Finding Interesting Topics – Sports
While the over-arching aim is to approach the course with a UK / London-centric flavour, it’s also important to choose lesson topics within that which teenagers will respond to, with sport being an obvious choice. Football seems to inspire extremes of passion from both ends of the spectrum, from the enthusiasts – (as a rule, cultural and gender stereotypes should be avoided but teenage Italian boys do tend to be fanatical) – to the eye-rollers. This depth of feeling can be utilised in class.
As England were riding high in the female World Cup in Canada at the time, we focused on the culture of female football in the UK, particularly the women’s team of Tottenham Hotspur in London. The lesson was multi-media lesson and practiced all four key skills while also providing scope for recycling previously-covered grammar.
We began with an exercise which closely guided the learners through the vocabulary they’d be encountering in the video (for example, a player comments on ‘having goosebumps’ when she scored etc.), followed by the video itself, where they heard these new words and phrases in their natural contexts. The video followed some Tottenham players as they prepared for a match, and required learners to prove comprehension via true or false questions. The questions themselves were fine, but a key aspect of teaching is being wise to opportunities to exploit materials. This is especially important with younger leaners, who are prone to flagging energies and whose attention spans can drop off dramatically if the task at hand isn’t particularly inspiring. To this end, the class separated into teams and took part in a ‘running dictation,’ where one copy of the questions are stuck to a far wall and learners must race to convey the information to the transcribing team member – a set of simple questions on a page had now been transformed into a kinetic, competitive activity which utilised all the four key language acquisition skills of reading, speaking, listening and writing.
After the video we turned our attention away from the UK’s most popular sport to other more esoteric ones practiced worldwide. We looked at Slamball, a high-octane, tooth-rattling cross between basketball and trampolining played in the USA (take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ouXw328WYI), and challenged the class to come up with their own similarly bizarre sports. Groups of learners put their heads together to dream up new stadium-fillers and then wrote accompanying descriptions and rules. This was a perfect chance to recycle the vocabulary from earlier, as well as grammar and vocab from previous days. Finally, coupled with colourful posters depicting their sports in action, the groups presented their work to the rest of the class, followed by a vote at the end to decide whose game would be the most fun / dangerous to play. The ideas the learners came up with were inspired, for example ‘Runolf’ – a mixture of golf and middle-distance running where competitors teed-off in between laps of an athletics track.
These kinds of group activities are great as they allow students free reign not just with their language skills but with their creativity, giving them the opportunity to interact with classmates to foster a collaborative, fun classroom environment. All of these skills are needed for the end-of-course class presentation, and learners can be proud to show their work off to others!
written by Glen Brown