You’ve probably heard of Luke Meddings and Lindsay Clandfield‘s valiant attempt (“52”) to embrace PARSNIP subjects (politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, isms and pork) and offer an alternative to the anodyne homogeneity that often envelops ELT. Well, I reckon they’ve missed one out: Tattoos! The taboo on the tattoo is, in my opinion, ridiculous. I’m sure at least one of your students has one, so why not let them reveal it (as long as it’s not in a rude place, of course!)? Surely, nobody’s going to be scarred for life by talking about a harmless bit of body modification! Without further ado, this lesson is my attempt to redress the balance. It is best used with upper intermediate and advanced students of English, and is probably not appropriate for kiddies.
Step One : Lead-in
The image above (click here for the big picture) features different types of tattoo: political, religious, girlfriend/boyfriend’s name, football team, rock group, flower design, motto/quote, “Mom”, Chinese characters. Ask your students to discuss how wise it would be to have each one of these designs tattooed on your body.
Note : If you are a fan of realia, you may want to consider getting a tattoo done yourself. You will only need to do this once, and will be able to carry it around with you easily for the rest of your teaching career. Very handy!
Step Two : Conversation Questions
Use your data-projector (if you have one) to screen the following conversations. Ask your students to discuss them in pairs or small groups.
Optional Step Three : Split-reading
Here’s a couple of texts you might like to use for a split-reading activity!
Step Four : The Video
Use the photo in the top right corner of the conversation question sheet to introduce the following video. Ask your students to watch it once for gist, then show it again with a few comprehension questions e.g. How many stars did she want? | How many stars did she get? | What’s her story of what happened? | What’s the tattoo artist’s story? | How did her father react? | How have the tattooed stars affected her life? | What action has she taken and why? As a final stage, open-class them on whose story they believe.
Note : You may like to pre-teach the following vocabulary before showing the video: to be adamant, inked on her face, witness, outlining, she can’t even bear to …, ointment, I don’t dare to …, to sue, to undergo treatment (it might be stretching it a bit, but you may also want to explain the Madonna pop-culture reference at the end).
Step Five : Roleplay
I must confess I’m not a great fan of roleplays, but this one worked really well … at least with my students. The roles are obvious: “The Girl with the 56-Star Tattoo”, the tattoo artist and the father/mother of the victim. Tell your students that they have been brought together to try and reach some kind of agreement on who is responsible for the unwanted tattoos, and what to do next. I normally suggest that the student in the role of parent should at first be disbelieving of both their daughter’s story and that of the tattoo artist. Then, towards the end of the roleplay, come down on one side or the other depending on who sounds the most plausible.
Endthought : You may like to slip in a bit of “causative have/get” language work during this lesson!