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Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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Global Issues — Week 3

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Materials Used

Last week, I decided to cover election issues with my class. Students had expressed an interest in politics, and it seemed like a good time for it, and also a good way to introduce a variety of global issues fairly quickly. Before we got started, I collected the first reading circle article, which I photocopied and handed out to students to read for homework on Thursday.

We started by looking at the first page of the Glassbooth handout. I mentioned Glassbooth on the blog a few weeks ago. It is a quiz that matches you with the various presidential candidates. The first page of the handout listed the issues that were included in the quiz. We went down the list, and I had students explain the issues to me, and answered questions when they came up. Next, I had them discuss the questions at the bottom of the page in small groups. Basically, I wanted them to familiarize themselves with the issues and also start to figure out which ones mattered most to them. This was partly to prepare them for taking the Glassbooth quiz on Thursday, and partly to get them thinking further about the range of issues out there and which ones they cared about, in preparation for their final project.

The group discussions went pretty well. Afterwards, we looked at the handout on agreeing / disagreeing that I had copied on the back of the Glassbooth topic list. We just breezed through it, and I could have done more with it.

I next asked the class to vote on the issues that they felt were most important. Each student could cast two votes. I wrote the six most popular issues on the board.

I then gave out the next two pages of the the Glassbooth handout. These pages listed the first 3 or 4 statements for each issue on the Glassbooth quiz. They are all in the “I support or oppose…” format. As a class, we quickly went through vocabulary for the statements under the six issues on the board.

I then arranged the six issues on the board into two groups of four. For example, Group A was Iraq, Health Care, Abortion and Immigration and Group B was something like Education, Trade, Iraq and Immigration.

Next, I told students that they were going to have two (albeit informal) mini-debates. For the first one, they had to choose a topic from Group A, for the second one, they chose a topic from Group B. In each of these group discussions, they went through the 3 or 4 statements on the handout related to the topic they had chosen and expressed their agreement / disagreement and the reasons behind it.

Again, these went pretty well. I felt pretty good about this class, as students had several active discussions and seemed interested in the topics.

On Thursday, we had class in the computer lab. The first page we looked at was Where They Stand. It features a Venn diagram of various positions of the two major candidates, and you can click on each issue for a summary of their positions. It is simple, which made it pretty accessible to my students. In hindsight, though, we could have gone over some of the content in Tuesday’s class.

While they were looking at the site, I gave them a handout. On it, I asked them to summarize the two candidate’s positions on two of the issues and also to give their own position. That seemed to go pretty well. One problem we had was that because my class is quite large by ELI standards (19 students) we did not have enough computers (only 17) so some people were in pairs.

Another problem was that, on Tuesday, several of my students had been absent to observe Eid. Thus, more of the vocabulary was unfamiliar to them. I answered questions as they came up, and encouraged students to ask their neighbors when they were unsure of something.

Next, I had students take the Glassbooth quiz. I showed them the steps via our overhead projector, and they seemed to understand it pretty well. Again, I went around and answered questions as they came up. After most of them had finished, I told them that I wanted them to write a brief explanation of who they would vote for and why. Most students did a really nice job with this writing.

One thing that came up was the existence of candidates other than McCain and Obama. Several students found that they matched most closely with Cynthia McKinney, and I had one student who matched with Ralph Nader. This led me to an impromptu lecture about the different parties in America, and a bit about campaign finance. I should have seen this coming, and pre-taught some of this before the quiz.

I found it difficult to teach in the lab. Our lab is actually made up of two class spaces, and I was very aware of my voice disturbing the other class. Next time, if I use the lab, I will be more conscientious of giving my instructions and handling all of the “teaching” before we get to the lab.

The final thing I did was show students FreeRice and collect their vocabulary journals.

All in all, though, I feel pretty good about how the week went. Students got a lot of conversation practice, some writing practice, and learned some vocabulary. They also got to work on the language involved in expressing opinions, agreeing and disagreeing. I feel like I could have given them more background information on American politics and political parties, though.

Next week, we’ll do our first reading circle, and my mentee will teach her first class.

Tags: blog · ESL activity · global issues activities · Global Issues class · global issues resources · lesson plans · politics

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