ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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TESOL 2013 – Environmentally Responsible Program Administration

March 22nd, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

In this session, we talked about ideas for greening an English language program. I shared my own experiences, dividing my time between the areas of curriculum and resources. Here is the presentation I gave. Below, you can find links to the various materials I discussed.

A good place to start is a project I undertook while a graduate student at the University of Hawaii. For two semesters, myself and a colleague made a number of changes with the intent of greening our language program. The materials we created, along with a discussion of our successes and failures, are available here:

I also talked about ideas for various content electives. I’ve used this project as the basis for a global issues elective, and you can visit this page for more information, including all of the handouts. There is also an article I wrote on the project for JALT’s Global Issues in Language Education newsletter. You can find a variety of other activities that I’ve used in global issues electives here and here.

Finally, I talked about ideas for integrating environmental content into other topic areas, like business, food, shopping and travel. This website is full of materials that could be used in that way. For a collection of food-related content, please check out the other presentation I did at TESOL 2013.

If you have any questions about any of these materials, please let me know. Feel free to email me or post in the comments. I’d also love to hear about ways in which you’ve made your English language program more environmentally responsible.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · global issues activities · Global Issues class · greening an IEP · presentations · service learning · TESOL 2013 · the environment · vegetarian / vegan · vocabulary

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TESOL 2013 – Feeding International Students with the Language They Need

March 21st, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

Here are the materials from my TESOL presentation on giving international students the food-related language they need. My premise is that we focus on the language for expressing preference, describing cultural foods, and understanding recipes. In fact, these are not the most pressing food-related needs that our students have. 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 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.
How to Go Vegan – Guide to transition to a vegan diet (and lifestyle).
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: blog · cultural issues · ESL activity · food and hunger · global issues activities · health · presentations · reading · the environment · vegetarian / vegan

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Saving Water Infographic

March 18th, 2013 by Dave · 3 Comments


So You Want to Save Water? is an infographic that shows the water used in producing various foods and other items. At the bottom of the graphic, they show how much water could be saved by switching various things. I was surprised to learn that swapping a cup of coffee for a cup of tea everyday would save almost 11,000 gallons of water each year. One thing that didn’t surprise me was that the biggest water saving step that most of us could take would be to eat less meat. Switching a pound of beef with a pound of veggies per week would save over 94,000 gallons of water per year.

This graphic makes it easy to put various actions in perspective and would be a great addition to a unit on the environment, water usage or food.

→ 3 CommentsTags: blog · food and hunger · global issues activities · infographics · the environment · vegetarian / vegan · water

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TESOL 2013

March 14th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

For those of you going to TESOL 2013 next week, I’ll be giving two presentations.

Thursday 3/21
1:00-1:45 in D163
Feeding International Students With the Language They Need

Students come to IEPs with religious, environmental, and ethical values that inform their diet. Lessons about food should therefore give students the language they need to control and explain their food choices. In this session, we look critically at food-themed materials from several textbooks and discuss supplementary activities.

Friday, 3/22
Socially Responsible Leadership

In this panel session, I’ll be speaking for 20-30 minutes, sharing ideas for bringing environmental responsibility into English language program administration. Emphasis will be placed on policies and practices that empower students to make environmentally responsible choices. For example, I will share my experience in creating and implementing a green student orientation aimed at familiarizing students with environmental resources both at the school and in the local area. This orientation raised student awareness of sustainable choices in terms of shopping, transportation, food and waste disposal. In addition, I will look at several ways to improve program resource use, including food service and paper consumption.

There are a bunch of other sessions that I’m looking forward to attending. I can already see I have some tough decisions to make!

Time Room Session
Thu. 3/21 1:00-1:45 D163 Feeding International Students With the Language They Need
Thu. 3/21 2:00-2:45 A302 Engaging or Offending? Adapting ESL Materials for Muslim Students
Thu. 3/21 2:00-2:45 D162 Purposeful Project-Based Learning in a Rural India College Campus
Thu. 3/21 2:00-2:45 D170 Service Learning and Teaching ESL: A Harmony of Ideals
Thu. 3/21 3:00-3:45 Roundtable Discussion Area Strategies to Address Bullying in the English Language Classroom
Thu. 3/21 3:00-4:45 D168 Critical Pedagogy in Practice: Six Settings
Thu. 3/21 7:00-7:30 Ballroom C2 Peacebuilding Skills for Teachers and Learners
Fri. 3/22 8:30-9:30 Arena Subconsciously Held Bias: Exposing the Myth of Racial Colorblindness
Fri. 3/22 10:00-10:45 D163 Opening Eyes and Minds With Local Community Based Research Projects
Fri. 3/22 10:00-11:45 A303 Harmonizing Language and Environmental Education: Inspiring Students to Be Green
Fri. 3/22 10:00-12:45 D223 Creating Global Citizens: Socially Responsible Educators in ESL Classrooms
Fri. 3/22 10:00-12:45 D221 Teacher Values, Beliefs and Identities in the ESOL Classroom
Fri. 3/22 11:00-11:45 C142 Building Partnerships: Incorporating Service Learning, Teacher Training Into ESL Programs
Fri. 3/22 1:00-2:45 D225 Socially Responsible Leadership
Fri. 3/22 3:00-3:45 D174 Creating Materials to Help Adults With Low Literacy Avoid Fraud
Fri. 3/22 3:00-3:45 D164 Infusing Gender Equity in EFL Classroom Teaching Practice
Fri. 3/22 3:00-4:45 C146 Social Class Identity: The Unspoken Undercurrent in TESOL
Sat. 3/23 10:00-10:45 D175 Occupy the Classroom: Getting Students Involved
Sat. 3/23 11:00-11:45 A305 Gender Issues in the Middle Eastern EFL Classroom
Sat. 3/23 11:00-11:45 A309 Helping the Poorest of the Poor in the Tourist Industry
Sat. 3/23 1:00-1:45 D175 Harmonizing Language Learning and Social Responsibility
Sat. 3/23 1:00-1:45 Roundtable Discussion Area ESP for Law Enforcement: Addressing Social Justice Issues Through Language
Sat. 3/23 3:00-3:45 D175 Building Peace Through Critical Literacy
Sat. 3/23 3:00-3:45 C143 Teaching Tolerance Through World Religions in the ESOL Classroom
Sat. 3/23 3:00-4:15 D160 Integrating Marginalized Identities to Interrupt the Normative Curriculum

→ No CommentsTags: conferences · food and hunger · global issues activities · health · presentations · TESOL 2013 · the environment · vegetarian / vegan

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100 Views of Climate Change

March 13th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

100 Views of Climate Change

100 Views of Climate Change is a website from Colorado State University that offers short and long videos on climate change, along with notes on books and articles and links to other resources. Finding specific resources is very easy. The site is broken into five sections: climate, nature, humans, action, and the big picture. Each section is then further subdivided into 3 or 4 areas. For example, the section on the human face of climate change is broken up into impacts on people, responses from ethics, art and literature, and communication.

Each page is then sorted by type of resource. For example, the responses from ethics, art and literature has one short video, seven longer videos, three book recommendations, five links to articles and seven links to websites. The books, articles and websites are all annotated, making it easy to quickly tell which may be relevant to a given class activity.

→ No CommentsTags: art as activism · blog · climate change · global issues activities · global issues resources · listening · reading · the environment · video

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To This Day by Shane Koyczan

March 7th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

I love Shane Koyczan. I first heard his work in a collaboration with musician Dan Mangan called Tragic Turn of Events / Move Pen Move. His most recent work is a project based around his poem To This Day, where he collaborated with numerous volunteers to make a video that powerfully addresses the issue of bullying.

I would love to use this video with advanced learners as part of a unit on bullying. It would probably be helpful to provide them with the text of the poem beforehand. This video would fit in nicely with the materials on No Name-Calling Week.

Thanks Rob!

→ No CommentsTags: art as activism · audio · bullying · global issues activities · happiness · human rights · listening · poetry · reading · video

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The Weirdest People in the World

March 5th, 2013 by Dave · 5 Comments

Joseph Henrich, Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan recently published a paper on The Weirdest People in the World. Here, weird is an acronym meaning Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. Henrich et al question the conclusions reached by social science experiments conducted largely at American universities. They propose that many of the fundamental truths arrived at in these experiments are actually completely culturally relative.

Take, for example, the ultimatum game:

The rules are simple: in each game there are two players who remain anonymous to each other. The first player is given an amount of money, say $100, and told that he has to offer some of the cash, in an amount of his choosing, to the other subject. The second player can accept or refuse the split. But there’s a hitch: players know that if the recipient refuses the offer, both leave empty-handed. North Americans, who are the most common subjects for such experiments, usually offer a 50-50 split when on the giving end. When on the receiving end, they show an eagerness to punish the other player for uneven splits at their own expense. In short, Americans show the tendency to be equitable with strangers—and to punish those who are not.

When he began to run the game it became immediately clear that Machiguengan behavior was dramatically different from that of the average North American. To begin with, the offers from the first player were much lower. In addition, when on the receiving end of the game, the Machiguenga rarely refused even the lowest possible amount.

“It just seemed ridiculous to the Machiguenga that you would reject an offer of free money,” says Henrich. “They just didn’t understand why anyone would sacrifice money to punish someone who had the good luck of getting to play the other role in the game.”

The potential implications of the unexpected results were quickly apparent to Henrich. He knew that a vast amount of scholarly literature in the social sciences—particularly in economics and psychology—relied on the ultimatum game and similar experiments. At the heart of most of that research was the implicit assumption that the results revealed evolved psychological traits common to all humans, never mind that the test subjects were nearly always from the industrialized West. Henrich realized that if the Machiguenga results stood up, and if similar differences could be measured across other populations, this assumption of universality would have to be challenged.

From Pacific Standard

An adapted version of this paper (and / or the summary of Henrich’s work presented in Pacific Standard) would make great content for a unit on cultural differences and academic research. I would particularly recommend it for EAP students who are planning to study at an American university. These ideas could empower them to resist over-simplified viewpoints in their social science classes.

UPDATE: There is also an infographic available highlighting several of the main points in this study.

→ 5 CommentsTags: blog · cultural issues · global issues activities · happiness · health · infographics · reading

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No Name-Calling Week

January 18th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

January 21 to 25th is No Name-Calling Week, a national campaign aimed at combating bullying in schools. The resources page features links to lesson plans for elementary, middle school and high school students. There are also art lessons and promotional materials.

None of these activities are specifically targeted towards language learners, but many could be easily adapted. At my school, we’ve had several issues with bullying over the past couple of years, so this would be extremely relevant for our students.

→ No CommentsTags: art as activism · bullying · global issues activities · human rights · k-12 · lesson plans · LGBT Issues

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Banned Foods Used in USA

January 17th, 2013 by Dave · No Comments

I’m working on a presentation for TESOL 2013 about providing students with the language they need to make food choices. My premise is that most lessons on food don’t do that. Typically, we focus on the language of expressing preference, while ignoring areas like allergies, religion and ethical beliefs. In my presentation, I’ll be sharing ideas for supplementary activities to introduce this missing language.

One area I’m interested in is food that might be banned in students’ home countries that is sold in the US. An example of this is genetically modified food. GMO ingredients are outlawed in many countries and are almost ubiquitous (and completely unlabelled) in America. If a student in the US is interested in avoiding GMO ingredients in their processed food, the only way to do so reliably is by buying organic. In my experience, very few students know this.

My wife recently found this article which lists several other ingredients and additives that are banned in many countries but still widely used in the US. Some of these are things that students might want to look for on labels, while others (like the arsenic in chicken feed) can only be avoided by going organic or vegetarian / vegan. This could easily be added to this label reading activity aimed at familiarizing students with environmental terminology.

This would obviously fit well into a unit on food, but it would also be great in unit on health. This topic also lends itself to some great discussion questions, like asking why things might be banned in one country and legal in another. For advanced learners, looking critically at the actions of the FDA could be a fruitful way to explore the conflicting influences of public and corporate interests in the government.

I made a clean PDF of the article, removing logos, pictures and links to related articles. I didn’t edit the language at all, though, but I would adapt it before using it with students.

And if you’re coming to TESOL and are interested in hearing more about this, my session will be on Thursday, 3/21 from 1-1:45 in room D163.

Thanks Krista!

→ No CommentsTags: blog · food and hunger · global issues activities · health · reading · TESOL 2013 · vegetarian / vegan · vocabulary

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New Internationalist Easier English Wiki

December 5th, 2012 by Dave · 1 Comment

Two English teachers (Linda Ruas and John Shepheard) have launched a new wiki featuring simplified versions of articles from the New Internationalist, a magazine focused on promoting global justice. Their intention is the make these articles more accessible for English language learners. As of today, the New Internationalist Easier English Wiki features modified articles from the five latest issues. These articles look critically at a wide range of issues and present perspectives that are not so common in the mainstream media. Topics covered so far include the legalization of drugs, healthcare inequality, the power of co-operatives, youth movements, and Internet rights.

Linda and John have also prepared lessons for each issue, in the form of both powerpoints and PDFs. These lessons include vocabulary activities, discussion questions, visual aids and writing prompts aimed at preparing students to read certain articles.

The folks behind the New Internationalist Easier English Wiki are interested in developing this wiki with help from the wider community. If you’d like to get involved, please email them at

→ 1 CommentTags: blog · global issues activities · health · human rights · lesson plans · politics · poverty & wealth · reading · speaking · writing

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