IATEFL 2012: 52: a year of subversive activities for the ELT classroom

There was a real buzz of anticipation in the room before Luke and Lindsay stepped up… someone even wolf-whistled!  (On sight of Luke, I think.)  And… here’s how it went.

(Quick spoiler: the sense of anticipation was merited!)

Old quote from Luke’s writings: coursebooks are anodyne!  Lindsay and Luke should really hate each other.  But they don’t.  In fact, they both think critical thinking is important and that real interesting things outside the classroom should be brought into the classroom.

PARSNIP acronym refers to traditionally off-limits topics for coursebooks, namely politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, isms, pork.

Where to draw the line?  Some things, e.g. labelling body parts, might be OK.  The activities (which cover these areas) in the ’52’ e-book are not for everyone, and that’s fine.  It’s just a resource for those students and their teachers who want to bring these into the classroom for discussion and study.

One idea for subverting the students’ expectations: the teacher might come to school one day wearing clothes they don’t usually wear.  This might lead to further discussion with students regarding other (in)appropriate (in their opinions) dress and dress codes/conventions.

One idea for subverting a language point: whose routine do we consider when teaching the present simple for daily routines?  The students’?  The teacher’s?  A famous person?  An innocent person in jail?  A freedom fighter/terrorist?  A corrupt civil servant?  A writer in a wheelchair?  A local aid worker in a refugee camp?  (Luke & Lindsay shared an example a student wrote which was sent to them by a teacher who really used this idea in class.)

One idea for subverting “the special day”: a few decades back, there weren’t that many public holidays celebrated in the UK.  This has since dramatically changed – now there are plenty of “Hallmark holidays” (a holiday which seems to exist solely for the purpose of selling greeting cards, etc.).  What do learners think about this?  Do they agree?  (Luke & Lindsay showed 2 examples of real students’ responses to this idea.)

Several ideas for subverting a typical business English activity (in this case, telephone calls): A calls B to talk to C.  C isn’t there; A leaves a message.  If B is the receptionist, there are various roles for A – either an employee, a kidnapped employee, the kidnapper, and so on.  (We did a bit of role-play practice and had a great laugh with these.  Can’t wait to try them out with my conversation class!!  They’re always saying they want more phone call practice…)

Subverting comparatives: Love, sex, money.  Love without sex, or sex without love?  Which is best?  Love, sex, money: you can only choose two.  Which would you choose?  (Aside: reminds me of a lesson I taught once on “would you rather”.)

E-book available here.  Dashingly-modelled t-shirts (by L&L) also available here.

Finished by talking about their joint project: The Round.  New publishing model – books are published by their authors and sold by those authors as well.  By doing it altogether & harnessing social media to spread the word, everyone helps each other.  L&L also want The Round to be a learning environment, helping others into the world of publishing and keeping things high quality.  Lindsay invites all new ideas & contributions – they want The Round to grow and be successful, with success driven by its participants.

One last thing – they showed us their book trailer (like a movie trailer, but for books).  Very rock’n’roll.  Please post a comment below with the link to the video if you’ve got it!

All in all, a very refreshing, engaging and entertaining talk.  Plenty to try out with my students.  Subversion doesn’t have to be offensive – can just be fun (as telephone role-plays demonstrated).

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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.

One comment

  1. Pingback: IATEFL 2012 conference – elephant in the room | EFL Notes

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