ESL etc.

Global Issues and Activism in English Language Teaching

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Buy Nothing Day 2012

November 21st, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

With all the talk of Black Friday (here in the US), I always like to do a short lesson on Buy Nothing Day around this time of year. One place to get materials is the Adbusters’ campaign page, where there are a number of protest ideas and posters. Developing Teachers has a 90-minute lesson based on these materials. They begin by looking at some spoof advertisements, then do a reading about Buy Nothing Day. One aspect I really like is the use of a checklist that encourages students to look critically at their shopping decisions. They also include a number of visual prompts that help convey the meaning of Buy Nothing Day.

My boycott activity would also work well as a lead-in to a discussion of Buy Nothing Day. I begin by with some pre-discussion questions, which are available in this summary of the lesson that I did for KOTESOL’s Global Issues SIG newsletter. Next, I introduce the concepts of boycotting and consumer responsibility. I then ask students to research some famous boycotts (Coca-Cola, Nike, Disney and Starbucks) and fill out this handout where they articulate the reason(s) behind the boycotts. We then go through some post-discussion questions (also available in the KOTESOL article). For a follow-up, I ask students to find another company that some people have boycotted and present a summary of this boycott to the class. A brief lesson on using Google or on looking critically at websites can be useful in preparing students to investigate boycotts.

If you want some more info on this activity, you can also check out a podcast I did on it back in 2007.

For another angle, this article on recent protests at WalMart also makes a strong counterpoint to the Black Friday hype.

As the holiday shopping momentum builds (in many countries), I think anti-consumerism / consumer responsibility messages are extremely relevant to our students.

→ No CommentsTags: art as activism · blog · Buy Nothing Day · consumerism · fair trade · global issues activities · happiness · lesson plans · my articles · pictures · poverty & wealth · reading · simplicity · the environment · visual prompts

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The True Cost of Food / Free Range Studios

November 2nd, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

The True Cost of Food is a 15-minute video about the hidden costs of factory farming, industrial agriculture and fast food. It comes with a discussion guide and an excellent Take Action handout. I really like how the Take Action handout is framed — recommending actions based on the issues students care about. The video is presented by the Sierra Club, and it would make a great addition to a unit on food, shopping or label reading.

The movie is produced by Free Range Studios. Their website has a ton of great videos on a wide variety of issues. They’re the folks who did The Story of Stuff and The Meatrix, both of which I’ve used with students in the past. They also have a lot of videos I haven’t seen yet, on issues like the ocean, climate change and fair trade. Many of these include discussion questions and other supplementary materials, which you can find at the websites of the projects themselves. The Free Range Studio website just has the videos.

→ No CommentsTags: animal rights · art as activism · climate change · consumerism · fair trade · food and hunger · global issues activities · global issues resources · health · lesson plans · listening · the environment · vegetarian / vegan · video · visual aids

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Greening the L2 Classroom: Linking TESOL and the Environment

November 2nd, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

Greening the L2 Classroom is a great article in the July 2012 edition of TESOL Connections by Wendy Coyle and Amy Delis. I met Wendy and Amy at TESOL 2012 when I attended their presentation on having students create environmental PSAs. This article describes much of the process they used in structuring this activity, and also gives some of their rationale for using the environment as a source of meaningful, content-based activities.

They begin by giving students an overview of the environment, and then offer some ideas for getting students more deeply engaged. One approach that I really like is having students conduct research on how green their school building is. This type of activity provides lots of opportunities for language learning, in addition to fostering true critical thinking. And I’m definitely a fan of teaching global and environmental issues with a very local focus because I think it helps keep them relevant.

For a culminating project, Wendy and Amy had students create environmental infomercials. They begin by reviewing samples on Youtube, then they have a couple of lessons on persuasive techniques. Students then make their own videos in groups and show them at the end of the semester. Sample videos are provided. I love this approach, and I think students would really enjoy it, too.

→ No CommentsTags: climate change · global issues activities · presentation skills · presentations · TESOL 2012 · the environment · video

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But It’s Just One Cent! Middle School ELLs Practice Critical Literacy in Support of Migrant Farmworkers

October 17th, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

This past summer, at the BART Summer Symposium, I went to a great presentation about a middle-school ESL unit on the treatment of migrant farmworkers. One of the presenters just published an article on this in the Fall 2012 issue of eJournal of Literacy and Social Responsibility. It starts on page 158.

Students began by learning about the treatment of migrant farmworkers. They read the book First Day in Grapes and watched the film The Harvest / La Cosecha. The also explored the websites of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Student/Farmworker Alliance. Later, members of these two organizations visited the class and spoke with the students. In terms of language instruction, the unit focused on persuasive writing skills, culminating in students writing letters to a supermarket chain advocating for a one cent increase on the per pound price of tomatoes.

This presentation was a real eye-opener for me. Until I attended this session, I hadn’t known that agriculture in America legally permitted child labor. Elements of this unit would be a great addition to lessons on food. While they might be especially meaningful in communities where the treatment of migrant farmworkers is a local issue, I think they would be relevant anywhere.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · child labor · fair trade · food and hunger · global issues activities · human rights · k-12 · poverty & wealth

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Democracy Now’s Expanded Debate Coverage /

October 5th, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the debate this week. Hearing Romney and Obama deliver talking points was not going to inform my vote. If I end up choosing between these two candidates, there is no doubt who I would vote for.

Having said that, I am curious to watch the expanded debate put together by Democracy Now. In their debate, they paused after the responses from Romney and Obama to give two other candidates opportunities to respond. These candidates are Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party and former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.

If I were doing a debate / election activity with my class, I would absolutely include information on candidates other than the big two. In addition to giving alternative viewpoints on the issues, this approach could also lead to discussions / activities on campaign financing and ballot / debate access. Many students associate America with words like “free” and “democracy” and they might be interested to know how our political system actually works.

I taught a Global Issues class during the last election, and one of the activities I had my students do was to take a quiz to find out which candidate they most supported. Beforehand, we went through the issues and vocabulary covered on the quiz, which was a great source of meaningful content. A good quiz for this election cycle is It offers somewhat nuanced answers and includes six candidates. It also has a feature where you can compare two candidates. Both of these sites would be a great starting point for an activity presenting students with a more diverse view of the American political landscape.

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

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After Capitalism

September 17th, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

After Capitalism is a series of short animated videos available from The Guardian. Each video features a student animation of an impression of post-capitalist society. I was particularly struck by this one. The text of each animation comes from various authors and economists, including one of my favorite journalists, George Monbiot. The videos are short (3 to 5 minutes) and deal with a wide range of issues including the environment, politics, gender, class and language. Some, like this one, feature significant text, making them easier for language learners to follow. One of these videos would serve as a great starting point for a unit on global issues or current events. They would also work well in a business-themed class.

Many people take capitalism as a given. Encouraging students to imagine alternatives is a powerful activity.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · consumerism · cultural issues · fair trade · food and hunger · global issues activities · happiness · health · human rights · imagined future · listening · politics · poverty & wealth · racism · the environment · video · visual prompts

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The Simplicity Exercises: A Sourcebook for Simplicity Educators

September 17th, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

The Simplicity Exercises is a free PDF full of lessons that engage students with the concept of simplicity. Produced by the Simplicity Institute, it covers areas such as mindfulness, the environment, money and time, asking students to consider simplicity and sufficiency. Some of the activities are experiential. For example, a lesson called Silence and Solitude asks students to spend an hour in a place where they can hear no human sounds and reflect on that experience. Other lessons are more traditional, using short readings and group discussions. Each lesson includes a couple paragraphs of framing, which can be quite handy for students or teachers who aren’t familiar with the philosophy of voluntary simplicity. Notes are also included with additional information on the subjects.

Activities from this free sourcebook would fit easily into lessons on health, shopping and hobbies, just to name a few. In addition to serving as a source of supplementary materials, it would be great to have a simplicity elective based on this book. Do you think students would register for that type of elective?

Thanks Bill

→ No CommentsTags: blog · books · consumerism · global issues activities · global issues resources · happiness · health · lesson plans · listening · reading · simplicity · speaking · the environment · vocabulary

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We The Trees – Permaculture Crowd Funding

August 3rd, 2012 by Dave · 1 Comment

We The Trees is a new crowd funding website focusing on permaculture projects. There aren’t very many projects posted on it yet, but it could make a nice addition to a unit on permaculture or on the environment in general. The projects are set in many different of countries, which might help them resonate with students. One in particular that caught my eye is the Maha Laxmi School Garden Project, which aims to establish a fruit and vegetable garden at a Nepalese school.

As more projects are added to the site, this could be a good source of readings on innovative approaches to food and environmental issues. Due to the nature of the permaculture movement, I expect that there will continue to be an emphasis on education in many of the projects. Another way to use this site would be to have students write their own proposals, and either submit them on the site or simply vote on them in class. In addition to developing content knowledge related to permaculture and the environment, having students practice the language involved in proposing a project and attempting to garner support is something that could definitely serve them well.

→ 1 CommentTags: blog · charity · climate change · food and hunger · global issues activities · natural building · permaculture · social entrepreneurship · the environment

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TDD Summer 2011 Presentation – Global Issues Poetry Activity

July 20th, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

In preparation for an office move, I’ve been going through my files. I found a presentation I gave last summer that I wanted to share. It’s on a global issues themed poetry activity. I’ve done it with both intermediate and advanced students. The first iteration of this activity was done as one of the activities we created as part of our green English program project. The next time I did it was as a workshop for a visiting group of English teachers from Korea. Most recently, I used it last fall when I taught a creative writing elective.

Here is the handout I used. It outlines the activity and includes my two favorite poems to use. The handout also includes discussion prompts, along with instructions for having students write their own poems inspired by these poems. Finally, I include a handful of references to relevant articles on literature and global issues. And here is the presentation file I used, although I think the handout is more useful. I also found a couple of examples of student poems: example 1, example 2. These are both based on the Langston Hughes poem.

My approach to picking poems for this activity is multi-fold. First of all, I look for poetry that directly addresses a global or environmental issue. Second, I want a poem that isn’t too long or too abstract. Students need to be able to understand it. Finally, I like poems that have a distinct style or format. That makes them much more effective models for students than free verse. The two poems that I use both have these distinctive structures. The first, “God to a Hungry Child” by Langston Hughes, is written as a letter from God to a child. Students who use this as a model can thus write a poem in letter form. The second, “Two Young Women” by Deidre Barry, is written from the perspective of two women in alternating lines. Students using this as a model write a poem from two perspectives, alternating lines. I’ve used other poems as well, but these are the two that I’ve had the best luck with. I got them both from Rethinking Globalization, a great book with tons of activities that includes a bunch of other poems as well.

If you have another poem that you think would work well in this activity, let us know in the comments.

→ No CommentsTags: art as activism · blog · consumerism · ESL activity · fair trade · global issues activities · greening an IEP · human rights · lesson plans · poetry · poverty & wealth · presentations · racism · reading · the environment · writing

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Imagine All the Water

July 13th, 2012 by Dave · No Comments

Imagine All the Water offers a bunch of information on indirect water use. In other words, it addresses the issue of how much water is consumed in producing various foods and industrial products. The site features many short readings and a short video. The readings are fairly dry, but the video is funny, and the site could be a good source for some basic info on the issue.

→ No CommentsTags: blog · global issues activities · reading · statistics · the environment · vegetarian / vegan · video · visual prompts · water

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