- Keywords: Function, humor, language play, preparation, viewpoints
- Learner English level: Intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: 15 minutes
- Activity time: 30 minutes
- Materials: Handouts (Appendices A-C)
In this activity, learners are encouraged to think about diverse, abstract, and even farcical perspectives to explore topics more deeply. They use limited multi-word expressions that perform the function of sharing different viewpoints in a light, abstract, and creative manner.
Step 1: Print copies of the handouts (Appendices A-C) or similar.
Step 1: Distribute Appendix A amongst learners. Ask them to consider the question on the handout for four minutes. Monitor them discussing the topic and note particular viewpoints.
Step 2: Provide feedback on some of the viewpoints. Explain that thinking of different viewpoints is a great way to consider topics in more detail; it provides a method for considering ideas beyond personal reasoning.
Step 3: Present the following phrases (e.g., on the board): How about from ___ point of view?, How about from ___ perspective?, From ___ point of view, From ___ perspective. Referring to the topic previously discussed, ask what the viewpoint of an iceberg might be, or that of a penguin; two viewpoints that the learners would have certainly neglected. This helps to establish a “play frame” (Coates, 2007) for the activities that follow and encourage deeper engagement with and internalization of the functional language (Kasparek, 2016).
Step 4: Distribute Appendix B. The learners will notice a wide variety of viewpoints on the same topic, ranging from realistic people to make-believe characters to inanimate objects. Many of these viewpoints offer a potential humorous play frame for learners to join, which could foster humorous outbidding toward increasingly absurd perspectives. Allow the students 5 minutes to think aloud together about the different perspectives, using the presented language forms. Remind them that any idea is valid, especially very silly ones, at this practice stage.
Step 5: Once the learners have practiced giving and asking for different viewpoints, and discussing the practice question, distribute Appendix C to pairs. This stage helps learners plan for a subsequent academic task, whether oral or written. Depending on curriculum, lesson goals and student needs, the teacher can modify the specific content.
Step 6: Allow learners time to generate different viewpoints together on their handout, at this stage only thinking about these people (or even non-human subjects). Suggest that they include some funny and challenging ones, about which they can ask other groups.
Step 7: Have learners find new partners. Instruct them that they have 10 minutes to ask about the different viewpoints on their handouts. Explain that the only rule is that they must imagine answers from the perspectives their partners ask them about, no matter how absurd they are. This again should promote humorous outbidding (a form of self-reinforcing play), and lower the risk of providing content rapidly; the play frame established by the playful examples creates a safe atmosphere for learning. If the learners are using the functional language well, reduce or remove visual references to this language to allow for greater automaticity.
This otherwise repetitive activity remains engaging through the humor generated by fantasizing together about increasingly absurd situations (see Bell, 2011) and their implications for various people and subjects. Furthermore, while learners playfully speak about these subjects, they practice and internalize modes of thinking about topics from multiple angles (Bushnell, 2008).
Bell, N. D. (2011). Humor scholarship and TESOL: Applying findings and establishing a research agenda. TESOL Quarterly, 45, 134–159.
Bushnell, C. (2008). “Lego my keego!”: An analysis of language play in a beginning Japanese as a foreign language classroom. Applied Linguistics, 30, 49–69.
Coates, J. (2007). Talk in a play frame: More on laughter and intimacy. Journal of Pragmatics, 39, 29–49.
Kasparek, N. (2016). Facilitated play, target language use, and authenticity. New Directions in Teaching and Learning English Discussion, 4, 143–153.
The appendices are available below.