Signs of the times

Every now and again in my lessons, I get an amusing reminder of how times change; and I start musing over how teachers keep up.

There’s no real problem to be solved here and I don’t have questions that need answering, but basically, I’ve got enough anecdotes now to justify sharing them here…

1. Packing for a holiday

Recently, my pre-intermediate class was busy identifying vocabulary items in a picture of a young couple packing their suitcases before going on holiday (e.g. passport, towels, hairdryer). The words were given in a box below the picture.

There was one word no one could find in the picture. They didn’t understand how you could pack this thing, and those who were thinking laterally couldn’t find a DVD case anywhere in the picture. I had to intervene eventually to point out that the little black container in the picture probably had something in it which we might put in our cameras in order to be able to take photos while on holiday…

Student: “SD card?”

Now, I may have been born in the 80s, but even I’m old enough to remember film cameras! And this student was a good 15 years my senior! It just goes to show how quickly our associations change (and how unfamiliar this lexical item might have become to some students).

@aClilToClimb for #eltpics

2. What would YOU take on holiday?

Later in the same lesson, I asked the students if they’d add anything to what the young couple in the picture had packed. Someone suggested “tablet”. I praised them for being so sensible – yes, of course this young couple should pack medication! It can be hard to find what you need if you get ill while on holiday.

Student: “No – TABLET. iPad.”



3. Best guess ever…

Teenage one-to-one student this time. He’s 14 and has been sent to improve his English for a week, 4.5 hours a day, while all his schoolmates are enjoying a half-term break. He’s already explained Minecraft and various other modern adolescent pursuits to me but it’s only day 3 of 5 and I’m rapidly running out of ideas for how to educate and entertain him when he really would rather be on holiday.

We decide to play Taboo. We take turns to choose a card and describe the word on it for the other to guess. The catch is that there are 3 related ‘taboo’ words on the card, which you’re not allowed to use in your definition.

My turn. The word is “dictionary”. Carefully avoiding the words “book”, “look up” and “definition” in my description, I say, “It’s where you go… when you want to find… what something means.”

Student: “Google?”

sign of the times

Learners… the next generation.  Photo credit: @europeaantje for #eltpics


About Laura Patsko

Teacher trainer, language learner, language teacher, linguist, researcher. Not necessarily in that order.

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