Online Gambling As A TEFL Conversation Topic

top1.jpgI was working with a group of four higher-ups at one company, three of them members or heads of different boards, one of them…not a member of a board. Different people talk in different proportions all the time, and these people were all quite open and friendly and relaxed, not to mention well-educated and with a variety of opinions on things. But this fourth guy – the non-board member – tended to be a bit more reserved. Maybe it was his personality, maybe it was the group dynamic, or maybe he just wasn’t been particularly taken with the topics we’ve discussed.

On the day in question, we were a group of three (two of them and I). We frequently do jigsaw readings from Newsweek – they each get an article, spend 8-10 minutes reading it, summarize it breifly for the group and then we discuss it as they are rather adverse to any grammar and even often any vocabulary focus.

I had an article about Oprah’s South African school for them as well as two other alternatives – the EU Constitution (or lack of one) and Online Gambling.

The first woman hadn’t heard of Oprah, which was a bit of a surprise. Then I had to admit I know very little of EU politics, especially concerning the Constitution, and I’d realized that if we were to discuss this, they would have to have not only some additional background to it, but some opinions on it as well. No such luck. They had no idea about the EU Constitution either. Oh, well, then, someone would have to take the shorter article on online gambling.

The eyes of the quiet man lit up immediately.

Apparently this was something he did in his free time – only small amounts of course, but he was a wealth of information about regulations, credit card fraud protection measures, and ways other people got around the built-in daily limit. He had extra time to read it because the other article was so much longer, and when he started talking there was no stopping him. The woman had to leave a bit early, and hardly had a chance to summarize her Oprah article. As she left, the remaining student – the non-board member gambler – and I looked at each other and there was no doubt; we were returning to the topic of online gambling. I even stayed a bit late as he went into greater and greater detail.

I suppose it just goes to show that there is value in incorporating a number of different topics. Use your judgment of course, but don’t assume too much about the knowledge (who Oprah is) or interests (online gambling) of your students.