This (set of) lesson(s), or project, was originally developed for my English for City Planners class several years ago. I had visited Curitiba myself and was impressed, so I was hoping my students would like some of the sustainability ideas I was going to show them in the lesson and, ideally (idealistically?!), use some in their planning for our city. It was a face-to-face class, but because the participants were busy professionals, there’d always be some who missed lessons. As I was, at the same time, studying on my MA Educational Technology & TESOL course, I used the opportunity to build a website for this course for the Multimedia Design and Development module. It is called Sustainable Urban Planning! It is now, unfortunately, partly dysfunctional as some of the plugins I used for additional features, audio, quizzes, etc. haven’t been updated by their creators, and I don’t have the time to keep a website that is not being used up-to-date 🙁
The lesson plan below is adopted from this website for a general EAP class.
The lesson is planned around a video and a reading text with similar information about the same city — Curitiba. Students discuss qualities of a ‘best city’. They watch the video, compare and add ideas. Then they read a text and compare with their own ideas and those from the video and add any new ones. Finally, they write a text relating the information they have gathered to their own city/location, comparing the urban problems and solutions.
Duration: It’s a 90-minute lesson, but if extending it to a project or series of lessons is possible, there is extra material, which I will outline following the 90-minute lesson plan.
- ESP students, in this case city planners in a city in Turkey (the full programme on the website);
- International students on an EAP pre-sessional course at a UK university
- EAP students in any preparatory programme.
- ESAP students in in-sessional courses.
Localisation / Personalisation: The writing task makes it both personal and local.
- Vocabulary: Learn/review and practice using vocabulary for sustainable urban planning / features or facilities in a city [extended version: presentation language; word formation (word roots, prefixes and suffixes]
- Listening for specific information an note-taking
- Speaking skills: discussions at various stages [presentation skills in the extended version]
- Reading skills: Reading for specific information
- Academic skills: collecting, grouping and synthesising relevant information
- Writing: A short formal comparative text [a general English class, could write a less formal text, not from a perspective of a city planner, engineer, etc. but as a resident of a city].
- Learning skills: Thinking about the rationale behind tasks and improving learning strategies/study skills. (These can be left out if you don’t want to focus on them in this lesson.)
Unexpected outcome (full version of the course): The city planners in my course were given the opportunity by the municipality they were working for to travel to another city. They had a list of places to choose from, but my students asked whether they could go to Curitiba, and they were granted their wish. Yay! They got in touch with the municipality of Curitiba, prepared their presentation about their city, visited Curitiba, talked with people from the municipality and city planners there, were shown around the city, and came back and reported in their department about it. The lead person was then given the opportunity to work on more international projects. I think this is the best outcome a teacher can hope for. Whether it had any impact on making our city more sustainable, I don’t know, but did lead to some sharing of information and ideas with both of the municipalities.
- Task worksheet: PDF for download here, but can be displayed instead of printed too (more environmentally friendly 😉 )
- The video: City of Dreams (2006), on YouTube: How a Brazilian City Has Revolutionized Urban Planning, or watch on viewpure without distractions.
(It’s from 2006, but the content is not outdated, I’d say. However, should it feel like that or disappear one day, I’m sure there’re similar videos and texts on Curitiba, or even other cities. I could also imagine that the video and text could be about different cities, as long as it is about tackling similar urbanisation issues.)
- The text (source: Wikipedia): Download the PDF with images (4 pages) or PDF with plain text and word definitions (2 pages).
Write ‘Best city in the world’ and/or ‘The city for the people’ on the board.And ‘qualities / features’
Ask: In your opinion, which qualities or ‘features’ would a city need to have to deserve the title “The City for People” or “Best City in the world”?
-> Compare with the teacher’s ideas. (Originally, I conducted an online poll amongst teachers and friends. You could use this or conduct your own pool with colleagues, friends and relatives.)
Can you group the qualities and features mentioned? What titles could you give these groups?
-> Compare with the teacher’s ideas.
- In a moment, you will watch a video about the city of Curitiba. Have you heard of Curitiba? Do you know where it is located? Find Curitiba on the map (Google Maps or any other map, perhaps a word map poster in your class).
- Think about what you know about Brazil and Brazilian cities? Take notes if you want or talk about it with your partner if you are doing these tasks with someone.
Before watching: The video is 15 minutes long and it is normal spoken English (not made for learners of English). Look at the task below. In order to do this task, will you need to listen in detail and understand everything?
Listening tip: For this task it will be enough to listen to keywords. The video images will also help you understand the context. Later, you will have a chance to look at some of the vocabulary from this video.
- Watch the video and mark any of the qualities or features on your list from Task 1 if you hear them mentioned in the video:
Which features have been mentioned? Have any other features been mentioned? If necessary, watch the video again.
- Think about the following questions or talk about them with your partner. Take notes if you want:
What is your first impression of Curitiba after watching the video? Would you like to visit this city? Would you want to live in such a city?
- (Optional questions: Do you find it surprising that such a model sustainable city is located in a so-called developing country like Brazil? Why?/Why not?)
- The following words (see next page) are taken from the text that you are going to read. Think about 1) which of them you know the meaning of 2) which you are sure how to pronounce. You can work with a partner and discuss the words. Please, resist using the dictionary just for now ☺
(As EAP/ESP classes tend to be mixed ability and each student will come with a different level of knowledge and set of vocabulary they know, it is better not to pre-teach a list of vocabulary, but give them a task that makes them think about and discuss what they already know and what they’re not sure of or don’t know. This is more motivating and less tedious. Strategies for dealing with unknown words are introduced before the reading task.).
Before you move on, take a minute and think about why I might have asked you to do all the previous tasks before reading the text about Curitiba?
Reading tip: All of these pre-reading tasks activate your previous knowledge about the topic and the language and so prepare you for the text. This will help you understand the reading more easily than without any preparation.
Reading tip: It might help you to focus your reading if you read the tasks first and know what information you will be looking for. — Also, look at the page layout, the title and the images. They all give you clues about the content of the text and can help you better understand it.
Reading tip: Try guessing the meaning of the words by looking at the text around it (=context) before looking it up and reading its definition. This will help you improve your reading comprehension skills and will make you a more autonomous user of English.
Vocabulary and pronunciation: When you are learning a new word, always also learn its pronunciation. This will help you understand it when you hear it and give you more confidence to use it when speaking.
- Read the Text.
- Did this text provide you with more details or additional information to what you have learned from the video? You can add these to your list of qualities and features of Task 1.
- In Task 1 , you grouped the qualities and features. Can you put the paragraphs from the text under those headings? Example: Traffic – paragraph 1, 2, (4), 5, 6, 9,14.
- All of this sounds very good, doesn’t it? But is there anything that makes you think “Great, but …”? Write at least three Great, but… sentences or questions. Example: Great, but isn’t it expensive to maintain the parks? We will come back to this later.
Curitiba has become a model sustainable city which is visited by many urban planning experts from other cities around the world who want to learn how Curitiba is solving its urbanisation problems.
Write a text comparing urbanisation problems and the measures taken in Curitiba with a city of your choice. Here are some questions that might help you:
- Are the developments and problems in both cities similar or different?
- Are the economies of the cities comparable?
- Are there cultural or other differences that might make transferring solutions difficult or impossible?
- How could some of the projects be adapted to your city if not transferred as they are?
(Depending on the time, the writing can take place in the classroom and the teacher can monitor and offer help where needed. If possible, they should type it on their computers/tablets. Alternatively, students can handwrite and type it up later and copy to GoogleDocs if you have prepared one and share the link. GoogleDocs is great because everyone can see what others have written and add comments and feedback.)
I’ll add these details and material soon:
- More learning strategy tips.
- Vocabulary and pronunciation review/practice and quiz
- Vocabulary extension (word roots, prefixes and suffixes
- Further videos on Curitiba to choose from individually depending on interest (traffic solutions, green areas, etc.) that expand on the information provided in the first video and texts, watch and collect information
- Presentation language/preparation