May 182010

Bother! The Shark Tank video in my last posting isn’t accessible outside the US. Thanks for alerting me, Evan and very sorry for any frustration I caused folks.

When I first came to the US, I was amused to find people who would pop up on the TV screen after I’d watched a PBS programme and explain what I’d just watched to me. It was surprisingly low context and didactic behaviour that prompted me to ask ‘Do they think I’m an idiot?’. But it also had a sort of charm to it. And the truth is, while it was irritating and condecending to have folks pointing out the bleedingly obvious, sometimes they pointed out things I hadn’t noticed or didn’t know – and was glad to know.

The two pictures below should lead to two example videos that come from a US TV programme called ‘What would you do?’ (if you have time to click on them and wait for an annoying 15 second ad to run – sorry about that) They don’t explore culture so much as race, and gender and there’s an obvious link to the second conditional. I found the content very interesting and perhaps your students will too. I’d expect they’d need to be upper intermediate or advanced to follow the dialogue well. (I’ve run some checks this time and the videos seem to be accessible in Europe at least, so fingers crossed.)

There’s a question I find myself wondering when I watch them: do you think TV programme makers in other countries might have made them differently and how?  (Oh and if you do show them to your students, please tell me what they make of them – thank you)  


 Posted by at 6:39 am

  16 Responses to “Bike theft”

  1. This is great Vicki! Thanks for sharing. I watched all 3 videos and the reaction of the people was fascinating. It seems that stereotypes of race and gender still abound.

    I’ve had about 6 bikes stolen in the course of my longish life (yes, I know, it does sound rather a lot, but unfortunately, it is true). I don’t react too well to bike thieves in general. That horrible, sinking feeling of seeing an empty space where your bike should have been, is one that I have never got used to.

    So, I think I would definitely avert the authorities if I saw somebody actively stealing a bike as in the videos.

  2. Oh glad the videos were accessible and thank you for telling me, Janet. Not glad to hear about all those stolen bikes though. How infuriating!

  3. I am not entirely blameless. I mentioned they were locked. However, sometimes in my early student days, they were not locked to an immovable object, so I do have to accept some sort of blame for not being ultra cautious and vigilant.

    The last time it happened, I immediately bought myself a cheap, non-descript second-hand bike, which nobody would look at twice and touch wood, it’s still with me in the UK!

    Back to the videos, I agree they make for a brilliant lesson on “what would you do” or even “what would you have done in those situations?”.

  4. On British TV in the sixties they did a wonderful experiment.
    They chained a small girl to some railings outside a park in London and filmed secretly the reactions of the people passing by.
    After half an hour basically nothing except the occasional look.
    “We then chained a dog to the same railings.”
    After 5 minutes a crowd had gathered trying to free it and looking very concerned.

  5. Wow! Wow!

    What a great tip I watched all three videos too and mmm… mm…would you mind terribly if make some LP suggestions, bypassing on the 2ndConditional and all that…

    Provide students with random pictures of a blond woman, a black teen and white teen plus a bicycle and tell them that one of these people are going to steal a bicycle and ask the ss to individually make a note of who they think it will be…
    (get the pics from a creative commons licensed picture repository like Flickr)

    Put them in smaller groups and ask ss to compare and tell each other why they thought it would be x, y or z

    Ask them to now discuss whether or not they have ever seeing someone stealing a bicycle – (or anything else for that matter)? What did they do in the situation? Why?

    Show them the videos

    Engage the whole class in a discussion on gender, race and other assumptions we base snap decisions on / our personal prejudices and how we’re fooled by appearances – and in general allow the conversation to flow in whatever direction it wants to 🙂

    Discuss all grammatical and vocabulary issues which came during this section.

    Ask them to work in groups to come up with a similar scenario but one that would suit their own cultures – be careful at this stage and make sure that there is a respect esp. if in a multi-cultural classroom

    Get them to blog (or write an essay) on
    a) ways that people can become more aware of stereotyping…
    b) a personal story or lesson in making the wrong assumption
    c) beauty & the beast in all of us…
    d) you own idea


    p.s.also had a bike stolen.

  6. Oh… I had a story to add – almost forgot – once I was walking down the Konigstrasse (main street in Stuttgart) and I saw a young boy take 1 sneaker (yes one) from a shoe shop. I yelled at him – in English – and my friend looked at me like I was nuts.

    I then got to the shoe shop and informed them and they went after him.

    My friend, with me at the time, was British and she asked me why I’d gotten involved.

    Because it’s not right. I said. She shook her head and told me that it wasn’t any of my business. To be honest, I think that what we saw in the first video is really, really, how most people think.

    Funny, really – it is. I am not sure why I got involved at all, I just saw that something was wrong and did… nowt so strange as folk, eh?

  7. A lesson plan! Oh that’s great, Karenne. Thank you so much!
    This is great folks – we have our class planned out. Much appreciated Karenne.

  8. To add to Karenne’s great ideas, here’s some interesting politessness stuff that goes on in the dialogues that you might like to point out.

    Passerbys may be thinking ‘He’s totally stealing that bike’ (as one puts it), but they hedge when they address the while male:
    “I guess I have to ask, is that your bike?”
    “You’re not stealing it, right?”
    “I just want to know if it’s your bike”

    With the black youth there’s no hedging:
    “Is that your bike?”
    “Are you taking that bike?”
    “Are you trying to steal that bike”

  9. Crikey Chris – amazing story about the kid and the dog.
    That ‘What would you do?’ TV series has just started I think, and one of the other scenarios they’ve explored so far has been to do with whether people intervene if they see an angry mother throw her kids out of a car and tell them to walk home.
    A smaoking mother with beaten up car – passers by intervene.
    Expensively dressed woman with pearls and high end vehicle, the kids are left to sob on their own.

  10. 🙂 sorry ’bout the typos though – I’m really suffering from typing too fast at the moment!

    Love the paying attention to the politeness in the passers-by comments and will hone in on that too!


  11. Great lesson ideas Karenne, and great hedging language, Vicki. Thanks for these!

    A really practical post with lots of fab applications for lesson exploitation.

  12. The “bleedingly” obvious?

  13. Why yes, Harry. An intentional variation on blindingly obvious. Trust I haven’t offended?

  14. Wasn’t sure if it was a mixture of “blindingly obvious” and “bleeding obvious”, just a mistyping, or some new variation I hadn’t come across before. I can’t begin to see how that could be perceived as offensive to anyone, but sorry if so.

  15. Ah, I’d love to be able to claim it as my own, but I’ve heard it around. Nice to meet you Harry.

  16. Likewise! I see “bleedingly obvious” gets more than half as many googlehits as “bleeding obvious”, so it’s well established. Dunno about you, but I find I learn something new every day, lexically speaking.

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