I created this lesson plan with my C1/C2 students in mind. It deals with the topic of effective communication and helps practicing reading, speaking, and collaboration. It might also be used when discussing narrative tenses. You will need 90 minutes to complete this lesson.
The lesson is based around the article The simple words that save lives by William Park, which was published by BBC Future on 20th September 2019.
Before the lesson
Before you teach this lesson, ask your students to do the pre-lesson assignment. Their task is to read the text and create the timeline of events described in the article. Make sure to distribute the worksheets so that half of your students receive pages 1-2 (the dispatcher), and the other half 3-4 (the 911 caller).
You need this worksheet: Effective communication_before the lesson .
Step 1: Collaboration
Divide the class into dispatchers and 911 callers. Give them a couple of minutes to compare their timelines and come up with the ultimate version of events that transpired that fateful night. Then, the students should select one person who will represent them and recount their story.
Step 2: Presentation
Tell the students one group will present their story to the rest of the class (decide by tossing a coin). The group who are listening have the right to veto the story three times if they detect some discrepancies with their own timeline of events. Remind the students that they need to listen to each other carefully and veto respectfully, without shouting. The vetoing group should justify their protest.
The aim of this stage is to make students aware that even though the order of events is likely to be the same for both groups, their representation and understanding of what happened and why might differ to an extent, especially when it comes to interpreting the part of whether the questions asked by the dispatcher were important/relevant, and whether the hanging up on the caller was justified.
Before the speaker takes the floor, encourage the students to really get into the position of their character (dispatcher / 911 caller) and imagine they want to challenge the status quo. Monitor the speaker and the vetoing group and play the devil’s advocate if necessary (Is this really what happened? Do you agree with what they are saying?) because you do want the listening group to veto.
Step 3: Speculation
Ask the students whether the timelines were in fact any different. When they agree the facts are the same, ask them what the nature of the difference in the way both groups presented/understood the story was. Try to elicit it was a matter of interpretation and the manner of asking and answering questions on both parts.
If your groups don’t see that very clearly, walk them through the first 3 slides of this presentation: Effective communication_ppt
Take some time to take a look at slide 4 and ask your students: How can using these 3 words in questions we ask affect our communication with others?
Allow them to speculate before you move on to the next step.
Step 4: Reading
Divide the students into 3 groups. Each group will read a short text explaining the effect of one of the 3 words on human communication. Hang the texts on the wall around the classroom if you can.
The texts can be found here: Effective communication_reading
At the same time, give each student a worksheet. Tell them to use the blank side of the worksheet to take notes about the main message of the text and write down how using their given word in questions we ask affects our communication with others.
They should also note down 4 vocabulary items (single words or phrases) that are new/interesting for them and which they would like to teach to other students. They should write down the words and their definitions (allow them touse dictionaries) on the blank side of their worksheet.
The worksheet can be found here: Effective communication_worksheet
Step 5: Mingling
When the groups are done reading it is time for them to mingle. Each person should talk to two others who read different texts. They have to exchange information with each other in order to complete the table on the first page of their worksheet. Monitor to see how well the students have understood the text and offer an extra explanation if needed.
Step 6: Group discussion
Students work in pairs or small groups. The discuss the following question:
Think of other poisonous words that come up in different types of emotional exchanges
- life partner-life partner
How can these words be substituted?
Allow your students plenty of time to discuss and if time allows ask groups to merge and compare their ideas.
This was one of the more engaging lessons I have taught this semester. The students found the idea of pleading their case in Step 2 quite appealing and took very seriously. The reading/mingling part proved informative and effective as there was an information gap to be closed. I subsequently used the three vocabulary lists created by the students for separate practice in the next lesson. The final discussion part provoked some interesting thoughts about the way we talk to each other on a daily basis and how this might be improved. Overall, I recommend this lesson if you feel your students are mature enough to handle the topic and they are independent enough to engage in a number of collaborative activities.