A couple of weeks ago I was registering on a website (that shall remain nameless) and alongside captcha it had a question to check I was a person and not a machine. The question was
‘What is the opposite of hot?’
And I thought, hmm, that’s interesting. I took this idea into class and this is what I did with it.
1. I told my students (intermediate level) the same story and wrote the question on the board. I then told them that I had put in a correct answer but that the website told me I was wrong.
2. I asked the students to talk together and see if they could say what I had written and why the website rejected it.
3. They gave me some answers, all of which revolved around the idea that I had put in words like cool, freezing, chilly and that the website had wanted the word cold. I told them that they were right about the website’s expected response but that I had written the word ugly in the box. I asked the students why.
4. After some discussion they got the idea that hot can describe someone as being very attractive (usually sexually) and that in this case ugly was a possible opposite.
5. Then we explored some other meanings of hot and this is our list;
temperature, attractiveness, spice, trendy, dangerous, very skilled
6. After that we looked at some collocations and phrases and put them into categories;
hot-tap, hot food, hot plate, hot seat, hot spot/zone, scalding hot, boiling hot, hot property, hot stuff, hot topic, hot up, etc.
7. Then we took the meanings and looked at some synonyms
warm, boiling, roasting, melting, attractive, beautiful, brilliant, burning, eye-watering, difficult
8. and some contextual opposites
cool, cold, fresh, freezing, mild, boring, safe, quiet
9. We then had a look at the phrase to blow hot and cold because someone suggested run hot and cold so we had a googlefight to see which was more common (not very scientific I know, but kinda fun).
10. Students then selected the words they wanted to record and wrote them down and some linked images from google images (actually this was kind of hard as when you googled hot, the first few pages of results are nearly all images of women, shows you need to be a bit careful when using internet resources and tells you a lot about what subjects can dominate the web!) and with some example sentences which we then all had a look at and corrected or improved.
11. Students finally had a go at constructing their own questions to get an exact opposite and the challenge for the others was to give a plausible alternative opposite. This was a lot of fun.
So what does all this tell me? One, that I can be annoyingly pedantic and two, that you get teaching ideas from the weirdest places. I am not sure if this lesson falls into the unplugged/dogme category but it was a lot of fun to do and I think I’ll try similar approaches more often.