made / away from home / by jaguar
became / apprenticed / to the planet Venus
settled / an upholsterer /
attempted / his living / to live in the jungle
was / two crossings of the Atlantic / to a pirate
managed / with his mother / by a shark
ran / a mink farm / with a pistol
talked / bitten on the arm /
was / a dispute / to Buenos Aires
moved / ardently /
made / suicide / playing baccarat
Ages ago I had suggested this article to Sandy Millin for her Almost Infinite Ideas blog. The article was an obituary of an adventurer called John Fairfax. I then made a fairly conventional reading lesson which kicked off with the matching exercise you see above. As you might imagine, students had to guess the true facts from the fragments.
Having tried the lesson out twice with groups and finding it lacking a bit in affective engagement, I stumbled on a much more enjoyable and production-orientated way of using it. Instead of matching what they thought might be the true sentences, I just asked students to come up with their favourite combination instead- just one per student:
David moved with his mother to the planet Venus.
Ana attempted suicide playing baccarat.
Carlos was bitten on the arm by a pirate.
... and so on.
|"We're more popular than John Fairfax."|
In turn, each person had to go front-centre and call a press conference to answer questions about their "adventure" (from which they had just returned.)
The others were all journalists and had to ask the adventurer questions, forcing her/him to flesh out the story.
"Roberto Garcia from the Financial Times - Did you have technological support?"
"Ana Campos from Hello Magazine - Where did you get the shark from?"
and so on.
This kind of whole-class activity can be daunting for some, so I decided to be the first adventurer myself, and I took five minutes or so of questions on how I made two crossings of the Atlantic by jaguar.
[It's actually pretty easy - you just harness them to your boat like huskies to a sled, load up with tins of Baked Beans, get the whip cracking and before you know it you're in Cape Cod. A five-year-old could do it.]
If I recall, we spent most of our allotted 60 minutes on this daft game, and didn't get round to reading the article at all. In the end, I gave the students the title of the article and gave them optional homework to google it and read it.
Were there affordances?
Yup, loads: Question structures, past tenses, expressions like "How many/much/far/long", the difference between a jaguar and a Jaguar, and so on.
The idea of a press conference came from the improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway, which has been posted extensively on YouTube. Their game is somewhat different, but also has tremendous potential.
David Warr thinks I spend my entire life watching repeats of Whose Line. I wouldn't go as far as that, but I know I'm not the only teacher who thinks that improv games have their place in the EFL classroom.
Have you ever used improv in the class? Have you ever subverted your own material? Or just stumbled accidentally on a new way of doing things?