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Great Balloon Debate (no, its fun. honest)

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If this game is already on the site and I've missed it, I apologise.

I've just started teaching near Beijing, and though I thoroughly enjoy it, getting the students to talk is a patient lesson in gritted teeth and sheer stiff upper-lippedness. But the Great Balloon Debate worked fantastically well in a recent lesson. Its an old teaching chestnut, but here is how it goes:

Ask each student to think of any famous person in history - real or made up in a film or book. Then separate them into groups of between three and eight and explain this posit: They are in a hot-air balloon, floating serenely through the summer sky when it gets into trouble and starts to sink. If it continues to sink they will all die, so to save all of the people in the balloon, one of them has to be jettisoned, but only accompanied with a very good reason. This gets the group talking and, more importantly, debating in English, and makes up a very long and interesting lesson. It also throws up some staggeringly surreal outcomes, including The Little Match Girl being thrown out of her balloon by Pavarotti, Michael Jordan and Mao Zedong.

If nothing else, it also teaches them to think laterally and in intangibles and broken logic. At least, that's what I like to tell myself.

Elliot Wilson
elliot_wilson@hotmail.com

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