Weekly Teaching Tip: April Fool's Day Hoaxes - Lesson Plan

In past years at this time of year we have run April Fool's Teaching Tips - see Stir it up & Cognitive & affective confusion . This year we're providing a lesson based on past hoaxes in the media. The texts are taken with permission from the Museum of Hoaxes & below are just a few of famous April Fool's hoaxes - there are 100 in total on the site.

The author of the Museum of Hoaxes, Alex Boese, has published a 'collection of fabulous pranks, stunts, deceptions, fakery, hornswoggle and hoaxes inflicted on the gullible public from long ago to today'.
To see the book...

 

Museum of Hoaxes cover

If you have any more ideas for lesson on April Fool's Day hoaxes, please post them for all to use in the Forums.

Preliminary information

Time: 75 minutes??

Level: Intermediate upwards

Aims:
To give intensive reading practice
To give freer speaking practice
To give freer writing practice
See the texts for possible language aims

Assumptions:
That the stds will be interested in the topic of April Fool's Day.
That the language will not be too difficult to get the overall meaning of the texts.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary may be challenging >> dictionaries on hand/ meaning from context tasks.
Structures - depending on level - have a good look at the texts you want to use. You may want to provide tasks focusing on the vocab & language with each text.

Aids: Quotes & Texts below with permission from the Museum of Hoaxes http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/top100.html


Procedure

Stage 1 - Intro to the theme of April Fool's Day through the 'fool' quotations
15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std

1. Elicit the vocab: a fool, foolish, to act the fool.
2. Handout the quotes & in pairs read & discuss the ones they like.
3. Feedback - class - elicit their faves & discuss why. Ask if they know any in their own language?
4. Introduce/elicit April Fool's Day - maybe through the day they celebrate in their country to play pranks on each other. Elicit what kind of things are done on a day like this. During this introduce vocab connected to the lexical set: to play a joke on, a prank, to be taken in, gullible, etc....

Stage 2 - Reading
15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std

1. Explain the activity - the stds read one of the past pranks, work on the text, & then get together with other stds to explain their prank & rank them in order of imaginativeness, effectiveness, fun etc..- a jigsaw activity.
2. Handout texts - stds in pairs read & help each other with comprehension - poss. have dictionaries on hand. You could add comprehension & vocab tasks at the end of each text. Be on hand to help out when all else fails.

Stage 3 - Jigsaw speaking activity
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std

1. Put stds into two or three different groups - each having read a different text, depending how many you have in the group. The stds explain their stories & then together they rank them. Also encourage them to write down new vocab they learned from each other.
2. When they have an order either get one std to go to the other group to explain the order & justifications or go back to the original pairs & they compare what they have heard & their group's orderings.
3. Feedback - on both the task achievement & the language, both difficulties & good things that came up.

Stage 4 - Stds design their own April Fool's joke
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds

1. Set up the activity, explaining that they are going to design their own & write a report of it for all to read & then put them on the walls to vote on most imaginative.
2. In small groups/pairs stds discuss & write - be on hand if needed.
3. Stick up reports on walls - stds wander round reading each others.
4. Vote on best - could be done informally in a class discussion.

A few quotes about fools & foolish things

However big the fool, there is always a bigger fool to admire him. (Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux)

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools. (Herbert Spencer)

Looking foolish does the spirit good. (John Updike)

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. (Mark Twain)

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. (William Blake)

Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn at no other. (Benjamin Franklin)

A fool must now and then be right by chance. (Cowper)

It is better to be a fool than to be dead. (Stevenson)

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. (Douglas Adams)

The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year. (Mark Twain)

The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools. (Doug Larson)

Some April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. To this question, the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

Spaghetti harvest

2. San Serriffe
In 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement in honor of the tenth anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer's terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that then gripped the British tabloids in the following decades.

3. Sidd Finch
In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch and he could reportedly throw a baseball with startling, pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph (65 mph faster than anyone else has ever been able to throw a ball). Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never even played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans everywhere celebrated at their team's amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information. But in reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the writer of the article, George Plimpton.

4. Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers
In its April 1985 issue Discover Magazine announced that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. These fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards into the resulting slush where the hotheads consumed them. After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. "To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin," the article quoted her as saying. Discover received more mail in response to this article than they had received for any other article in their history.

5. Alabama Changes the Value of Pi
The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Before long the article had made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly made its way around the world, forwarded by people in their e-mail. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by a physicist named Mark Boslough.

6. The Sydney Iceberg
On April 1, 1978 a barge appeared in Sydney Harbor towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman (owner of Dick Smith's Foods), had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded. He said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These well-traveled cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbor. Local radio stations provided excited blow-by-blow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the harbor was its secret revealed. It started to rain, and the firefighting foam and shaving cream that the berg was really made of washed away, uncovering the white plastic sheets beneath.

7. The 26-Day Marathon
In 1981 the Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. The Daily Mail reported that Nakajimi was now somewhere out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race. Supposedly various people had spotted him, though they were unable to flag him down. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something like the very long races they have over there."

8. Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
In 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

9. The Left-Handed Whopper
In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."

10. Whistling Carrots
In 2002 the British supermarket chain Tesco published an advertisement in The Sun announcing the successful development of a genetically modified 'whistling carrot.' The ad explained that the carrots had been specially engineered to grow with tapered airholes in their side. When fully cooked, these airholes caused the vegetable to whistle.

11. Guinness Mean Time
In 1998 Guinness issued a press release announcing that it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration. According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, where the Observatory traditionally counted seconds in "pips," it would now count them in "pint drips." The Financial Times, not realizing that the release was a joke, declared that Guinness was setting a "brash tone for the millennium." When the Financial Times learned that it had fallen for a joke, it printed a curt retraction, stating that the news it had disclosed "was apparently intended as part of an April 1 spoof."

12. Drunk Driving on the Internet
An article by John Dvorak in the April 1994 issue of PC Computing magazine described a bill going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public network. The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e. 04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (April Fools backwards). The article said that the FBI was going to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?" The article offered this explanation for the origin of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway' itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194... I know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is." The article generated so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill.


Happy teaching!

Alistair

The Weekly Teaching Tip is written by Alistair Dickinson at Developing Teachers.com
This newsletter is a free service of Developing Teachers.com and is copyright 2001-2003 Developing Teachers.com All rights reserved.

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