The Arrival

Harbour gates from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival

Ideas for an ELT class on emigration based on Shaun Tan’s graphic novel The Arrival

One of the few positive things about Twitter is that, if you follow the right people, you are brought into contact with culture that had never before appeared on your radar. I had the great pleasure of such an experience this week when I was alerted to the work of Australian artist-illustrator and filmmaker Shaun Tan, and particularly his epic 2006 graphic novel The Arrival. Continue reading

Active bystanders

Video-based English class on taking action and not being a passive bystander

I was recently teaching a variation on the Toxic Masculinity class I posted here, including some work on the Gillette “Best Men Can Be” advert, inspired by this great lesson plan by Kieran Donaghy. Having had to split the lesson over two separate classes, I was looking for a short video I could use as a warm-up / engage activity to kick things off on the second week. Semi-spontaneously, I decided to show my students – in this case, B2/C1-level adults – this short Australian public service announcement made by the State Government of Victoria, Australia. Continue reading

Pop portals and prepositions

Communicative English class about portals and prepositions of movement featuring an iconic pop video and the work of visual artist Michael Patterson

I’m a big fan of portals into other dimensions. Watching the David Lynch/Mark Frost television series Twin Peaks on BBC2 in my second year of secondary school was something of a gateway drug – if you’ll pardon the pun – to all manner of strange and surreal culture. Dale Cooper’s final disappearance into the Black Lodge, a kind of purgatorial antechamber peopled by backwards-speaking dwarves and taciturn giants, tapped into a long tradition of portals into other realms, notably in children’s literature, horror and science fiction. Continue reading

The exploitation of natural resources

ESL-EFL Class about sustainability and the environment featuring clips from dystopian sci-fi and animated short film

With the Extinction Rebellion currently raging in London, and Brits proving they have a taste for protest and civil disobedience after all, it seems the right time to post a class on the environment and particularly the unsustainable pillaging of world resources. Clearly it is a subject that warrants more than a cursory one-off class, but I thought I’d share a few clips that might generate some interesting discussion and help build vocabulary. Continue reading

Hopes and dreams and could have beens

Norman Rockwell, Breaking Home Ties, 1954

Ideas for a communicative English class about aspirations, regrets and changes in fortune

American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell is a great source of inspiration for ESL and EFL classes. His works reflect many of the social concerns of his lifetime (1894–1978), notably the anxieties of a nation at war and racism, as this excellent class idea by Chrysa Papalazarou shows. Yet it is arguably for his vignettes of American family life that he is best known. As concerns lesson ideas, Rockwell’s works are particularly full of potential due to the stories they appear to suggest, and which the students can speculate upon and complete themselves. I was particularly struck by his 1954 piece Breaking Home Ties, above, which provided me with the final missing element for a class on hopes and dreams. The image and the class outline below would work nicely as a companion to my post on fatherhood, not to mention the themes of notalgia and regret explored in my posts on the stages of life and urbanization. Continue reading

Stages of Life

Louis Faurer, Accident New York City, 1952

Film, music and photography-based ESL/EFL class about the stages of life

After my last – rather academic – post about Bladerunner and optical illusions, I thought a more lighthearted approach was in order today. Saying that, it begins with a corollary to that discussion, namely the photo above, Louis Faurer’s Accident New York City (1952), which is anything but lighthearted. As with in the scene featuring Deckard’s Esper machine, it is a photograph that keeps on giving, the reflection of what might be a storefront window affording a near panorama of simultaneous activity that seems to tell two or more stories. Continue reading