However, this year I decided to make an exception due to all the completely unnecessary ‘hype’ about December 21st, 2012 and the supposed end of the world allegedly forecast by the Mayans. Early last week, I overheard a few of my students discussing whether or not the end of the world was coming and what would/could/might happen so I thought it would make a nice topic for class and a welcome break from trudging through our colourless coursebook.
The end of the world (as we know it)? - Image by mikelehen
I asked them what they had heard about December 21st and whether or not they believed it. They had heard (or made up) all sorts things ranging from a massive meteor storm to the Earth being devastated by huge earthquakes and tsunamis to the Sun exploding. Most of them, however, did not believe it surprising me with their rational and logical explanations such as the lack of any evidence of potential disasters to be found either on Earth or in space.
So far, so good but where could the lesson go from here? As it happens, we had been studying the topic of ‘extreme weather’ previously and had read a (rather dull) text about how to protect yourself during a storm so I suggested they might want to make a list of advice for how to survive the end of the world. One bright little girl then pointed out that in order to do that, we would need to know exactly what to protect ourselves from. And so, the next phase of the lesson began: in groups, make a list of predictions about how the world will end on December 21st and then come up with advice on how best to be prepared for it.
The students the proceeded to become more engaged in an activity than I have seen them at any other point so far this academic year. They started coming up with a whole series of catastrophic events (“first, the electricity will go off, then night will turn to day and everywhere will freeze”) followed with corresponding tips on what to do (“make sure your iPad is fully charged before the electricity goes off” was one of the best ones)! A couple of groups started coming up with ‘survival kits’ or began to design shelters or modern versions of Noah’s Ark to save humanity. This was close to my ideal view of teaching - all I had to do was walk around, feeding in bits of language and making suggestions where needed while the content and ideas all flowed from them.
We then set about presenting our ideas. Some groups went for posters, others for oral presentations and other for videos. Of course, we ran out of lesson time but without the word ‘homework’ ever being mentioned, the kids were already making plans for how to finish their projects off at home.
At best, we had a really good lesson and, even if the worst happens, at least we’ll be prepared!