A simple question to start off the new eslcoversationlesson.com season. Of course, not everyone goes on vacation, but usually, the summertime presents opportunities for special visits, adventures, road trips and vacations. I love my vacations. My family and I look forward to them all year. And then, when they are over, we talk about them all year.
There is so much more that happens other than the vacation. No television (less of it anyway), we spend our days together, we eat special food, do activities we have never done before–It is a total break in the routine.
That’s why this week’s theme will be devoted to summer, vacations and routine-breakers.
Do a quick Mind Map of the vocabulary associated with vacations.
My colleague Larry Pitts has an absolutely fabulous site chalked full of open-ended questions. I think this is the perfect place to start our vacation discussion.
The next posts will feature a video or perhaps an article, but for today, the good ol’ Q&A will do the trick.
Language focus: questions, preferences, past tense, present tense
It is no secret that I am a talker. What’s more, I love conversation–I devoted a whole website to it, so that should tell me something right? I genuinely enjoy getting to know people. Their stories, their values, what they like and don’t like, their guilty pleasures. Every time I manage to get to a deeper level in a conversation lesson, I am always, touched, grateful and amazed at the variation on a human theme we have.
What I mean to say is that as humans we share quite a few common elements: we eat, we sleep, we have routines, we have dreams, we have hopes, we have worries, we have doubts, we have projects, we have disappointment and we have pride and we have shame. But it is the stories inside those elements that often testify to the infinite variations these elements have in our lives. They create the stories that are our lives. And by stories, I don’t just mean the play-by-play events all strung together, but the inner dialogue we have with ourselves as our lives play out like movies.
It’s not surprising that when I fell on this article 5 Questions the Most Interesting People Will Always Ask in a Conversation, I ate it up. Thus I am sharing it with you, my teacher community. Not only will it make you reflect on your own approach to prompting conversation, but It may also be a great tool to use with a class. Once for the reading comprehension, and then as a discussion launch pad.
What is your comfort food? I dare you to NOT think of the answer. Too late? I bet your favourite dish is already in your mind. Maybe you are even seeing a memory or a person attached to this dish. Is it something your mother made when you were sick? Something you eat at Christmas? Is it sweet or salty?
Chances are your comfort food is not too healthy. Right? Generally speaking, comfort foods are hardy, starchy and fatty. All great words that describe food. And that is exactly what you will find in this Insider Food video featuring 20 different people from 20 different cultures describing their comfort food.
But it makes me happy
Food makes people happy, conjures memories, and heals us when we are sick or sad and is often the heart of most celebrations. It is also a super fun thing to talk about. It ties in food, feelings, events and people, thus a nice integrated vocabulary exercise. The perfect Whole Language exercise.
While you listen
This video is chalk-a-block full of vocabulary, so I made a Google docs handout to help collect the essential ideas. Or you can try this cool interactive worksheet. Of course, if you are working with more advanced students, you might want to ditch the handout and just let the students note what they can. Rember you can turn the CC on and slow down the video.
In three minutes this video gave me goosebumps. It’s not the first time I encountered the idea that kindness is contagious, but it’s another thing to watch someone put it into practice. The gratefulness, the “someone sees me”, the “someone cares” leaps right out of the screen.
“Can I help you with anything?”, produced by Kindness.org, so simple yet so potent, so connected. Can you remember a time when someone just reached out and gave you a hand? Perhaps you didn’t even know you were struggling and they just cut into your bubble and helped.
I don’t have too many anecdotes, but those I do, I cherish. I also cherish times where I have stepped in and the person let me help them. In my mind, this is a unique privilege that is sometimes more about me than about them. Because it feels so lovely to feel the upside of my humanity. Better than a glass of good wine, a beach breeze or even a great tune, it ignites my soul.
Can you think of stories involving random acts of kindness? Either someone helping you, or you helping someone. How did it feel?
The video: Can I help you? Kindness.org
What is Joe’s objective?
What are some of the problems he encounters?
What are some of the things he does?
Do you need money to help people?
What is meaningful?
What is the butterfly effect?
As a class, make a list of random acts of kindness
Have we become too overprotective of ourselves and our children? For example, how old were you when you were first allowed to light a fire? My guess is you were a lot younger than what we would consider appropriate today. Perhaps being an information savvy generation may have also made us a risk weary generation.
I had the good fortune of having parents who believed in the value of getting dirty, getting bruised and cut and trying things that we probably wouldn’t allow our children to do today (like sitting on my grand-father’s lap while driving the car).
Today, we know more about sanitization, about common accidents, about abductions and attacks. We are quite risk aware–n’est-ce pas? But is this information empowering us or limiting us. Gever Tulley’s TED talk is entitled 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do. He has some pretty thought provoking ideas about what should be taught to children at quite early ages.
I think his talk makes for a good launch pad for a discussion on risk tolerance, over protectiveness and parenting. It also creates a natural context for comparing past and present (so a little added grammar focus).
Discuss these terms…are they good or bad?
Bruises and scrapes
The video: TED Gever Tulley 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do
Do a Mind Map of the 5 things, put as many details as you can
Could you add to Tulley’s list?
Do you think you were overprotected, underprotected, or had the right combination of risk and safety?
Do you have memories from your childhood were you were allowed to take a surprising risk?
How did you feel? What did you learn?
Are there items in Tulley’s list that you would not do? Why?
I would love to be a fly on the wall during your discussion. Don’t hesitate to write to me…
The news can be a challenging thing to talk about. For intermediate to advanced students, it can be motivating to talk about real world topics. CNN offers a 10 min news recap every day. You can put the close captions on so the vocabulary can be heard and read and you can scaffold the activity by discussion what they know about the news. It is also a good natural context to speak in the past tense.
What kind of news stories do you follow?
What are some of the top news stories these days?
What newspapers, blogs, news channels do you use to get your news?