In this activity, students practice expressing and justifying their opinions discussing this brilliant cartoon by John Atkinson. It is a great discussion generator for conversation classes with adult and teenage students. It might come in handy when talking about such topics as technology, change, society or lifestyle.
First, elicit the word obsolete. I showed my students this visual and asked them what these items have in common: they are old-fashioned, they are not useful, they used to be useful, nobody uses them anymore, other devices have taken their place. They are obsolete.
Once you have established the meaning of this keyword, move to the cartoon. Give your students some time to take a careful look at it, make sure all concepts are clear (Yellowpages, knobs, Jar Jar)
Ask your students to select 5 items they think have truly become obsolete and 3 items they think shouldn’t be featured in this alphabet. They need to justify their choice. Students take notes individually.
Next, students compare their opinions in small groups. Ask them to negotiate a list of 5 obsolete and 3 non-obsolete items their group can agree with.
Finally, talk to the whole class. Which items were chosen as obsolete most often? Which were more controversial? Which items couldn’t your students agree about with their groups? Are there any items they would add to the list?
I came across this cartoon by accident on Twitter (thank you, Kamila Linková @) and I immediately knew I would like to use it with my students. It achieved exactly what I had hoped: provoked discussion and made my students think. I was happy to see some of my less talkative students engaged in this activity and I think it was a good idea to give everybody some alone time to come up with ideas and write them down before moving on to the speaking stage. Our class discussion revealed some surprising opinions: the item from the list many students disagreed about turned out to be…zip code!
My favourite thing about this cartoon is that it is thought-provoking without being too serious or, worst case scenario, a downer. It is playful enough on the surface not to intimidate anybody or make them think they lack general knowledge to participate in the conversation, but, on the other hand, it unlocks a number of more serious topics and it is up to the students how deep they are willing to dig.