In Our Time

06-Jul-2011

In Our Time is the title of the first collection of short stories published by the great American writer Ernest Hemingway. It is said that the title was named after the line in the Book of Common Prayer: “give us peace in our time”. In Our Time is also a live BBC radio discussion that explores the history of people, ideas and events of all ages, in spite of the title.

Presented by Melvyn Bragg since 1998, it is one of BBC radio’s most successful discussion programmes. Each episode lasts about 45 minutes, so it is as short as Hemingway’s short stories and meant to be as immediate and universal as the Common Prayer’s line.

I came across this radio programme accidentally but since then I haven’t missed a single episode. Its flavour lies in the fact that the ideas are outlined in a very informal way, just like in a restaurant conversation. However, it somehow transcends the usual small talk of everyday round-table shows and, for the ones who are looking for high profile content, gives us peace in our time. It does indeed!

I believe the programme is also a great tool for teachers who want to practise students’ listening skills. There are loads of ways in which you can deploy the episodes in the class. There’s a great variety of topics, which makes it easy to link to the content of books and digital materials and design a nice lesson plan.

There’s an activity in Macmillan English Campus (ID MEP 013132) that can be tied to the programme on the Industrial Revolution. You can play parts of the programme and ask students to listen for gist. Maybe you could pre-teach words and use the MEC Dictionary and Word List to create a word bank. Later you could do the above mentioned activity and have a discussion in class. What do you think?

You can also explore a variety of odd topics that I am sure any human being would be interested in hearing:

–    Alchemy
–    Witchcraft
–    The Divine Right of the Kings
–    Chance and Design
–    Artificial Intelligence

Pick yours and have a good class!

Pedro

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