Introduction This book is not for everyone. 52 originally began life as a blog. We wanted to focus on critical, subversive and minimal stimulus for language classrooms – the stuff that usually doesn't get past the publishers’ radar. Luke had been exploring the use of minimal stimulus to prompt conversation in his work on Dogme ELT, and Lindsay had been developing a more critical approach to mainstream materials writing. In addition, we were both living through a time of great upheaval. Austerity measures, economic crises, cutbacks in education and other public services, joblessness, unchecked environmental damage and at least two disastrous wars were just some of things we were witnessing every day on the news and in the streets. Yet we both felt that much of what happened in language classrooms was taking place in a bubble, divorced from reality. We started experimenting with ideas, things we had tried ourselves as teachers or as participants in workshops. We began to look outside the field of ELT at what our colleagues in anti-racist education, in peace education and in education for social justice were doing. Slowly the idea of a blog with a few activities developed into something more substantial. You are looking at the result: a year’s worth (if you do one a week) of critical, subversive and unconventional activity for language teachers. But be warned – these activities are not for everyone! Some of the activities may shock you, some may shock your students. We don’t aim to shock people just for the sake of it, but a jolt is sometimes what is needed to wake us up from our delusions. And we feel that sometimes, just sometimes, that is the responsibility of the teacher. If you don’t feel comfortable with this – if you feel it is your job to “only teach the language” and leave any social or political ideas at the door – then perhaps it’s best to leave this book well alone. 52 is not ‘one-size-fits-all’ – there is plenty of that for language teachers in print and online. If you think otherwise, then turn the page and let’s get started.
8 Dress One day come to class wearing something unusual. For example, if you often dress casual then come in a shirt and tie or trouser suit. If you wear formal clothes then come wearing a T-shirt and jeans. The idea is that you look quite different from your normal teaching self. Start the class as normal and wait for learner comments. If they do comment ask them what they have noticed exactly and why it does/doesn’t surprise them (if they don’t comment you could ask them at the end of class – perhaps they are being polite, or you haven’t shocked them enough!). Let this conversation develop a bit, feeding in the following questions: •
Is the way a teacher dresses important?
How should people in authority dress? Does it affect their authority?
Would you treat me differently if I had dressed like this from the first day? How
and why? •
How important are clothes in our society?
In what ways can clothes be used to make a statement, or rebel against a
system? Think of the following examples: workers or soldiers in uniform, women in burkhas or veils, politicians in sweaters, cross-dressers?
10 Pen! Today, don’t write anything down in class. Make sure pens are available for your students – whether these are for an interactive whiteboard, a regular whiteboard, a flip-chart, pieces of paper or even (you’ll need some chalk) a blackboard. Put the pens in a prominent position and gesture to people to use them as appropriate. For example, if you need to write down an instruction, dictate it for someone to write down on the board. If a bit of language comes up that you would normally write on the board, gesture to someone else to write it down. If you find yourself explaining a bit of language – you got it. You can talk, but only your students can write. •
Does this change the classroom dynamic at all?
How does it make you feel?
Ask the learners – how does it make you feel?
14 Monopoly Use the following text as a dictation. ‘No race has the monopoly on beauty, intelligence, strength.’ Use the following questions for discussion as a follow up. •
What does this sentence mean?
How do you feel about it?
What is a monopoly?
Why do you think the author felt this needed to be said?
Is it still important to say this?
What if the word ‘race’ is changed to the following? ‘No
has the monopoly on beauty, intelligence, strength.’
The quote is by the French poet, author and politician Aimé Césaire. He was born in BassePointe, Martinique in 1913.
Grammar you can teach with this image: conditional sentences; the shift in formality from “if it were” to “if this lady was”; abbreviated would Vocabulary you can teach with this image: pinch, bottom, run down, sexist, chauvinistic, graffiti, rebellious, violent Discussion you can have with this image: See what people say, asking if need be ‘Who is talking to whom in these statements, and what do they mean to say?’
32 Parsnip Write the word parsnip on the board and get learners to check the meaning and translation in their dictionaries. Explain that in the world of language education publishing, â€˜parsnipâ€™ is in fact an acronym for different subject areas that are usually avoided in coursebooks because they are controversial. Give the learners the first word: P for Politics. Ask them to guess what the other letters could stand for. Elicit these and put them on the board. Politics Alcohol Religion Sex Narcotics Isms (e.g. communism, atheism) Pork Ask learners why they think these topics could be controversial, and who they might offend. Do learners think these topics should be avoided in language class? Can they think of one good reason to avoid them and one good reason not to avoid them? Use this class discussion to elicit suggestions for future classes on any of these areas if your learners want to.
39 Slogan Ever been intrigued by students telling you slogans they’ve picked up like “I’m lovin it”? Time to take back the language from the big corporations and give it a little subversive twist. Write on the board: I’m hatin’ it. I’m throwin’ it away. I’m cuttin’ down on it. I’m ignorin’ it. I’m chokin’ on it. I’m gettin’ fat on it. I’m ___________ it.
Ask students if they know the original, and if they can suggest another word that can go in the slot. Who can come up with the most amusing subversive McDonalds slogan? No reason to stop there. Get your learners to have a go at subverting the following ones too (replacing the underlined words with their own ideas). Just do it. (Nike) Impossible is nothing. (Adidas) Connecting people. (Nokia) Life’s Good. (LG) Because you’re worth it. (l’Oreal)
42 Pressure This activity starts with a letter to a leader, and the aim is to get a reply from a leader. First, working in whole class mode, brainstorm ways of improving the school. Then, divide the class into four groups: each group must choose the five things they would choose to improve first. Each group must then join with another group and negotiate a short-list of five. Finally, compare the two short-lists in whole class and agree on a final set of five. Now draft a letter to your school head - act as a scribe for the group, eliciting the letter to write on the board and making suggestions as you go. Make a final draft, and invite everyone to copy it out. Choose someone's copy at random and send it off! Start with your school – then think of ways to improve your town, your state, your country. Try writing to a local organisation, city hall, the government...
See if you get a reply – and discuss what it says. •
What different ways do ordinary people use to try and make their voices heard?
In what ways do organisations and governments respond?