Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thinking the unthinkable

With most of the material found in EFL/ESL course books the need to reach as wide a global audience as possible and the fear of alienating learners means that most of it is bland to the point of inducing a catatonic trance. This coupled with the fact that most material writers believe that what interests them (bee keeping, provincial English towns, 19th century writers etc) will fire the imagination of teens worldwide means that the books produced to learn English at advanced levels are dull in the extreme.

So here is another idea for getting post intermediate students to wake up in class and actually participate. At first it may seem morbid but the aim is to help students talk about ideas and beliefs that they doesn't usually get to discuss in class.

Lesson plan

1 Write up the following headline on the board.

"13 year-old girl chooses to die"

2 Now ask students to imagine that they are reporters investigating this story and that they have to think of five questions using;


3 Just go around to help the students with any problems with grammar they may have.

4 The learners then ask and answer the questions. Make sure they understand there are no wrong answers for this part, just their imagination and opinion counts.

5 Now divide the class into two groups.

Group one will watch the video below.

Their job is to write down all the questions the presenter asks. If you don't have access to internet in your classroom you can download videos from YouTube etc using Real Player and play them on a PC, ipod or mobile phone.

6 The other group leaves the room and has ten minutes to find out as much as they can about the story using the headline and Google. If you do not have internet access in the classroom you can print out and photocopy some of the articles below. Tell the students that they have to find out what is happening and take notes as after the ten minutes are they will not have access to the internet or photocopies afterwards.,27574,24639223-401,00.html

7 The students then come back in and those who watched the video interview them. Students in the group who were outside can either assume the role of Hannah or her parents. Remind those involved that the most important thing is to communicate the general idea of what is happening rather than getting all the details correct.

8 The interviews could be recorded or videoed using the students mobile phones and them put on a class blog via Youtube.

9 Finally, ask the students to debate whether Hannah and her parents have made the right decision. This could be done in the form of a formal debate or in smaller groups in a less formal manner.

As you can imagine this is a sensitive topic which needs to be handled carefully. As a teacher you are in the best position to judge if this activity is suitable for your learners. On the other hand it does allow students to express their own beliefs in English on a topic which likely to engage them.


nmckeand said...

Thanks for a thoughtful lesson plan. I haven't decided yet if I will use it with my students next semester or not, but I really appreciate your thoughtful work.

teacher dude said...

I know this is not the easiest of subjects to raise in class but I've tried it in my lessons and it worked.

Thank you for the compliment.

dorapap said...

Although the idea has a point I think it is a bit provocative - I could never cover something like this at school!I would probably get fired after that! I think that if somebody wants to do sth like this, they should ask parents first.

teacher dude said...

Like I said this idea is not for everyone. Still, I did it a few times and it got a good response.