It is the start of a new year - a time for looking forward and looking back. In this post I'm going to look back to 2022 and highlight my favourite conversation class topics. It’s not necessarily the topics that were the most interesting but rather the writing style or video presentation that made the following five lessons stand out for me.
Here they are in no particular order.
1. I had accepted my life in prison until...
This was an article written in December 2021 by The Guardian’s prison correspondent and former inmate, Eric Allison. He reflected on his life, the choices he had made and discussed whether the prison system works (in his view, it doesn’t). The prose was eloquent and the ideas illuminating. Well worth reading again!
2. Dangers on a Scottish Mountain
This was a well-written article demonstrating how a text can convey a message so effectively when the information is well-organised. Read the first sentence and consider why the author has chosen to write it that way. Then think whether you could improve it. There are a few examples of non-defining relative clauses in the article which are worth noticing. It’s good to move away from textbook explanations and see the language structures taught in English classes being used in real life.
3. Nicola Roberts looks back
Pop-star Nicola Roberts and her younger sister talk about growing up together. This a brilliant article for anyone who wants to know how ‘used to’ and past habit ‘would’ are used in real life. Which do you think is used more? Have a guess, then read the article to find out if you are right.
4. How to speak so that people want to listen
Admittedly I watched this TED Talk three or four times but I can still remember a lot of what the speaker said even now. This was largely because of the way he organised his ideas. Definitely worth watching if you want tips on presentation skills.
5. Our Attention Spans are being Stolen
This was one of The Guardian’s Long Reads so quite a challenge but one of the students liked it so much that she bought the book. I remember the author's dismay at the iPads in Graceland - why didn't people just look around them at the room they were standing in rather than have their eyes glued to a screen. The conclusion was thought-provoking but I won't spoil it by telling you what it was. See if you have the attention to get to the end of the article!
So that's my five favourites but probably I should have chosen ten (or even more). I also wanted to mention the video entitled Dear Bradford (it was excellent), Daniel Meadows' favourite photograph of my former home town, Salford, the article about men's groups, walking in the rain, doing nothing, rejection therapy and the episode of Desert Island Discs we listened to at the start of the year, featuring Richard Osman.
If you want to check out the articles and videos you should be able to find them using Google. I mostly recommend articles from The Guardian, radio programmes from the BBC and TED Talks. And if you want to see what we are reading about this term, check out this page on the Wednesday conversation class.
Finally, just a quick mention that there are a few places available in the Wednesday class. It is for advanced students (C1/C2), is held via Zoom and takes place from 9:15am to 10:45am on a weekly basis (excluding school holidays). Contact me if you would like to try this class.