Teaching an English lesson on the environment

electric car charging at solar panels
05 Dec Shelley Vernon No Comments

 A teacher asked me for help to cover food shortages and environmental issues in her classroom and here are the notes I did for her:

To connect to food shortages you could:

  1. Ask the class to get in groups and write down all the food and snacks eaten in a typical day.
  2. Post three examples on the board- for example, say that wheat crops have become toxic and the land sterile.
  3. Have pupils identify all food items containing wheat and erase those.
  4. Now say that dairy products are unavailable since there is drought, the grass has died, and there aren't enough cereals available to feed the livestock.
  5. Cross off all products on the lists containing milk, cream and cheese.
  6. Cross off all meat since there is no more livestock.

See what's left!


This could lead into a discussion on the environment. For the environment, you could brainstorm with the class and ask a student to write up each key point raised regarding environmental issues on the board. Group these into about six main issues which could have sub-issues. For example Climate Change (sub-headings) rising seas, drought, extinctions, change in crops grown, population pressures. Pollution (sub-headings) air, water, land, space. Population - (sub-heading) refugees, health, famine, quality of life. Don't get bogged down in this though - It's all a bit negative! The point is to encourage discussion in English.


You could play Battleships using vocabulary concerning the environment - disasters and solutions (so it's not all depressing). Get students to make their own grids by writing words in from a selection on the board. Then vote on the issues from the lists you put on the board earlier - how many people vote water pollution as number 1, how many drought, how many air pollution, nuclear accidents...etc. for up to SIX issues and write up the results. Get Battleships and templates in my 175 Exciting Activities for Teens and Adults.

Next play the game Persuasion where people support their cause and try to win others over to it. Re-vote and see if numbers have changed after the exercise.

child holding a basket of strawberries

Don't get depressed!

I think it's more fun to look at solutions to environmental problems than the problems themselves, which can be gloomy and irrelevant to an ESL class. There's new technology coming our way that may save us. Cars running on water...LIFI replacing WIFI (which is supposedly nearly saturated), birth rates are dropping in many places, greater consciousness of the pesticides in our food.


Use structured activities to promote discussion rather than assuming your students will be interested

The thing to watch out for is that the class aren't really interested in discussing the issue, much to your amazement, and your debate falls flat. Hence using structured games like Battleships or fake debates like Persuasion where people take on a role that does not necessarily express their personal view. When people are in a role they feel less vulnerable. Look at the debates game in the Teens and Adults book and see about discussing the environment, proposing solutions and voting them in or not. Receive free samples from the sign-up form on the home page.

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