Big think – Advanced level discussion idea

big think

Here is a quick lesson idea that I tried out earlier today and went down very well with my C1/C2 class of lawyers.

I try to listen to a variety of podcasts when I have the time and one that has provided me with food for thought recently has been the Big think/Think again podcast which you can find here. Alternatively, you can listen here;

Other ways to listen:

The premise is quite straightforward. In every episode a guest (professors, artists, actors, poets, writers and leaders in a wide range of fields) is interviewed and asked to react to several audio excerpts picked at random by the podcast producers. The topics are excellent for generating debates and pushing you to think a little bit more outside of the box.

Here is what I did with my class;

  1. I chose 4 or 5 different episodes which contained a question or statement I thought would get my student’s attention and ultimately produce an in-depth discussion.
  • Monogamy is ridiculous” Episode 2 Henry Rollins(Artist) – Monogamy/sexual opportunism (audio starts at 3m 28s) Warning: Contains explicit language
  • Is attention an endangered species?” Episode 12 George Takei (Actor+Activist) – Ego/Focus/Xenophobia (audio starts at 1m 40s)
  • Is stress good for you” Episode 8 Maria Konnikova (Author) Mindset/Creativity/Suburban B-Boyz (audio starts at 1m 17s)
  • Is it better to be happy or interesting?” Episode 15 Salman Rushdie (Novelist) – Happiness/Monsters (audio starts at 2m 43s)

2. In the classroom I presented the statement to the class and asked them to discuss whether or not they agreed or what they thought about the statement/question. We discussed it as an open group and immediately they were interested. At this point I realised that in another class it would be a good opportunity to practice turn-taking and language for agreeing/disagreeing.

3. Once everyone had spoken and the arguments and discussion died down, I played the audio of the person who proposed the statement/question and why they took this particular stance.

4. Once the audio had finished I asked the class to react to what they heard. Did it confirm what they had already said? Was it completely different to what they thought it would be? Did they agree/disagree with this persons argument? etc. Again, there was a lot more talking and discussion.

5. As an extension and further listening, you could also play the audio of the how the guest reacted to the audio and further talk about whether the students agree with the response or not.

This is a simple activity which produced a large amount of discussion and opportunities for slightly lower Advanced levels to practice there speaking and listening skills. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any audio scripts for the episodes but the audio doesn’t tend to last any longer than 2 – 3 minutes.

Enjoy the lesson and let me know how it goes.

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