A PLN question

I know most people are busy with the end of term but following yesterday’s BESIG webinar with the creators of 52 and The Round (you know who they are) I decided to try something I’ve wanted to do since hearing about 52. What is it you may ask?

Well, Lindsay has often mentioned PARSNIP and other teachers keen on pushing real and meaty subjects in the EFL class are also enthusiastic about challenging students with topics not found in books. Just look at Designer Lessons and English for Critical Thinkers. So, as I like to push things as far as possible to see when they break, I’d like to put up some teaching ideas of how lessons on some of these topics could be approached. Some of this, as 52 says, will NOT be for most teachers or even classes but I think it would be interesting to think about what is and isn’t acceptable nowadays, after all, our students are sheltered and live in a nunnery. They probably know a heck of a lot more about the world than we do. So, my idea is to choose a PARSNIPPY topic and put up teaching ideas and then you can vote/comment on whether you’d be comfortable teaching it or not.

What do you think oh wise and wonderful PLNsters??


14 thoughts on “A PLN question

  1. Hi Phil, I think that’s a great idea, I’d love to see the topics.

    I don’t think we should really be afraid to talk about real life in our classrooms, and that may include sensitive topic matter. Then again, I don’t think we should only focus on tough and/or difficult topics either – I think the students do need a little light relief now and again too.

    I tend to think that PARSNIPpy stuff only really applies to text books and bigger publishing entities, and not to teachers at large. As I see it, you can pretty much cover any ground that would acceptable in everyday conversation with the people you’re teaching, and that’s usually fairly broad. If the conversation would make you blush, you probably shouldn’t be teaching the class – that’s my rule of thumb anyway. If the teacher really *is* teaching a group of nuns, he or she probably won’t broach the subject of a Berlusconi sex scandal, unless they’re really naughty nuns, of course.

    Text books have got to cover their backs and avoid potentially controversial subjects because they don’t know who’s in the classroom; I wouldn’t like to broach something too risky in my first class with a group of students either. Textbooks also tend to assume the teacher is inexperienced and so perhaps less able to deal with more – which I think is fair enough as that’s probably often quite true.

    Would you consider surveying students and seeing if there’s anything that would make them uncomfortable looking at in class?

    • I was just thinking that actually but I’m not sure if I have the right students to ask.

      I love your ‘really naughty nuns’. I taught some nuns in training and they were a tad naughty as they had smuggled in a huge vat of Nutella and used to spend all night spooning it out. 10 hail maries!

  2. I feel another parody blog is about to appear off the back of this! Meantime, bring it on. Stuff that got to the heart of issues would be good. The power of a meaty, controversial topic is reduced somewhat if it’s just a vehicle for a language point and no more. Or, on the other hand, just something to sell a book.

  3. Hi Phil,

    If the learners are happy to talk about it, then I’ll talk about it. In my experience learners react well to honesty and thoughtful opinion. But George is right – a degree of sensitivity is sometimes needed. Why don’t you come up with a mini questionnaire for the class? Or better yet, do a lesson with them on what are suitable topics for schools to deal with, both in a more general sense but also with reference to your teaching context? Get them to tell you what they’re happy to discuss?

    I have a speaking lesson based on learner beliefs (http://teflgeek.net/2011/02/07/reason-to-believe/) – the stuff learners tend to not want to discuss tends to be more practical, personal stuff (e.g. I believe I’m going to pass FCE) rather than things like God / social ills etc.

    And here’s a link to the fabled “satanic units” from English Droid: https://sites.google.com/site/englishdroid2/the-satanic-units – more for amusement than practical value!

    Let us know how it goes,

  4. Do it! for the love of the Big Guy in the Sky, do it. Can´t wait o hear you topics and I´ll be returning soon with some new material myself. Hope all´s good Phil.

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