Humanising Language Teaching
This one's good …
By Carlos Islam, Leeds Metropolitan University, UK
In an average week I receive a dozen or so email messages that have been forwarded from friends and colleagues. They forward these messages because a joke made them laugh or angry, or they were touched or shocked by a story, or there was something in the message they found relevant or incredible. Whatever the reason, the emails engaged them emotionally and they forward them to me because they think I will react in a similar way.
It is this quality of affective engagement that makes the jokes and stories circulated via email a great source for language learning material.
After receiving an email with the subject line 'one liners' for the third time in six months, I started telling my favourite one-liners to friends and then students…
Four fonts walk into a bar.
My friends often groan in amusement and enjoy the humour even though they may have heard the jokes before. I'm often interrupted by friends who remember jokes they have read and inevitably a round of jokes follows my one-liners.
Students have fun with the jokes too. A student or two will usually 'get' each of the jokes but almost all students are interested in reading the jokes and working out the humour for themselves. While working out the humour, students frequently make discoveries about the language, especially when encouraged and prompted by the teacher.
Students also like to retell the jokes or stories for the same reason my friends forward the emails in the first place; if they tell the joke or story effectively, it will have a similar affective impact on their classmates/friends as it had on them.
I believe, with careful selection and adaptation, many of the forwarded email messages we receive have the potential for facilitating language learning. I also believe that there is a publishing opportunity for a book containing emailed jokes, stories accompanied by classroom activities that exploit the contents of these emails.
Below are two adapted email jokes that Chris Mares (ex-colleague at the University of Maine) and I have used with our own students. I am proposing to use the jokes and activities below as a format for a recipe style resource book. The book will contain a section specific activities (like this one), a section with generalisable activities designed to affectively engage learners and a section advising teachers on adaptation techniques with the aim of encouraging teachers to create their own materials from forwarded emails.
The Pig Conundrum
Type: funny story
Two neighbouring Yorkshire farmers, John and John, went to The Farmers Fair in Ilkley, where they both bought a pig. When they got home, John asked John how they would tell who owned which pig as they seemed to be the same size and age.
"Well," said John, "I'll cut off one of my pig's ears. How's that?"
"Fine, I guess," said the other John.
This worked until a couple of weeks later when John stormed into the house.
"John," he said. "Your pig has chewed the ear off my pig. Now we have two pigs with one ear each. How are we going to tell who owns which pig now?"
"Well John," said John. "I'll cut the other ear off my pig. Then we'll have two pigs and only one of them will have an ear."
"Ah there's a good idea," said John.
Again this worked fine until another couple of weeks later when John stormed into the house again.
"John," he said. "Your pig has chewed the other ear off my pig. Now we've got two pigs with no ears. How are we going to tell who owns which pig?"
"Ah this is serious, John," said John. "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll cut the tail off my pig. Then we'll have two pigs with no ears and only one pig with a tail."
"Ah that would be good," says John.
Another couple of weeks went by, and you guessed it, John stormed into the house once more.
"John," shouted John. "Your pig has chewed the tail off my pig and now we have two pigs with no ears and no tails. How are we going to tell them apart?"
"Ah, well, John," says John. "Why don't we just make this simple. How about if you have the black one, and I'll have the white one."
A Matter of Perspective
Type: moralistic story
Chris, an American business consultant was at the pier of a quiet coastal Mexican village when a small boat docked. Inside the boat Mike could see several large yellow fin tuna and a smiling fisherman. Chris complimented the man on his catch and asked how long it took to catch the fish.
If you would like to contribute to the publishing proposal I am suggesting, please send me an email with an adapted email message and activities to C.Islam@lmu.ac.uk or just forward a message that affected you.
For more email jokes and materials look out for the next edition of Folio (vol. 7/1), where I will be reporting on a presentation I did at a MATSDA (the Materials Development Association) conference advocating the use of forwarded emails as language learning materials.
Carlos Islam is a Lecturer in Language Learning and Teaching at Leeds Metropolitan University. He is a teacher, researcher, trainer and materials writer and has been involved in ELT in the UK, USA, Spain and Japan.
Kids say the darnedest things
These are some bizarre things that students have written in their papers. They were posted in 1999 by Geoffrey Astbury.
The future of "I give" is " I take".
A census taker is a man who goes from house to house increasing the population.
A virgin forest is a forest where the hand of man has never set foot.
The general direction of the Alps is straight up.
Most houses in France are made of plaster of Paris.
The people who followed the Lord were called the 12 opossums.
The spinal column is a long bunch of bones. The head sits on the top and you sit on the bottom.
One of the main causes of dust is janitors.
A scout obeys all to whom obedience is due and respects all duly constipated authorities.
One by-product of raising cattle is calves.
The four seasons are salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.
The word trousers is an uncommon noun because it is singular at the top and plural at the bottom.
Syntax is all the money collected at church from sinners.
The blood circulates through the body by flowing down one leg and up the other..
In spring, the salmon swim upstream to spoon.
Iron was discovered because some one smelt it.
A person should take a both once in the summer, but not so often in the winter.