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Slowly but
steadily, madness descended lesson plan

Preliminary information

Time: 90-120 minutes??

Level: Upper intermediate

To give extensive & detailed reading practice
To give freer speaking practice
To give oral practice with functional areas involved in the speaking activities: blaming, disagreeing etc..
To look at lexical sets within the article: shopping, insecurity, responsibility etc..

That the stds will be interested in the content of the text.
That the language in the text will be difficult but the content should be interesting enough to overcome language problems. there will be some vocab work & other relevant language focus to suit the group.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary may be challenging - see vocab stage.


The main article text from the Guardian Online
The 'Comment' article from the Guardian Online


Stage 1 - Intro to the theme - shopping & consumerism
15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds
1. Get the stds to brainstorm all the words they can think of connected to shopping - they call them out. You could formalise this a bit by giving them a chart to fill out.
2. Give out the following questions for stds to discuss in pairs/small groups.

Chat to your neighbour about the following questions:

1. How often do you go shopping?
2. Do you like shopping?
3. Do the sales really offer good offers?
4. Do you go to the sales?
5. What was the last major buy you made?
6. What was the last best buy you made?

3. Feedback - elicit & discuss interesting points as a class.

Stage 2 - Reading
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds
1. Put the title on the board ' Slowly but steadily, madness descended' - ask stds to predict the content of the article - write their ideas on the board.
2. Set up the reading - they have 1 minute to decide which of the predictions best matches the article. Check & hand out articles.
3. Reading - time them.
4. Stds compare in pairs.
5. Feedback
6. More intensive reading - ask the stds to write 8 questions about the article to check comprehension of the text for their classmates. Tell them to try to guess the meaning of unknown words from the context, & if this is difficult, they should try to do the task without knowing the meanings of those particular words - helping them to cope with the unknown.
7. Stds write the questions individually - go round 6 check the questions, correcting & helping out.
8. Stds swap questions & answer them - then hand them back to the writer for correcting, who then gives oral feedback on how the answerer got on.

Stage 3 - Vocab focus
25 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds

1. Ask the stds to decide which 'groups' of words occur in the text - eg.
shopping - store, managers, bargain-hunters, lured by bargains etc...
insecurity - frightening crush, stabbed, in a stable condition, chaos, damage, pushing, shoving, security guards, design fault etc...
feelings - shocked, unnerving, madness, overwhelmed etc...
responsibility - apologised, really sorry, planned, had measures in place, well-covering ourselves, irresponsible etc..
2. Then get the stds to list or put into a mind map the words for each group they have identified. Have dictionaries on hand for use if necessary - having encouraged them to try to work out the meaning from the context. Stds do this in pairs/threes. go round & help out, pointing in the right direction.
3. Stds move around the classroom comparing their word lists - discussing & explaining to each other if necessary.
4. You could collate some of the groups on the board, get the stds to write it all up & then a general chat about meaning & appropriacy of the groups & words.

One of several possibilities for further language work with the text could be some discourse analysis. You could guide the stds to the overall organisation & ask them to trace how the article develops from the initial explanation of the situation to the response of the people involved through to the brief background of Ikea - why this order & would they make any changes... The use of direct speech could also be commented on - why >> stylistic choice & exapmples of indirect speech.

Stage 4 - Speaking 1- discussion
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds
1. Put on the board 'Who's to blame?' - elicit the different parties involved - Ikea, local council, customers, Ikea staff, police, fire service....- stds discuss why each in turn might be to blame.
2. Pair work - discuss.
3. Feedback - elicit ideas for each of the parties. Hopefully ideas from this stage will help with the next.

Stage 5 - Speaking 2 - roleplay
25 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds
1. Assign roles & give instructions:
John Olie - Ikea rep
Sol Sheik - customer
William Bird - Fire Service
Down Rogers - Ikea shop assistant
John Adams - customer - who turned up at 11.45
Sandy Jones - consumer association rep
Bob Sorted - police officer
Stds are given preparation time - you might add extra information for each of the roles. For example, you might tell John Adams that he turned up late & was one of the people pushing & shoving but he doesn't want anyone to know that. And you might tell Sol Sheik that he saw John Adams causing a lot of the problem.
2. Stds prepare - you could help out & individually ask them what type of language they might be using - agreeing, blaming etc.. to get them thinking not only of the content, but also the language.
3. Language prompting - you could put some stems on the board that you would like the stds to use in their conversation for areas such as blaming, giving reasons, suggesting, disagreeing, expressing anger etc..
You could also get the stds to look back at their vocabulary work to see which of the new words they could use.
4. Roleplays - depending on how many stds you have, you might have several roleplays going on at once. While they are doing the roleplay, encourage them to note down things that they wanted to say but couldn't - for you to sort out afterwards.
5. Feedback - on the the content & the language used (including good things they came out with!)

Follow up
- there is a Comment article from the Guradian at the end of the page - you could do some more reading & discussing - the article comes out against the furniture store. This could lead to a discussion on the responsiblities that shop companies have etc..
- the stds could write a letter to the newspaper about the situation.

'Slowly but steadily, madness descended'

Mark Oliver, Thursday February 10, 2005

At one minute past midnight last night, Ikea's new flagship store opened in north London, and managers expected that around 2,000 bargain-hunters would quietly file in. The British, after all, have a reputation for being decorous queuers.

But Ikea had not predicted that up to 6,000 people would descend on the new store, in Edmonton, with a stampede to get in resulting in a frightening crush.

Thousands had been lured by bargains - some of which were only available until 3am even though a 24-hour opening was planned - such as 500 leather sofas for only £45. Cars were abandoned on the roadside as shoppers attempted to reach the store in time to secure the best offers.

Six people were taken to hospital, including a man in his 20s who was stabbed nearby at around 1.30am. He was said to be in a stable condition, and it was not clear whether the incident was related to the opening.

The chaos meant the new store - the 12th and biggest to open in the UK - had to close just over 40 minutes after opening because of what Ikea described as the "unforeseen numbers".

The Swedish furniture giant was this morning attempting to limit the damage caused by last night's events. In a statement, it said it was "deeply shocked and overwhelmed" and "could not apologise enough".

Sol Sheikh, who had arrived at the store hoping to get some bargains for his new home in Edmonton, described the scenes as "very unnerving".

"At the beginning it was nice and calm ... lots of staff hovering around," he told GMTV. "Then, at around 10pm, the staff disappeared and, slowly but steadily, madness descended on the crowd.

"A lot of people turned up just before midnight. They pushed their way into the crowd and started queueing at different parts. The staff just could not handle it."

Assistant Divisional Officer William Bird, of the London Fire Service, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It was extraordinary and, to a certain extent, unexpected. I have certainly not attended anything like this before.

"There were crush injuries and people suffering from shock from the pushing and shoving."

Police, along with nine ambulances and an emergency control vehicle, were called to the scene. Ikea said it had liaised with police and Enfield council ahead of the opening, and that up to 50 security guards and a queuing system were in place.

Ikea's UK deputy country manager John Olie told Today: "We planned everything according to what we expected - we just couldn't predict what happened. If we had known this would happen, we would have had other measures in place."

Mr Olie said three people had been killed in a stampede at a store opening in Saudi Arabia last year, but that nothing like this had happened in Britain.

"When it comes to the UK, we normally have about five security guards in our car park," he said. "On this occasion, we had 45-50 security guards, covering ourselves - well covering ourselves - in order for our customers and co-workers to be safe.

"But we were totally shocked and overwhelmed by what happened. We could not have predicted it. We are really, really sorry. We are really, really sorry."

He said the crush had not been due to a design fault with the building. It has two entrances, but one of them had to be closed to keep customers and workers safe.

Mr Olie apologised to customers, and denied that the special offers were irresponsible. In addition to the £45 sofas, a double bed frame was available for £30 between 3am and 8am. "They're good offers, but we were just totally overwhelmed by the number of visitors that we had," he said.

Ikea has been one of the most stunning business successes of recent years, with its flat-pack furniture selling in huge numbers. The company, founded more than 60 years ago in a village in southern Sweden by Ingvar Kamprad, then just 17 years old, now has stores in 29 countries across the world.

It has not yet been announced when the Edmonton store will reopen. However, managers stressed that almost all the special offer sofas had already been snapped up. "We've taken all the offers off sale," Mr Olie said. "We won't be having any more offers at all."



Flatpack farrago

Ikea treats its customers so badly, a riot is the least it might have expected, writes Susie Steiner

Thursday February 10, 2005

There has been much talk about consumer greed in the wake of the Ikea riot, about the depravity of people crushing one another for a £45 sofa. But there is less talk about Ikea's greed, and in particular about the way in which this giant of a corporation manipulates its customer's emotions, sending them into ever more hysterical cycles of rage and frustration.

The impervious face the company presents to its screaming, fitting, hyperventilating public is an interesting psychological phenomenon in itself. Ikea behaves rather like a cool lothario who seduces and woos but offers no emotional aftercare ... and then wonders why its lovers go off at the deep end.

This unbending approach is evident in all Ikea's rules of purchase. You can look on Ikea's website, but you cannot purchase anything on it. You cannot purchase over the telephone either. You cannot ring up and add to your existing order, you must visit the store again. If you go to an Ikea store by car, you must resign yourself to a couple of hours in a tailback. If you go to an Ikea store by public transport, you must resign yourself to being stung by the store's furniture delivery service.

When you're inside an Ikea store, you must come to terms with a near permanent state of bewilderment: shelves stacked with flat brown boxes labelled with random codes and names; a yellow road which takes you inexplicably through bedrooms when all you wanted was some kitchen handles. And then, then, when your emotional temperature is rising and you can feel a panicky hotness around your ears, you will be faced with Ikea's version of customer care - an underpaid teenager, trained in psychic disengagement who'll tell you they're out of stock. The next delivery won't be for two weeks. No, you can't place an order, you'll have to return to the store. That other query? You'll have to ask someone in bathrooms ... that's five yards down the yellow road and the queue's on your left.

A few years back, an Ikea TV advertising campaign came close to addressing the issue of Ikea's impervious public face, and the frustration engendered by its cavalier attitude to customer care. But the campaign's tone was hopelessly ill-conceived. The company pretty much confessed to not having enough staff in its stores, boasting that this no frills attitude to retail was precisely what kept prices so low. No one felt reassured. We just felt insulted.

And there is an important factor left out of the no-frills equals bargains equation, and that's Ikea's profit margins. The company has an annual turnover of £9bn from 179 stores in 23 countries. In October, the Swedish retailer announced record UK sales of more than £1bn over the past year, a rise of 15% at a time when rival furniture companies were issuing profit warnings. Interestingly, Peter Hogsted, head of Ikea's UK operation, declined to comment on the group's profit figures, but said it was delivering "healthy results".

It's true that Ikea's prices are almost unfeasibly low. There really is nowhere else in the UK you can buy a sofa for £200, at least one that's not shaped like a shell. In particular, there are precious few retailers in the homes market which are churning out on-the-button modern design at affordable prices.

But Ikea is disingenuous when it takes corporate decency or responsibility out of the equation. Improving the experience of its customers doesn't inevitably mean a stark rise in prices - that's a management choice, which relates directly to profit margins. It could change the way it runs its business - spend a few million less on marketing, and a few million more on staff - and begin to take some responsibility for the people having nervous breakdowns in its car parks.


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