A clip like this allows us to make use of the greatest resource of all: other people. Human beings are fascinated by other human beings and after writing a lesson plan for this video (click here to see it), I have formed a different relationship with each of the individuals in it.
The lesson plan on Lessonstream makes use of verbal responses only. In this respect, it doesn’t even come close to exploring the more fascinating possibilities that the clip offers. For example:
- People: Personalities, appearance, ethnicity, etc.
- Reactions: Willing/unwilling to talk, uneasy about the camera, shy, brave, blunt, friendly, etc.
- Non-verbal communication: Watch the woman listening to The best is yet to come, for example. After Ty Cullen asks her who the song is by, she replies, “Frank Sinatra.” Her smile and her eyes flirtatiously communicate: You should have known that!
- Stereotypes: Did they react in the way you expected? Were they listening to the type of music you expected?
- Incidents: For example, the guy on the bike who doesn’t stop – he almost cycles into the shy guy in the hooded top.
I have to admit that I tried some more adventurous tasks and activities for this material with a group of teenagers this week. I wanted to explore the deeper possibilities of the video and get students speaking about them. I wanted students to focus on their own expectations of the peoples’ responses. I asked them to watch a slideshow of images of the people involved (see above) and predict how those people would answer the question. The idea was that we would then go on to look at perceptions of people, generalisations and stereotypes.
Unfortunately, things didn’t really work out too well (a hazard of off-piste teaching!) Perhaps the tasks I set were too complex. Or perhaps I just asked the wrong questions. Perhaps I was using too many images. It is also possible that I was trying to exploit aspects of the video that I could appreciate but my students didn’t. After all, the more you look, the more you see. And I have watched this clip about 15 times over the last week.
If I was going to try things again, I would make more use of the Rastafarian man. All of my students seemed to be fascinated by him. Here is what I would do:
- Introduce students to the words stereotype and stereotypical.
- Before playing the clip, show students a picture of the Rastafarian man and ask them to guess what he is listening to. They will almost certainly guess Bob Marley.
- Give students a hard time for stereotyping the man.
- Ask students to discuss the following questions: Can you judge a book by its cover? Should you judge a book by its cover? Are there times when we should generalise about people? Can you think of any situations when it is dangerous to do so?
- Show the clip and students will see that in fact he was listening to Bob Marley.
- Ask students to consider the possibility that the man said that he was listening to Bob Marley only to stereotype himself. After all, if the man had been listening to Lady Gaga, would he have admitted it?
The point is that I would never have thought of this idea if it hadn’t been for my learners’ reaction to it. So, in conclusion, despite the lesson plan’s lack of depth, it serves primarily to give the teacher a simple and safe task to use it in the classroom. It provides the teacher with an excuse to show the video to his/her students. From there, teachers can exploit any interesting points that arise in any way they like.
By the way, Ty Cullen’s video seems to have become so successful that a number of other YouTubers have created their own versions. London, Edinburgh, Lisbon and San Francisco have all featured. This gives a new dimension to the clip for the classroom – are there any differences in the way that Americans and Europeans react to being stopped in the street and asked a pointless but fun question? Perhaps!