I’ve been so busy planning these awesome lessons that I haven’t had time to update my blog *cough, cough*. Well, I guess that’s partly true…. but, I’ll try to make up for lost time by regaling you with stories about some of my lesson plans from the last few weeks.
In communication class, we had a unit in our textbook entitled “Size Discrimination” which led into a conversation about body image and how people are represented by the media. I brought in a bunch of American magazines (thanks Jess!) and asked the students to pretend that they were aliens. The aliens found these People magazines (left behind by irresponsible astronauts) and wanted to report back to their government about what humans look like. Each group had to make a composite “human” using pictures taken from the mags. Then they presented to the class (aka the alien government). I think the students enjoyed flipping through the magazine stories and looking at all of the pictures of Americans- Jon & Kate Plus 8, Kim Kardashian, Obama etc. (The Chinese government strictly controls foreign media here, and I haven’t ever seen an American “gossip” or “celebrity” magazine anywhere here.) The human collages were very entertaining. The discussion about size discrimination elicited some strong opinions from students on both sides, which fed a good debate. The follow up discussion about the influence of the media on our body image wasn’t as “deep” as I was hoping, but the students were speaking, and they were speaking in English, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste.
In American Society and Culture class, we opened up “Kim’s House,” a pretend restaurant (name chosen by the students) serving great American food. Students acted as hosts/hostesses, servers, and customers. Everyone was very polite, as we had just learned a slew of etiquette tips. (Put your napkin on your lap. Say “excuse me” if you burp or fart!) This was a fun lesson because restaurant service in China is extremely different from the US. When you enter a restaurant, the waiter/waitress hovers over you as you flip through the menu until you have placed your order. To get their attention later, you just scream “WAITRESS” and any random person will come when they can. They aren’t getting tips, they’re probably overworked/underpaid, and have little to no training. The concept of getting a glass of water to start out the meal (or a FREE refill later) was shocking to most students. They did a great job of being friendly, personable restaurant staff and customers in our American-style restaurant. (“Are you ready to order or do you need a few more minutes?” and “How is your food? Can I get you anything else?” “It’s great, thank you.”) I even upped the “reality” factor by making paper place settings that they had to assemble correctly. (Does the fork go on the right or the left?)
I had to laugh when I read the chapter about etiquette in my shoddily published American Society and Culture textbook (many of the articles reference Wikipedia as a source and contain seemingly random suggestions of books/movies, along with equally random pictures). I quote directly from said poorly written textbook,
“One excellent American custom is that after you have sat down your waiter or waitress will often bring you a glass of water (with ice naturally) and will keep on refilling it throughout the meal. (Most Americans are incapable of eating a meal without drinking something at the same time.)”
So, fellow Americans, what do you think?! haha