Lesson plan: bottled or tab water

 EAP, Materials Writing, Sustainability Lessons  Comments Off on Lesson plan: bottled or tab water
Nov 272019
 

This is an integrated-skills lesson originally created for an EAP class in 2011. It’s been used by me and other teachers with different classes at different schools and has always worked well.

Evaluation

Does it follow the principles I have listed here?

  • Focus on the ‘now’: Yes, it’s topical and has been so for many years. It’s an issue many people have.
  • Take a fresh perspective: I’d say so, because the environmental impact is mentioned in he second video but it’s not the main focus of the lesson, it’s more about which water is better.
  • Localise and Personalise: Yes, the students are asked about what they prefer in their real lives (not hypothetically); they are asked again at the end. They can also include their own opinions in the discussion of advantages and disadvantages of bottled and tab water. Also, as the students this lesson was originally used with were international students who had just arrived in the UK, they had to take the decision whether to use tab water or bottled water.
  • Focus on people: No, the focus is on the two types of water.
  • Positive and Empowering: Yes, on several levels. The first video is obviously very positive about bottled water. The second one, is negative about bottled water, but positive about tab water. Also, after watching the videos, discussing advantages and disadvantages, students are ’empowered’ in the sense that they are now better informed than before and know they have a choice.
  • What’s the language point: language related to water, listening for specific information
  • Make it interactive: Students interact with the videos, the tutor, with each other.
  • Integrated: Yes and no. Each Academic Listening Skills lesson is a stand-alone lesson, but although the topics and listening skills are different in each, they do have to be integrated logically between the previous and the following lesson. For example, they had practised listening and note-taking in the lesson before this, which is a skill they need in this one. They also had learned and practised the language for discussion advantages and disadvantages, stating one’s opinion, agreeing and disagreeing and giving reasons in the Academic Speaking Lesson(s) before this.
  • Integrated-skills: Yes, although the main focus is on practising extended listening and note-taking skills, students also practise seminar discussion (incl. providing evidence for their opinions), critical thinking skills and media literacy (evaluation information and sources critically).
  • Relevant: Yes, both the skills practised and the topic are/were relevant to my students (see above).
  • Go beyond the lesson: Yes, firstly, as stated above, this was a relevant topic and they learned about the advantages and disadvantages of bottled and tab water.
  • Lead to action: Yes, as seen above, this impacted on students’ behaviour/decisions outside class. Many stated at the end of the lesson that they had changed their opinion about which water is better, and said they would try tab water. The environmental impact was not discussed, but their change of behaviour means less plastic waste.
    Another type of action happened when I first taught this. We were lucky to have a student in class who had worked as a chemical analyst or similar at a water plant. After this lesson, he decided to change the topic for his academic presentation (which they all have to deliver at the end of the course). He had found a great topic he was interested in and knowledgeable about, and his class learned more about the safety and high quality of tab water in our location in his presentation.

The lesson

Materials: two online videos

  1. http://www.viewpure.com/LIeR6SoQ84A (viewpure removes the clutter and undesirable elements from YouTube videos)
  2. https://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-bottled-water/

Technology: internet and projector
Low tech solution: learners could use their own devices / the lesson plan could be changed and learners asked to watch the videos in their own time before class, which would allow for more time to be used for the other activities.

Time: 90 minutes, can easily be extended to 2 x 90-minutes session – one for the listening focus, note-taking initial discussions and source evaluation, the next one for speaking skills (extended discussion and feedback or even presentations by groups in stage 6).

Stages

  1. After greeting the students, casually start a conversation about what students are drinking. Sts. usually have sth. to drink on their desks: Who has got water/tea/sth. else? To those who have water (briefly): Is is bottled or tap water?
  2. Say: Our topic today is water. Elicit: What do you know about bottled water? Do you prefer bottled or tap water? Why? Elicit some answers from a few sts. Do a quick class survey and count how many prefer bottled or tab water (this can be done with a polling/survey tool too if available, e.g. survey monkey).
  3. Students work in groups to discuss and make a list of advantages/benefits of bottled water. Elicit ideas from the groups and write them up on the board (or have a confident student do this). Alternatively, if the room setup allows it and there are enough boards, they could write directly on the board. If they are used to working with GoogleDocs, they could also write their ideas there, so that everyone could see everyone else’s ideas displayed.
  4. Students watch the video and listen for advantages, compare them with their list, tick off if they hear one from their list and add new ones they hear. They compare their lists with a neighbour. Elicit any new ones and write up on the board. Do some quick vocab/pronunciation work where necessary.
  5. Repeat stages 3 and 4, but this time students focus on disadvantages of bottled water and watch the second video.
  6. In groups, students discuss and decide which arguments they believe in and what their position is. They discuss which is better, bottled or tab water, providing evidence/reasons from the video (but can also add their own reasons).
  7. Whole class discussion/feedback: Has your opinion about bottled water/tap water changed compared to beginning of lesson? Elicit from some sts. or use the polling/survey tool again and compare whether the result has changed.
  8. Ask: Which information is more reliable? Why? (e.g. source of information, evidence provided, sponsor of video, etc.)
  9. Optional question:What do you think is my position/opinion? Why?
    If I had shown you the videos the other way round, do you think your opinion would have been influenced?
    If yes, what’s the conclusion/lesson to draw for your writing project or presentations (if it is an argumentation)?
  10. Provide students with the links to the videos if they want to watch/listen again. Point out that the Story of bottled water video has got a full transcript with annotations, which is particularly useful for business students.
    (Depending on the course aims, syllabus, flexibility and the needs of the learners, the transcript could be used for follow-up tasks or lesson.)

Note

As environmentalists, we might be tempted to push our students to what we think is right, in this case, this would very likely using bottled water for most of us. However, we have to remember that we want our learners to develop critical thinking skills and also to find their own voice, to think about different angles of an issue or come up with creative and different solutions. There might well be situations where bottled water makes sense. Our learners might also come from places where tab water is not drinkable/healthy and they might not have technology for water purification readily available.

Our role as teachers, as I see it, is not to provide learners with THE solution or THE right behaviour, but to provide them with materials and tasks and create a safe space where they have the opportunity to think through problems, discuss options and come up with their own answers. If we successfully do this, rather than push our on views and solutions on them, they will often surprise us with new insights  and we will come out of a lesson having developed our own thinking on the topic/issue.

Nov 272019
 

It is useful to follow some principles when writing environment lessons, which can then also be used as criteria when evaluating lessons.

This is going to be a work in progress as I assume my thinking will evolve and I’ll also be reading about principles other teachers or materials writers have come up with. There’ll certainly be an overlap with material writing principles in general, but the focus is on environment-themed language lessons.

Because he made us think about our own principles/tips, I’d like to start with Owan Llewellyn seven tips, which you can read about in more detail on his website ELTsustainable with examples from his lessons:

  • Focus on the ‘now’
  • Take a fresh perspective
  • Localise and Personalise
  • Focus on people
  • Positive and Empowering
  • What’s the language point
  • Make it interactive

These are all great and I’d include them in my principles, certainly for general English classes. In the ESP/EAP context, the lessons might not always need to have a focus on ‘now’, though, and might not (always) focus on people, depending on the particular aim of the lesson. Although being positive and empowering is great, some ESP/EAP lessons might focus on graver situations and be based on understanding and communicating research, data, etc. Nonetheless, these lessons can lead to a positive outcome or action, which can be empowering.

So, here are the principles I’d add:

  • Integrated into the syllabus and not just an odd lesson on an odd topic.
  • Integrated-skills lessons (e.g. speaking, listening, reading, writing, critical thinking, media literacy, etc.)
  • Relevant, not only should the environmental topic be relevant to the learners (which would be the principle Personalise) but also the tasks and skills practised in the lesson (general English learners will need to learn different skills from academic English learners, e.g. having an informal chat vs a seminar discussion).
  • Go beyond the lesson. What have I learned? should be about the language points but also about the topic or environmental issue.
  • Lead to action. What will/can I do about this? What could/should/will my next step be? How can I make others aware of this issue? etc.

If you agree or disagree with the principles here, have further ideas or want to point out to me existing lists of principles on other websites, blogs, books, etc., I’d be very happy to read your comments below.