Teaching Resource (Apr 09)

Using Tourist Brochures in ELT

Andy Bowdler

Thinking about using English to teach about Nepal and its history/culture/etc., it occurred to me that one thing to use is the tourist brochures that are increasingly available around the country.  When I was working in Pokhara back in the 1990s, there would be leaflets, in English, about various parts of Kathmandu or Pokhara, or the Chitwan National Park, or the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), etc; or about various organisations, such as NELTA, S.O.S., etc.  I am sure that, in the intervening 10 years, these have got more numerous and are possibly written in better English.
I have used the same ideas here in the UK for use with both indigenous and ethnic minority students and pupils (it can be done at just about any age or level, provided that the students can read).
I start off by creating a comprehension exercise based on the text – and occasionally using the pictures as prompts as well – to see how much students understand
Depending on the level and age of the students, I would hand out copies of the leaflet and ask students to comment on them – getting them to say what they liked or disliked about them, whether the material would encourage them to visit the place concerned, etc.  Then we would read the material – either aloud together, as a reading exercise, or silently to themselves, before getting students to do the comprehension work (again, this can be done individually or as a class exercise).
Once this has been done, and students have shown an understanding of the material, I would initiate a discussion on one or more aspect of the material.

  • It might be technical: what do you like about the design (or dislike); how could it be improved; how could the language used be improved or corrected, … .
  • It might be topical: why is this landmark/place of worship/historical site important in our context; what relevance does something (such as the Martyrs’ Memorial Gate in Kathmandu, or the monastery at Mukhtinath) have to a pupil or student living in Surkhet or Jumla; why is this important in the history or culture of our nation; is it still relevant (if not, why not), … .
  • It might be locally relevant: is there a local landmark/site that you think would benefit from similar treatment (such as Bulbule Park, or Kakrebihar Buddhist Monastery in Surkhet).  In reality, there may already be a leaflet for the place(s) mentioned, but students may not be aware of this. If there is, I’d make sure I had a few copies, but for use later in the process.

The next stage of the process, if you so wish, is to get students to produce their own leaflets using the ideas they have just been talking about.  This could be an individual project or a group one (I prefer group-work for this, especially at school level).  This could be a fairly cursory exercise for lower-level classes, or a much more involved one for more advanced ones.  Depending on your school’s resources, they could do research online or by interviewing friends and neighbours, before creating their finished article.
It would be after they had produced their own brochures that I would show any existing brochures – for comparison.  I’ve even shown a copy produced by a previous year’s class for this comparison.  In one place I taught in the UK, we sent a copy of a group’s brochure to the local tourism department, suggesting that they consider using it rather than their existing brochure – or it could act as a prompt to get them to produce one for a particular place of interest.
As you will realise, the various stages build on previous work – for instance the reference to what students like/dislike in the pre-reading opener followed up in the technical discussion (they might have changed their opinions during the reading and comprehension work).
As you can see, this isn’t really a single lesson project, but could become a much bigger project covering several lessons or even one lesson a week for X weeks.  Even if the finished product isn’t taken up by a professional or local tourism group, it could be reproduced for use within the school or college.

——————editor’s accknowledgment—————

Many thanks to Andy for his contribution of some really useful teaching idea and material. This is particularly relevant to the issue of using local base of knowledge in teaching language and using language learning as a content learning opportunity. In fact, if students are involved in creating new (or their own) knowledge, you are doing the ultimate good of teaching–helping students become knowledge-makers. This is not just a clever idea: the idea of using local resources/materials/ideas can motivate students more than anything, making them see that what they know is knowledge too!

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