Friday, June 14, 2013


Coffee and Dress Codes

It no surprise that I wasn't thrilled with my last minute Summer class, but I vowed to make the best of it and my small EFL class and I have had a good time studying different TOEFL techniques. We've played BINGO, used some jokes, and have rocked out to some tunes in class. Nonetheless it can be exhausting having the same class day after day and today I decided that we all needed coffee.
In the normal class

All of my students (who have been smiley-faced to protect their identities) and I meet in a perfectly fine classroom every day for three hours. We started class with business as usual with a quick idiom review in the form of BINGO and then taking the partial exam in our class and then students took their break (while I graded the exam and calculated their partial grade).

At the coffee shop
The possible dress
After, I told them we needed to get the heck out of the class and I took them to a cafe nearby (a short 5-10 minute walk of about 600 meters). There we talked about my friend's upcoming wedding and how I was unsure if we could wear a pink dress to a wedding because it had a cream top and you shouldn't wear white to a wedding. We talked about other wedding rules (like not to wear black to a wedding or how some cultures consider wearing green to a wedding bad luck). It was funny to me how one of the students whom I had always considered a tomboy was adamant, "Of course you can't wear cream to a wedding!" whereas the more feminine students were oblivious to any possible faux pas.

This transitioned well into the "actual" lesson about dress code. The lesson plan the curriculum called for was based on an article from the Christian Science Monitor on a middle school student who died his hair blue and earned detention. It is a good article, and a great topic, but it is over 10 years old. So I used this one about banning yoga pants in school instead. If you have school-aged students talking about dress code is usually great because it is something they love to discuss! Here's the quick worksheet available for free on Teachers Pay Teachers that you can use to help discuss this topic. I don't usually make my students fill out the comprehension questions, rather we use them as discussion points during the lesson. When we got stuck on a word I could quickly google it on my tablet and show them the google image result.

I am not sure if it was the topic, or the fact I got the students out of the classroom, but it went over really well. They stayed in English and relaxed as we talked about their opinions. Normally my EFL classes frustrate me a little, because they all share the same opinion. This time we had varied ideas. Some thought dress codes were essential especially in middle school since the students were too young to make their own decisions, but in high school they should be able to learn their own restraint. One thought that dress codes should never be implemented.  Finally one student thought that teenagers need regulations because they are too eager to show off.

Before they left I had them write a quick paragraph about how much of an influence they felt a school should have over students. Their casual attitudes were seen in the their writing too. They seemed to have less anxiety even though writing is their least favorite skill.

One student's answer
So there we go, a simple three skill lesson: Reading, Speaking and Writing. And like Mary Poppins said, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down." Or, in this case a few cups of coffee!

If you have older students who you don't think would want to discuss school dress codes check out this Breaking News English mini-lesson about the dress code for train drivers.

Have you ever taken your students out of the classroom? How did it work?

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