- Keywords: Superlatives, collaboration, world records
- Learner English level: Beginner to medium
- Learner maturity: Senior high school to first year University
- Preparation time: 15 minutes
- Materials: Internet access/mobile phones, pen and paper, Guinness book (optional)
Teaching superlatives can be a rather dry and formulaic activity for both teacher and students when not grounded within a theme which sparks interest and motivation. This lesson plan is an attempt to get around this barrier by maximizing peer collaboration, utilizing a fun topic, and getting students to research and present their own ideas. While the topic is primarily aimed at lower level students getting a foot in the door of these basic skills, expectations of clause complexity and utterance length can be adjusted for higher level classes. In its simplest form, the activity comprises an initial listening activity detailing several world records, a discussion and vote on whether they are true, a short research session, and a reproduction of the activity by the students using their own world records.
Step 1: Create a worksheet which lists between five and ten world records taken from either the Guinness Book of Records or a trustworthy website (see Appendix). For example, the oldest cat in the world was called Crème Puff, lived to be 38 years old, and lived on a diet of broccoli, asparagus, bacon, eggs, and coffee with lots of cream (true).
Step 1: Present the world records to the students twice, making sure to give them time to make notes after each one, after which they discuss and vote on which are true.
Step 2: Get students to work in groups and find three of their own world records from either the internet or photocopied pages of the Guinness Book of Records, if you have access to one. One of the records should be fake. The latter can help avoid the pitfall of the students choosing the first three world records at the top of the search. As an alternative, assign different websites to students.
Step 3: Get each group to move around the room and present their ideas to the other groups, essentially repeating step one. More confident students or those needing presentation skills can read their findings to the whole class.
Step 4: If you have more time, you might want to include a wrap up activity following the theme of superlatives by getting students to ask each other which record they found the most surprising, the funniest, the stupidest, etc.
While talk of giant daikon radishes, unusual cats, and beagles playing with footballs may sound like the latest Haruki Murakami novel, it also serves as interesting material to jolt students out of the idea that English is boring. While the pedagogical value of this activity is essentially reinforcing a grammar point many students will have covered at school, the overall flow of the activity serves to acclimatize students to more advanced skills which they will need later on. Small cohort-to-cohort work also provokes a more dialogic exchange between students where each member is encouraged to expand on their opinions rather than simply giving a formulaic response (Alexander, 2008).
Alexander, R. (2008). Talking, teaching, learning. In Alexander, R. (Ed.), Essays on pedagogy (pp. 92-120). Abingdon, England: Routledge.
- The world's tallest dog in recorded history was called Zeus, a great dane that measured 1.12 metres (44in) tall until his death last year. When he stood on his back legs, he was 2.2m.
- The world's heaviest daikon radish weighed 8.5kg (18lb 12oz) and was grown by Ryouma Sakamoto in Gifu. (False, it was an onion).
- The oldest cat in the world was called Creme Puff. She died aged 38 years and 3 days and ate an unusual diet of bacon and eggs, asparagus, broccoli, and coffee with lots of cream.
- One of the most recent records set was in August. A 50-year-old Welsh builder called Carlton Williams completed an incredible 2,220 press-ups in an hour and hurt his shoulder during the record.
- The tallest man in history died 75 years ago. When Robert Wadlow from Illinois was measured shortly before his death in 1940, he was 2.72m (8ft 11in) tall. He was always hungry and ate and drank around 8000 calories daily.
- Jeanne Calment, a French woman, was the oldest woman and lived to be 122 years and 164 days. Mrs. Calment led an active life and started cycling when she was 100.
- Purin the dog set a new world record for most balls caught by a dog using its paws in one minute. The nine-year-old female beagle caught 14 mini footballs, smashing the previous record of 11.
- The most boiled eggs to be peeled and eaten in a minute is 16. (False, it's 6)
- In the first-ever World Hard Boiled Egg-Eating Championship, a man called Joey Chestnut broke the world record by eating 141 eggs in 8 minutes.
- Kouji Sakamoto from Osaka is the fastest sushi eater in Japan. In 2017 he ate twenty plates of sushi in two minutes.