ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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Russia’s Crackdown on Homosexuality / Olympic Boycotts

August 1st, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

I’d like to share a couple of articles about the ongoing crackdown by Russia’s government on homosexuality. This article summarizes the issues well, detailing the various laws that have been passed. These include a ban on adoption by gay parents and a law allowing police to arrest tourists and hold them for up to two weeks if they suspect them of being either gay or “pro-gay.” And this article discusses the pros and cons of a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, raising the question of whether attending or boycotting would do more for equal rights in Russia. Finally, there is a collection of photographs showing scenes from recent pride parades in Russia. Be advised, some of these are pretty tough to see.

One way to approach this would be from the point of view of Olympic boycotts. Students could look at previous boycotts (or proposed boycotts) and do some research into their causes and effects. Then, they could express their opinions on the USOC’s statement that “History has proven that the only people that are hurt by boycotts are the athletes that have worked their whole lives to participate in these Games.” Of course, this could be broadened into a look at the underlying purpose of the Olympic Games or at boycotts as a means of encouraging reform.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · bullying · global issues activities · human rights · LGBT Issues · protests · reading · visual aids

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Peace as a Global Language Conference

July 26th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

For those of you in or near Japan, this is a great opportunity! The deadline for proposals has been extended to August 30. Kip Cates and George Jacobs (two longtime favorites of mine) are on the list of invited speakers.

Peace as a Global Language Conference
Dates: November 16 – 17, 2013
Venue: Rikkyo University, Tokyo (Nizza campus)
Theme: Peace and Welfare in the Local and Global Community

Submission Deadline: August 30, 2013
Submission Guidelines

In our increasingly interconnected global village, where we live in close proximity to people from different backgrounds, creeds, genders, ethnicity, orientation and ages, many questions remain. How should we work toward solving issues that divide our communities, both at the local and international levels? How can we work together to achieve better ties for all, despite the multifaceted challenges that everybody faces on a daily basis? This year’s conference will examine some of the issues pertaining to achieving and maintaining peace in our families and communities, and how to bring us closer together to realise our potential to interconnect, respect and promote recognition for all and a culture of peace, in a time of deepening inequalities.

With the above in mind, we cordially invite scholars, teachers, peace activists, students and members of the community interested in these issues and more to join us in the second weekend of November in the beautiful surroundings of Rikkyo University’s Niiza campus for discussion, debate and contemplation, and to come together as together to realise our potential as co-inhabitants of a shrinking planet. .

Looking forward to welcoming you to PGL2013.

Zane Ritchie
Chair, PGL 2013

Invited Speakers

  • John Denny “Empowering a Nation: Transforming Myanmar into a Member of the Global Community”
  • Akemi Shimada “Fostering Ainu Youth”
  • Gerry Yokota “Engendering Communities of Peace”
  • Kip Cates “Teaching for Peace in the Global Classroom: Information, Inspiration, Action”
  • George Jacobs “Promoting Peace through Eating More Plant Foods”

→ No CommentsTags: blog · conferences · peace and war · professional organizations

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The Story of Bottled Water

July 25th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

The Story of Bottled Water is a video by Annie Leonard and Free Range Studios (of The Story of Stuff fame) on the issue of bottled water. It is relatively short (about 8 minutes) and the language is fairly accessible. They also offer an annotated script that students could read along with.

Anthony Lavigne (LinkedIn) has put together a great lesson plan based on this video and he’s given me permission to share it here. (Thanks Anthony!) The lesson begins by asking students to discuss their own bottled water consumption in groups. I like this as a starting point, as I think that making the connections between these issues and our students’ everyday lives is extremely important. Next, he goes into a taste test activity. I really like this idea. This is a simple, concrete way to get students to look critically at something they “know” — namely that bottled water tastes better than tap water.

For homework, Anthony has students look at a vocab list from the video and write their opinions of the statements on the Myth v. Reality handout. Day 2 begins with students sharing their opinions, then they watch the video. For homework, he has students read the annotated script and revise their writing.

On the third day, students again share what they’ve written in groups. During the wrap-up discussion, Anthony also includes a slideshow illustrating some of the environmental consequences of plastic bags. The work of photographer Chris Jordan (particularly his Midway series) would fit in well here, too. Finally, Anthony offers ideas for follow-up projects. He suggests four group activities — researching plastic recycling facilities in the community, researching the local water supply, raising awareness about some of the problems with plastic, and raising awareness about water conservation. You could also have students experiment with actions such as going a week (or more) without purchasing a single-serving beverage. Personally, I really like connecting awareness raising with everyday actions. For example, modified version of my individual action project would fit nicely at the end of this unit.

Most of the materials used in this activity can be found in the lesson plan. This includes a detailed explanation of the lesson, discussion questions, a vocabulary handout, and assessment sheets for the optional project. The remaining materials, including the video, the annotated script and the Myth v. Reality handout, are all available from the Story of Stuff website.

In places where bottled water is a luxury, this is a great activity for getting students to look critically at how their consumption impacts the environment. It would also be good as part of a unit on advertising or consumerism. Thank you Anthony for sharing this!

If anyone else has materials they would like to share, please don’t hesitate to email me.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · consumerism · ESL activity · global issues activities · listening · reading · speaking · the environment · video · visual prompts · water · writing

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Food MythBusters

July 1st, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

Food MythBusters covers a wide range of topics, including things like hunger and food security and marketing and advertising. They have resources in a variety of formats, including videos, infographics and fact sheets. The blog is also full of great information.

This is definitely a site I’d look through if I were putting together a lesson on food. Also, be sure to check out these great critical readings on food, as well as my TESOL presentation on teaching about food.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · food and hunger · global issues activities · global issues resources · health · infographics · listening · reading · the environment · vegetarian / vegan · video · visual prompts

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Great Critical Readings on Food

June 21st, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

Ad for Kids

You Won’t Believe What the Food Industry Is Doing to Keep Americans Hooked on Junk

Alternet’s April M. Short just put together a great article detailing some of the more devious ways in which corporations peddle their food products.

First, she describes about how processed foods are made to look more natural, like McDonald’s using less perfect circles to mold their eggs or Hillshire Farms layering dye into their poultry wafers to give them a grain. She then gives examples of companies using games and charity to market to children, like when a third grade class takes a field trip to McDonald’s to hear about the Ronald McDonald House. For another great example of McDonald’s advertising to young children, check out Note the disclaimer in the upper left reading “Hey kids, this is advertising!” Finally, Short talks about how food scientists use salt, sugar and fat to basically render their food products addictive.

And speaking of the science of creating food addiction, the New York Times has this article.

And here’s a great article from 100 Days of Real Food looking at how food companies vary their ingredients to take advantage of lax American food safety laws. It compares the ingredients of US and UK versions of some popular processed foods. (Hint: Here in the US we get much crappier ingredients.) At the end, there are links to some troubling research about GM foods.

Adapted versions of these readings would make a great addition to a unit on food. For more ideas on how to bring critical thinking into food units, check out the materials from my TESOL presentation.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · consumerism · food and hunger · global issues activities · health · reading · vegetarian / vegan

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BART Summer Symposium 2013 – Feeding International Students with the Language they Need

June 7th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

I’m giving the presentation I did at TESOL this year on providing international students the food-related language they need at the BART Summer Symposium. My premise is that we focus on the language for expressing preference, describing cultural foods, and understanding recipes, despite the fact that these are not the most pressing food-related needs that our students have. Instead, I propose that food lessons should include the language necessary to express dietary practices related to allergies, religion and environmental / ethical beliefs. In addition to better meeting student needs, incorporating these types of supplementary materials also makes our content much more engaging, and brings a critical thinking element that might otherwise be absent.

Here is the presentation I gave, included within are links to most of the materials I referenced.

Supplementary Materials

“Do you eat…” Handout – This is a “master handout” that I’d pull pieces from to suit the level and needs of a given class.

Handouts from

Online food allergy training
Handouts from the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America

Information on Jewish Dietary Practices
Information on Hindu Dietary Practices
Information on Buddhist Dietary Practices
Faith and Food – Information on various religions and food
Food Labeling for Dummies – Legal definitions of the various terms and logos that appear on US labels.
Non-GMO Shopper’s Guide – Guide to finding products (especially processed foods) made without GMO ingredients.
List of Animal Ingredients – Definitions of the various ingredients that are derived from animals.
Banned chemicals article – Short article listing 13 chemicals that are banned in other countries but legal in US.

If you have any questions or would like to share any materials of your own, please email me or post in the comments.

→ No CommentsTags: BART Symposium 2013 · cultural issues · ESL activity · food and hunger · global issues activities · health · presentations · reading · the environment · vegetarian / vegan

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This is Water

May 14th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

I am a huge David Foster Wallace fan, and I think this video adapted from a commencement speech he gave in 2005 is fantastic. I would especially considering showing it to my college- or grad-school-bound students. It’s a bit long, and it’s certainly not the easiest thing in the world to understand, but I love the perspective it offers on the purpose of education.

Note: If you want to get rid of the subtitles in the above video, simple click on the language dropdown menu and select “choose language…”

→ No CommentsTags: blog · happiness · listening · video · visual prompts

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We the People, and the Republic we must Reclaim

April 24th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

Over the past several election cycles, I’ve become convinced that the only issue that truly matters is getting the money out of politics. Until we do that, no meaningful change is possible. Lawrence Lessig’s recent TED talk expresses this problem in clear and engaging terms.

This talk would be difficult for most students, but it provides a wonderful counterpoint to a naive understanding of the purity of American democracy. In my experience, many students (even those from democratic countries) see their own governments as being much more corrupt than America. An excerpt from this talk might help them to gain a more critical understanding. One way to use this video might be to take a 3 minute excerpt from early on (when he is explaining the statistics) and ask students to create a summary poster or other visual representation.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · finance · global issues activities · listening · politics · statistics · video

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Environmental Responsibility Forum in TESOL

April 19th, 2013 by Dave · 2 Comments

I would like to start an environmental forum in TESOL. The purpose of this forum will be to bring together English language teachers, program administrators, and other English language professionals interested in environmental issues. We will use our network to share materials and other resources in a spirit of collaboration. We will also promote environmentally themed convention sessions, and have a social event / business meeting at TESOL conventions

In order to qualify as a forum, I need to submit a list of names and member IDs of 25 active TESOL members who support this forum. So if you believe that environmental responsibility is something worth discussing within TESOL and are an active TESOL member, please email me your name, your preferred email address, and your TESOL member ID. There is no cost to be in a forum, and you can be a member in as many as you like.

If you would like to be more involved, I have put together a simple survey. In it, I ask for ideas for a name for the forum, and also for opinions related to the round table and discussion session that we will be given at the convention as a forum. Thanks!

→ 2 CommentsTags: blog · professional organizations · the environment

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Wealth Inequality in America

April 1st, 2013 by Dave · 1 Comment

This video is an effective way to visually communicate the wealth inequality in the US. I especially like the fact that it focuses so much on the difference between perception and reality. When I was teaching in China, I asked my class what percentage of Americans they thought was rich. The consensus was 80%. It would be interesting to ask students to do research like that described in the video. They could conduct surveys to find out what people thought the wealth distribution was, and compare the predictions with reality.

Another good direction to take with this would be to look at statistics on the global level. I’ve done an activity like this in the past — asking students to describe how they thought wealth was distributed throughout the world. They are always shocked by the actual numbers.

→ 1 CommentTags: blog · finance · global issues activities · infographics · poverty & wealth · video · visual prompts

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