Saturday, July 31, 2010

Creation: Culture Shock

Talking about culture shock is recurrent in the English classroom. This post is about it.

A. Read the definition below about Culture shock.

Culture shock refers to the anxiety and feeling (of surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different and unknown culture such as one may encounter in a foreign country. It grows out of the difficulties in assimilating the new culture, causing difficulty in knowing what is appropriate and what is not. This is often combined with a dislike for or even disgust, moral or aesthetics, with certain aspects of the new or different culture.
Information taken from Wikipedia

I. Talk to a partner about the following questions:

1. Have you traveled to another country? Which country or place has the most different culture from yours? Explain it.

2. What is the longest time that you have lived outside of your country (city)? Talk about this experience.

3. Do you think you are open to new ideas and different cultures? Explain it.

4. Would you like to live in another country if you spoke the language? What if you didn't speak the language?

5. Have you ever had culture shock? Talk about it.

6. Suppose one of your American friends goes to your country and will stay there for a while, what kind of culture shock he/she will experience?

7. How different or varied is culture inside your own country? Explain it and give examples.

B. Now read the definition of Reverse Culture shock, taken from Wikipedia, and discuss the questions that follow:

Reverse Culture Shock — returning to one's home culture after growing accustomed to a new one can produce the same effects as described above. This results from the psychosomatic and psychological consequences of the readjustment process to the primary culture. The affected person often finds this more surprising and difficult to deal with than the original culture shock.

1. What's the difference between culture shock and reverse culture shock?

2. Do you think they are facts or myths? Why?

C. Now watch the video segment from the movie Creation and answer the questions that follow. The scene is about Charles Darwin's experiment with a tribe of Indians:

1. Describe the experiment.

2. Did it work out? Justify your answer.

3. What conclusions can you reach from this experiment?

4. Did the children have culture shock? Explain it.

5. What about reverse culture shock? Justify your answer.

6. What could be done for this experiment to work out?

7. Read the symptoms of (Reverse) Culture Shock and check the ones you believe the children had when they were in England.

( ) Sadness, loneliness, depression

( ) Anger, increased irritability

( ) Loss of identity, sense of self

( ) Lack of confidence

( ) Feelings of insecurity, like excessive fear of being injured.

( ) Terrible longing to be back home

( ) Confusion, unable to solve simple problems

7. What about after the children returned home? Check the reverse culture shock symptoms, if any, that they had back in their original tribe.

D. Work in groups and prepare a list of the most important cultural features of your country that a foreigner will have to adapt to in order not to have culture shock.
Write at least 5 different points

1. ....................................................................

2 ...................................................................

3 ....................................................................

4 ....................................................................

5 ....................................................................


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Monsters Vs Aliens, My Big Fat Greek Wedding & Junior: Gender Roles

You can't miss any of these movies. They're all great. Talking about gender roles is always a recurrent conversation topic in the classroom, so here is what I use with my students.

A. Read the statements about some physiological differences between males and females below and decide if they are more suitable to man (M) or women (W).

1. ( ) They generally live longer.

2. ( ) They have lower basic metabolism.

3. ( ) Their teeth last longer

4. ( ) they have larger stomachs, kidneys and livers.

5. ( ) They have larger lungs.

6. ( ) Their thyroids are larger and more active.

7. ( ) Their blood contains 20% more water.

8. ( ) They are 50% stronger

9. ( ) Their heart beats more rapidly (80 beats a minute against 72 of the other sex).

10. ( ) They tolerate higher temperatures whereas the other sex tolerates lower temperatures.


1.W 2. W 3. M 4. W 5. M 6. W 7. M 8. M 9. W 10. W

B. Now read the statements below about the differences in gender between males and females. Write T if you think are true and F if they are false.

1. ( ) Teachers usually give more attention to boys.

2. ( ) They are more patients with girls.

3. ( ) Girls are usually more praised for their neatness of work than accuracy.

4. ( ) Girls excel until they are teens, but they have a drastic drop of self-esteem when they are 14 or 15.

5. ( ) Men's greatest stress is the work role.

6. ( ) Women's greatest stress is the family role.

7. ( ) Men are more emotionally expressive.

8. ( ) Women have more difficulty expressing feelings.

9. ( ) Men have a more unsatisfactory relationship with children.

10. ( ) Women are less happy with marriage.


1T, 2F, 3T, 4T, 5T, 6T, 7F, 8F, 9T, 10T

C. Check the items you think apply to the following questions. Justify your choices.


- Genitals?

- Chromosomes?

- A sense of being a man or a woman?


(a) Childbearing

(b) Wearing trousers

(c) Preparing meals

(d) Going out to work

(e) Cleaning the toilet

(f) Car maintenance

(g) Fighting

(h) Getting drunk with mates

D. Read the idea below and decide if you agree or disagree with it. Give examples to support your point of view.

All societies have different roles for each sex. By following a role, people are able to advertise what sex they are to others – in the absence of being able to show their genitals or secondary sex characteristics. The conclusion is that although we seem to need to have gendered roles for people and rely on some of them to have a sense of being a proper member of one of two sexes, they are mostly arbitrary –created according to how society needs to divide responsibilities between people.

E. Discuss these questions in small groups and justify your answers.

1. How would you feel about being consistently identified and treated as the opposite sex?

2. What happens to people who don’t conform to the appropriate roles? In what ways might the rules be
broken? Are some transgressions viewed as more serious than others? (e.g. Men cross-dressing vs women wearing clothes made for men

3. Why are people more upset by some transgressions than by others?

4. Why do many people hide their real likes and dislikes? For example, in Brazil, many men don't admit they like following soap operas. Why do they do it? Think of other examples.

F. Watch the segment from the animated movie Monsters Vs Aliens and answer the questions:

1. Describe the scene.

2. How do the male and female character behave in the situation of the segment?

3. How do they conform to the gender roles defined by your culture? Do they behave the way they are expected?

G. Now watch the segment from the move My Big Fat Greek Wedding and answer the questions.

1. Describe the scene.

2. What are the male and female roles in Greece, according to the segment?

3. How similar are these roles compared to your own culture?

4. What do you think of the gender roles of that society?

5. What would you like to see changed in the gender roles of your society? Explain it.

H. Finally, watch the segment from the movie Junior and discuss the following questions.

1. What unusual gender role did you identify in Schwarzenegger's character's behavior?

2. Make a list of some female's role that he seems to have.

3. Make a list of some male's role that his character seems to have.

4. How different would male and female roles be if man could actually have babies? Would there be any difference? Explain it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Secret Lives of Bees, All About Steve & Sunshine Cleaning: Odd Occupations

These movies are great, especially The Secret Life of Bees. Sunshine Cleaning is unusual, but clever. All About Steve could be better, but it has great moments. I used these scenes to discuss strange or odd occupations. My students loved it.

I. Match the strange occupations below with what they do.

1. Breath odor evaluator

2. Diener

3. Ocularist

4. Beer tester

5. Dog sniffer

6. Safe cracker

7. Foley artist

( ) What they do: Odor judges smell nasty morning breath or breath “insulted” with strong scents, like garlic or coffee. They rate the breath on a scale from one to nine, one being the worst. To test odor-reducing products like gum or mouthwash, they smell the breath again and assign it a new rating.

( ) What they do: Prepare cadavers for the pathologist before autopsies are performed in hospitals.

( ) What they do: In short, they paint artificial eyes. It sounds easier than it is, since as with real eyes, no two are exactly the same.

( ) What they do: Taste – and spit out – beer all day to approve new and existing flavors.

( ) What they do: Once a week, they analyze the odor of dogs' breath to test the effect of the animals' diet on their teeth. Breath is graded on a scale of zero to 10 and is categorized as sweaty, salty, musty, fungal or decaying.

( ) What they do: When combinations are lost or forgotten, they use their ears and fingers to open the safe.

( ) What they do: Use whatever they can find to create and record the noises used to make the sound effects in films, like heavy footsteps, rolling thunder or creaking doors.

Answer key: They are in the correct order from 1 to 7

B. Talk about the following questions.

1. Which of the occupations above do you consider the oddest? Why?

2. Which one is the lost interesting?

3. Which one is the least interesting?

4. Rank the from the most to the least interesting occupations.

5. Talk about other odd occupations you know.

C. Watch the first segment from the movie Sunshine Cleaning and answer the questions.

1. What does she do for a living?

2. Describe what she has to do?

3. What's your opinion about this job?

4. What special equipment or clothes does she need for her profession?

5. What kind of personality and qualities does someone who does it for a living need must have?

D. Watch the segment from the movie The Secret Life of Bees and answer the same questions in exercise C.

E. Finally watch the segment from the movie All About Steve and answer the questions in Exercise C.

F. Wrap - Up - small groups

1. Which of the occupations from the segments is (justify your answers):

- the most interesting

- the most exciting

- the most dangerous

- the most boring

- the most stressing

- the most necessary




Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yes Man & Love Happens: Self-Help Workshops

This is one of Jim Carrey's best movies. I like the message and this scene is really funny. Talking about self-help workshops is a common topic in ELT and these scenes illustrate it.

A. Work with a partner:

1. What is a workshop?

2. What is a self-help workshop?

3. Have you ever attended a self-help workshop? Talk about it.

4. What did you learn there?

5. What's your opinion about this kind of workshop?

B. Match the title of the workshop with the descriptions:

1. Get Organized Now

2. Say Good-bye to Procrastination

3. Make it Happen

4. Test Like a Champion

5. Boost Your Self-Esteem

6. Bite Your Tongue

7. Sedentary No More

8. End to Insomnia

( ) Identify the problems of your sleep problems and learn techniques for coping with them.

( ) Are you a couch potato? Get out of that chair and get active today.

( ) Learn how to get along with people and manage difficult relationships.

( ) Tips from the experts will help you overcome test-taking jitters and achieve success.

( ) Discover how to achieve success by taking small, realistic steps that will help you reach your goals.

( ) Discover how getting organized can help you increase your productivity many times over.

( ) Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Eliminate time wasters.

( ) If you lack self-confidence, learn a simple and effective technique you can perform daily to turn your life around.

Answer Key:
8, 7, 6, 4, 3, 1, 2, 5

C. Discuss these questions:

Which of these workshops seem to be the most interesting in the following situations. Justify it.

1. If you were the one to attend one of these workshops? Why?

2. Someone is applying for a new position, but isn't sure they are smart enough.

3. Because someone's desk is such a mess, they have sometimes difficulty finding important files and information.

4. Someone has trouble getting started on big projects.

D. Watch the movie segment from the movie Yes Man and answer the following questions:

1. Describe the scene.

2. What kind of workshop is it?

3. What is its main message?

4. Do you believe this message? Why (not)?

5. Is this workshop effective? Explain it.

6. What's your opinion about the presenter?

7. How can someone's life change if they follow the presenter's recommendation?

8. Would you like to attend that workshop? Why (not)?

9. What kind of people is this workshop aiming at? Explain it.

 E. Work in pairs. Watch the scene from the movie Love Happens and discuss the questions.

1. Describe the scene.

2. What kind of workshop is it?

3. What is its main message?

4. Do you believe this message? Why (not)?

5. Is this workshop effective? Explain it.

6. What's your opinion about the presenter?

7. How can someone's life change if they follow the presenter's recommendation?

8. Would you like to attend that workshop? Why (not)?

9. What kind of people is this workshop aiming at? Explain it.



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Big Fish, I Know Who Killed Me & Jack and Jill: Twins

A. Talk to a partner about the following questions.

1. Would you like to have a twin brother/sister? Why (not)?

2. Would you like to have twin children? Why (not)?

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having twin children?

4. What are the advantages of having a twin brother/sister?

5. Do you think the relationship between twin brothers are different from the ones who are not twins? Explain it.

6. Do you think it is true that some twins feel what his twin brother is feeling? Explain your belief.

7. Do you think that identical twins have the same likes and dislikes, including the sexual orientation? Why?

B. Watch the first segment from the movie Big Fish. Then discuss the questions that follow:

1. Describe the scene.

2. Do you think it is possible for conjoined twins to live a life like the twins in the segment? Why (not)?

3. Make a list of the 10 most difficult things these twins must face in their everyday life. Then share it with the class.

C. Read the statements below about conjoined (Siamese) twins and write T or F (True or False). Discuss it with a partner first and come up with only one answer for the pair.

1. ( ) Conjoined/Siamese twins are identical twins whose bodies are joined in utero.

2. ( ) It is a rare phenomenon, the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 50,000 births to 1 in 200,000 births.

3. ( ) The birth rates are somewhat higher incidence in Southwest Asia and Africa.

4. ( ) Approximately half are stillborn.

5. ( ) 70 % of pairs born alive have abnormalities incompatible with life.

6. ( ) The overall survival rate for conjoined twins is approximately 25%.

7. ( ) The is more frequently found among females, with a ratio of 3:1.

Answer Key: All are true.

D. Watch the second segment from the movie "I Know Who Killed Me". The discuss the following questions with a partner.

1. What are stigmata twins?

2. Do you believe they actually exist? Why (not)?

3. Retell the story told in the segment about the twins, using your own words.

4. Do you think that story might be true? Why (not)?

Watch the segment from the movie Jack and Jill and answer the questions:

1. How similar and different are these groups of twins?

2. What are the reasons why they like/dislike being twins.

3. What can you say about the twins' personal interests? Are they the same?

4. How do you compare Jack and Jill?