If you’re able to share Episode 4 of The Jim & Jen Show with your students, you can use the video only in the classroom and encourage the completion of the whole lesson as self-study. My colleague Jim Stroud and I aimed to teach students polite ways to ask for clarification and express doubt about another person’s idea or plan. We definitely employed humor in our latest episode, and while one may argue that an outlandish proposal diminishes the authenticity of such a conversation, another could argue that a silly idea makes a lesson memorable and enjoyable. With that latter argument in mind, I suggest the following activity for upper level students.
STEP 1 – Have students work in pairs. Assign each pair a possible (yet rather silly) solution to a problem. They must develop 2-3 arguments to support that solution. Suggestions:
- Problem: The school lacks funds to update the library (or school lab). Solution: Use school space after hours to create a casino. Invite the public. Allow gambling and use the profits to update the library.
- Problem: Some students have been leaving trash on the floors and tables in the classroms. Solution: Give each student a small trash bag to carry around all day. Each student must put his or her trash bag in a large garbage can when they exit the school.
- Problem: Many students and teachers look for affordable lunches on school days. Eating out every day can be expensive. Solution: Have a potluck lunch every day in one of the classrooms. Each person brings one food item, and all food is shared.
- Problem: The school could be more friendly to the environment. Some are concerned that there’s too much waste of energy and resources. Solution: Use candles in place of lights, hand fans in place of the a/c or electric fans, and limit the use of sinks in the bathroom to 15 seconds per person.
- Problem: Teachers complain that their feet hurt from standing all day while teaching. Solution: Students can get a discount off tuition if they provide foot massages to tired teachers.
STEP 2 – Put pairs together to create small groups of 4 or 6. Each pair will take a turn explaining the problem and presenting their solution. Those listening can ask for clarification and should politely express their doubts about the proposed solution being the best one. On the board, note expressions used in Episode 4 to clarify and express doubt. The presenters should make an effort to respond to any voiced doubts by stating one of their prepared arguments.