In this activity, students hear about a strange restaurant recommendation. They watch a video in which Paul talks about a friend’s suggestion to visit a new restaurant in town specifically because of its brilliant toilet. But what could be so special about a toilet? And why is Paul offended by the recommendation?
- Language level: Intermediate + (B1)
- Learner type: Teens; Adults
- Time: 45 minutes
- Activity: Reading and speaking
- Topic: Restaurants
- Language: Evaluative adjectives (brilliant, wonderful, unbelievable, great, etc.)
- Materials: Video; worksheet
Lesson plan outline (part 1)
- Ask students how often they eat out. Ask them what their favourite kind of restaurant is.
- If students eat out regularly, ask them to think of three restaurants that they would recommend to a friend (or their teacher!). For this purpose, draw the following table on the board and ask students to copy and complete it.
- Take feedback. As you do so, compile a list of things that people generally recommend about restaurants. Possibilities include:
- Good service
- Friendly staff (waiters, waitresses, management, etc.)
- The menu / the food
- The prices
- The cleanliness of the place
- The location (it might have a nice view of the city, for example.)
- The ambience or atmosphere
- The decor (it might have a theme, for example.)
- Tell students that they are going to see a video in which a man called Paul tells a story. Paul speaks about a strange restaurant recommendation that a friend made to him. Paul seems offended by the thing that his friend recommends. Ask students if they can:
- guess what Paul’s friend recommends about the restaurant.
- guess why Paul is offended.
- Give out the Brilliant Toilet worksheet (this is included in the PDF). Explain to students that the text is a transcription of the video. Ask them to guess what the three missing words are.
- Put students into pairs to compare their answers but don’t take feedback at this stage.
- In their pairs, ask students to discuss the following questions:
- Would you go to a restaurant because of its toilet? What would it depend on?
- Would you be offended if a friend recommended that you visit a restaurant because of its toilet?
- Why do you think Paul is offended?
- Play the video (twice if you like) so that students can hear it but can’t see it. Ask students if they understood what is so special about the toilet.
- Ask students to speculate about Paul. For example, ask them:
- What do you think he looks like?
- How old do you think he is?
- Where do you think he is from?
- Play the video. Students may or may not see that Paul is a wheelchair user. This is, of course, key to understanding the story.
- Go over the missing words: a ramp, a mirror and a bar (= a handrail).
- Give a few examples of evaluative adjectives in your students’ own language if possible. Tell them that the text contains four English evaluative adjectives and ask them to find them (answer: brilliant, wonderful, unbelievable and great). Ask them how many more they can think of (cool, excellent, fantastic, superb, awesome, etc.)
Write ideas on the board and invite students to add more ideas if they can. If anyone suggests toilets, add this to the list. But if not, don’t suggest it.
I have a really good friend who goes to lots of new bars and likes to recommend these kinds of places. So he came up to me and he said Paul, Paul, I’ve got something I’ve got to tell you, and he said listen to this: There’s a new restaurant that’s opened and it’s brilliant!
So I’m expecting to hear about the menu, how wonderful the food is, the view, the service, the usual things that you would like to hear about in a recommendation and I get: You should see the toilet. It’s unbelievable!
And I’m thinking, what is so great about the toilet? And he says: It’s got a __________. It’s got a __________ that’s low down. It’s got a __________. And it’s got everything you could possibly want. You’ve got to go there!
Now if you were reading a recommendation in a newspaper and it said: go to this new restaurant because its toilet is brilliant, would you rush to that restaurant?
I haven’t been to the restaurant yet because I’m not quite sure what the food’s like. But I know that if I need to go to the toilet, I can always go there!
Note that the transcription has been altered slightly. On paper, spoken language can appear quite messy. By making gentle changes, we can tidy it up a bit.
Note: Paul mentioned that the toilet has a ramp, a mirror (that is low down) and a bar. It is possible that students will think that the bar is the drinks type. If so, entertain the idea but don’t correct them at this stage.
Lesson plan outline (part 2)
- Make sure that students are aware that Paul uses a wheelchair. Also ask students whether or not they agree that Paul is offended by his friend’s recommendation (play the video again if necessary).
- Split the class into A students and B students. Regardless of their own views, students have to argue the following:
- A students have to defend Paul’s friend. They should argue that the recommendation was good and should not have been offensive.
- B students have to criticize Paul’s friend. They should argue that it was a bad idea to make the recommendation.
- Put students into A:A or B:B pairs and ask them to write a list of points to justify their answers (some ideas are offered below). Go around the class and offer language support as they do this.
- Allow students to get into bigger homologous groups (i.e groups of A students and groups of B students – no mixing yet).
- Conduct a class debate: explore the naturally conflicting points that students make and help with language along the way.
Possible reasons for defending Paul’s friend (A students):
- The friend’s intentions were good. He/she was trying to be helpful and didn’t mean to offend Paul.
- A lot of bars and restaurants don’t have a disabled toilet. Often, when they do, the toilet gets used as store room for mops, buckets, stepladders, boxes, crates of drinks, etc. Incredibly, people with disabilities can even be denied simple access to their own toilets. The image below illustrates a common situation which probably results from people who don’t have disabilities using disabled toilets. In any case, Paul would surely want to hear about a new restaurant which takes the disabled toilet seriously.
- Perhaps the friend’s intention was to encourage Paul by letting him know that facilities for people with mobility disabled are improving.
- Perhaps there was actually something outstanding about the toilet that everyone should see – a triumph of interior design, for example.
- Everyone expects a clean, functional toilet in a restaurant. Why would anyone choose this as a plus point – disabled or not?
- Perhaps Paul’s friend is falling into the trap of associating disabled people with disabled toilets. Perhaps he feels that since Paul is disabled, this must surely be something that interests him.
- Perhaps Paul feels that his friend is defining him by his disability.
- People with disabilities don’t want to talk about disability issues all the time.
- As Paul said, where was the mention of the other things – the food, service, view, etc.?
- A simple lesson to learn from this story would be: put yourself in other people’s situations and consider how you would feel.
- Wikipedia has a Disabled Etiquette entry which lists a number of ‘Do not assume’ sentences. These could be useful for the basis of a follow up activity.
- In the media, it is common for people with disabilities to be defined by their disabilities. Rarely do we go beneath the surface and find out about the person. Perhaps this is illustrated by the following toilet signs that I saw in a Barcelona restaurant recently.
My thoughts are:
- Why could the designers not have created a ‘bursting for the toilet’ icon for the disabled toilet?
- Why did they have to refer to the boring old International symbol of access?
- Were they worried that disability should never be a laughing matter?
- Does this mean that people with disabilities are exempt from the fun?
- Is this treating people with disabilities as equals?
- Does it perpetuate the ‘us and them’ attitude?
- Does this contribute to the tendency in the media to define people with disabilities by their disabilities?
The Disabled Access Friendly Campaign is a voluntary campaign that provides ELT teachers with online materials that raise awareness of mobility disability issues. It is run by two friends of mine – Katie Quartano and Paul Shaw (Paul is the man in the video). Please ‘like’ their Facebook page.
All of the material is completely free. The site has lesson plans, reading texts and video clips at all levels that can be used as supplementary material, for projects and examination practice. The material allows teachers to provide insight and information about life as a person with a mobility disability, thus building pathways for caring and action. By stepping into someone else’s shoes, students explore their own and other people’s attitudes and become aware while learning English.
If you have an idea for a lesson plan of your own, then you might want to enter it in the Disabled Access Friendly Campaign competition that is currently being held. All details are provided here. Note that the deadline is the 16 December 2012. Good luck!