Week of the Living Dead
I’ve had a super-sized cold and/or allergy attach for the last week, that pretty much knocked me flat and left me a brain-dead walking corpse during my classes this week. It’s to be expected; it’s allergy season, after all. I’m imperceptibly better today, but I’m incredibly bored with looking at nothing but the four walls of my study room or the bedroom. Or the computer screen.
The warm weather is here, on and off. It’s a portent of the hot and humid summer to come. Yuk.
I have a new favorite teaching website: it’s ESL etc. – Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching
There are some great lesson plans for teaching global awareness and encouraging individual action, as well as links to other good resources.
I’ve downloaded several of David Royal’s podcasts from his site, and enjoy listening to his trials and tribulations as a teacher, as he finds out what works or what doesn’t. Also, it’s a friendly and encouraging voice to listen to. I often feel very isolated from other teachers here; there’s little sense of community or of give-and-take, and even though I subscribe to some ELT [English Language Teaching] email lists, they lack the touch of personal communication.
The benefit of teaching only one lesson plan a week is that I have seven chances to get it right. If it still doesn’t work after the tryouts, it gets discarded. I’m showing “Super Size Me” to my classes – Morgan Spurlock’s exercise in the insanity of a fast-food lifestyle, and nothing but, for 30 days.
I’m using the film to introduce Global Issues concepts in my classes. Last week I had the student groups identify global issues that they knew about. They then filled out a brainstorming sheet to identify the following:
- Two global issues that you think are important
- Why they are important
- One action that you, as an individual, can take to affect or to change each issue
For their Final Oral Project Assignment, student groups will expound upon one of these issues in a presentation or, as they said in the 60s and 70s, a “consciousness-raising session.”
Back to Super Size Me, I used the film last year with moderate success – the students loved the images of overweight Americans and seeing the visible effects of fast food on the film’s creator and star. I showed it in short doses mixed with student discussion and explanation of issues/vocabulary. I also cut out “talking heads” segments that I thought were too long, boring, filled with technical terms, or pedantic. This is one of the problems I find with using documentaries in general, especially when my version doesn’t have Chinese subtitles.
I began by showing a huge picture of a juicy hamburger and asking “How many of you like to eat this?” It was just before lunch time, so most of them raised their hands. Then I asked questions like, “Is fast food good for you?” and “Is fast food consumption or obesity becoming a problem in China?” I got a divided vote on that one, most students thinking “NO,” even though articles such as this seem to say otherwise.
At the end of one of my classes, I had the students repeat the mantra
Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun
(trademarked slogan first used by McDonald’s in 1975)
It’s a tongue twister, especially when chanted rhythmically, and it also has the virtue of containing an astonishing number of English vowel and consonant sounds. Today it fell flat; maybe I’ll drop it tomorrow.
Next week I’ll show the remainder of the documentary, then tie the fast food topic into other global issues: globalization, waste from non-biodegradable materials, health issues, low wages / poverty, deforestation, animal cruelty, corporate responsibility, pollution, water shortage, GM [genetically modified] foods, oil consumption, and the glaring contrasts between obesity and hunger in the same society.
Whew! What’s the point of all this? Well, for one thing, my own global education. I’m reading an incredible amount of information online. For another thing, the development of my students’ critical thinking skills. Also, the ESL etc. website [see above] has motivated me to begin combining language and thinking skills with global issues, and then tying them to individual action.
Gerhard Siegel, far left, and Simon Keenlyside, second from left, in the opera “Wozzeck,” directed by Gerard Mortier, at the Opera Bastille, Paris.