#113 Fun with Dichotomies

Published on January 19, 2007

=> Fun with Dichotomies
=> What’s New at www.ETsEverywhere.com?
=> In the Next Issues

Dichotomies Discussions

Here is an activity I wrote up on my 11-hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

What’s a dichotomy? Basically, a division of two groups, or two opposed classes. (If your students are young just call these pairs).

Here are 10 pairs

1. cat / dog
2. circle / square
3. coffee / tea
4. elevator / stairs
5. mountain / ocean
6. moon / sun
7. cold / hot
8. future / past
9. fork / spoon
10. magic / science

Step 1:
Dictate these or put them on the board.

Step 2:
Students should then circle one from each pair–the one that draws them more, the one that feels closer to them, the one that describes better the kind of person they are.

Some people will think very literally, “I prefer tea to coffee.” So they circle tea. Or “Oh, I don’t like climbing stairs,” so they will circle elevator.

Someone might think, “Oh, I don’t like small spaces, ” and so they will circle elevator.

But interpretations may be abstract. One person may choose “hot” because they are passionate about everything, while another may choose “cold” because she likes skiing.

Students should go with their instincts, their guts, their feelings. Which part of the pair are they more drawn to? Some choices might be hard, but they need to choose one, only one.

Step 3:
Now that students have made their choices ask them to stand up. Ask all the “cat” people to go to one side of the room and all the “dog” people to go to another. At this point, allow 30 seconds or so for these groups to ask each other, “Why are you a cat person?” (in the cat group), and “Why are you a dog person?” (in the dog group). Ring a bell when the time is up.

Now go to dichotomy 2. Ask the students to re-group themselves the elevator people to one area and the stairs people to another. Again, allow 30 seconds for those in the groups to explain their choice.

We can do this pattern with all ten dichotomies–if it seems to be successful. If interest is flagging, skip half of them.

Step 4:
Compare. Now when you’ve finished all the groupings, ask students to find another person who appeared in their group the most often. In other words, they should seek out people who have the made the most similar choices. Is it their closest friend? Does this come as a surprise?

What are the chances that 2 people will choose EXACTLY the same 10 from the pairs? The odds are 1024 to one.

Follow up writing activity:
Ask students to write several comparative explanations of their choices. Examples:

“I am more of a cat person than a dog person because I like cats better, and also, cats like to sit on the windowsill and watch things, while dogs always jump around and try to be in the center of things.”

“I am more future person than a past person. I don’t get nostalgic or dwell on memories. I like to wake up in the morning thinking or what I will do later in the day. I like to make plans for my future.”

**** NOTE: This activity is highly adjustable. ****

If you don’t like this dichotomies make your own, “candle / light bulb,” “young / old,” “gold / silver,” etc.

You can use only five dichotomies. Or you can use twelve.

I think the choosing from the pairs will generate student discussion, even if students just sit in pairs or small groups and compare their results.

What’s New at www.ETsEverywhere.com?

English Teachers Everywhere (www.etseverywhere.com) is the companion site to English Teachers in Russia & Elsewhere. The web site specializes in free downloadable audio files for teachers and learners of English.

What’s new there?

Airport Evacuation Announcement. A real-world emergency announcement–in English, complete with blaring alarm–in an airport in Cambodia. Includes a very short cloze listening task.

Romans. A super short listening-activity song by my friend Ned about, well, the Romans. What does Ned have to say about them?

In the next issue

ETs in Russia & Elsewhere is back after a month hiatus. I (Kevin) was in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Hong Kong. So there will be a slew of issues in January and February.

Issue #115, about January 25
Love Wisdom Gap-Fill (Valentines Day is coming up).
Plus, introductions to a few super useful websites.

Copyright 2007 Kevin McCaughey & I.M. Poosheesty

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