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Climate change lesson plan

This is a lesson I have recently tried with my C1 teenage group. It is based around the climate change solutions quiz by CNN. The activities include vocabulary brainstorming, mini group discussion and ranking, and a possible writing extension. You will need around 90 minutes for this class.

I stumbled upon the CNN quiz online by accident and I immediately knew I would want to use it with my students. The quiz was made possible by the research of the group Project Drawdown who ranked the most effective climate change solutions, which subsequently were divided into 7 categories in the quiz:

  • Our food
  • How we move people and goods

  • Our homes and cities

  • How we use our land

  • Electricity use

  • Materials and waste management

  • Empowering women

Additionally, each solution has been labeled depending on who can enact the change (individuals, industries or policymakers)

The quiz asks us to rank the solutions in each category from the most to the least effective by dragging them in the right order. Once we check the answers, we find out about the impact of every solution if adopted and the ranking is generally explained. We can also see how correct our answers were in comparison to other quiz takers.

I strongly encourage you to go through the quiz yourselves before you do it with your students to see the mechanics of the process and explanations.

The quiz ends with a top 5 ranking which summarises the findings of the quiz.

The Lesson

Step 1: vocabulary and categeories

Students work in pairs or alone. They complete the list of collocations connected to the topic of climate change. you may use the PDF worksheet attached at the end of the post or display the table on the screen in the classroom using this link. There are many possible answers but the answer key provides the collocations which are used in the CNN quiz.

After checking the collocations, ask the students to divide the vocabulary into 5 categories and give each category a name. The answer key provides the names the authors of the quiz used but you can be as flexible as you wish as long as students’ answers make sense or they are able to very convincingly justify their choices.

Step 2: mini discussions and ranking

Tell your students they are going to work in groups in order to figure out the most effective solutions combating climate change in different categories. Students should work in pairs or groups of 3 or even 4. Show the website on the screen in your classroom so that everybody can see it well.

Display each category and solutions. Allow students around 5 minutes to decide within their group on the correct order of solutions. They should write their answers down.

Ask one group to reveal their solutions (rotate between groups who reveal their solutions for each new category) and use their answers to rank the answers on the screen.

Check the answers allowing students to read the explanations.

See which group has managed to create a correct ranking. Allow some time for them to explain how they arrived at that solution.

Repeat these steps with each category you want your students to discuss.

Variation

Since you can skip any category on the screen ( for relevance or time reasons) you don’t need to cover them all.

Another idea would be to present your students with the list of categories at the beginning of the activity and ask them to select 4 or 5 out of 7 which they want to discuss.

If you want to spice the activity up with some competition, you might award points to groups for each correctly ranked solution.

Step 3: top 5 solutions / Final Jeopardy

The last step in the quiz involves selecting the top 5 solutions to climate change.

If you follow the points system in the previous rounds, you might want to adopt a Final Jeopardy tactic for this last ranking. Students bet their points (minimum is 1, maximum is the number they have so far accumulated) without seeing the solutions first. Then they are given 5minutes to agree on the right order.

When you reveal the answers, they will know whether they won or lost any points. Only producing an entirely correct ranking of solutions allows them to win any points!

Step 4:  a possible writing extension

This step includes a possible writing activity extension to the discussion portion of the lesson.

Since I tried this activity with my Cambridge Advanced group, I asked them to write a report at the home which lists 3 ways individuals may combat climate change explaining how and why that would help. Given how much students learn in the course of the lesson, coming up with the content will not be problematic and they will be able to focus on the language part of the assignment.

Alternatively, you could ask your students to write a “response paper” at home, describing solutions which they found surprising, useful, worth-researching, etc.

Another option would be to ask students to further research one of the solutions described in the quiz (using the links provided in the explanations for each category) an write a short summary of why it is important and how it can be implemented.

Step 5: possible problem-solving follow-up

These slides might be used as a speaking follow-up during the lesson or during the next one, should you choose to continue discussing the topic of climate change.

The problems mentioned allow students to use both the knowledge they gained during the quiz and the vocabulary they brainstormed earlier.

Students might work in pairs to discuss how they would address each situation or they might role-play each situation negotiating towards an outcome.

In order to conduct the activity, you might want to choose the rotating station method.

Step 6: vocabulary recycling/exit ticket

Since the lesson was quite heavy on the vocabulary you can spend the last couple of minutes recycling the vocab or leave the activities for the revision portion of the next lesson. Possible ideas include:

  • Recall-Categorise-Match (#2 in the post here)

 

  • Draw-Mime-Define (#5 in the post here)

 

  • Half-crossword (#3 in the post here)

 

Personal Experience

I have never been a big fan of so-called “green” topics in coursebooks but I think the time is up on skipping those just because they might not seem interesting enough. Climate change and many other environmental issues have become a part of everyday news and conversations. With the abundance of videos and interviews, no one can claim ignorance on the topic anymore. On top of that, green initiatives often go hand in hand with technological advances which makes it a topic of interest for those interested in technology as well. All in all, it is a damn hot topic and not harnessing the power of how much our students already know about it would be a serious waste.

My students proved to have a lot of knowledge on the topic and their lively reactions to each ranking reveal showed me they had really been thinking and reading about these topics a lot as it was. Even if they disagreed with the order of solutions suggested by the quiz, they managed to keep an open mind and admit that maybe there was something to it but they had to find out more about it to truly grasp the importance of it.

Language-wise, the most rewarding part of the lesson was the mini-debate in each group. The task naturally elicited the necessary language from the students who had to come to a final solution together. The discussions got quite heated at times and it was quite challenging to keep decorum in the room, but I chose to put it down to their engagement in the activity at hand.

A huge asset of the quiz is the number of outbound links it provides. All the extra information helps understand the problem better and oftentimes managed to convince disagreeing students to compromise and dig deeper for more facts.

Materials

Climate change collocations and key

Problem-solving discussion 

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