I generally use a lot of authentic material in my lessons, mainly to send the students the message that what we learn in the class is not like experiments in a lab cut from the outside world, something theoretical we do in the class and then we forget all about when we leave the class. When we learn the use of subjunctive or unreal past or inversion in conditionals, these are things native speakers actually use in everyday life and not some high-brow academic mumbo-jumbo that do not concern anyone out there, in the real world. And the same should go for every school subject. I guess if I taught physics or chemistry I would bring to the class trivial items we use every day and we never pay attention to and I’d try to connect them with the theories in the book.
By Christos Foskinis, MA in TESL
READING STAGES (20’-30’)
- All the students read the text up to the dotted separator for no more than 10’.
- I ask the students to tell me the order of the events and I write them on the board (1. A police officer catches sight of a suspect; 2. The suspect decides to run away, although he hasn’t done anything wrong…). As we find the stages of the story in the text, they circle them and write the number of the order in which they happened. We observe here that a text usually has lots of blah blah but it can be condensed into a skeleton, in form of a bulleted list, and if we do this we get a clearer picture of the text. (cf. Bring The Text To Life! The Giordano Painting) 5’
- I ask them about the highlighted words: the yellow ones they have to infer from the context (I elicit the meaning instead of giving it to them) and for the red-highlighted ones I ask them if they really need to know the word or it is obvious from the context. (I don’t know what a BPD wagon is –I had to look it up—but it obviously is here a police car; or the central booking is not in most dictionaries but where would a police car with the arrested man go..?) 5’
- They read the rest of the text and ask me any questions they may have. The word ‘oversight’ has two meanings so they need to understand which one it is used in here, following the flow of sentence. I also ask them what they think about the green-highlighted sentence: is it an argument in favor or against the police officers? Who says it? (Eugene O’Donnell, who is a former policeman.) What else does he say? All in all, does he appear in favor or against the policemen? 5’
ACTIVITY STAGES – DEBATE! (>60’)
I split the students in three groups –the supporters of the police officers, the accusers, and the audience (the jury). Here, I usually do something else: I ask them first who thinks the policemen should be punished and who that they are innocent, and then, I assign to those who are in favor of the policemen to argue against them (!) and those who are against them to defend them! (those little things that make students hate me…)
- 1 group in favor of the police officers.
- 1 group against the police officers.
iii. The audience.
- The 2 groups work together and find their arguments. The audience write down pros & cons and which side they lean towards. (>10’)
- The 2 groups present their arguments to the rest of the class (the audience). The audience check their points when they hear an argument they have written themselves. (>10’)
- The 2 groups work together again and find counter-arguments for the arguments of the opponents, while the audience check their notes and see what side they lean towards now. (>10’)
- The 2 groups present their counter-arguments to the audience. (5’)
- Coda of the debate: the 2 groups say a few final words as a conclusion. I put this part in the activity as a distinct step because it sensitizes students to the importance of a good conclusion in their essays, as the conclusion paragraph is the last impression you leave with the reader. (5’)
- Then the audience vote, and then each member of the audience explains his/her vote. (10’)
ALTHOUGH THE 2 GROUPS ADVOCATE IN FAVOR OF THE ACQUITTAL OR THE SENTENCING OF THE POLICE OFFICERS, THE AUDIENCE’S DECISION CAN BE SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE. THUS, THE STUDENTS CAN USE WHAT IN ESSAYS WE CALL A ‘BALANCED THESIS’, WHICH IS IN MOST CASES THE SAFE CHOICE (e.g. are social media good or bad? Well, there are pros & cons… use in moderation is always the best solution…).
- The students now can be given a writing assignment based on the discussion in the class; they are to write an essay on the topic or a similar topic (in keeping with the Cambridge CAE/CPE). We discuss the structure (paragraphing) and useful words (linking expressions…) 10’
Also, read the book: Gary Rybold, Speaking, Listening & Understanding. Debate for Non-Native-English Speakers. International Debate Education Association, 2006: ch. 11 taking notes of the opponent’s arguments & the notion of flowing;