Friday, 12 April 2013

He's sorry, he's sorry, he's so so sorry (a lesson on apologies)

You may have seen Nick Clegg apologising about increased tuition fees a few months ago.  You may also have seen how his speech was turned into a chart-topping song by a smart alec using Autotune.  (If you haven't seen either one, you may have been on a desert island somewhere.)

Anyway, this has a lot of potential for a lesson on etiquette, politics, quirks of British culture, or all of the above.  Here's how:

First of all, play the video, and ask students to listen to discover what he's apologising for.  It's possible that some students will have seen the clip before, and some of them may even know who Nick Clegg is (although I think in the average class this is unlikely!).  You could also ask them whether they think he is sincere, and why.

Next, you have a choice whether to take the lesson down a political path, or stick to politeness and culture.  

Politics-based lesson

If you want to go with politics, some possible small group discussion questions could be:

1. Do politicians ever apologise for their actions in your country?
2. In what circumstances, if any, should politicians apologise?
3. Would an apology from a politician make you trust them more, or less?
4. How can you tell the difference between a sincere and an insincere apology?

This could lead into a role play activity where students apologise to each other (let them decide the precise scenario), practising relevant vocabulary and intonation to make their apologies more effective.   

You could also use this BBC article about things that British governments have apologised for as a reading text.  I organised it as a jigsaw reading activity where students first looked at the pictures from the top of the page and discussed what kind of news story they might relate to, and then groups of students had some sections of the text which they needed to read and summarise orally to the group.  The videos on the article are rather dry (House of Commons proceedings including the original apologies) but could be useful.

Follow-up questions:
Is apologising for a historical injustice helpful, or just a meaningless gesture?
What kind of reparations might be appropriate in each case?

Alternatively you could use the article as a basis for students to do some web research into one of the issues from the article, for a presentation.

Politeness / Culture-based lesson

(You need an accomplice  - prime a reliable student or enlist a colleague for a couple of minutes.)

Arrange an incident in the class where someone bumps into you by accident.  Say sorry, even though it is clearly their fault.  Then ask students if they have ever seen British people do this, and what would happen in the same situation in their countries.  (They could act it out?)

Tell students it's well known that British people apologise very often, including for things that are someone else's fault, and ask them why they think this is.  Then show them an article like this one, which attempts to explain the reasons why.

You could then:
  • ask students to discuss differences in etiquette between their countries and Britain
  • look at conversational language for politeness in everyday situations (how many times would you say please and thank you when making an order in a coffee shop?), then role play them.
  • do a group improvisation - give every student a card saying 'Polite' or 'Rude' , which they have to keep secret.  Then the group(s) will discuss a topic together, behaving according to the roles on their cards.  At the end, everyone has to say who was polite and who was rude, and explain why.  (You could deliberately give any 'challenging' students a 'Polite' card, of course!).

No comments:

Post a Comment