Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rubbish in EFL

My God, HOW remiss of me! I completely forgot to enlighten you all regarding my thrilling experience with Luke ‘the Spook’ Meddings last year. 

For those of you who have no idea (or wish to know) just who Luke is, he is one of those unfortunate social retards (i.e., a Tefler) who claims to have half-invented the Dogme movement, along with his Australian chum, erm, old whatsisname.

Anyway, I went along to one of those crushingly dull and uninspiring seminars offered by the British Council last September, the sort of thing that only saddo Teflers attend - especially those geeky zits who see it as a chance to pad out their CV and crawl up the Tefl promotion ladder. (The suggestion that I was seeking to do the same is vigorously denied, by the way.)

The event was excitingly labelled “Found objects: How Picasso's bull's head can be used in the ELT classroom”, and the idea was that we should take things designed for another purpose and turn them into prompts for learning experiences. Dr Spook was thus entrusted with the weighty task of illuminating us mere Tefl troops in “the need to develop lesson frameworks and teaching strategies which help us to shape this into a learning experience.” Hmm, heavy stuff indeed!

Of course, so enthused was I by Dr Spook’s presentation that the very next day I attempted to put the principles of ‘Found Objects’ into practice. The following example of the process is taken from The Sandy McManus Teaching Diary and Reflective Journal, a serious pedagogical publication that will soon be available for purchase at a very civilised price of £9.99

 12:36  Teacher enters class (late).
T:         "Hello class, let's see what I've got in my pockets, while I desperately take some bits out and try and wing it through a lesson, with trembling hands and a hangover."
St 1:     “Teacher, you smell like dead dog!”

12:37   Teacher fumbles in pockets of trousers and jacket. DoS passes door and coughs loudly.
T:         "Ah yes, here's my docket issued by the Metropolitan Police for a stop and search under Section 44 Terrorism Act. As you can see, they've filled in "Photographing public buildings, acting suspiciously" under "Reason for stop and search."
St 2:     Teacher, you like photo? You see my sister photo – very nice!”

12:38   Teacher passes docket around class. Students’ interest appears to increase.
T:         "Now what's this? (rustle, rustle) Ah, yes, it's a fixed penalty notice for not paying my Tube fare. Oh dear … how embarrassing."
St 1:     “Teacher, why you no pay ticket? You spend all money in pub?”

12:39   Teacher passes notice to students. One student volunteers copy of same.
 T:        "And what's this? Ahem, yes, it's a screwed up copy of a restraining order from my wife, pressed into my hand by a process-server as I left the house this morning."

12:40   Teacher digs into plastic bag and pulls out various papers and photocopied materials. 
T:         "And this … a receipt from Oddbins, the off-licence, for two bottles of vodka. From yesterday..."
St 2:     “Oh teacher, you say me you drink whisky…”
 T:        "Oh, and here's an empty fag packet ... 20 Royals. And an old packet of Rizlas."
St 3:     “Ah, teacher – you like make spliff?”

Anyway, you get the idea. It was, in fact, a cracking lesson, and I discovered that several of my students had equally interesting objects secreted about themselves (half-eaten sandwiches, pots of noodles) and I was happy to complement them on their obvious shoplifting skills.

In short, it was another successful day at the Tefl chalk face. Thanks, Luke!

PS: Actually, my wife has just informed me that the event was cancelled, so I guess the above must have all been a terrible nightmare. Or perhaps it was those hand-picked French mushrooms I bought in Waitrose…

PPS: I forgot to ask: have YOU ever used rubbish in the EFL classroom (to pursue educational aims, I mean)? Please enlighten us with your experiences below...