The Other Side of Town

Paraisopolis, Sao Paulo

Resources for an ELT class on ghettos and ghettoisation

A recent class I have done that worked well with adults and undergraduates was on the theme of ghettos. Indeed, the picture above, for which I do not have a photo credit, was actually shared with me by a student who responded well to the material. Showing the vast social divide between the shanty towns and luxury apartment complexes of Paraisopolis in Sao Paulo, it captures evocatively a modern form of ghettoisation which even many comparatively egalitarian countries experience to lesser or greater degrees.

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Protest songs and lords of war

ELT class about protest music based on Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth and its use in cinema

Following my last post about the exploitation of natural resources and Seth Boydon‘s animated short film An Object at Rest, I have been thinking of films and scenes which chart the progress of an object through time. The Hudsucker Proxy‘s key scene does something similar with the hula hoop, as I described here, while the canonical movie of this type might be said to be Albert Lamorisse’s classic 1954 short The Red Balloon (Le ballon rouge). Setting aside these fine works for the moment, a scene that belongs to this tradition is the opening credits to Andrew Niccol’s 2005 movie Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. 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

Murder ballads

Lesson idea for the EFL/ESL classrom based around Johnny Cash’s Delia’s Gone and a contemporary riposte

One of my favourite bands of recent years is New Orleans’ improbably-named Hurray for the Riff Raff, centred around the singular talents of singer Alynda Segarra, who was brought up in the Bronx of Puerto Rican heritage. The band has expanded beyond its Americana roots but my favourite track of theirs is The Body Electric, a country-folk number that seems to tell the story of a woman’s murder, and the recovery of the body by a female friend, relative or same-sex lover. The timing of this post is also apposite as today is International Women’s Day. Continue reading