Monday, 30 July 2012

The Art of Rap mixed with The Craft of Education!

Jason R. Levine's Educational Rap for English Learning!
Fluency MC (a.k.a. Jason R. Levine)

With a unique, dynamic, educational platform known as ColloTunes, Jason R. Levine is rapping his way into Language Learning Infamy! This considerably knowledgeable educational specialist and writer for Oxford, has created a high impact learner experience with ColloTunes.  As you sit back and enjoy this positive, engaging interview at Celebrity English, you will feel a SPARK as the 3Rs come to life!


Alex Graham - Question: Where are you from?  Can you give us a bit about your background?

Jason R. Levine - Answer: I was born in Boston. Most of my relatives are originally from there or from in or around New York City. When was eight years-old, we moved to St. Louis, Missouri, which I consider my hometown. Growing up, I was really into music, especially hip hop, and became a DJ in college.

After graduating with a BA in psychology, I earned an MA in TESOL from Hunter College and taught at several schools before co-founding a TOEFL prep and English conversation school for international students in Manhattan. In 2004, I began developing an approach to ELT based on songs that I write and perform as Fluency MC. These songs, called ColloTunes, promote the acquisition and use of collocations to improve proficiency in English. They focus on areas of grammar and vocabulary learning that teachers typically find difficult or boring to teach. I make videos of my songs and various supplementary materials. I post the videos on YouTube and promote them on Facebook, where I am an active administrator of a number of ELT/ELL groups and pages.

I am currently academic director of CAMPUS Education, a group of privately-owned English language schools based in New York City. This year, I wrote the chants for the upcoming edition of the Oxford English Picture Dictionary for Kids. I am currently writing the chants for a new Oxford series for adults as well as chants for elementary school students for a publisher in Turkey. I am chair-elect of the TESOL interest group Video and Digital Media and work periodically as an English Specialist for the U.S. Department of State.

Alex: What is Collo?

Jason: Collo is short for collocation. Collocations are pairs or small groups of words that occur together frequently in spoken and written language. A Collo “just sounds right” because we hear and see it over and over again. Examples of verb-noun Collos are do laundry, make a mistake, and get a cold. In English, have a party sounds right, but make a party sounds wrong. Have a party is considered correct because it is “what we say.” However, in many languages, such as Spanish, make a party is the natural Collo.

ColloTunes are songs I create and perform as Fluency MC (a.k.a. Jason R. Levine) to teach English to children and adults. Students listen, speak, and rap while following along with lyric sheets. ColloTunes are rich in the high-frequency vocabulary and grammar structures we need to use English naturally.

Alex: Please highlight some of the ‘Collo’ methodology, philosophy, and design.

Jason: ColloTunes songs and videos

·    provide practice for students in and out the classroom.
·    are available for multiple levels, ages, and learning
·    include conversation and writing activities, students  
     worksheets and lesson plans.
·    complement any syllabus or curriculum.
·    are used by teachers in the U.S. and dozens of 
     countries worldwide.
·    Have been viewed over 1,350,000 times on YouTube.

Teachers can preview and purchase my PDF Book + MP3 Tunes Package through my website:

Adult learners are generally made to feel that learning through songs is only for children; but as adults, we typically enjoy and appreciate music even more than we did as kids. Also, we need to overcome the barriers raised by our higher cognitive abilities, namely our tendency to analyze grammar and vocabulary too much and to be overly concerned with making mistakes, not being good enough in the language, etc. Music makes this possible! But it has to be music people of ALL ages can relate to.

Alex: Why does Collo work?

Jason: It’s all about the 3Rs: Relax, Repeat, Remember

When we’re relaxed, having fun, and exposed to multiple repetitions of meaningful material, we naturally chunk the material into Collos, which we can easily store and retrieve. ColloTunes use Collos to build SPARK!: Super Powered Automatic Recall of Knowledge.

To develop critical thinking skills we need SPARK as our knowledge base. Otherwise, we struggle to understand and apply what we learn.

The most natural way to build knowledge is through repetitive exposure to collocations; without this exposure, superficial understanding leads to poor performance at higher levels. We become frustrated and overwhelmed. This destroys our confidence. We lose steam before we even get going.

The more easily we can recall information, the more confident and curious we are. When repetitive practice is relaxing and enjoyable, we want to do it. We are motivated to learn and ready to take it to the next level.

Alex: What are some of the results that students can expect?

Jason: Through ColloTunes songs and videos, students can expect to

·    Build skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
·    Accelerate vocabulary acquisition.
·    Find it easier to learn difficult grammar structures.
·    Feel more confident and motivated as speakers of 
·    Have more fun while their learning!

Alex: If an educator isn’t musically inclined, are they able to recreate 'Collo' lessons like you do in the videos?

Jason: Absolutely! Indeed, this was one my chief motivators for creating this material in the first place. ColloTunes are designed so that teachers don’t have to chant or rap in class. Their primary role is to follow and monitor student progress. But if they are musically inclined (or even if they’re not) they are of course encouraged to join in!

Alex: Who are some of your musical influences?

Jason: This is always a tough question for me because there are so many. My short list would include Run DMC, Eric B and Rakim, the Clash, The Rolling Stones, Lupe Fiasco, Immortal Technique, Curtis Mayfield, Brian Eno, DJ Premier, and Mos Def and Talib Kweli.

Alex: Thank you for sharing your time, knowledge, and exceptional educational resources with Celebrity EnglishJason R. Levine - you are a true, genuine educational poet.  

Jason R. Levine English Educational Rap
           Wanting more?  Feeling the SPARK?
           Connect with Fluency MC (a.k.a. Jason R. Levine) 

TRY OUT A FREE online class with Jason!  Click on the Link below to find out more!
ELT through Rhythm and Rhyme: Collocation, Critical Thinking and 3 Rs

         Check Out this video to see Fluency MC in Action!


 See you next week and remember!

                        “Fluency is all about the 3Rs: 
                            Relax, Repeat,Remember” 

Celebrity Language and Culture!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Fitness & Health Jennifer Aniston Style

Jennifer Aniston Fitness & Health
Jennifer Aniston


Interviewer:  You look fabulous!  What do you do to keep in shape?

Jennifer Aniston:  I work out 5-7 days a week, doing at least 40 minutes of cardio on the treadmill, elliptical, or spin machine. I compliment my cardio heavy routine with one day of Pilates and three days of Yoga. Every night before bed I stretch and do sit-ups. As for my diet I usually eat fish, green vegetables, and quinoa.

Creating Conversation & New Friendships
Talking about fitness & health is quite common in casual conversation.  If you are a fitness and health-oriented person, this is a great topic.  It is also a great way to strike up a conversation to meet new people. 

Like the interviewer, start with a compliment and then ask the fitness question.  Most people will respond positively and tell you about their health and fitness efforts.  If you have similar interests, ask to work out with them.  I personally find working out with people a great way to get to know someone.  You often have lots of talking time during, before, and/or after the fitness activity. Moreover, the heath benefits are great! 

 Try it out!
This is what a fitness & health conversation might sound like:

Example Speaking Style
(A) You look __________!  What do you do to keep in shape?
(B) I work out _____ days a week, doing at least _____ minutes of cardio on the __________. I compliment my cardio routine with__________. As for my diet I usually eat __________.
(A) Wow, that’s great! Do you mind if I join you for __________?
(B) Not at all. I will call you next week to set up a time.
(A) Ok, I will talk to you then.
(B)See you.

Answer Ideas 

Idea One
(A) You look sensational!  What do you do to keep in shape?
(B) I work out 4 days a week, doing at least 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill. I compliment my cardio routine with Yoga. As for my diet I usually eat lots of fruits and vegetables and avoid meat.
(A) Wow, that’s great! Do you mind if I join you for some cardio on the treadmill?
(B) Not at all. I will call you next week to set up a time.
(A) Ok, I will talk to you then.
(B) See you.

Idea Two
(A) You look amazing!  What do you do to keep in shape?
(B) I work out 6 days a week, doing at least 50 minutes of cardio on the stair master and stationary bike. I compliment my cardio routine with weightlifting. As for my diet I usually eat a high protein diet.
(A) Wow, that’s great! Do you mind if I join you for some weightlifting?
(B) Not at all. I will call you next week to set up a time.
(A) Ok, I will talk to you then.
(B) See you.

Enjoy creating new conversations with new fitness friends and staying in shape! 

Stay Healthy and See you Next Week!
  Celebrity Language and Culture!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

How to Beat the Heat Celebrity Style!

Angelina Jolie Water Skiing!
Angelina Jolie

Summer is officially here to stay and people are trying to ‘beat the summer heat’!  Let’s check out some of the ways the stars are keeping cool.

Activities to Beat the Summer Heat Celebrity Style!

Have a Popsicle or some ice cream!
Justin Bieber eating a Sponge Bob popsicle
Justin Bieber
David Beckham & family

Show some leg!
Tom Selleck in Shorts
Tom Selleck
Get a short hair cut for the summer!
Dianna Agron
Dianna Agron

Hit (hit = go to) the beach!
Kati Holmes and Suri
Kati Holmes & Suri

Grab a cool drink from Starbucks.
Matt Bellamy
Matt Bellamy

Rock a hat!
Diane Kruger
Diane Kruger

Go to the pool.
Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani

Now, how are you going to beat the heat? 
What is your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?
Kids Cooling Off!
  Feel free to post your ideas below!

With this feature, I added some extra conversational vocabulary that can be used this summer! 

Language for Conversation: Talking about Hot Weather!

(1)Describing Temperature Numbers
Note -  F (F=Fahrenheit) is the temperature scale in the United States
Long Speaking Style: It is 110 degrees Fahrenheit.   
Short Speaking Style: It is 110.          
The temperature has hit 105, today. (hit = reached)
The temperature is in the triple digits (100 degrees + or a number with 3 number places).

(2)Expression to Talk About Hot Weather
It is scorching hot out there. (to scorch: to burn a surface of so as to change its color and texture.)
It’s a scorcher today.
It’s boiling hot out there today. (boiling: to an extreme degree; very, extremely.)

(3)Expressing How You Feel in Hot Weather
This heat is unbearable. (unbearable: too bad, harsh, or extreme to be accepted or endured : not bearable.)
I am boiling.
I am dying from the heat.
This heat is killing me!
I am going to die if I don’t get out of this heat!
I feel like I am baking in this heat!

Enjoy your summer!

Celebrity Language and Culture!


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How To Be Batman

The Dark Knight is rising!  The final installment in the Christopher Nolan series is due to be released July 20 2012 in the United States.   Once again, Academy Award winner Christian Bale will bring life into the comic book hero known as Batman. 
How does he do it? 

How To Be Batman
Christian Bale as Batman!

(1)Destroy the Self! Become a Vessel
BALE: It's the opposite of self! It's actually saying, "I don't stand a chance being myself. I've gotta create somebody else in order to communicate. If I remove myself from all of my own memories and inhibitions and create another character… I can reach out and communicate in that way." So to me, it's actually about trying to destroy the self, and then you might be able to hit something. There's some quote, I think it's Oscar Wilde, "An artist puts nothing of himself into his art."

BALE: I'm not on a couch having therapy. And it's very limiting if I have to be able to relate every damn thing in somebody else's life to something that's happened in mine. At the end of the day, I'm faking it. Pure imagination, and it's only phony if you don't go far enough with it. You can become obsessive and it can get to the point where you're almost losing yourself. You've become a vessel. And then, things start happening.

(2) Push the Envelope! Be over the Top!
BALE: One word: Immersion. It doesn't matter whether I would be acting or doing anything else. It's about taking things a little too far. It's about you don't know the edge until you've gone over it. That fascinates me.

To create a believable character out of a comic book hero, Christian Bale digs deep to create the character.  One of the keys to Bale’s acting style is to repress the self and his own inhibitions.  With the self in check, Bale is able to become a vessel that enables pure communication between his character and the audience.  A secondary element is to ‘take things a little to far’ or push the envelope.  If you don’t push the envelope, you will likely end up with a mediocre result. 

Ideas for Thought/Discussion

(1) BALE: “I'm not on a couch having therapy. And it's very limiting if I have to be able to relate every damn thing in somebody else's life to something that's happened in mine.”
What does this statement refer to in the field of acting?

(2) Do you believe the artist can separate her/himself from their work?

(3) What do you think about the statement below? 
BALE: “It's about taking things a little too far. It's about you don't know the edge until you've gone over it. That fascinates me.”

(1) He is referring to ‘method acting’.
(2) No correct answer just your thoughts and the thoughts of others.
(3) No correct answer just your thoughts and the thoughts of others.

Have great week!
Celebrity Language and Culture!