Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our Family Wedding: Interracial Marriages

This is a really funny movie with lots of cultural capsules to explore. I used this one to talk about interracial marriages.

I. Work with a partner. Take turns asking each other the following questions:

1. How common are interracial marriages where you live?

2. Do you have anyone in your own family who married someone from another race? Talk about it.

3. Is there prejudice against this kind of marriage where you live?

4. What are the most common kinds of interracial marriages in your country?

5. Why do you think there is so much prejudice in families when a couple from different origins decide to get married?

 6. What are some of the adversities couples may face when they choose to marry someone from a different race? Discuss how these issues may interfere in an interracial marriage. Think about concrete examples:

VALUES (good or bad, right or wrong, true or false, important or unimportant. )

EATING HABITS (Food and drink does not only consists of what is going to be consumed, it also takes into account how the meal is prepared, what time the meal is served, where the meal is eaten, and how it is eaten. )

SEX (contraception, menstruation, masturbation, number and importance of children, virginity and chastity, family honor, machismo and femininity, hygiene, premarital relations, marital fidelity, sexual practices, homosexuality, incest, dating, dancing, romance, holding hands, using cosmetics, and the way an individual dresses)

GENDER ROLES (each individual holds different beliefs about how the other person should behave)

FRIENDS (difficulties in finding friends can arise because our society is not completely tolerant of interracial marriages, our society would rather keep each race to them selves. Same race marriages may become uncomfortable having friends of multiracial marriages because they do not have the same type of background and they are not living through the same experiences, they have a difficult time understanding each other)

IN-LAWS (Disapproving in-laws are an issue in the majority of interracial marriages. The problem with in-laws is that depending on their race; they hold different views regarding what rights they have over their children, even after their children marry.)

RAISING CHILDREN (The models of upbringing children vary from race to race, and deciding which method to use will become a problem for many multiracial couples. )

II. Watch the movie segment from the movie Our Family Wedding and discuss the questions:

1. Describe the scene.

2. What are the couple's different races?

3. What were the couple's expectation for the relationship between each other's families?

4. How did the family react during the meeting?

5. Would this situation take place if the couple lived where you live? Explain it?

6. What's your opinion about their behavior?


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Date Night, Bangkok Dangerous Superstitions

Talking about superstitions is fun and generates lots of discussions in the classroom. I used these scenes to illustrate the topic.

I. Work in small groups. Come up with a list of common superstitions people have where you live

II. Share them with the rest of the class.

III. Read the superstitions below, which are popular in different countries. In pairs decide if you have ever heard of them, if you believe them and if you have similar one where you live. This is taken from the curious site Paul Sparks, Online Business English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Grade 1 English Conversation Lessons at Xiangtan Normal University...

1. YAWN - A yawn is a sign that danger is near. Cover your mouth when you yawn, or your soul can go out of your body along with the yawn.

2. BEE - If a bee enters your home, it's a sign that you will soon have a visitor. If you kill the bee, you will have bad luck, or the visitor will be unpleasant. A swarm of bees settling on a roof is an omen that the house will burn down.

3. BIRD - A bird in the house is a sign of a death. If a robin flies into a room through a window, death will shortly follow.

4. BRIDGE - If you say good-bye to a friend on a bridge, you will never see each other again.

5. BUTTERFLY - If the first butterfly you see in the year is white, you will have good luck all year. Three butterflies together mean good luck.

6. CAT - If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it. Keep cats away from babies because they "suck the breath" of the child.

7. ELEPHANT - Pictures of an elephant bring luck, but only if they face a door.

8. FOOT - If the bottom of your right foot itches, you are going to take a trip.

9. HAND - If the palm of your right hand itches it means you will soon be getting money. If the palm of your left hand itches it means you will soon be paying out money.

10. MILK - It's bad luck to let milk boil over.

11. PEPPER - If you spill pepper you will have a serious argument with your best friend.

12. UMBRELLA - Dropping an umbrella on the floor means that there will be a murder in the house. It's bad luck to open an umbrella inside the house, especially if you put it over your head.

IV. Watch the segment of the film DATE NIGHT and answer the questions that follow.

1. Describe the scene.

2. What exactly is the superstition shown in the movie segment.

3. Have you ever heard of this superstition?

4. Is there a similar superstition where you live?

5. What do you think will happen next?

V. Watch the segments from the movie BANGKOK DANGEROUS and discuss the questions that follow.

1. Describe the scene.

2. What exactly is the superstition shown in the movie segment.

3. Have you ever heard of this superstition?

4. Is there a similar superstition where you live?

5. What do you think will happen next?



Saturday, July 16, 2011

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World & Wanderlust: Vegans

This movie is awesome. Its innovative language makes it unusual and gripping. I simply loved it. I used this fantastic scene to talk about vegetarianism and veganism in the classroom. Don't miss Scott Pilgrim. A new language in movie making. Wanderlust is an attractive comedy for a Sunday afternoon. I recommend both.

Veganism is the practice of eliminating the use by human beings of non-human animal products. Ethical vegans reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose, while dietary vegans or strict vegetarians eliminate them from the diet only. (Wikipedia)

Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry, but might eat dairy products such as cheese, eggs, yogurt or milk. Vegetarians are not as predictable in their beliefs, as there are many reasons to become vegetarian that don’t necessarily include altruism as a primary motive. For example, you may become a vegetarian because of health problems. (Wisegeek)


I. Take turns asking each other the questions below:

- Do you know any vegetarians? How different are their eating habits from yours?

- Do you think restaurants should offer one or two vegetarian dishes on their menu?

- Could you try vegetarianism for a month, for a week or for a full day?

- If someone eats cheese and drinks milk, are they vegetarian?

- If someone wears leather shoes or a fur coat, can they call themselves "vegetarian"?

- What is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian?

- What is the most logical reason for becoming a vegetarian?

- What meal would you miss the most if you became vegetarian?

- What would be more difficult to eat, a strange new vegetable, or an exotic piece of meat?

- Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian?

- What is a better reason for becoming a vegetarian; health reasons or animal rights?

- Do you think there is prejudice or discrimination against vegans? Explain it.

I. Read the arguments pro vegetarianism in green and decide if they are true and if/why you (dis) agree with them. Then read the arguments against the idea that people should go vegetarian in red. Then decide if they are true and if/why you (dis) agree with them. Material taken from one of my favorite sites for conversation classes,

1.Humans evolved to be primarily vegetarian. Humans do not have the large mouth or long, pointed teeth of carnivores. Human teeth are short and flat for chewing fibrous food.

2.It is cruel and unethical to kill animals for food. Animals are sentient beings that have social structures and emotions.

3.A vegetarian diet reduces the chances of developing kidney and gallstones. Diets high in animal protein cause the body to excrete calcium, oxalate, and uric acid - the main components of kidney and gallstones.

4.A peer-reviewed 2004 study from Harvard researchers found that eating meat increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

5.Vegetarians live longer. A peer-reviewed 2003 study found that adherence to vegetarian diets or diets very low in meat for 20 years or more can increase life expectancy by 3.6 years

6.A vegetarian diet can help alleviate world hunger. Over 10 pounds of plant protein are used to produce one pound of beef protein. [24] If these grains were fed to humans instead of animals, more food would be available for the 925 million people in chronic hunger worldwide

7.A vegetarian diet conserves water. It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and about 660 gallons to make a pound of chicken. It only takes about 220 gallons to make a pound of tofu and 180 to make a pound of wheat flour.

8.Many food animals in the US are not slaughtered humanely.

9.Consuming fish can be unhealthful. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, "nearly all fish and shellfish" are contaminated by methyl mercury (a potent neurotoxin) from industrial pollution.

1.Eating meat is not cruel or unethical. Every organism on earth dies, at some point, so others can live. There is nothing wrong with this cycle; it is how nature works.

 2.Humans have been eating meat for 2.3 million years and it has been an essential part of our evolution.

3.Meat is the most convenient protein source since it provides all 10 essential proteins (amino acids), as well as essential nutrients such as iron, zinc, and the B vitamins, in one serving. Most plant foods do not provide adequate levels of all 10 essential proteins.

4.A meat-centered diet can help with weight loss. It takes fewer calories to get protein from lean meat than it does from vegetarian options.

5.Vegetarian diets are not necessarily better for the environment. About 90% of US cropland, for example, suffers from top soil loss at 13 times the sustainable rate.

6.Becoming vegetarian will not help alleviate world hunger. The 925 million people in chronic hunger worldwide are not hungry because people in wealthy countries eat too much meat. The problem is one of economics and distribution.

7.Eating fish, especially fatty fish like tuna and salmon, provides the body with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which are important for brain function.

8.Modern slaughter techniques minimize the suffering of animals. US slaughterhouses must conform to the Humane Slaughter Act (HMSA) which mandates that livestock be stunned unconscious before slaughter.

9.There is nothing inherently cruel about raising animals for food.

10.The right to eat what we want, including meat, is a fundamental liberty that we must defend. Animal-rights and health groups are attempting to control personal behavior Material taken from one of my favorite sites for conversation classes,

II. What is your conclusion, after having read all these arguments? 

III. Watch the segment from the movie Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and discuss the questions. 

1. Describe the scene.

2. According to the segment, how do vegans see themselves?

3. Are vegans actually better people because of their altruistic values? Explain it.

4. Do vegans actually keep an eye on each other's eating habits? Is it a good way to control each other?

5. Should vegans be so strict to their habits and not allow any moments of animal consumption?

6. Human beings have been carnivorous since prehistoric periods. Isn't being a vegan against the human nature?

IV. Watch the scene from the movie Wanderlust and discuss the questions:

1. Describe the scene.

2. Why does she feel guilty when busted by her vegan friend?

3. Do you think that people who are on a diet control other people's eating habits? What's your opinion about it?

4. What should the main characters do? Quit vegetarianism or have occasional moments of guilty pleasure by eating whatever they please?



Saturday, July 9, 2011

Exit through the Gift Shop: Graffiti, Street Art

This is a polemic documentary with different viewpoints about graffiti. I used the initial scene to brainstorm the topic.  

Graffiti (singular: graffito; the plural is used as a mass noun) is the name for images or lettering scratched, scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property. Graffiti is any type of public markings that may appear in the forms of simple written words to elaborate wall paintings.


I. Work in pairs and discuss these questions:

1. What do you know about graffiti, street art? Do you like it?

2. Is it popular in your city?

3. Do you consider it art or vandalism?

4. What should happen to someone caught doing it?

5. How would you react if your walls were painted with graffiti without your consent?

II. Read the statements below and decide which ones you agree with and justify your answers.

1. This is kind of art, this could enhance the creativity of street painters.

2. They make a dirty environment with paintings that are not useful.

3. This is identical with crime, they should put in the jail.

4. It is definitely art and it should be celebrated.

5. It is definitely vandalism and creators should be sent to jail.

6. It is art, but there should be specific places to create it.

7. It is art, but I don't want it on my wall, thank you.

8. Some of it is art, but most of it is trash.

9. It reflects the culture of youngsters in the society.

10. I don't look at them on the walls, I just ignore them.

11. If it's art, why not put them on canvas and frame them?

III. Watch the segment below and discuss the questions.

1. What were some of the places artists created art with graffiti?

2. What do you consider art and what do you consider vandalism?

3. Should anyone be punished?

4. What were some of the risks these artists faced?

5. Should all the artists receive the same treatment by the police? Explain it.


The next worksheet was developed by my reader Alexandra Duarte, a reader from Portugal. She prepared these creative slides to lead in the topic. Thanks, Alexandra, for sharing and developing such great activities.

SLIDES - Alexandra Duarte.

Alexandra Duarte has been an EFL teacher for about 20 years, most of them at MartinhoÁrias Secondary School in Soure / Portugal. For the last 3 years she has been involved in adult teaching.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Invention of Lying: Lies

This movie's great and original idea makes us believe how terrible life would be if everyone told the truth all the time. It's great to talk about lies in the classroom, so this scene is a great warm-up tool.

I. Take turns asking each other questions about the following questions.

- Why do people lie?

- When is it OK to tell a lie?

- What was the biggest lie you have ever told?

- Have you ever lied in a job interview or to your boss? Why/How did you do it?

- Who lies more? Men or Women?

- Who lies more? Children, teens or adults?

- Has anyone ever told you a lie that hurt you?

- Do you think white lies are ok? Explain it.

- What would you do if someone spread out lies about you?

- Would you tell someone to their face if you realized they are lying to you? Justify it.

II. Read the statements below about lying and decide if you agree with them and why.

1. Lying is okay when the truth can be hurtful.

2. Lying helps avoid unnecessary conflicts.

3. Lying can avoid hurting others.

4. Lying is okay because the truth hurts.

5. Lying may lead to endless arguments.

6. Lies destroy trust and create distance.

7. It's difficult to contain a lie.

8. Lying, when well-told, can make your life better.

III. Watch the movie segment from the movie The Invention of Lying and discuss the questions.

1. Describe the scene.

2. How do you think life would be if everyone told the truth all the time?

3. What did the characters say that people do not usually do?

4. What would they say in a real life situation?

5. Would life be better or worse if everyone told the truth all the time?