The solution? Have the students help create the task themselves! What could be more unplugged that using student-created content? Of course the texts themselves were not created by the students, but they were real, authentic texts that are ideal to practise micro-skills such as skimming for gist and scanning for specific information.
I placed sets of leaflets, which all advertised tourist attractions, on tables around the classroom. I then wrote on the board "A day out" and asked the students to write on the board (a kind of wandrous whiteboard but on a specific topic). We then discussed what they had written and what kind of days out they preferred and why. Thanks to Cecilia Coelho for the idea of staying at the board for the discussion.
I then asked them to think of groups of people who may go together on an excursion. I started them off with the first two and they came up with the rest:
- A family of four with two children aged between 5 and 10
- A playschool trip of children aged 2 to 5
- A group of foreign tourists, adults and children
- A group of senior citizens
- A group of teenage friends
- A group of patients with psychological and emotional problems (!)
- Schoolchildren on a trip, aged 12 to 14
- A group of physically disabled children
The lessons was very successful, and much more interesting than a typical FCE reading task. It got the students skimming and scanning, reading lots of short texts (probably in total longer than an individual exam text) and they had to explain their reasons orally. We almost ran out of time, but I would have encouraged them to persuade each other to change their mind, had we had more time.