Friday, 5 October 2012

Jazzing up Tired Lesson Topics - Part 2

In the previous post I looked at 3 textbook 'classics': Daily Routines, Education, and Sport, and some ideas for approaching them in a new way in the classroom.  This time I'll be considering Family and Food, again with activities that are just a bit different, and can be adapted to many different levels and lesson objectives.

So, without further ado...

Two More Typical Tired Textbook Topics, and how to enjoy teaching them again:

1. Family

  • Students make a technology family tree.  Which device or invention was the 'parent' of another?  Which devices share a family resemblance?  Which device wants to be just like its big brother or sister, or always goes on about how things were better in the past when it was the latest thing?
  • Students role play a soap opera family (the dice method outlined in the previous post would help with character generation for this).  For example, John, who is secretly married to Sarah, has a conversation with his daughter Maria, who is actually a murderess with £2m in stolen gold hidden under the bed, about another member of the family who appears to be upset about something.
  • Take a mythological angle: students research an ancient pantheon and draw up a family tree of the Norse, Greek or Egyptian gods.  Depending on your class and which pantheon you choose, there's plenty of scope for discussing half- and step- relations, and even incest taboos.
  • 'That's Nothing!'  In this game, students compete to tell the worst and wildest story about childhood misbehaviour (it's up to you whether you require the story to be true).  Each story must start by summarising the previous one in a single sentence, then dismissing it, for example 'Putting your sandwich in the video player? That's nothing!'  The more exaggerated the intonation, the better. (This game works well with other topics too - I use it as an alternative to 'What did you do over the weekend?'.)
  • Ask a group of students to act a mime or tableau of the idea of 'family', and use it as a basis of a discussion of gender and generational roles.  Which person in the scene is doing what, and why?  Does the idea of a role change challenge any of the students?  (This idea was inspired by the Everyday Sexism project, many submissions to which make it very clear that even in a supposedly equal society, people still assume that Mummy is in the kitchen, and Daddy is watching TV.)

2.  Food

  • One student mimes cooking something, while others try to guess what they are doing.  Points could be awarded for each correctly identified ingredient, tool or process (breaking an egg would get 2 points, one for the verb, one for the ingredient), as well as for naming the final dish.
  • 'Marmite polls' - the class votes on whether particular foods are delicious or disgusting, or whether they would be willing to try a particular new food.  They then use the results of the polls to plan menus for a feast of either wonderful or revolting food.
  • Use the What the World Eats photos to compare typical family diets around the world - there's lots of scope here for vocab about home-cooking versus processed food, comparing health, as well as more serious issues of poverty and inequality.
  • Small groups plan a menu for a special meal to serve to different people - the President of a neighbouring country, some Martians on their first visit to Earth, a murderer on death row, your mother-in-law, a time traveller from one hundred years in the past or the future...
  • Students make a stop-motion video of their own in the style of Western Spaghetti, using items from the classroom or from students' bags.

That's it for now, but keep watching, there are plenty more ideas to follow!

Photos taken from by @ij64, @cgoodey, @purple_steph used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence,

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