"Really active" learners

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"Really active" learners

Do you get your learners active with kinaesthetic tasks, partner-swopping, moving around the class to blu-tac, peer correct, order flashcards and do running dictations?

Or can you make the learners really active by engaging them with global issues where they can develop a passion to find out more, raise awareness and write letters that will really make a difference and get actively involved with movements that create real change?

Here are three free online resources that can easily be used for many lessons to both develop learners’ English and get them using their emotions and energy to actually do something active.

AVAAZ - Use Your Voice:

Generate interest: write ‘Avaaz’ on the board and see if learners know anything about it. Get pairs to write questions about what the organisation does, then look at the website: https://www.avaaz.org/en/index.php

Group work: do the learners want to shut down the Yulin dog meat festival? Or protect Maasai land? End the Monsanto model or crush Glyphosate? Or create a marine sanctuary in Russia? You could look at one cause together to ascertain what the issue is and how they can get involved eg. by adapting the model letter or signing and generating more interest for the petition. Then small groups can select an issue each to read about, research and present to the class, together with options for further action.

Focus on language: check first that learners understand some general vocabulary eg. petition, campaign, media, to lobby. Then you can look at the vocabulary in context and/or get groups of learners to teach specific vocabulary items from the issue they have chosen.

The NO Project – stop modern slavery:

Generate interest: ask learners to watch this 2.5 min video to decide what the problem is, and where/why it happens: http://www.thenoproject.org/nowyouknow/. There are several alternative animated films here: http://thenoproject.org/videos-books/animations/. Then discuss what types of slavery still exist in the world and what we can do about it.

Group work: Learners, in groups, select a type of slavery from the list http://thenoproject.org/slavery/the-victims/ eg. cocoa, fishing, gold/minerals, domestic and carpet slavery and research from the links – there are short videos to watch and more information from these links: http://thenoproject.org/excellent-sites/. They can then make posters, create their own video to upload, or prepare a play, song or dance event – more ideas here: http://thenoproject.org/get-involved/studentsartists/ - to raise awareness about modern day slavery, and, in the process, keep themselves and others safer.

Focus on language: this page is useful for focussing on relevant vocabulary in context: http://thenoproject.org/the-no-project/about-the-no-project-2/ while also looking at The NO Project’s general aims.

Easier English wiki New Internationalist: - tell people about something that is blatantly unfair and see how they react. They should want to use all the language they have, in both writing and speaking to do something about this. This website: https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php/Main_Page simplifies articles about global injustice and includes many Ready Lessons and ideas about how to use the articles and topics in class.

Generate interest: Do one of these quick quizzes with the group eg. about the Global Refugee Crisis , Forests, Oil, Transgender – you could dictate the questions first and then get them to both check the language and answer the questions: https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php/QUIZZES. Most of the quizzes have infographics that learners can check their answers from.


Group work: you could follow one of the many ready prepared lessons (on Powerpoint and pdf): https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php/Ready_Lessons and/or try one of the many other suggestions for developing skills and language: https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php/Teachers_-_how_to_use_this_wiki eg. ‘Radical Phonology’ or ‘Global Justice contexts for Presenting and Practising Grammar’. Or simply get learners to select a story, read it in simplified English, eg. the illegal sterilization of women in Peru https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php/Peru:_They_didn%27t_want_sterilization or a Muslim man killed for eating beef in India: https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php/%27Kill_the_people_who_eat_beef!%27 then present it to the class / discuss / tweet / write an email / create a group newspaper.


Focus on language: there are several sets of relevant vocabulary that can usefully be pre- or post-taught here. Learners can develop their vocabulary alone by reading the simplified texts and then clicking on the original New Internationalist articles and reading that, and noting the differences. Finally, it can be an excellent way of getting learners to teach each other new terms and phrases related to an issue they select that is important to them.

Channel already existing passions or create new ones. And make the learners “really active”.