Our lessons with Marilyn

Some of the students in my long-running upper-int conversation class suggested recently that we go outside the classroom for a change. I asked them to go away and think of some venue ideas, and one student came back with this.

I should say at this point that recently there have just been 5 students in the group – all women! So this was a popular choice.

The Getty Images Gallery, just 2 minutes’ walk from our school, is a small, intimate setting with an unsurprisingly impressive array of photos and other artefacts on display – and admission is free! (I didn’t know, but they appear to have all sorts of interesting exhibitions quite often – more details here.)

So, we made our way there at the start of our lesson, and devised a plan:

1. Amble around the gallery, taking in the photos and dresses (various gowns of Marilyn’s were also on display) and discreetly make a note of the title (all items on display were labelled) of one you particularly like, for whatever reason.

2. Reconvene in the entrance area and describe – but don’t name – your choice to the other students, who may take some brief notes if they wish.

3. Split up again, walk around again, and try to find the photos the other students had chosen based on the descriptions they gave. Make a note of their names.

4. Reconvene again, compare ideas and see if you found the correct photos/dresses. As each student confirms the others’ guesses and reveals her chosen photo, she should lead us to it for further discussion (e.g. of what’s in it, how it makes us feel, anything surprising about it, etc.).

5. Regroup at school for the last 20 minutes or so of the lesson to collate, note down and discuss any interesting vocab we learned in the gallery. (With my students, we came up with gown, strapless, to lounge and halterneck, among others.)

One of the dresses on display was from the film Some Like It Hot, an undisputed comedy classic – so we watched the film the next day!

P.S. If you’re interested – here are the photos my students and I chose:

Monroe at premiere (1954)
Marilyn on top (1956)
Marilyn in Grand Central Station (1955)
Marilyn candid moment (1955)
Cartwheeling Marilyn (1950)
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About Laura Patsko

Senior ELT Research Manager for a major publisher. Alter egos: English language teacher, language learner, teacher trainer, linguist. Not necessarily in that order.

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