Teaching: 100 Year Old Smoker and other funny stories

Some of my lessons have gone really well. The students were engaged, laughing and using the language points that I was trying to teach. I noticed in those classes that I was relaxed and also having fun, therefore the hour-and-a-half long class period seemed to fly by.

Other lessons were not quite as successful. I dreaded going to teach, because I hadn’t planned the lesson thoroughly enough and wasn’t confident with what I was teaching. Sometimes I think I tried to teach something just for the sake of teaching, without really having any purpose. That left the students bored and left me scrambling to keep my composure in front of the class when I knew things weren’t going well.

For my oral classes, as a fun warm-up exercise, I broke the students into groups of four or five and showed them a picture of someone doing something funny. One person in each group had to pretend to be the person in the picture. The other group members had to ask questions to help the person compose a story about what they were doing. I gave them five minutes to ask and answer questions, and then asked several people to present their stories to the class. It was fun, fast-paced, and got the students speaking English! In my advanced oral class, I structured it a bit more by prefacing the activity with a listening task from the BBC English Language Learners site about sentence patterns used to tell funny stories. Below were some of the pictures I used and some memorable quotes…

“I am in an ad for a cigarette company. See, I am 100 years old and I have smoked for 80 years, and I am still healthy!” (Funny side note: Lots of my students thought this was a man! Lots of young Chinese men have perms… but I’m not sure about grandpas!)

“I just lost 100 pounds and so my friends decided to throw me a party. They gave me a hamburger bigger than my head!” (Funny side note: Most people started their story with, “I am from Africa…”)

“I would like to thank MTV, CCTV and all of my fans…I am very sexy and I just won an award for the best pop artist.” (Funny side note: Most of my students knew this was Lady Gaga, but they couldn’t tell that she was wearing meat. They just thought it was a weird dress!)

“I am two years old and I am a genius. I could read as soon as I was born. I noticed that adults liked to read in the WC so I wanted to try.” WC=water closet=bathroom. (Funny side note:  Several students asked me the word for the thing that the baby is sitting on. I found it strange that they didn’t know the word “toilet,” and then realized that their “toilets” are of the squat variety so they might not have recognized this one…!)
And lest you think that all of my classes are fun and games… in my writing classes right now we are working on cover letters! Yipee!

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