Roleplay lesson from supermarket receipts

Can you justify what's on your supermarket receipt?

How much of a lesson can you get out of a supermarket receipt…?

Here's one that might sound a bit weird but seemed to work quite well when Kim tried it out in an adults post-First Certificate class, who had been doing a coursebook unit in which various "enviroment" themes had come up.

It required the learners to keep any supermarket receipts (!) and bring them to a subsequent class: They then had to defend what they'd purchased, from an environmental point of view, in a mock trial (I told you it might seem a bit weird 😉 !)

Rough outline of the lesson
Class one (Friday)

  • Learners were asked to keep and bring to class any supermarket receipts

As "homework"

  • Discussion and photos, and comments on what they were buying and how "ecological" it was, via a WhatsApp group

Class two (the following Friday)

  • Preparation time (15 mins): preparing the questions (amount of packaging…? how much meat…? how far the food had traveled from source…? etc), some of which had already come up in earlier classes and/or in the WhatsApp discussion; in order to  have a "case" and a "defence" ready for "the trial"
  • Role play the trial (10 mins): Team A = 2 defendants plus 2 lawyers vs Team B = 1 judge; 1 prosecution lawyer; 1 assistant prosecutor; 1 star witness
  • Role play 2 (10 mins), with the roles reversed
  • Sentencing (5 mins)
  • Discussion (15 mins)

Ideally, of course, you'd have the receipts in English, but Kim got round that one by having the prosecutors requiring the defendants to provide the translations during questioning.

No technology whatsoever involved in the actual class but fun, and not a photocopy in sight!

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  1. Haha, yes, they gave me a few stange looks at first but got into it in the end. It worked better than I thought it was going to.

    In fact only 3 out of 11 brought the receipts but that was enough. We in fact handed them over to the prosecution and they did the translation.

    Those were the timings but Im not sure we totally respected them.

  2. I tried that one. It worked with the class I didn't think it was going to work with and didn't with the one I was sure were going to love it!

  3. It's funny how that happens, isnt it? I had a great "prosecution lawyer", whhich helped as she really got into it. Well, she is a lawyer in real life -) !

  4. This is really neat. I'll definitely give it a try. I recently taught a similar lesson on free time activities using old bills and tickets from an evening out (dinner, movie ticket). Lots of useful language.

  5. Thanks everyone for the comments and feedback.

    I can see that it might not work with all classes. Two things: (1) think it does depend at least to some extent on who the judge and lawyers are, as Kim suggests; I'd be tempted to handpick them — you want the most dynamic, argumentative people in those roles; and (2) I guess you could also have played one of the roles yourself, to ensure that, especially if we're talking about small classes.

    Also, afterwards, feedback can include things like whether or not lawyers (etc) would actually behave like that, as well as the language used.

    Curious as to what sort of punishments the defendants were sentenced to… 😉 ?

  6. Nice idea, Vanesa.

    There's a story here that might give you something similar…. What kind of things do people have in their wallets (or handbags, or pockets…) and what kinds of stories would the items tell 50 years later?

    Perhaps as a creative writing prompt….????

  7. Mine were a bit boring with their punishments, fines mostly. They did suggest a restraining order: not allowed within 100m of a supermarket, which would force them to use a proper market, where theres prob. less plastic packaging.
    I do usually take one of the roles when its a whole class roleplay like this and partipate as an equal. With a class that is a bit reluctant to dive in it works; with one that goes for it, I do the same, onlysay a lot less.

  8. That's a cool idea, Kim. Impossible to enforce, of course, but cool nevertheless. And it's all about awareness raising, innit 😉 ?

    Love the idea of participating as an equal like that!

  9. One of my learners has just brought up an issue with this: is the fact that we're discussing it on our phones ecologically sound, he says (asking the question on his phone)????!!!!!
    If we really wanted to be "green", shouldnt we all ditch our phones?

  10. We should Kim! Er, not gonna happen!!!

    But a fun activity to try it out with a class: who can go longest with their phone turned off…? Report back on it, share the experience via something like Edmodo, or just orally in the next (?) class. Investigate how BAD our obsession with mobile phones is for the environment… Etc.

    Your learner is so totally right!

  11. This here is a nice site to have students make their own receipts (it has plenty of different templates). Students can use the online site to print out their own receipts on many topics ("The best night out", "The healthiest grocery list" and so on and so forth).

  12. Thanks for that, Vanesa. Like the idea for a receipt for a "best night out" 😉 !

    Still quite like the idea of using actually receipts, though — even if they are in the local language, rather than the target language.

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