This activity might work especially well with Italian or Swiss students. The video clip is taken from a 1957 BBC report on the Swiss spaghetti harvest. It is believed to be one of the first times the medium of television has been used for an April Fools’ Day hoax. An estimated 8 million people watched the Panorama spaghetti harvest report and many phoned in the following day to question the authenticity of the story. Others asked for more information about spaghetti cultivation and how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. Some viewers failed to see the funny side of the broadcast and criticised the BBC for broadcasting the report on what is supposed to be a serious factual programme. Read more here and here.
- Language level: Upper Intermediate (B2)
- Learner type: Teens; Adults
- Time: 45 minutes
- Activity: Reading; Speaking
- Topic: April fools day; Agriculture
- Language: Modals of deduction; Uncountable nouns; Noun collocations
- Materials: Video; Slideshow
Lesson plan outline
- The splurg game is very simple. Basically, a splurg can be anything and anything can be a splurg. Explain this to your students and read out the following example:
* Splurgs get lost easily.
* Splurgs fly through the air but they don’t have wings.
* Splurgs are small and white.
* People like to hit splurgs with sticks.
* People try to put splurgs into holes.
- Tell students that you have another splurg puzzle for them. Go to Slide 4 and read out the first paragraph.
- Ask students if they can suggest where the text came from. Ask them to suggest what splurg might be and write down ideas on the board. Also explain any unknown vocabulary.
- Continue to ask for more suggestions as you read out the next three paragraphs. Write all ideas on the board.
- Close the slideshow. Write the following on the board: Splurg ____________
- Now ask students to consider whether splurg is a countable or uncountable noun.
- Go back to all the suggestions that were written on the board during steps 3 and 4. Ask students to consider them one by one and ask questions that involve language of deduction and elimination (could be, might be, can’t be, probably isn’t, etc). For example:
* Someone said it might be asparagus. Could it be asparagus?
* No, it can’t be asparagus because that isn’t dried in the sun.
* What about tomatoes? Could it be tomatoes?
* No, it can’t be tomatoes. We are looking for an uncountable noun.
- Tell students the following:
- Play the video clip
- Ask students for an explanation. If they can’t give you one, ask them what date the programme was broadcast on (Answer = 1st April).
- Ask students if they celebrate April Fools’ Day or an equivalent in their countries. Find out if they have experienced any similar media hoaxes?
- For homework, ask students to find out more about the spaghetti tree story. In particular, ask them to find out how people reacted to the hoax.
In this case, splurgs are golf balls. Note that you can show students the above splurg sentences on Slide 1 of the slideshow. To clarify the puzzle, there is also a picture of a golf ball on the second slide.
Ask your students to recall as many collocations as possible from the text. Write suggestions on the board and then check answers by looking at the text slides a second time. Answers may include:
* Splurg farmer
* Splurg harvest
* Splurg cultivation
* Splurg plantations
* Splurg weevil
* Splurg picker (not in text but implied)
* Splurg tree (not in text but implied)
Note that it must be uncountable or the last paragraph would read: … the splurgs are laid out to dry; splurgs are produced at such uniform length. Demonstrate this with the following examples:
* Many people are often puzzled by the fact that asparagus is produced at such uniform length (uncountable).
* Many people are often puzzled by the fact that carrots are produced at such uniform length (countable).
“Imagine are living in the United Kingdom in 1957. You are at home watching television. You are watching a BBC programme called Panorama. Has anyone heard of it? It is the longest running current affairs documentary series and it still runs today. Anyway, this is what you see…”
I remember the splurg game from my early TEFL years. I think I got it from Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching book.
Another good BBC April fool to use in class is the 2008 spoof trailer for a documentary about flying penguins. This could be turned into a similar activity.