I first learned of The Holstee Manifesto video from Sandy Millin’s Blog (Almost Infinite ELT Ideas) last year. I decided to try and adapt my take on using the video back then, with my high-school students, for my current course with hearing adults.
I emphasize the word “hearing” not because there is any dialogue in this video (I look for videos that tell a story without dialogue!) but because I noted how much the students enjoyed the music! When we worked on it bit by bit I muted the film and they missed the sound. The previous film I had used (the power of words) was given as homework so I didn’t think about the musical aspect. Not used to thinking of it!
I planned a short activity for the last part of the lesson. This course of 38 adults is almost completely devoted to reading comprehension of academic texts. The students need to successfully pass a reading comprehension test in order to be accepted to a higher education program. They landed in my class because they failed such a test. For two lessons in a row we’ve had texts about depressing topics (prisons and violent ant-abortion activists) and something cheerful was certainly in order.
I told the students that we were going to do an activity that would involve an introduction to expressions of opinion. With these adults you have to be very clear about why you are doing something that isn’t reading a text.
For starters I just let them watch the video from start to end. It’s only about two minutes long. They seemed very absorbed and curious, some complained that the text went by too quickly. I assured them that we would be going through it slowly with me freezing the frame, which we did. But it was a shame that I hadn’t photocopied the text in advance for them – it would have been easier.
I showed a sentence from the video and then presented an expression of opinion and asked for a volunteer to give his/her opinion on the statement from the film, using the expression. My example for the students was:
Statement from film: If you don’t like your job, quit. Expression “Personally“. My opinion: Personally, I think it is better to find a new job and then quit my old job”.
The second sentence (the first one went smoothly, just the way I had hoped) was: If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing the things you love. The expression of opinion was “As I see it”.
There was a murmur of approval when we finished ensuring that everyone understood the sentence. The ages in class range from 20 to 62 (only one man is 62, certainly not the average age!) and it obviously struck a positive chord. I was so pleased!
And then I made a mistake.
The student who was supposed to give her opinion on this statement said ” As I see it, I want to do things I love”. I said that that wasn’t an expression of opinion on the statement itself. As she was one of the older women I asked if she would give such advice to her daughter and she said yes. But then someone said: “Well, its all good advice, we agree with them all and thats it”.
The students remained very interested in understanding exactly what the statements in the clip were but did not really want to express their opinions on them. Only one brave student broke away from the crowd and said “I strongly disagree (the expression on the board) with the statement “all emotions are beautiful” (the Sandy Hook School in Conneticut was mentioned). I even suggested they use their mother tongue first to say what they think as we barely work on speech in this course but that didn’t help.
Many students told me, as they left the class, that they had enjoyed the video. They did encounter new vocabulary in a meaningful context so they hadn’t wasted their time but my plan certainly backfired.
I plan to try an “end of the year film with them to end next week’s lesson. I have to give some more thought to how to use it!