One of my co-workers recently came across this gem from the book Communicative Activities for EAP (Cambridge, 2011) : the IT Vocabulary RAP.
After we had mocked the activity and everything about it mercilessly (The explanation of what a rap is! The picture! The example rap! The fact that the book was published in 2011, not 1990!), I got to thinking about how glad I am that there are people out there creating and sharing teaching ideas for EAP that are more engaging, more relevant, and more authentic than this crap.
This activity exemplifies how fraught with danger the shift from regular ELT to EAP can be if you don’t have your wits about you and if you’re not in touch with the bigger picture. If you want to do a pronunciation activity on word stress, fine, and if you want to have your students practice the word stress of vocabulary related to their discipline, cool, but a “rap” about IT vocabulary? There is an obliviousness here to any notion of authenticity of genre, both in terms of the vocabulary set and the context in which it would be used, as well as the genre of rap. (If you want to use rap to teach ESL, you can do so in a way authentic to that genre.)
Also, will learning these words in isolation and out of context really help them “stick”? Many theories, including that of lexical priming we saw Michael Hoey speak about last week at IATEFL would say it won’t.
Another issue here is the idea that EAP has to be sexed up and made “fun”. This is not to say an EAP instructor won’t choose to alternate more cognitively draining activities with lighter ones, or activities focusing on specific areas of EAP with more general ESL activities. But when you create weird EAP activities like this that strip away any possible layers of relevant context or authenticity, they just become lame: they are neither effective for really helping students learn EAP, nor are they any fun. (I cannot even begin to imagine the eye rolls that would ensue if I were to try to do a “rap” with any EAP class I’ve ever had….)
On the whole, Communicative Activities for EAP is not a complete write off; but there there are quite a few duds in there. It’s frustrating because I know there are lots of people out there creating activities that are truly EAP and truly communicative, but where are our book deals??!!!??? 🙂