As part of explaining their approach to “open journalism“, The Guardian has just released an advert depicting a version of the classic “three little pigs” story as it might have transpired today.

They might as well have hung a banner over the front of it saying “Exploit this with your classes!”  So I have.  The lesson plan, materials and the relevant videos are all accessible below.

Three little Pigs Lesson:

Overview:  This lesson essentially follows an output feedback model, with most of the language feedback delayed until towards the end of the lesson.

Lead In:  Ask learners to discuss their favourite nursery rhymes / children’s stories.  Content feedback on any interesting tales, especially focusing on any opportunities for intercultural exchange.

Text Reconstruction:

Give learners a copy of the wordle (below) and initially ask them to identify which story it relates to (and if they know it!).

Secondly, and using the words on the wordle as much as possible, learners have to try and recreate the story.  This is essentially a grammaring task, so the actual content of the story isn’t so important – the focus here is on accuracy.  if learners are in pairs or in small groups, one learner should be nominated as a scribe to record the groups’ output.  That way language input can occur as you go round and help them out.

Wordle: Three Little Pigs story


As feedback on the task, you can nominate one group to tell their story, with other groups “buzzing in” if they spot a language error.  If they identify an error correctly, they get to take up the tale from that point (not from the start or it’ll take too long!).

Listening:  Now ask learners to compare their versions to the Christopher Walken version (4m 30s) of the story in the video below:

Get some content feedback / discussion on the video version.

Modern Update:  Ask the learners to imagine that the story was being enacted in modern times, and in their city (or the city where the class takes place) – the protagonists can be changed to human beings if necessary – how would things be different?  What roles might the people take?  For example,  could you see the wolf as a property developer and the pigs as squatters?

In small groups, learners come up with a modern reimagining of the tale.  These do not need to be written down (as they’ll already have done a similar task) but can be discussed and can remain spoken.  Have some brief content feedback, possibly if time allows, a vote for the best modern version?)

Video:  Play learners the Guardian video (below) and ask them to compare their ideas to those in the video.  What are their reactions to the story depicted?

(Flexistage: – if time, learners can watch the video again to note down the social issues raised and discussed in the Guardian advert.  If not, just move onto the following debate)

Debate:  Elicit or provide a list of the issues that come up in the Guardian video:

  1. Homeowners rights to protect property
  2. Soaring levels of personal debt
  3. #opennews / open journalism

These can then be rephrased into the following statements for debate, which could be run either as an opposition debate or just as a general discussion:

  1. People have the right to defend their homes and families in whatever way they see fit.
  2. Capitalism has gone too far and does more harm than good in our society.
  3. Journalism should be left to the professionals – the public has no place in the media except as consumers.

Lesson Feedback: Provide content feedback as necessary on the previous debate and provide language feedback and correction for the lesson as a whole.


Further Reading / references:

Larry Ferlazzo mentioned the Guardian advert in the context of applying critical thinking and using Bloom’s Taxonomy.

The Guardian goes into more detail on what “open journalism” is, how it works and how you can get involved.

A quick You Tube search reveals that many, many people have played with the story of the Three Little Pigs before – the swine flu version and Roald Dahl’s revolting Rhymes version are my favourites…

For an in depth examination of the meaning underlying the original story, and other fairy tales as well, read this fascinating overview of the differences between the pleasure principle and the reality principle.