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Stars in Your Classroom

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Here’s an idea for livening up the more mature students’ classes. I am teaching at British-American in Bangkok, Thailand and have found that it works very well.

As the ice breaker for a new class, I ask them to name their favourite famous person, a male for the men and a female for the ladies. These can be from the cinema, music industry or any famous person. The only stipulation is that they must be foreigners. English, American, Spanish or French etc. Then whilst the students are in class they are known by the names that they chose. In one of my classes I have Bruce Willis, Richard Greer, Tom Cruise, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Madonna.

The reason I did this originally was that I had difficulty in remembering all of my students names and most of the time, even when I could remember them, I could not pronounce them correctly. I do not know if mispronouncing their names offends them in the same way that it does some of the British, but I consider it impolite not to get it right anyway. I soon discovered that not only did the students like the idea but that it also had hidden advantages.

The hidden advantages behind this is that they automatically feel an ego boost and begin to think of themselves as a natural English speaker. In addition they lose some of their natural inhibitions to speaking out as they are now actors, actresses or musicians etc. (I suspect this would go down well in Japan for the same reasons that Karaoke is so popular.)

Here in Thailand it is normal for the Thais to call somebody Mr. Richard instead of Mr. Greer. The use of famous names for my students enables me to introduce them to the correct way to greet foreigners in both the polite and friendly circumstances.
Good morning Mr. Greer
Hello Richard
Hi Dick
See You
Bye Richard
Goodbye Mr. Greer

I have also found that acting out of little scenes from the textbooks becomes quite natural for them very quickly. I have also used scenes from current movies and have found this also helps them to speak more naturally.

There are many ways that the use of these names in class can lead to a lot of fun as I know you will find out if you try it. Some recent public divorces and scandals in the news have led to some hilarious discussions among my students.

Finally, when the course is over and they have performed well, you can tell them they really are stars.

Exit stage left some happy, more proficient and confident people.

If anybody out there would like to swap ideas or stories from the use of this idea I can be contacted at

[email protected]

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