Help me spark discussion
July 11, 2011 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Looking for controversial clips to spark discussion in a conversation ESL class.

I'm teaching a conversation class this month. All of my students are at a fluent or at least advanced level. The main goal is to practice conversation. I'm looking for some clips to show to spark discussion. We've already talked some about things like euthanasia and globalization. I'm hoping to find some clips with a quick, balanced look at things like drug legalization, gay marriage...
Anything available online, and out of the US would be fantastic.
posted by piedmont to Education (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at TED talks? Amazing, short talks on a huge variety of subjects. And it looks like you can find talks with foreign language subtitles as well! Here's one on the world's emphasis on English. Might be a bit too meta for your class, though.
posted by amanda at 3:58 PM on July 11, 2011

While not video clips per se, I can recommend some text-based stuff. When I taught ESL classes, I found a good controversial-but-not-too-controversial conversation starter was Dear Abby/Annie's Mailbox columns. Maybe try reading the question for the students, solicit their ideas, and then hand out photocopies of the column for review, then check to see if anyone disagrees with the actual advice.

The big bonus with advice columns as ESL materials is that they're written in a very conversational style, and are full of colloquialisms (e.g., "chock full of", or "packed to the gills with"), and many students-- even higher level ones-- are often lacking in their familiarity with that kind of speech.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:58 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I student taught advanced ESL learners for a semester for my linguistics class, and by far my most successful conversation starter were clips from this documentary about "idollators" - guys who have relationships with Real Dolls. (I supplemented it with an abridged version of this Salon article.) My students had a ball debating on whether it was creepy but harmless, or if it led to harmful attitudes toward relationships with real women.

I didn't have time to find supporting video clips, but I also had a successful couple of lessons regarding urban legends, including having students talk about stories in their own countries. I used it more for writing prompts instead of conversation, but my students enjoyed them a lot as well.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 6:42 PM on July 11, 2011

How about "the best way to approach an atheist in an elevator and ask for a date"?

All joking aside, the relations between the sexes will probably spark discussion.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:03 PM on July 11, 2011

Momversations are all by female bloggers I think, but many of the topics are universally interesting.
posted by lakeroon at 7:56 PM on July 11, 2011

I'd consider using Daily Show episodes, but add some background material from Wikipedia to help inform the discussion.
posted by 4midori at 7:58 PM on July 11, 2011

Um, I used askmetafilter posts in my ESL classes last semester...

How about Freakonomics (book or movie)? Or parts or King Corn, Food Inc., Supersize Me?

I also really like the Blood, Sweat and...(tshirts, luxuries, takeaways) series. Last I checked they were available in the UK on BBC iPlayer.

If you can get them, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall produced great stuff on chicken/pig/fish welfare. It's on Channel 4 On Demand.

...if you're out of the UK look into the proxy service expat surfer - I use UK clips all the time in my classes.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:21 PM on July 11, 2011

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