So, this was the first text that we textploited. It was a story that we wrote and decided to use in class. I’d been using it as a lesson for some time and then Mark got hold of it and added his own touches and now we’ve got it to a solid 3-hour lesson, which is quite flexible and gives the students a little bit of autonomy as they get to choose what exactly they do with it.
It’s also the text that we use to demonstrate Textploitation in any CPD sessions we do on it.
We’ve laid out a lesson plan below as well as a number of follow-up possibilities. The idea is that you can leave it up to the students what you focus on in the second part of the lesson.
- Introduction: Activate a bit of schemata by asking the students whether they’d prefer to live in the city of the countryside.
- Prediction: Explain to the students that they’re going to read a story about a couple living in the countryside and display the following words from the story: (Tread / muck out / the high life / godforsaken / vodka / farm / I’m used to / sunshine / heels). Ask them to predict what will happen in the story, explain that if they don’t know what a word mean, that’s OK, just ignore it. The idea here is that there will be some words they don’t know and without a context they can’t figure them out. Later when they have the context, they’ll be able to work out the meaning.
- Gist/Checking predictions: Give the students a few minutes to skim read the story and check their predictions.
- Vocab (meaning from context): Focus the students attention on the vocab exercise below the story. Encourage them to use the context of the story to find the meaning and to stay away from dictionaries. (The idea here is to highlight the importance of context and encouraging them to avoid dictionaries – not that dictionaries aren’t great but they shouldn’t be a crutch.)
- Reflection: Sit down and have a bit of an informal chat with the students. I like to lead by asking them if they thought the 9 pieces of lexis that I chose were important words for them to learn (e.g. pig pen). Are these words that they will use every day? The answer is obviously a resounding “no”! So why did we spend 15 minutes working on them? (You want to herd the students towards the understanding that you’re teaching them / practising a skill. You can also take the time to ask them why they thought they were unable to understand the key words before they read but were more than capable of understanding them once they’d read the texts.)
- Engage with the text: This story tends to lead to quite a bit of discussion as it is very much open to interpretation. I like to take a moment here and explain to students that this is an example of Flash Fiction, which is shorter than a short story and perfect for a student of English who has ten minutes to spare on the bus. They are usually quite open to interpretation. There are two questions that I find really open up the discussion on this story and with any class this will lead to some lovely error correction:
- Did you like the story? Why / why not? What would you change? what more would you like to know?
- Who did you sympathise with most, Barry or Brenda?
So, the second part of the lesson is very much up to the students. Ask them what they would like to focus on. I’ve given you a few different options below, one of which I stole from the wonderful Gillian Lazar, who wrote the amazing book: Approaches to Using Literature. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
Focus on punctuation: Punctuation is one of those things that we assume translates from a student’s L1, however, this does not always seem to be the case. Take some of the direct speech from the story (which the students have probably read about 3 times at this stage) and write it on the board, removing the punctuation. Ask the students what punctuation they’d like to add. They will probably want to use colons, inverted commas at the base of the words, full stops outside the quotation marks or any other number of variations.
Keeping with the direct speech, draw students attention to the fact that both Barry and Brenda have one large piece of speech each. My advice would be to prerecord both sections on your phone naturally and then to use this to raise their awareness of connected speech.
And this was stolen from Gillian Lazar. Using the same pieces of speech, we want to encourage students to put a bit of emotion into what they’re saying, to move away from the monotonous robot speech. Try following these steps:
- Get the students to say it to each other in pairs without any preparation.
- Ask them to think about which words would be stressed and try it again.
- Ask them to put down the sheet and do it again but adding in hand gestures.
- One more time, but standing up, with emotion.
- Finally, ask them to stand up, put down their sheets and try it from memory. Let them know that it doesn’t matter if they remember every word as long as they convey the message and capture the emotion.
Trust me, the difference between Step 1 and Step 5 is unbelievable. What you’re basically doing is drilling but by changing the instructions slightly each time, the students don’t get bored. Also, with each repetition they become less worried about the language and focus more on their delivery. It’s also loads of fun!
This story is only full of grammar (like any story). Let the students choose what they want to focus on: wishes / be + get used to / narrative tenses / direct – reported speech, and then just give them a few questions that will help them to uncover the grammar within.
For example, if they choose wishes, give them the following guided discovery activity and leave them to it:
- underline all of the strong desires in the text.
- Are they real/possible or imaginary/hypothetical?
- What time do they refer to: past, present or future?
- What is the form?
Check it as a class and then encourage them to make their own examples.
A) Life in the Countryside (Story + Exercises)