The Furniture Experience
Danny Singh, UK
Danny Singh, born and raised in London, but now based in Rome, gives creative English language lessons and teacher training courses all over Italy and abroad. He often attends Pilgrims TT summer courses as a guest speaker. www.laughnlearn.net
Setting the Scene
Extending the Activity
Reducing the Activity
This idea came to me during one of those moments of enlightenment. It is an activity, which especially lends itself to those private individual lessons you might be doing at home or at the home of your student. If you have a small group, then it can be even more stimulating and interactive.
To set the scene, I pre-teach, elicit and revise the names of furniture, colours and materials. If the lesson is in my home, we wander around the living room, as I point out the bright red sofa lined up against the wall, the set of nest tables, two chests of drawers, a CD radio player, a TV, a basket full of magazines and a pouf. The living room, kitchen and dining room are all in the same area, separated only by a large arch in the middle of the room. We move on to the kitchen and I point out the fridge, freezer, stove and oven. We then move on to the dining room, which of course contains the dining table, as well as a large bookcase.
Having set the scene, I ask each student to carefully choose one piece of furniture. They are now to imagine that they are that piece of furniture. Once they have decided, I ask them some basic questions. How big are you? How heavy are you? What shape are you? What colour are you? Which part of the room are you located in? I ask them to think about their answers, but not to say them. I then try to stimulate their imagination by asking them additional questions. Are you happy with your position in the room? Would you like to move? What contact do you have with the humans who live in the flat?
If it’s my flat, then they will have to use their imagination a bit, when answering the last question. If a student has chosen to be the bright red sofa seating five people, it would be quite difficult to consider changing position. However, students who select smaller pieces of furniture like the nest tables or chest of drawers, often have interesting suggestions to make about why they feel they should be moved.
If the lesson is taking place in the student’s flat, then it becomes really interesting, as there is an even greater personal link to the furniture. In one lesson, my student told me how as a small book case, she felt quite lonely having been moved into the living room from the bedroom, where she used to receive far more attention. That large horrible TV which took up a large portion of the living room got most of the attention in the evenings. Her sister who happened to be the TV, complained that in the mornings, no-one in the flat even noticed her, as they went into the kitchen, listened to the radio while having breakfast and left without so much as a goodbye. The evenings were far more pleasant however, as the whole family gathered round to give her their undivided attention.
If I want to continue doing something with this activity, I’ll bring in the conditionals. What would you change about yourself, if anything? If you could alter something in the room, what would it be? This becomes quite challenging for me, as female students particularly, offer me all kinds of suggestions, not only about moving things around, but even throwing things out and buying alternative objects.
If you have a group of students whose level of English is very low, or you are short of time, a simple alternative is to ask your students to answer the basic questions as mentioned above, after which they can try to guess which piece of furniture each student represents.
This activity gives you the opportunity to work on furniture vocabulary, colours and materials. In addition, by using role-play, the student has the possibility of extending his/her imagination as far as he/she wants. Visual memory is aided by the presence of the objects, while it is also a personal exercise, as the furniture in question is either an important part of the student’s life, or at least, should be seen regularly by the student, when he/she visits you for his/her lessons. The activity works well with all language levels. If the student has a good level of English, I may extend the activity to include the use of conditionals. I mentioned previously that it lends itself more to lessons done in private homes, where there is usually a wide variety of furniture, colours and materials rather than in schools, where the furniture tends to be somewhat bland. If you are lucky enough to work in a school with a wide selection of different coloured furniture, that’s all the better for you.
We have an endless source of teaching tools, which are so simple and so obvious, that we often forget or take them for granted. In the same way that we can teach listening without the necessity of a tape recorder, in the same way that I sometimes use the t-shirt I’m wearing to teach vocabulary and create stories, in the same way that I regularly use my body to teach vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation, this is a great way to create an interesting lesson by using readily available resources, in this case, the furniture in your student’s or your home.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.