In particular I have a number of teens who are always difficult when it comes to homework, so I recently turned them into ‘fleet street hacks’ for some fun writing exercises.
I decided to use an episode of the Agatha Christie crime series Hercule Poirot as the basis for this little project. For their homework, my students became crime reporters for the London Chronicle and each had to write a front page article for the newspaper after watching either a clip or a full episode of Hercule Poirot. I wasn’t looking for a stating report that just stated the facts, I also wanted them to use their imaginations, so I encouraged them not to just report what they had witnessed, but to imagine that they had also had the opportunity to interview either Hercule himself, one of his sidekicks, or any of the many suspects in the case.
I am an English teacher in Italy, so none of my students are native English speakers, which obviously makes things a little more difficult for them. However, once a student reaches a certain level, you have to continue to push them in order to keep them interested. This little exercise has encouraged my students to describe past activities and the backgrounds of the people involved, where they have been and who or what they say they saw at the time. Also, they have reported on the current activities of an on-going investigation as well as the planned future activities of the investigation.
In a further aside to this, I paired some of my students up and gave one of them the task of interviewing the other, who took on the role of one of the characters from the investigation. In this, the reporter was able to ask direct questions relating to the episode and the character’s role in the events in order to expand upon their original crime report.
The students were so enthused about this activity that we actually spent more time on it than I had originally planned and they ended up creating video interviews for the local TV news channel as well. So the written English exercise turned into a spoken English exercise as well.
You could easily use this type of activity with any scenario, but I think crime drama adds a bit of spice which helps to fire up the imagination.