This lesson plan focuses on the issue of combating throwaway culture by giving tax breaks to people who decide to repair their broken possessions instead of throwing them out. It is based on an actual initiative of the Swedish government and is based on the article published by The Guardian and the video issued by World Economic Forum. I would recommend it for B2/C1 students, especially adults. The lesson takes around an hour to complete and it comes with a worksheet for the students and an answer key for the teacher.
In this lesson, students get familiar with the concept of throwaway culture and are encouraged to think about its consequences, reasons, and assess the potential implications of governments or educators trying to combat the trend of throwing things out instead of repairing them. To learn more about the topic before the lesson, you might want to read this article as well.
The lesson plan comes with two PDF files:
- Worksheet (5 pages) and answer key (1 page)
This serves as a guideline for the teacher as well.
- Discussion questions
You might display it on the screen or print it, and use one of the discussion techniques I describe later in the post.
Step 1: What would you do?
The aim of this stage of the lesson is to see how much your students even think about the concept of repairing things instead of throwing them out. In order to see their reactions to the 4 images in the worksheet, you might ask them to:
- write down their answers and then compare with a partner
- poll them (raise your hand if your reaction would be to throw it away/fix it)
- have a whole class discussion
Don’t reveal where the lesson is going at this point yet.
Step 2: Before you read
The aim of these vocabulary activities is to pre-teach key terms necessary to understand the reading texts that comes later. At the same time, students are encouraged to use their already existing knowledge and explore an online tool that helps them establish the most popular collocations.
Step 3: Reading
Students learn about the Swedish government’s initiative and at the same time review verb tenses. Students fill in the gaps in the text individually.
After you check their answers, assign every other student letter A. Ask As to discuss the next two questions with the person sitting on their left. The aim here is to make sure students work with different partners during the lesson. Given the U-shape of desks in my classroom the pattern of students turning to their left and right works. Feel free to adjust it to your own classroom seating.
Step 4: Watching
Students watch the video and take notes of the new information. It is advisable to play the video twice. Then, they share and compare their notes with a different partner than in the previous exercise. Elicit their answers at the end of the exercise.
Next, students work on the vocabulary exercise in pairs.
Step 5: After you watch
Here, students select keywords from the text and the video which they find crucial to summarise the story. The twist is that they choose the keywords which they partners are supposed to use to retell the story. They tick the words as they listen to their partner’s speech. Then, they change roles.
Allow some preparation and thinking time at this stage. Students are well familiar with the content at this stage, however, it is the first time they are asked to think more about the form. In the end, students compare their summaries to see whether the stories differ depending on what keywords they were expected to use.
Step 5: Discussion
I used the Discussion Questions PDF to present the questions on the screen allowing around 2-3 mins for the students to discuss each. The questions concern various aspects of living and combating the throwaway culture we live in.
There are several patterns you could employ at this stage:
- discuss with a partner
- speed-dating model (students discuss each question with a different partner while sitting down)
- gallery walk (students discuss questions with one or two partners moving between prompts put up on the wall)
- Inside/Outside circle discussion
I used this lesson with my group of adults (Cambridge Advanced course) to complement the chapter on global issues. They found the topic of throwaway culture relatable and relevant enough to exchange some opinions and use their already existing general knowledge, yet, they admitted they learned something new and interesting during this activity.
I allowed a lot of thinking and discussion time as my focal points here were collaboration, listening to each other, and using new vocabulary in context.