Can people date their computers?

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This is a lesson I’ve had with scenes from one of my favorite dramas called “Her”, featuring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johanson. The movie is about a man who falls in love with an intelligent operating system. There’s a great scene which can be used to practice Past Simple and Present Perfect, or you can get students to talk about technology in a new way for them.

Here’s what you need to do:

1) Ask your students if they are in a relationship. How long they’ve been in their relationships and ask them to describe what they like about their partners to their fellow students.

2) Get feedback from the whole class.

3) Ask students what’s the best way to get to know somebody and why.

4) When students have spoken about dates, ask them if they’ve had a date go wrong and what happened (But don’t push them if they don’t want to talk about it)

5) Tell students that they’re going to watch a video about a date. Show them the first part and ask what relationship do the characters have but don’t confirm any answers yet.

6) Show students the second part and ask them what did they sign, students will have guessed by now that the characters are signing divorce papers.

7) Have students watch the third part and discuss the questions with their partners:

1. What does Theodore mean when he says “You are your worst critic?”

2. What makes Theodore cry?

3. How long has Theodore been dating someone new?

4. How did he describe his girlfriend?

5. How did Catherine react to Theodore’s description?

8) Before showing students Part 4, ask them to imagine in pairs what Theodore’s new girlfriend looks like. Get feedback from the students and show them the last part. Ask them if the situation surprised them.

9) Ask students how Catherine reacted to the information. Then, ask them if they agree with her opinion of Theodore’s relationship. Also, you can ask them how would they react if they found out that their partner was dating a computer and why they think Theodore started dating his Operating System.

10) To practice their listening skills, as well as the tenses. Have them fill-in the gaps using the sentences spoken during the video and when they’re done, have them check their answers by watching the whole video.

11) Ask students how often they use their computers and smartphones. Ask if they think they’re too attached to them. Ask them how they can limit their use of their devices. Then, after getting feedback, ask students if they think the situation in the movie can happen in real life.

12) Tell students that in China, some men have actually married robots. Divide the classroom into 2-4 groups (depending on how many students you have) for and against marriage to robots. Give them time to think of ideas to support their point of view. For fun, when students are done debating, you can switch roles and have the ones for robot-human marriage speak against it and vice versa. Award the groups with points and have the class choose which group had the best ideas and why.

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