Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Star Wars!

by AJ

Marco Polo has made a couple of comments comparing my situation to a Star Wars drama (not meant as a compliment :)

Which got me to thinking about yet another course idea. Why not a course built around Star Wars? Of course, youd need a student or students who were fans of Star Wars.... you wouldnt shove this sort of thing onto students who were not fans of the movies.

But given that, there is an amazing array of things you could do with this topic. To start with, there are, of course.. the movies. Six of them. Thats plenty of authentic material for the movie technique. You could work your way through them one by one.... using them to teach language... and also discussing the various themes, lessons, etc.

Star Wars also offers a wealth of not-too-difficult reading material. There are, of course, books for each movie. But beyond that, there is a mammoth collection of pulp spinoffs.... small paperbacks with stories and characters set in the Star Wars fantasy universe. These books range in level.... and would be perfect for low intermediate and above students.

For natural English conversations... we could use interviews and discussions with the cast and crew. There are a wealth of interviews, "making of" documentaries, etc... to draw from. To supplement this, the teacher could easily discuss the movies with friends, record the conversations, and transcribe them.

Students could engage in international projects and collaborations with the legion of Star Wars fans around the globe. They could find and share links to various fan sites... print out related articles and posts.... and start their own individual or team fan blog (the teacher could do focused rewrites of the posts to help them improve writing).

In addition to in-class discussions, students could discuss aspects of the Star Wars phenomenon with fans around the world... using Skype conferences. They could conduct their own interviews, record them, and podcast them.

If timing and location were right, a field trip to a Star Wars convention would be a fantastic "midterm" or "final"... preferably one with an international (or at least English speaking) fan base.

Depending on student interest, this Star Wars course could eventually spin off in a number of directions. They could explore the actors, their lives, and their other work. They could focus on the topic of special effects. They could focus on cinematic techniques and film making. They could explore the theme of modern mythology. They could explore the films and myths that influenced Star Wars. They could focus on makeup and costumes. They could learn about astronomy.

Theres much much more... imagination is the limit. The point is to start from the vantage point of the student's interest and work from there. Most textbooks and courses do the opposite. They start from what the teacher/author thinks is necessary, then they try to coerce, trick, cajole, or intimidate the students into "being motivated".

A final note about all of my postings, including this one:

One size does not fit all. And that, quite obviously, applies to my approach as well. Will this sort of thing work in a big, formal school.... where grades and exams are required? Maybe not. While I certainly think it would work for the students... organizational rules would most likely prevent this sort of thing from being done (as so clearly illustrated by my recent experiences).

These ideas are best suited for teachers who have a great deal of autonomy... and very few organizational constraints: freelancers, part timers, entreprenuers, community ESL teachers, private tutors,... and the exceptional few who work for vibrant, innovative, creative schools.

For the rest, I offer my ideas in hopes a few of them might "click" and be usable to you.

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