Keep taking the pills…

Get your ches'nuts 'ere..

Get your ches’nuts ‘ere..  Image by @fionamau at ELTpics

As October draws to a close and, here in the Northern Hemisphere, Autumn fills the air with smells of wood-smoke, roast chestnuts, wet leaves, our world of food undergoes a subtle shift too. Salads are replaced by soups, pulses and stews push lighter fare aside, chilled beer is usurped by red wine (and tea, of course); the harvest season ends with its various festivals celebrating and giving thanks – for crops, for grapes, for hops… – in time for Persephone’s period in hiding. .. Sorry, it’s an autumnal mood thing 😉

Anyway, in keeping with that, and to bring together the close of the IATEFL Global Issues SIG’s Food Issues Month, ELTpics’ third birthday (I’ve just uploaded eltpic number 16,000!!), and this blog’s second, I’ve done the opposite of Persephone and come out of hiding. I’m very pleased to be able to welcome, as guest blogger, and old friend of mine whose name has become more and more familiar over the years. More Global, in fact…. Curiously, one of the first times I met Lindsay, we were dealing with a food issue – helping a hotel manager translate after a cranky English-speaking client had thrown a bowl of soup at a waitress! A fortuitous bowl, as it turned out, as Lindsay has been amongst the people I call ‘friends’ ever since. Lindsay is a prolific contributor to our profession, and has been for a number of years: involved in and fronting various successful adult coursebooks, participating in iT’s for Teachers, onestopenglish and a handful of resource books, Lindsay is now one of the people at the helm of The Round, which was a nominee for the prestigious 2013 ELTons awards. I leave you in his capable hands.


It’s interesting how sometimes the smallest thing can set off an idea that just won’t go away. In my case it was the following photo in eltpics, taken by Ann Loseva.

Full of beans   Image by Anna Loseva at ELTpics.

Beans? Pills? Hallucination?    Image by Ann Loseva at ELTpics.

I have been moderating the IATEFL Global Issues SIG event on Food Issues. When I saw this image with the following title: Beans? Pills? Hallucination? I couldn’t stop thinking about food pills. I started doing some reading on it. Did you know that in the late 1800s food pills were once a dream of the early feminists? Food pills could therefore easily be a Food Issues lesson! A couple of days later, here is the result. Enjoy!

Lindsay Clandfield, October 2013

Food pills – a lesson idea inspired by eltpics for Food Issues Month.

Preparation: For this short activity you need the photo above, taken from eltpics (photo by Ann Loseva). You could also do the interesting background reading Meal-in-a-pill at the BBC.

Optional preparation: Bring in a selection of dried beans or pills to be used as realia (see variation stage 4)

Level: B1 +

Stage one:

Tell learners you have a photo of an object that you want to show them. Before you do, explain that the object in question could be interpreted in different ways. Tell them you are going to suggest different interpretations of this object. Can they guess what it is?

Read the following sentences out. Emphasize that these are all interpretations of the SAME object.

It’s an object that liberates women from work in the kitchen.

It’s an object of a terrifying future world, where people don’t get any pleasure from eating.

It’s a solution for the world’s food crisis.

It’s a more efficient way of eating so you have more free time for other things.

It’s a dangerous object that has lots of chemicals in it.

An object that people use to control their eating, so they don’t eat so much.

Can learners guess what it is?

Stage two:

Show or project the photo and the list of interpretations. Put students in groups of three or four and ask them to choose one of the interpretations and give more reasons to support that interpretation. They should try and come up with at least three reasons. Allow around five minutes for this, then feedback as a group.

Stage three:

Explain that the concept of food pills is one that has been interpreted in all these different ways in science fiction and society. Ask the class which of the interpretations they think is most interesting/relevant/improbable.

If you like, you could assign the reading at this moment or as a follow up to the lesson.

Stage four:

Put students back into pairs and display the photo again. Give each pair one of the following questions (on a piece of paper).

Imagine these three pills contain all the taste and nutrients of an amazing three-course meal. Describe what that meal would be.

Imagine these three pills are medicine that could help people who have problems with food or eating. What would each pill do?

Imagine you work for a corporation that sells these “meals-in-pills”. What would your marketing strategy be? Identify the people who would most likely buy these pills, and the arguments you would use to sell them.

Imagine you live in a future where these pills are the way all humans consume food. What would be the causes of this situation? What would be the consequences? Think of three of each.

Variation: If you have brought pills or dried beans to class give each pair three of them. They can use them in their presentation in stage four.

Stage five:

Ask pairs to present their ideas to the rest of the class and feedback.

Lindsay Clandfieldissues-month-final-5-500px

If you’d like to add a class-plan using ELTpics and working on Food Issues, as a way of extending the GISIG’s great idea, and to thank them, and Lindsay, for allowing  us to participate, please send me a message via Twitter (@fionamau) or Facebook (you can find me via the ELTpics Facebook page).


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