Sunday, January 19, 2014

Traffic Jam

In the course of reading about extreme weather in the region, we ran into references to ice jams on the river.  Two learners were familiar with the term "traffic jams" and made the association.  I let them explain to the others and it was a good discussion.  I thought it would be fun to bring in James Taylor's "Traffic Jam" as a reinforcing activity, so I went home and began to prepare an activity around that.

thanks to EJP Photo
But in the meantime the news lit up with talk of traffic jams!  In case you're not up on our local news (ha ha!), the Governor of New Jersey was accused of creating a gigantic multi-day traffic jam on the world's busiest bridge as payback to a mayor who didn't endorse him in the last election.  Email evidence proved that his staff did do this, so he sacked some folks and followed up with a two-hour image control session (oops, I mean news conference).  Since there's been a lot of talk about this guy running for president in 2016, this scandal has gotten more attention than usual.  The story was capped off with a parody of "Born to Run" that hit Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

We gotta get out but we can't
We're stuck in Governor Christie's Fort Lee, New Jersey traffic jam!

I had new learners joining the class last week so I had a rather planned lesson, but I did  transcribe the clip and play it in the concluding minutes.  What I like is that it's a current, local event that not only reinforces "jam" but opens up a number of civics topics for further discussion.

- Local politics: who is Chris Christie, what are his political aspirations, and will this scandal and the video have any effect on them? 

- Popular culture: who is Bruce Springsteen and why is this particular parody video so cutting? (Because Bruce is "the Boss", the song is the unofficial anthem of NJ, Christie worships Bruce.)

- Freedom of speech: a mayor should be free to endorse or not endorse a candidate without fear of retribution, political figures can be held up to humorous scrutiny in our media.

Earlier in the lesson, we had discussed "hafta/hassta", and the difference between "get to do something" and "gotta do something".  Several learners noticed "gotta" in the parody, and also "wanna".  Next time, we could examine Springsteen's choice of register and whether it was appropriate for the topic.  Maybe learners could rewrite some of the lines into more formal English!

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