Life is like a box of chocolates…

[…You never know what you are gonna get. I got this via email in response to my recent post on #flashmobELT. The message is posted here with permission of the author. Enjoy. I know I did.] 
I  read your latest post with some trepidation.  I always knew you had a slight aversion to activity based blog posts and thought that after reading your latest (semi)rant, I would once more feel the hollow ache of knowing that you were less than interested in some of my blogging efforts.  How pleasant to find that, in fact, you had found a way to reconcile your lack of interest in activity collection with your wider aim of building a sense of ELT community. With that in mind, I have decided to share an activity with you which, while I am sure is absolutely a perfect match for #FlashMobELT, is for your eyes alone.  Think of it as a reward for overcoming your cognitive dissonance.
Activity: Classroom as Time Machine
Activity time: roughly 200 hours of dedicated classroom time
Materials: one 8-core dual-chip mac workstation with Meg20000graphics Card and 80 inch 4K screen.

Simply teach your students how to use Final Cut Pro.  If possible, rent a suite of editing rooms at a local editing facility.  Make sure to teach students how to use the software in English, hence exposing them to a plethora of low frequency terms which will come in handy when they visit the U.S., ask for simple directions on the street, understand almost nothing, get lost, and accidentally stumble into a high tech office tower filled with editing suites in Silicon Valley.

Once students are highly proficient at Final Cut Pro, play the movie “Forest Gump” repeatedly to students until they have memorized all of the CGI historical clips.  They should be able to not only say the lines, but also use the appropriate accents and body language to convey the scenes with historical accuracy.  If possible, hire a dramaturge to ensure that students are aware of the need for verisimilitude.

Teach students how to access CC licensed historical film footage.  As this will only provide students with access to 62% of the actual footage used in the film “Forest Gump”, also run a series of mini-activities on copyright licensing.  If possible, students should be encouraged to take the California Bar exam at the end of this series of mini-activities to ensure there will be no long term legal ramification with the end result of this short activity.

After students have obtained all the historical footage, have them build a blue screen studio at the back of the classroom.  While creating a full scale blue screen studio might seem cost prohibitive, surprisingly good results can be achieved with white bed sheets, blue magic markers, and a little creativity.  Do not underestimate the power of your students to overcome obstacles.  This is also an excellent opportunity to bring a pure task based teaching methodology into the classroom.  Simply throw a stack of old bed sheets, some writing utensils or paint, and a collection of lumber onto the floor and stand back.  The way students piece together both lumber and language as they move through the process is both extremely rewarding to watch and arguably at the heart of the #FlashMobELT movement.

Finally, students recreate the historical footage scenes from “Forest Gump,” film them, and create the first rough cut of their “FG Tribute Compilation.”  If possible, hire a well known movie critic (personally, I believe Leonard Maltin, with his clean prose and humanistic outlook on cinema history is the optimal choice) and fly him or her to your classroom.  Have the movie critic watch the now completed video compilation and give feedback for a second round of intense editing.

Please feel free to use this activity in your classroom.  It might require some minimal tweeking, but the sheer universal love of “Forest Gump” is sure to make this one of the best #FlashMobELT activities ever.
p.s. If for some reason, even with the budget version of the blue screen studio, the activity is impossible due to budget constraints, it can be run in it’s entirety as a process drama activity in which students use pieces of paper, card board boxes and sticks in the place of actual computers and video cameras.Extension activity: I hesitate to suggest an extension activity as the entire point of #FlashMobELT is to keep it simple.  But, if there is time left in class once the video has been completed, I recommend giving the students a simple course on corn growing, harvesting, and popcorn making at which point students can enjoy the delicious taste of 100% home-made popcorn as the screen the fruits of their efforts.
Extension Extension Activity: Popcorn is delicious, but more so with fresh butter.  While raising a cow might seem time intensive, it is no more difficult than putting together a car engine or writing a short novel.  And gaining skills such as butter churning, IN English, is also exactly what the #FlashMobELT movement is all about.


  1. Pingback: Confessions of an activity snob | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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