Green English lesson plan

Posted by on July 01, 2011

We are in the final week of Green English month. To provide a practical way of discussing the environment in your English language class, the blog today brings you a lesson plan by Claire Hart, a Business English teacher based in Southern Germany. Claire also gives teacher training workshops and publishes free lesson plans.

For more on teaching (about) green English in class, see our teaching tip series here.

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Green English lesson plan: actions to protect the environment

This lesson focuses on the factors which motivate us to take action to protect the environment. The language point which it incorporates is the use of conditionals and the second conditional in particular. The lesson is designed for intermediate to advanced English learners and would take 60- 90 minutes to teach.

1. Give the learners a list of actions that we can take to protect the environment and ask them to say which ones would help to make a difference, while concealing the fact that they would all help. Here are some examples you could use:

insulating your house                                        re-using a bag at the supermarket
buying a smaller car                                           taking the train instead of flying
recycling plastic bottles                                     turning the heating down
turning the television off instead of leaving it on standby

2. Ask the learners which activities on the list they do or have done at some point (this provides an opportunity for some present simple versus present perfect practice). They discuss their responses in pairs or small groups and then feed back to the rest of the group. Aim to facilitate neutral discussions and avoid any possible elements of boasting or learners feeling left out if they are not as active as others. There should be at least one activity that everybody has taken part in.

3. Ask the learners to give a reason why they have done one of the activities that they have done and why they haven’t done one of the activities that they haven’t done. They discuss their answers in pairs or small groups and then feed back to the rest of the group, at which point the teacher could draw a table on the board with the reasons given by the learners: reasons for taking action on one side and reasons for not taking action on the other.

4. Introduce the concept of the “carrot and stick” model for motivation. Carrots are factors which motivate us to do something and sticks are factors that we want to avoid. Ask them to consider if this is an appropriate model for their motivation to help the environment and if so, why or why not. Can they think of a better metaphor?

5. Ask one of the strongest learners in the group:
How motivated would you be to do something to protect the environment if you had to get up early on a Saturday morning?

highly motivated
very motivated
motivated enough to do it
not very motivated
not motivated at all

Elicit the answer in a complete sentence that starts with if, encouraging the learners to recycle the language from the question: If I had to get up early on a Saturday morning, I would not be very motivated. Write up the complete question and answer and then ask the whole group: How motivated would you be, if protecting the environment won you the respect of your friends or colleagues? Ensure that the answer is a complete sentence. Give them some more similar questions to ask and answer in pairs.

6. Ask the learners which of the two components of these if-sentences is the condition for the fulfillment of the other component. The fulfillment of this condition is distant from reality. Draw the learners’ attention to the following structure: If + past simple, would + infinitive without to.

They can then create and ask their own questions about motivation to protect the environment using the same structures.

7. As a follow-up activity, you could discuss factors which motivate them to do other things, for example learning English.

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