This is a lesson idea that I have been trialing with a couple of my classes and it went so well that I thought it was only fair to share it.
The lesson is based around an interactive computer game called ‘Spent’
The site was first brought to my attention by Graham Stanley (@grahamstanley), who talked about using the game at a small British Council conference, last year. Graham is one half of the team behind the site, digitalplay, so I knew it would be worth checking it out.
The game was designed to raise awareness of about poverty. The basic premise is that you have $1000 to see you through until the end of the month and you have to make a variety of different choices based on a range of different situations that crop up, along with finding a job, keeping a roof over your head and looking after your young child.
The game itself is very simple to play and you don’t need to be a gaming geek to play along. It’s just a matter of clicking on the option you want and reading what happens next. To help, some very kind people have developed a walk-through guide to teach you about the game, how to play it and what to expect.
The game deals with lots of issues from homelessness, workers unions, obesity and doing the weekly shop to name a few. This means there are ample opportunities to use authentic materials to expand on the areas that come up in the game. Obviously, you need to play the game and see what comes up frequently, depending on the option that is taken, but it is easy to plan ahead and prepare the materials before the lesson and bring them up when the time is right.
I think that the lesson would be suitable for upper intermediate and above and mature teens at FCE.
I introduced the topic by getting the students to think about what they would spend £1000 on in a month if they had no real responsibilities and no bills to pay. After feedback, I asked them how they would spend the money if they were a single parent with no job and nowhere to live. This worked well as a lead in and got the groups discussing from the very beginning.
One of the first options is to decide where to live. This is determined by distance to where you work, cost of housing depending on distance from the city and how much you spend on petrol to get to work. This in itself promotes lots of debate, but usually results in the students choosing to live quite a way out of the city and this then leads to some information about the rate of homelessness in the US. This lead me to ask the students about homelessness in Spain, if it has got worse, has the crisis made it worse and if they had known anyone affected by it. I then introduced this article, which i found in the NY times.
The article also had a slide show of photos to accompany it and I used these too. Below are some files, showing how I used the article and photos. They are designed to fit with parts of the Cambridge exam but can be easily adapted.
Another part of the game involves the students deciding how much to spend on the weekly shopping trip and the exact items to put in the trolley. This again gets the student talking and leads nicely into the next article, which I found on the Guardian website.
This was one of a dozen articles on the subject and this is what is so good about this lesson. You can pick and choose your authentic materials depending on level and age and there is bound to be something related to the issue you are searching for. Below is what I did with the article.
Another one of the scenarios that came up in the game was whether to buy a $5 salad or save money and get a burger from the dollar menu. This topic was actually touched upon when we talked about the shopping article above so it was another good place to introduce another text. This was an article about obesity in Spain, caused by the psychological effects of the crisis.
I think the above is just scratching the surface and that the lesson is full of possibilities for a variety of different activities and resources to be exploited. It provided a lot of speaking practice and opportunities for correction and highlighting of emergent language.
If you use the lesson or any of the ideas, I would love to hear how it goes.