified words everywhere, but only a few noticed the gray stones in the center of the red brick sidewalk upon which they were standing. Each stone bears a Jesuit ideal, forming a path to the door of the library. These are words that Loyola students encounter every day but don't necessarily spend much time pondering. However, these words are important for international students, who may or may not understand what a Jesuit education means.

LIEP Advanced Listening & Speaking Class
The students read and contemplated all fourteen of the stones before choosing one that represented their personal ideals. They then photographed their chosen ideal, that is, they could photograph either the stone with its printed words or something else that represented the words to them. In writing and in a brief oral presentation, the students investigated the literal meaning of the words, the over-arching meanings of the expressions, and their own reactions to the words.

Here are some examples of the many ways the students chose to capture and articulate their Jesuit "Words to Live By."

Photo by Maximiliano Braga
Maximiliano Braga chose "Development of Personal Potential" as his favorite of the Jesuit ideals. Max discussed the literal meaning of the words and then stated that, for him, the development of personal potential required freedom to improve and explore his purpose. This was a freedom he felt while studying at Loyola. Max intentionally composed the photo from this angle and altered it digitally to imply the journey and direction of personal development.

Photo by Edilberto Reis
Edilberto Reis chose the Jesuit ideal of maintaining an international and global perspective, but he used a different strategy with his photograph. Instead of photographing the words on the stone, Betto took this picture of his classmate Luis Morales walking near a sign that reads "Part of the Pack." (Loyola's mascot is the wolf, an animal that lives, hunts, and plays in a pack.) Betto explained that the coincidence of seeing his friend and those words together was powerful for him. Luis is part of Betto's "pack," and together the words and the image of Luis exemplify Loyola's dedication to diversity and community.

Photo by Luis Morales
Luis Morales argued that all of the Jesuit ideals on the sidewalk stones were important to him, but he placed "Contemplative Vision Formed by Hope" in the center of his photo-montage because he said that he is a dreamer, always looking to the future. Luis explained that he lives in hope for a better future and that he has faith and hope that he is going the right way. He believes that everything will be fine as long as he meditates about what he wants and has hope for the future.

Photo by Raul Amado
Not only has this project already begun introducing students to new vocabulary, it has offered them a creative way to incorporate their learning into their daily non-academic lives without feeling school-like. The students can inquire about and interpret the sometimes puzzling words around them.
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Our thanks to LIEP instructor Jess Haley and her Advanced Listening & Speaking class for sharing their "Words to Live By" with us.

Our next post will introduce you to interesting styles of New Orleans architecture through a project of the LIEP Culture class.