Sunday, 28 November 2010

FWD Messages

You either love them or hate them. I have a rocky relationship with them. I often delete them without reading. Especially when I open my in box and see no 'real' mails from family, and friends just forward messages. It's often really annoying. The messages themselves, if you do open them ,range from annoying to inspiring. They take many forms. There are jokes, stories, warnings and tales, they can be overly sensitive, sexist, racist, narrow minded and just plain irritating.

But if you look closely there are some that can be exploited for use in the English classroom. About year ago I used my first forward message in class. It was part of a lesson on based on the film The Bucket List. The forward message I used was from my niece and it was about life experiences. It was just a simple tick format with questions like:

Have you ever skinny dipped?
Have you ever climbed a mountain?

The message was rich in language and generated a great deal of interest and discussion about members of the class and their life experiences. Students were happy to talk about things that they had done and others were happy to listen. It was materials light and produced a great deal of conversation.

My second experiment using a forward message was more recently. I used in on a communicative competence course with a group of upper intermediate/advanced adults. This time is was called How old is grandpa? Here is an excerpt:

One evening a grandson was talking to his grandfather about current events.
The grandson asked his grandfather what he thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and things in general.

The Grandfather replied, "Well, let me think a minute, I was born before:

' television

' penicillin

' polio shots

' frozen foods

' Xerox

' contact lenses

' Frisbees and

' the pill

There were no:

' credit cards 

' laser beams or

' ball-point pens

At the end, the students had to guess how old they thought grandpa was. This led to  a discussion about things they remembered from their childhoods and led to some great conversations about washing, machines, cars mobile phones and e-mail.

Two conversations I remember vividly are J explaining about when his family got their first automatic washing machine. He explained how everyone was so excited about it's first wash cycle. They all sat there watching it - the whole family - everyone was amazed until it started jumping up and down and making a terrible noise. It seems that they'd forgotten to take the bolts out of the drum that hold it during transport!

V told a story about how in her first family car as a child in Cameroon you could actually see through the floor to the street below. The FWD message helped them to remember stories from their past. It stimulated their VOICES.

Last week I used a FWD message about aging in class with the same students. We read the message and then we talked about the advantages and disadvantages of getting older. Again the message led to another great discussion. Here is an excerpt:

I would never trade my amazing friends, my  wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly..  As I've aged, I've become kinder to myself, and less critical of  myself. I've become my own friend.. I don't chide myself for eating  that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need, but  looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be  messy, to be extravagant.

After class one of the students approached me and asked if I could give her a copy of this FWD message. As she was asking, two other students came up and asked the same thing. I promptly took down their e-mail addresses and sent them it when I got home.

Christmas is coming and as luck would have it a student of mine sent me a great  FWD message that's going to come in handy. It's about a letter written to God at Christmas by an old lady. I'll forward it you you if you're interested...

Not all FWD messages are appropriate and not all FWD messages have great content but there are some that can be used in class and  I think that they can be really useful as a classroom tool.

What do you think? Have I gone ever so slightly mad? FWD this to all your friends!


  1. I've got a collection of soapstone geckos from Kenya. I think they look great. I really like how discussions were generated from the grandfather comment - personalising history, and the one about being less critical with time. Not mad, no. Resourceful.

  2. Thanks David. You may just be my number one commenter!

    The geckos sound nice.

    I love geckos.

  3. Hi Leahn

    I agree with David above. I think your idea to use appropriate FWD messages is an excellent one and very resourceful and "materials light". They certainly generated great use of language!


    PS Hope all the furkids are doing well :-)

  4. Hi Janet

    Nice to see you here! I was thinking about you the other day.I was down near Gran Tarajal cat catching. All the furkids are doing well thanks.

  5. Hi Leahn

    Glad to hear the furkids are doing fine!! I remember Gran Tarajal with great fondness as I had an amazing year there.

    Hasta luego!