What is the quickest way to get from here to there? Well, it all depends on what those places are. Getting to the top of a mountain in a short amount of time would certainly require a different means of travel than getting to the bottom of the sea. Under what circumstances, then, might roller skates be the quickest or best means of travel? Your students will explore this question with the following activities that explore what it means to move on wheels rather than heels.
How to Teach an ESL Lesson on Roller Skates
The Best Skate
Though the inventor of the roller skate is unknown, its first recorded appearance was in 1743 when a performer wore them on stage in London. Since then, the roller skate has undergone several transformations and has fulfilled many different needs. Give your students some time to explore the history of the roller skate on Wikipedia.com which includes some pictures that show how the roller skate has changed over time. Ask groups of students to articulate, in their own words, what changes the roller skate has experienced in the last two and a half centuries. Then challenge each group to take the roller skate’s development a step further by thinking of one or more ways that the roller skate can be further improved. These improvements can be for function or style or any other reason. Have each group write a description of what improvements they would make to the roller skate and then present their ideas in front of the class. After each presentation, ask the rest of the class for their reactions. Would they support the suggested changes, or do they think those changes would not be beneficial. Encourage each person to support his answers with specific reasons.
Wheels in the Work Place
What do restaurants and roller skates have in common? Not much other than the servers who carried out food laden trays while on wheels! This, of course, happened at drive in restaurants in the 1950’s and 60’s in the era of the carhop. The iconic picture of girls in skirts and high ponytails skating out to wait on customers in convertibles comes to mind when thinking about that era. Many chose skates over shoes because roller skates made for faster delivery of the food to the customers. Are your students familiar with this historical phenomenon? If not, familiarize them with it and then ask them to think of other occupations that might be improved by wearing roller skates. Break your class into discussion groups to talk about what work would be like wearing skates while at work. They can come up with their own occupations to think about, or you can supply each group with a list of typical occupations. Can the groups think of any jobs that would be easier on skates? Which would be most detrimental on skates? Challenge each group to make a list of pros and cons to wearing roller skates in the work place.
If your students have completed a unit on sports, did they discuss the roller derby at all during the unit? The 2009 movie Whip It shows the roller derby in action, and you may want to share a clip from the movie with your students to familiarize them with the sport. They can also get an informative explanation of the sport at Wikipedia.com. Once your students are familiar with the roller derby, show them how to use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two different items. A Venn diagram uses two overlapping circles – one for each item being considered. Qualities that both items possess are written in the overlapping section of the circles. Qualities that only one item possesses are written in either of the circles outside of the overlapping areas. In this case, you can compare roller derby with a sport of your choice as an entire class, or you can give your students time individually to compare and contrast roller derby with a sport that they choose. Using the completed diagram, students should write one paragraph about how roller derby is similar to the other sport and a second paragraph about how roller derby differs from the other sport.
A product that has been the center of controversy lately is the combination sneaker and roller skate called Heelys. These shoes that become pseudo skates with just one click of a wheel in the heel have been hugely popular with kids but not so popular with adults. Many retail establishments and public places have banned the potentially dangerous shoe. National news programs have addressed the shoes in warning video segments. Parents have worried and kids have begged to have a pair of the unique footwear. With all this controversy over the shoes, this is a good opportunity for your students to express their own opinions. Give your class a chance to do a little research on line about Heelys. They will find advertisements and instructional videos as well as articles on the shoes. After gathering information about Heelys, ask each of your students to offer her opinion on the product. You can do this either as a class or in discussion groups. Each person should support his or her opinion with facts and examples that prove why Heelys should be allowed or why they should be banned. In addition, ask any of your students who have worn Heelys to share about their personal experiences. After listening to their classmates, have each person write a letter to the editor either in support of or against the shoes. You can bring in the editorial section of recent papers to give your students an example of what the letter should be like.
Roller skates have experienced a revolution from their first appearance in 1743 to the controversial shoes in the 21st century, and many people still have strong feelings about moving through their days on wheels.
Your students will benefit from thinking about what it means to move on wheels and how they can improve or damage our daily lives.