This is a quick activity I threw together to help higher level students with expressing opinions on a range of controversial or “hot button” topics. I got the list of opinion expressions from the excellent englishclub.com, they have some great lists of functional language exponents organised by level, check them out:
This is a lesson plan for C1/C2 students by Soleil García Brito on the topic of face recognition based around a video and a gapped text exercise. The warmer could also be used with lower levels (B1/B2). At the end of the lesson students can take an online test to see if they are “super recognisers”; you’ll find the link below.
Download the student’s handout and teacher’s notes below.
This is a reading and speaking lesson plan based around an article about the WHO’s recent revelation linking consumption of red meat to cancer for B2+. Download the student’s and teacher’s copy of the article below:
Influenced by my wonderful DELTA tutors I’ve split the text up into sections. Before reading each section students make a prediction about what they’re about to read and then read to confirm their predictions. They then read again and complete comprehension questions that go into more detail.
Predict/speculate about section 1
Read to confirm
Read section 1 again and answer comprehension questions
Predict/speculate about section 2
Read to confirm
Read again, answer comprehension questions
Give students ample time between sections and after finishing the article to respond and interact with the text.
Who do they agree with?
What’s their reaction to the text?
How important is meat in their culture?
Argentinians react to report linking meat to cancer.
How do you think Argentinians reacted to the news?
In a report published on Monday, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
But in Argentina, which has one of the highest levels of meat consumption in the world, the study was met with scepticism.
“I’m aware of the health risks, but it’s part of our culture,” said Bacaloni, who estimates that he eats between a kilogram and 1.5kgs of meat each week.
Do you think Jorge will change his ways because of the news?
Most of that is from cattle, putting Bacaloni around the average in Argentina, where consumption per capita was 59.4kg of beef in 2014.
As well as the pure pleasure of home grills and estraña dishes in beef houses, the lawyer said that it was a custom. “This is part of our history. Part of our life,” he says. “And at least cows in Argentina are raised on pastures rather than in sheds. It’s more natural.”
But he was more concerned for his family that the World Health Organisation had classified processed meat in the same cancer-risk category as cigarettes, alcohol and asbestos.
“I have a three-year-old son. We’ve been giving him sausage, but I’ll stop that,” he said. He too is adjusting his diet, though for different reasons. “I’ll have chicken today, but only because I’m on a diet.”
What changes will he make?
What reasons does he give for his scepticism?
Why does he think Argentine beef is better than in other countries?
Why do you think Argentines eat so much meat?
Fashion designer Marcela Duhalde laughs when she explains how often she eats steak. “l hate cooking so when I have to make food I always choose a T-bone steak and tomatoes because it’s easy and delicious. I have it maybe four or five times a week,” she says. “I ought to be huge.”
Raised on a farm, she says eating meat is a custom. “My family was very carnivorous. If we didn’t have meat, we didn’t consider it a meal.”
This is a common refrain. The first cattle were introduced by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century and they soon became a feature on the pampas – the vast grasslands that stretch across much of the country – while their meat was an integral part of the gaucho “cowboy” culture.
Why does Marcela eat meat so often?
How often does she eat steak?
Is this too often?
Why do some people say that they could never be vegetarian?
What effect do you think the WHO’s decision will have on people’s habits?
Duhalde says she is concerned about the agrochemicals, antibiotics, tainted cattle feed and the generally poor conditions that many cattle are kept in, but vegetarianism is not option. Nor it seems is cutting back.
“Everything I like is unhealthy – steak, alcohol, drugs and other things. I’d rather die than give it all up. I don’t have the energy to be happy without them.”
She didn’t expect the WHO decision to make much of an impact on Argentina’s love of steaks in the short term, but she thought it could make a difference in the distant future if the evidence mounted up and led to the same sort of health campaigns that are now common with tobacco.
“This makes us start thinking about the risks, but there is a big distance between thinking about things and actually changing our habits.”
What things worry Marcela about meat production?
Why could she never be a vegetarian?
What’s her conclusion?
What’s your opinion?
Students write an essay examining the importance of meat in their culture and the effect they think the announcement will have.
This is a conversation activity in which students discuss human achievements and the Mars One colonisation project. Either split the class into small groups (3-4) or for smaller groups have a class discussion. You can download the handout here.
How many amazing physical achievements (climbing Everest, walking to the South Pole etc.) can you think of?
Which achievement was the most impressive?
What’s the most physically difficult thing you’ve ever done? (climb a mountain, run a marathon etc.)
Are there any you would like to try in the future?
Are there any you wish you had tried in the past?
Are the world’s best athletes present at the Olympic Games?
What type of athletes or sportsmen/women do you think deserve the most respect?
What do you think of ‘extreme’ sports (bungee jumping, tightrope walking…)?
What do you think is the most impressive human achievement? (not necessarily physical, could be scientific/technological/medical for example the moon landings)
How much do you know about Mars? Share your knowledge with your group.
Are you interested in astronomy and the science of space travel?
Do you have any memories of important achievements in space travel?
Have you heard of the Mars One project? Share your knowledge with your group BEFORE READING THE DESCRIPTION BELOW.
Mars One is a privately funded project which intends to establish a human colony on Mars by 2025. They plan to send an unmanned spacecraft to the planet in 2018 followed by equipment and supplies over the following 6 years. They are currently accepting applications to be part of the first 4-man crew that will take off in 2024 on a one-way 7 month trip to the red planet. Once the colony is established 4 people will be sent every 2 years.
What do you think of the project? Is it realistic?
The project is currently accepting applicants to be part of the 4 man crew that will leave in 2024. What kind of people do you think they are looking for?
Would you be interested in participating? Why? Why not?
What kind of people do you think would apply for the project?
If you were running the project what tests would you do on the applicants to check if they are suitable?
What are the biggest problems the people could encounter on the 7 month journey to Mars? And when they land?
How would you feel if a member of your family wanted to apply for the project?
Do you know anyone who you think would like to apply?
Why do you think people would apply to be part of the project?
Imagine you have been selected to be part of the first crew. You are allowed to take 1 item of hand luggage (standard budget airline size) of personal belongings. What would you take and why?
This is a reading and speaking activity based around an article from the New York Times about possible changes to the Spanish working say timetable. The original article is quite long so I have edited it down a bit, it should be suitable for B2/FCE upwards. Here is a link to the edited version and the discussion questions:
Start by asking students to tell the class about their average day with specific focus on the times at which they get up, eat, go to work, go to bed etc. Ask them if they follow the typical Spanish timetable outlined in the introduction to the article. Do they eat late? Do they have a siesta?
Once they have shared their different schedules set the class a time limit depending on their level to quickly read the article and underline any unfamiliar vocabulary. This could include:
To hunker down – to meet up/get together
a boon – a bonus
a lag – a delay
Go over the new vocabulary on the board, then either split the class into small groups and give out the discussion questions or hold a whole-class discussion. Below are the discussion questions from the hand out:
What’s your initial reaction to the article?
Do you agree with any of the opinions stated? Which ones?
Describe your daily routine; does it follow the “Spanish” timetable?
What are the advantages/disadvantages of both the Spanish and the “European” timetable?
How difficult would you find it to adjust to a new timetable?
Do you think changing the timetable would affect the country’s culture?
Do you think most people would find it easy of difficult to adjust to a new timetable?
Do you think the current system helps people be efficient?
When you have finished the questions you could organise a class debate for/against the idea of changing the Spanish timetable to be more in line with the rest of Europe. Sometimes when organising debate teams it’s a good idea to force your students to argue for a point that they don’t actually agree with. Debate structure should be as follows:
Each team presents their argument (3 uninterrupted minutes per team) – the other team must remain silent but can take notes for the rebuttals later
Rebuttals (10 minutes) – Teams can attack the opposition’s arguments based on statements made in the presentation of their argument.
Result – Teacher can decide which team has the most coherent argument.
This is short conversation class based on the ongoing financial problems in Cyprus.
First show students the photo above and try to elicit the news story.
You may want to pre-teach the following vocabulary:
bank bailout / rescue package – a big loan to stop the collapse of a country’s banks
a run on a bank – when everybody panics and tries to withdraw all their money
The IMF – the International Monetary Fund (they probably have the initials in another order)
Give out the following questions and have students discuss them in small groups:
What’s been happening in Cyprus this week? Share your knowledge with your group.
What’s your opinion on the situation there?
What do you think of the original proposal to pay for the bank bailout? (taking money from people’s savings)
What do you think would happen if they made a similar proposal here?
How do stories like this make you feel? Scared? Frustrated?
Here are 2 headlines from sensationalist UK newspaper “The Daily Mail”:
“The Germans are trying to take our lives and our money” say angry Cypriots.
“If Cyprus falls into Putin’s hands we will have lost the first battle of the new cold war.”
What do you think of these two headlines?
Who do you think is most responsible for the crisis?
What do you think of Iceland’s response to it? (jailing bankers and refusing to pay back loans)
Many people who live in Cyprus are retired ex-pats, have you ever thought of moving to another country when you retire? If so where would you like to live? Where are the most typical places to retire to?
Split the class into small groups (3-4) and give out the handout. Students discuss the questions and then feed back to the rest of the class. Some vocabulary might need to be pre-taught, for example “a nanny-state”. Here are the questions from the handout.
What do you know about the horse meat scandal? Share your knowledge with your group.
Do you think it has affected you? Have you eaten any ready meals recently? Or Ikea meat balls?
Does the story surprise you?
How long do you think it has been going on?
“In France horse is a delicacy, I don’t understand all the fuss.” What do you think of this statement?
Are there any types of food you avoid because you are worried about the quality of the ingredients? Sausages, hamburgers, kebabs etc.
How closely do you monitor the food you eat? Do you read the ingredients on the packets? Do you count calories?
Do you think ingredients should be displayed in a different way? A traffic light system for example.
Whose responsibility is it to ensure that scandals like this don’t happen?
“I don’t care what’s in it as long as it tastes good.” How far do you agree with this statement? Do you think most people agree or disagree with this statement?
Do you think that your country has a “nanny state”? (a government that interferes too much in the way you live your life)
What elements of people’s lifestyle should be controlled by the state? If any.