Taking a break

I’m taking some time off for spring vacation, but if you’re looking for something to do over the break, there are plenty of topics in the archives, categories, or click on “Surprise me” for a random post. I’ll be back in a few weeks with more things to read, write, think, and talk about in English.

These images were made with Photofunia (there’s an app too) —  Cookies Writing, Snow Writing, Smart Kitty, Chalk Writing, and Double Decker

 

Short of the Week

The Academy Awards are this weekend. One of the awards that doesn’t get as much media attention is Animated Short Film. These are the nominees this year, one of which I posted about in October.

Short of the Week is a collection of short films — from very short (2 or 3 minutes) to a bit longer (45 minutes or so).

Short of the weekIn the About page they say,

“We believe in the power of stories. Stories were our first way of passing on knowledge. From tales around a cave fire to dramatic theater to virtual reality experiences, great stories have shaped our culture.”

You can browse in several ways, including the channels (Animation, SciFi, Horror, Documentary, Comedy, Drama), by genre, topic and style (see below) and also by country and collection.

Short of the Week

Some of the shorts I have watched and thought were ripe for contemplation and discussion — and one was just plain charming:

“3 + 1” (in French with English subtitles) — Comedy

“Rosa: These Storms” (in Spanish with English subtitles) — Documentary

“Eggplant” — Drama

Here is an interview with the creators of the site: “Andrew S. Allen and Jason Sondhi on the Relaunch of Short of the Week” (from Filmmaker)

Another related article: “Why Short Films Are Still Thriving” (from the Atlantic)

“It all starts with a story.”

Pixar in a Box is free lesson series of videos and activities from Khan Academy about storytelling and making animated videos. Here’s the Introduction to Storytelling video:

If this interests you, go back and start with the introduction video to this lesson series on the Khan Academy site. These videos have transcripts, to help your listening comprehension.

This is a free course, and you don’t have to sign up to just enjoy it, but if you want to save your progress, sign up.

If you’re unfamiliar with Khan Academy, here’s Salman Khan’s TED Talk from several years ago, when the organization was just starting out:

Filling in those boxes

The New York Times crossword puzzles are celebrating their 75th birthday. Here’s an article about why these puzzles are so popular and relaxing: “Crossword-Solving: A Search for Connections and Answers” (NYT)

“Human brains are hard-wired to fill in blanks when they see them. In difficult times, when life begins to feel out of control or when faced with an emotional dilemma, working on something that has finite answers can provide a sense of security.”

On the NYT website you can play the Daily Mini puzzle. It’s pretty easy. And there are plenty of other online puzzle sites you can play for free.

I remember spending a weekend once in graduate school making a bilingual crossword puzzle.

crossword-1 crossword-2

It was fun to make, but it took a lot of time. If I had known about this website then, I may have used it:

Crossword Labs

create puzzle

Here’s their example:

example

Type in the clues and answers, hit “generate” and you’ve got a crossword puzzle. The password you use to create it will give you access to the answer key.

There are lots of ways to use crosswords for language study. Use it to introduce key vocabulary to your discussion partners. Make a bilingual puzzle in English and another language you’re studying to help you remember your new major language and review your English. Create a puzzle around a theme or a person you’re interested in, like this one, about Lady Gaga:

lady-gaga-puzzle

Using the Find a Crossword menu, you can only browse the latest 10 puzzles, but you can search for puzzles using key words.

Other ideas? You could try creating your own game app or software. This crossword puzzle maker was created by a university student at Washington State University.

Writing prompt: Do you play games on your phone when you commute? Do you prefer games like Candy Crush or whatever is popular right now, or games that make you think a little more, like crosswords or sudoku? Do you think that both the more mindless (to my thinking) games are actually just as good for you as more challenging games? (see this quote from the NYT article above)

“When you do a puzzle, the mind becomes completely absorbed in the task at hand. There is total focus on what is happening in the moment, which is the definition of mindfulness. And we know that mindfulness results in all sorts of positive changes in the brain.”