The exercise allows you and your students to explore the sensory power of words. Put these headings up on the board for them to copy into their note books:
I see I hear I feel through my body I taste/smell
Explain to the students that you are going to dictate some simple English words to them and that you would like them to note each word down in the column in which they get their first sensory representation of it. If you dictate the word UNCLE some people will get a picture of an uncle of theirs, some will get a picture of the word itself, some may hear the uncle's voice, others may feel the presence of an uncle, while some may have a nose sensation of the uncle. The important thing is which representation pops up first. Dictate these words:
soup child mountain old to go for a walk green field temple traffic rice paddy
mother Tuesday shoes to dream Obama mosquito cheese Thailand
stairs sister feeling tired examination two feet digging in the garden happy baby
grandfather river knife yesterday God
Group the students in fours to compare their sensory repesentation of the words.
Round off the activity by asking the whole group where they placed MOTHER, HAPPY BABY, SISTER and GRANDFATHER
This activity is especially good with teenagers who are amazed at just how creatively different some of their sensory representations of the same word can be. If you have read my article on the iffiness of comprehension questions you will realise that this exercise carries the same message as the article. There is no way on earth that I can know, guess, or even hypothesise how you create a word in your head and still less how you create a story in your head.
If I want to know I'd better ask you, respectfully.
Over the next 36 hours I will be travelling from the UK on the Atlantic shore of Europe to Baki in Azerbaijan, that that stands on a peninsula sticking out into the Caspian sea. I will be back with you on Friday, Western Asian time.
Till then, goodbye. Mario