Posted 10/3/17
A Charlie Chaplin lesson plan: This is one of the first Videotelling activities that I remember creating. I originally posted it on TEFLclips, the website that preceded this one. This was back in 2008 and the activity was titled Credit Crunch Lunch. I hope you enjoy it …
  • Language level: B1+
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Activity: A Videotelling activity
  • Topic: Food & hunger
  • Language: Present narrative
  • Materials: Video & text
Unusual lunch pdf [downloaded 181 times]

About this activity

Note: For this activity, you will need a clip from the 1925 comedy film The Gold Rush which was written and directed by (and stars) Charlie Chaplin. You can access it here.

  1. Write the following phrases on the board and ask students to copy them into their notebooks:
    • a pot of boiling water
    • a side plate
    • a spoon
    • a knife and fork
    • some spoonfuls of stock
    • to remove the lace
    • to swap plates
    • to remove the sole
    • to take a bite
    • a table hooter (Note: this is a nonsense term – students will not be familiar with it)
  2. Ask students which of these words or phrases they are unfamiliar with. Provide explanations/definitions as necessary:
    • Stock: The liquid that you get when you boil meat or bones. It is often used for making soup.
    • Lace: 1. Delicate fabric or material with holes and patterns (e.g. lace underwear, lace curtains). 2. The part of a shoe that you tie (e.g. ‘your lace is undone’).
    • Sole: 1. A flat fish that lives in the sea; 2. The bottom part of a shoe or boot – the part that connects with the ground.
    • Table hooter: This is a nonsense word. Students will not be familiar with it. Act surprised and say: What? You don’t know what a table hooter is? Really? I am very surprised. OK – don’t worry. I’m not going to tell you now – you’ll find out later.
  3. Tell students that all of the words and phrases relate to scene from a famous film. Ask students to guess what happens in the scene.
  4. Tell students that in the film scene, two men – Charles and Big Jim – sit down to eat a “table hooter” for lunch. Tell students that you are going to describe the scene from the film. Their task is to guess what a “table hooter” is. Read out the following text:
  5. Big Jim is sitting at a table in the middle of the room. He is waiting for his lunch. Charles is standing beside a pot of boiling water. He puts a spoon into the pot and takes out the table hooter. He tests it with the fork.

    “Not quite done yet,” he says. “Let’s give it two more minutes.”

    But Big Jim is impatient and hands Charles a plate. Charles puts the table hooter onto the plate along with some spoonfuls of stock.

    Charles puts the plate on the table and sits down with Big Jim. He removes the lace from the table hooter and puts it on a side plate. Charles then removes the sole and gives it to Big Jim. But Big Jim isn’t happy about this arrangement and swaps plates with Charles.

    Charles puts down his knife and fork and decides to use his hands. He picks up his lunch and takes a bite. He nods to Big Jim to say that it is good. Big Jim isn’t sure but takes a bite anyway. He doesn’t seem to share Charles’s enthusiasm for this meal.

  6. Invite students to ask you any questions that they may have in order to clarify confusion. Then invite them to share their answers (i.e. what is a “table hooter”?). Don’t tell students whether they are right or wrong at this stage. Even if someone thinks that they know the answer, they will never be sure until you confirm it one way or another.
  7. Repeat the reading of the text two or three times. You could ask students to make quick sketches of their table hooters. This can allow you to see what what is going on in their minds.
  8. Tell students that “table hooter” is an anagram. If they can solve it, they will work out what Charles and Big Jim are eating for lunch. (Answer: Table hooter = Leather boot).
  9. Show students the scene from the film The Gold Rush. You can access it here.


Note: If you like this activity, you will love my new book Videotelling:

  • 45 video-based lesson plans for teachers.
  • A teaching resource for waking up even the quietest students in your classroom.
  • Step-by-step instructions to get students listening, thinking, collaborating, communicating, problem solving, and
  • making videos of their own.
  • Tons of inspiration to create your own Videotelling lessons and activities.
  • A handy guide to help you develop your own storytelling skills.

Follow ups

  • I suggest that you give students an opportunity to return to the text after they have seen the video. Students may notice things about the language and ideas in the text that they didn’t appreciate the first time. For this reason, give out copies of the text.
  • Once students have copies of the text, ask them to choose six pieces of language that they would like to remember and take away from the activity. These could be words, phrases, collocations, idioms, or structures. Once students have made their choices, invite them to compare their lists with each other in pairs or groups.
  • Ask students to find out about the film The Gold Rush. Ask them to find answers to the following:

  • * Who are Charles and Big Jim and what is their relationship?
    * Why are they eating a leather boot?
    * What happened before this scene and what happens after it?

  • Ask students to choose a scene from another film which involves eating a meal. They should then write a description of it. Rather than saying what the meal is, students could create anagrams instead. In class, students can share their texts and work out what the films and mystery meals are. I recommend this online anagram generator.
  • This activity can be used to introduce the topics of poverty, hunger and famine. The following pages on the Guardian newspaper website provide topical news articles: Hunger here; Poverty here; Famine here.
  • Charlie_Chaplin_Goldrush_Lesson_Plan

    Posted 10/3/17

    11 Responses to An unusual lunch

    1. sihamhayat says:

      HI JAMIE,


    2. Jamie Keddie says:

      Hello Siham
      What I am interested in is creating conditions in the classroom where everyone is immersed in a meaningful exchange of language. I am much less interested in aims and objectives. However, I know that I am a minority here!
      One of the talks that I will be giving this year explores this very idea. It is titled: “What’s the point?”

    3. sihamhayat says:

      HI JAMIE,

      SEE YOU

    4. Gav says:

      Hi Jamie.
      Great lesson and really helpful links to the additional reference materials. This will work well with a couple of sessions I have this week. Regards from a very wet, again, Valencia.

    5. I used this with two different lessons yesterday (both with B2/C1 level groups), and combined it with grammar work on using emphasis (cleft sentences, etc) in order to develop the learners’ own storytelling ability. The video bookended the lesson, with me doing the videotelling at the start, and the learners doing so at the end. Great video, and very versatile, too.

      To respond to simahayat’s question above about the aim of the task, sometimes I think it is necessary for the learners themselves to take time during the lesson (usually, but not always at the end) to reflect on what they have learned and what more they would like to learn in relation to a particular resource or lesson. Half the time, they do this without thinking about it anyway, even when we prescribe very detailed lesson aims to them at the outset!


      • Jamie Keddie says:

        Hello Stephen
        I am intrigued to know how you tied the text / activity in with cleft sentences.
        Thanks for clarifying things further for Simahayat. I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, in the PDF lesson plan, I suggest a task along those lines which aims to encourage students to become more aware of language in the text.
        Thanks a lot for sharing
        Jamie :)

        • I’m afraid I can’t take any credit for the cleft sentence work, it was the learners themselves making a link from a previous lesson. Depending on the learners and their motivation, I find it fascinating how they can take almost any Videotelling activity and making it connect to relevant language.

          We quite often spend a bit of time near the end of lessons thinking and discussing what learners have ‘got’ from that day’s lesson(s). At higher levels in particular, I feel this is far more useful, not to mention realistic.

          • Jamie Keddie says:

            It’s a breath of fresh air to read your comment Stephen. I spend most of my life on the defensive for not having clear enough aims and objectives. I mentioned to Siham (above) that one of my talks this year is titled: What’s the point?
            Jamie :)

    6. sihamhayat says:

      hi Jamie,

      Could explain how can we teach this lesson for non native english speakers ? For example in my country with my students, I found difficulties to explain a lesson because of their weaknesses in english language. (English language is taught lately ie not early and after arabic and french languages in Algeria)


      • Jamie Keddie says:

        Hello Siham
        All of the activities on this site are suitable for learners of English (i.e. non-native speakers). But some are for higher levels than other. This activity will be too advanced for your students if they are beginners. Some general advice: do you prepare your students for a text before you give it to them? For example, do you pre-teach key / problematic words and phrases from the text before they read it / hear it?

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