Friday, January 28, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes: Domestic Violence

This classic is unforgettable and it talks about so many polemic issues that I have used several scenes from this amazing story. This one shows how domestic violence has not changed throughout the years.

A. Read the statements below about Domestic Violence. This kind of crime is often hidden from the police for several reason.In pairs, decide if these facts about DV contribute or inhibit victims to file a suit against the oppressor.

1. The victim usually feels a shame difficult to overcome.

2. Both women and men can be abusers, but typically the violence that is reported has the man as the abuser and the woman as the victim.

3. Many people still consider it to be a private matter and don't want legal approaches.

4. Some people still believe that the victim deserves it (because she did, said, wore something that made her deserve it).

5. Some people still believe that she wants to be abused because she often stays and doesn't leave. She continues to be abused.

6. Some people think drugs/alcohol make people abusive. Fact is, substances doesn't make a person abusive, but it allows a person to lose their restraint.

B. Take turns asking the following questions.

1. What are the forms of domestic violence that you know?

2. Do you believe that domestic violence is more common among lower, less educated classes? Why (not)?

1. What would you do if there were domestic violence in a house next to yours? Would you change your mind if you new those people?

2. Do you think that most people who commit DV grew up in an environment with similar context?

1. What are the main causes of DV?

2. Why do you think victims of DV frequently stay in the relationship for so long?

1. Why do many countries consider DV an internal affair, a private matter? Do you agree with this policy?

2. Do you think some women actually like violent husbands?

C. Watch the movie segment from the film Fried Green Tomatoes that shows a young housewife who suffers DV.

1. Describe the scene.

2. Why do you think she stayed with him for such a long time?

3. What should happen to the man?

4. What should happen to the woman?

5. This scene takes place in the 60's. Do you think this scenario is more or less common nowadays?


Friday, January 21, 2011

Angels and Demons & Eurotrip: Pope

I used these scenes when the new Pope replaced John Paul II, but it is an interesting topic to discuss, especially in Brazil, a country where the majority of people are Catholic. Religion should not be discussed in a language class, but this post is not about religion, but the traditions involving the Pope. Make sure your audience approves of it.

A. Talk to a partner. Tell each other what you know about the requirements for one to become a Pope and the procedures for replacing one.

B. Decide if the following statements are T (true) or F (False)

1. ( ) There are no formal requirements other than the candidate be a Catholic male.

2. ( ) There are no formal age requirements for being elected Pope.

3. ( ) Usually, Cardinals replace the former Pope.

4. ( ) Cardinals 80 and over cannot vote for Pope, and no one over 79 has ever been elected Pope.

5. ( ) The person who would be Pope must speak at least 3 languages: Latin, Italian, English. Spanish, French, Portuguese, and German are especially good for a potential Pope to know.

6. ( ) A half plus one majority must select the new pope. If this majority cannot be reached, voting must occur for several days with two votes taking place in the morning and in the evening.

7. ( ) When the old pope passes away, his chamberlain, called the camerlengo, pronounces the pope’s death.

8. ( ) Autopsy is always performed.

9. ( ) Nine official days of mourning occur at the death of the old pope.

10. ( ) There are the preferiti, who are discussed as possible candidates to lead the church.

11. ( ) Official voting for the new pope is done in a process called conclave, from the Latin cum clavis. This means “with key,” and essentially means that the voting is secret.

12. ( ) Cardinals are locked into the Sistine Chapel.

13. ( ) After the voting, the ballots are burned. Its burning causes white smoke to float above the Vatican, signifying the world has a new pope. If the vote is unsuccessful, water or a chemical is added to the burning ballots to cause gray smoke to appear. This signifies a vote without an election.

Answer key: False: 6 (two-thirds) and 8 (no autopsy - it is considered desecration)

B. Watch the movie segment from the movie Angels and Demons. Then discuss the questions that follow in pairs.

1. Describe the scene.

2. Which steps or procedures identified in exercise A could you identify in the segment?

3. What was different from the procedures in exercise A.

4. What's your opinion about the ritual for substituting the Pope?

C. Now watch the funny scene from the movie Eurotrip. Then discuss the questions that follow.

1. Describe the scene.

2. Which steps or procedures identified in exercise A could you identify in the segment?

3. What was different from the procedures in exercise A.

4. What were the reasons that led everyone to the misunderstanding in the segment?



Friday, January 14, 2011

House of Fog and Sand & The Visitor: Illegal Immigration

Talking about immigration is a great source for class discussion. These great movies are perfect to foster genuine communication about the topic.

Read the definitions of legal and illegal immigration collected from the amazing site, a fantastic site for conversation classes, due to its impartial stand on controversial topics, which is great for class discussion. The whole activity was based on the information provided by the site.

"Illegal immigration (also referred to unauthorized or undocumented immigrants) refers to the migration of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destined country."

"Legal immigration Immigrants are persons admitted as legal permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States. The conditions for the admission of immigrants are much more stringent than non immigrants, and many fewer immigrants than non immigrants are admitted. Once admitted, however, immigrants are subject to few restrictions; for example, they may accept and change employment, and may apply for U.S. citizenship through the naturalization process, generally after 5 years. "

B. Now discuss the following questions with a partner. Justify all your answers.

1. What's the difference between illegal and legal immigration? Should there be any difference between them?

2. Is illegal immigration an economic burden to America? What about other countries?

3. Why is America one the countries with greatest concerns about immigration if it is a country of immigrants
in essence?

4. Is there prejudice against illegal or legal immigrants where you live? Give examples and explain why it happens.

5. Should illegal aliens be allowed to buy or rent homes in the U.S. (or where you live)?

6. Immigration laws are very strict. Does it discourage legal immigration? Why (not)?

7. Should illegal aliens, who are parents of U.S. citizen minors, be deported? Does it happen where you live?

8. Should Cubans who are intercepted at sea while trying to reach the United States be sent back to Cuba? Why?

9. When parents are deported, their U.S. born children have two 'choices' -- leave America with their parents or stay in foster care to continue availing of educational opportunities here. Are they fair choices? How is it where you live?

10. Are illegal immigrants criminals? Should they be treated as such?

11. Should immigration laws be more strict with people from the Middle East because of Americans' fear of terrorism? What about with Mexicans, because of the borders that are too hard to control? Does it foster xenophobia?

12. Do you agree with the the signature of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorizes the construction of hundreds of miles of additional fencing along America's southern border, facilitating the job of the Border Patrol officers and restricting Mexicans illegal invasion?

C. Match the words with their definitions:

1. Deportation

2. Exclusion

3. Extradition

4. Exile

( ) the refusal by a governing authority to admit an alien.

( ) a civil enactment imposed on persons who are neither native-born nor naturalized citizens. Aliens who become public charges, commit crimes involving moral turpitude, or engage in subversive activities can be subjected to these proceedings.

( ) a prolonged absence from one's country, either voluntary or by direction of the sovereign.

( ) the removal of a criminal to the country from which he has fled to avoid criminal prosecution or prison.

Answer key: 2, 1, 4, 3

D. Watch the movie segment from the dramatic film House of Fog and Sand. Then discuss the questions that follow:

1. Describe the scene.

2. Where is the family from?

3. Why did they move to America?

4. What are the mother's fears?

5. What should happen to the couple?

6. And to the boy?

7. What's your opinion about the officer's behavior? Explain it.

E. Now watch the second segment. It is from the awarded movie The Visitor, which has a touching story.

1. Describe the scene.

2. Why was he arrested?

3. Where is he from?

4. What did he do wrong to get arrested? Was it a fair decision? Explain it.

5. Would the officer act differently if he were from an European country? What if he were Caucasian?

6. What should happen to him? And to his wife? And to his American friend, who is hosting him in his house?

7. How different/similar is the feeling of the immigrants in both segments?

8. How different/similar is the behavior of the officers in both segments?

9. Are the segments biased against Americans? Why (not)?



Friday, January 7, 2011

Million Dollar Baby & You Don't Know Jack: Euthanasia, Physician-Assisted Suicide

This polemic, touchy issue is a great topic for discussion in the classroom, but it can be too overwhelming for some cultures and religions. Make sure your audience will enjoy talking about it.

A. Read the following definitions of euthanasia and then discuss the questions that follow. This activity was inspired by the excellent, thought-provoking and polemic site It is totally worth visiting, especially if you are planning controversial conversation classes. Check the link on the sidebar.

"The word euthanasia was coined from the Greek language in the seventeenth century by Francis Bacon to refer to an easy, painless, happy death. In modern times it has come to mean the active causation of a patient's death by a physician, usually through the injection of a lethal dose of medication." Kathleen Foley, MD and Herbert hendin, MD

"The term euthanasia ... originally meant only 'good death,' but in modern society it has come to mean a death free of any anxiety and pain, often brought about through the use of medication. Most recently, it has come to mean 'mercy killing' -- deliberately putting an end to someone's life in order to spare the individual's suffering." Michael Manning, MD

B. Work in pairs and discuss the following questions. Justify your answers.

1. Should euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be legal?

2. Would legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide save money for the health care system?

3. Are the economic pressures in the health care system too great to safely legalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide?

4. Is there a legal right to die?

5. Should the government be involved in patients' end-of-life decision-making?

6. Would legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide destroy patient trust in the medical profession?

7. Should euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide only be allowed for the terminally ill?

8. Is the debate over euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide primarily religious in nature?

9. Should euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide be legal?

C. Read about three kinds of euthanasia. In groups, decide what is the difference among them and if you believe any of them is should be legalized. Justify your answers.

Voluntary Active Euthanasia:

"Those instances of euthanasia in which a clearly competent person makes a voluntary and enduring request to be helped to die."

Passive Euthanasia:

"Passive euthanasia is an alternative name for withdrawal of treatment - the doctor withholds life-sustaining treatment. Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don't do something necessary to keep the patient alive, or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive. The doctor may switch off life-support machines, disconnect a feeding tube, not carry out a life-extending operation don't give life-extending drugs"
BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation Non-voluntary euthanasia

Non-Voluntary Euthanasia:

"The person cannot make a decision or cannot make their wishes known. This includes cases where the person is in a coma, the person is too young (e.g. a very young baby), the person is senile, the person is mentally retarded to a very severe extent, the person is severely brain damaged, the person is mentally disturbed in such a way that they should be protected from themselves"
BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

D. Work in small groups and decide if the majority of the group agrees or disagrees with the following statements.

1. If voluntary euthanasia were to become legal, it would not be long before involuntary euthanasia would start to happen. In general form it says that if we allow something relatively harmless today, we may start a trend that results in something currently unthinkable becoming accepted.

2. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide endanger people with disabilities, poor patients, elderly patients, minority patients, female patients, and infant patients.

3. Euthanasia is the best manner to stop terminally ill patients' suffering.

4. No one knows the suffering of a very ill patients, except themselves. This is the main reason for euthanasia to be practiced.

5. Euthanasia and suicide are very close to each other in essence.

E. Watch the movie segment from the brilliant movie Million Dollar Baby. It is about an extremely successful boxer, who achieved fame and fortune in her career, but becomes very ill and handicapped because of a fight. Then discuss the questions that follow.

1. Describe the scene.

2. Why does she want to die?

3. Are her reasons for willing to die reasonable? Explain it.

4. What kind of euthanasia is it? Voluntary active, passive, or non-voluntary? Justify it.

5. Do you think her coach and only friend did the right thing? Why (not)?

6. Should he be considered a murderer and suffer the consequences of the law? If so, what should his penalty be?

7. Was it suicide, murder or neither/both?

F. Now watch the segment from the movie You Don't Know Jack. It is about Dr. Jack Kevokean, also known as Dr. Death. He has been the most famous physician who conducted assisted suicide for patients who were willing to die under his assistance. He assisted more than 100 suicides and eventually ended up in prison for over 9 years, a very polemic decision. Then discuss the questions:

  1. Describe with your own words the process of assisted suicide.

  2. How does the patient feel? What about Dr. Kevorkean? And the other doctors?

  3. What's your opinion of his procedures?

  4. What are the population's feelings towards Dr. Kevokean?

  5. Should he go to jail? Why (not)?

  6. Is he actually helping or harming people?