The Guardian newspaper recently ran a series of short stories related to oil, as part of a project to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster – (see BBC story for background).

Called “Oil Stories“, the Guardian project contains eight short stories from different authors that seek to examine our relationship with oil.  The stories aren’t particularly long and one of them comes in the form of a graphic novel.

This would be a useful opportunity for learners to access an authentic text (with all the implications relating to vocabulary etc that this carries) – perhaps more than that, it is a good opportunity for a group of learners to access a range of texts on the same topic (albeit, in one or two cases, somewhat obliquely).  If the texts were given out as a homework reading task, then perhaps learners could peer teach any useful vocabulary at the start of the next lesson, as well as sharing the perspectives on oil as apparent from their texts and of course their reactions to it.

The teasing out of the themes, ideas and perspectives contained within the short stories and the sharing of these within the classroom could also create optimal conditions for a summary type task, where learners work together to create a single text summarising (and possibly directly referencing) the eight short stories.

Having had the discussion in their groups of eight, learners with the same texts could work together to create a brief 50 – 75 word summary highlighting the main points in their texts.  They could then work back in their groups of eight to co-ordinate and organise the ideas into a cohesive whole.  This might be a good opportunity, for those with computer room access, to try one or more of the synchronous editing tools I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

The Oil Stories project contains work by the following authors:  China Miéville, Alain Mabanckou, Tim Gautreaux, Joanna Kavenna, Mohammed Hasan Alwan, Simone Lia, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Rose Tremain.  Even if you decide not to use these with your classes – they’re all well worth a read.  Enjoy!