A Great Book That Can Inspire You to Leonardo Da Vinci-Like Genius

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Today’s little blurb is from a book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael Gelb. I was not planning to do a review of this book, but I wanted to relay how amazing it is. It is not an ESL book, but instead a book that seeks to help people reach their true potential through various exercises and writings in it.

From this book came so many inspirations for class. It has all sorts of quizzes and ways to see if you are reaching your true genius potential. I have at least eight different Genius notebooks that I have collected due to the exercises in them. It also talked about learning a new language, and I adapted the chapter to give my students some inspiration to increase their own ability to learn a language.

Below is pretty much an excerpt from the book with a few items changed so that my students would be able to follow and understand. I also wanted to use things that they could relate to, and the book mentioned items that were a little difficult for them to understand or know about. I’ll give you my modification for class and then give you a little more information on what kinds of things you can find in the book.

Learn a New Language

One of Leonardo Da Vinci’s steps to genius was to develop curiosity. One way to do this is to learn a new language. You can learn at any age, but for the best results, copy the way children learn. If you adopt certain aspects of a baby’s learning strategy, you can actually learn faster than a baby.

  • Be willing to make mistakes. Babies do not worry about looking or instantly achieving perfect pronunciation and grammar; they just dive in and speak. Your progress in learning will correlate directly with your willingness to play and embrace feelings of unfamiliarity and foolishness.
  • Have you ever noticed how babies find a word or phrase and repeat it over and over? Do the same: repetition is the simplest secret of recall.
  • If possible, start your learning process with an immersion course. Just as a rocket’ needs most of its energy to launch and fly out of our atmosphere, you will get the most from your learning if you launch your efforts with a concentrated program. Your “intensive” will “jump-start” Your brain circuitry to start rewiring for your new language.
  • If you can’t find a formal immersion course, then create your own by listening to audio cassettes, watching English-language movies with subtitles, learning the lyrics of great English songs like Vincent, How deep is your love, etc., Sing along with great singers like Nat King Cole or Billy Joel or the Beatles. Try to go to a western restaurant and order in English. Go to cafés or places where foreigners hang out and just sit back and listen to people talking.
  • Learn words and phrases related to areas of passionate interest. Many language programs are a bit boring because they focus on necessary but mundane matters such as “Where is the station?” and “Here is my passport.” In addition to these everyday matters, try to learn the language of romance, sex, poetry, art, fine food, and wine.
  • Put English translation Post-it notes on everything in your house.
  • Most important, open yourself to the feeling of the language and culture. When you speak, pretend you are a native speaker. (I recommend one of these for starters: Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, Jim Carrey or Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan) Adopt the expressive gestures and facial expressions that go with the language: you will have more fun and learn much faster.

Most of this is word-for-word from the book. I shared the book with my students and recommended it to them. Some of them got both the English and Korean versions of the book. I am sharing this with you to show you what kind of things you can find that you can share with students to learn English.

Books, movies, news stories, and games that weren’t meant for ESL can sometimes fit perfectly with an English as a Second Language Class. I’ll share a few of the pages from some of my “Genius Notebooks” so you can see how they inspired me.

My Genius Notebook

Jims Genius Book ESL Book Idea

Corny? Yes, but this was my introduction page to my second genius book. I filled it with quotes and the written exercises that I followed in this amazing book by Michael Gelb. Speaking of exercises, here is the finish of one of the exercises in which he asks you to go in at one sitting and write 100 questions about yourself. I wrote about work, love, my future, and so on.

The cool thing is that 100 questions are very hard to do, so you might find a certain repetition or avenue of questions that leads you to discover something about yourself. Don’t think about the questions! Just write them. The exercise after that was from the 10 power questions that he had found from doing this experiment with others. These are my notes from October 2001 on that very thing.

10 Power questions How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci

Notice the pages are a little yellow and the underline of “my students” in the “How am I perceived by” question. It was really important for me to be seen as a professional. If you are teaching abroad and just doing this as a one-time thing before you get back to your “real job,” never forget that your students need you. Whether they are 13 or 30, they come to you for knowledge, help, and often advice. Always try to put your best foot forward.

This Wasn’t Supposed to be a Book Review

I really was planning on sharing something that I did for my class to give them advice and inspiration to learn faster. As I started to write this page though I had to share what I learned from this book. It gave me lots of ideas for my class and inspired me in my private life in so many ways.

  • Overall Rank: 5 out of 5 Apples (It is Amazing!)
  • Product Description: Self-help book
  • List Price: Varies
  • Best Price: Amazon
  • Product Specifications: Self-help book that will inspire you beyond belief

An ESL Book That Isn’t

How can I review a book that wasn’t even made for ESL on an ESL book review page? Because of this book, I bought it for myself, and it inspired me in so many ways. A lot of the tests and questions can be asked in intermediate to high-level classes for deep conversations.

I like to give the deeper questions one day ahead so students can think about them. Even So, most of the time, they say, “I never thought about that?” in class the next day. I truly hope you enjoy this book and share it with others. Even before I had a website, I was telling my fellow teachers and students about this book.

Until next time I will just leave you with this one suggestion. If you have read this book or any others and have ideas that sprang from them, leave a note in the comments below.

And always remember, Teaching English is Fun!   – Jim




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