Just as Sherlock Holmes is universally loved, the fashion of the bygone time is universally appealing.
Since clothes and ways of dressing are staple components of the foreign language curriculum, is it possible for the classroom to use fashion as input and engage students in something more fun, more beautiful, and richer in meaning?
For example, this video (click the link to watch) by New York Times’ lengendary Bill Cunningham is a report and reflection on a “tweed-run” in New York City (sponsored by Ralph Lauren) where city dwellers gathered for a bicycle-run, dressed in fashion pieces of the 30s, 40s and 50s (tweed jackets, caps, bow-ties, luggage-colored leather oxfords), and drinking tea in real tea-ware. The video can’t be embedded here but the few images I cropped from the video show a glimpse of how lovely the concept is.
The potential for the classroom is obvious:
1) the format of presentation (in the Bill Cunningham video) is something that is often used in the language classroom–powerpoints with narration, which is now easily done at such sites as voicethread.com and tools in Learning Management Systems such as wimba voice presentation. The video provides a model of how to build a 2-minute voice presentation centering on an interesting theme. The narration part of the voice presentation is a good outlet for building fluency and speaking skills.
2) the concept is interesting and is authentic input with many legs: a theme (vintage clothes, fashion of the bygone times, individual styles and personal fashion pieces) to provoke discussoin, potential for practice with comparison and contrast language skills, images for vocabulary building about clothes, easily motivating a language learning task (explaining one’s favorite clothes items, something in the wardrobe that’s meaningful, interviewing others about fashion pieces, or web-based research on fashion of bygone times).
But the nitty-gritty of how to incorporate the authentic input in the classroom and build an intergrated lesson unit is a daunting task. there has to be sufficiuent teasing-apart of the input with good discussion prompts and vocabulary support, and sufficient practice with form and relevant linguistic skills before the output stage.
I leave this post as an idea to be followed up in a later post with more concrete steps and materials.