Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Unexpected endings

A technique I like to use in my classes to encourage students to use the oral language is to show short stories, commercials or even news that have an unexpected ending. I try to find segments that elicit students' predictions of the outcomes. This way students can present their hypotheses and can lead to interesting discussions. Some other times, I encourage them to invent an ending for the story that we are working with. Naturally, there is a need to scaffold the language prior to start with the oral language activities.

The first example that I would like to comment on is a commercial from Argentina. I am a great lover of commercials and particularly Argentinian commercials. Before watching this short clip, we can ask our students to reflect on some commercials and try to find some features of the language of publicity, the settings, the characters. Do we expect a crying person trying to convince us about buying something? We can watch the man crying and ask what they are trying to sell us. After some discussion we can continue with the part about the soccer and discuss about its role in many Spanish speaking countries. Finally, we can talk about the unexpected ending and find out if anyone thought about the product they are advertising.

Capicúa is a short film by Roger Villarroya that deals with a very serious topic, how fragile human beings are, especially at the beginning and at the end of our lives. Capicúa is a number that can be read the same left to right as right to left. For example, 2112 is a capicúa number and when children, I remember that we were on the search of these numbers because they were like lucky charms. And our life is capicúa, we are as helpless and we need as much care at the beginning as at the end of our lives. We can start asking our students what babies' needs are and then they can compare the list with what the old people also need. This is the trick the director uses for an unexpected ending and to make us reflect about our own fragility.

The third example shocked me so much that I still don't know what the main purpose of the director is. The first time I watched it, I thought it was real people talking about their real experiences. I thought that the main purpose of the short film was to show how vulnerable we are and how our life and our dreams hang from a thin string. But after watching the totally unexpected ending, some new theories came to my mind and I think this is what we can use to trigger discussions and opinions.

It is always challenging to engage students to use the language orally. Using short clips with open or unexpected ending can be a good tool to convince students to speak using the target language. We will need to scaffold the language, give them some warm-up tasks before watching the clips...the results can be very outstanding!