This activity provides students with upper intermediate vocabulary for parts of the body such as blood, liver, lungs etc. and provides opportunity for debate on an interesting subject that is frequently in the news, as well as giving students the opportunity to express their views on a little-known experiment that took place 40 years ago.

Procedure

Introduce the topic

  • Start by asking the following questions in open class:
    When do you think the very first heart transplant took place? (The world's first human heart transplant was performed by Christiaan Barnard on December 3, 1967 in Cape Town South Africa.)
    Do donor cards exist in your country? Do you carry one? Would you carry one? Why? Why not? 

 Language input - parts of the body vocabulary

  • Give students the vocabulary worksheet. Ask them to work on their own for 5 minutes and then to work with the person next to them to compare their answers and share their knowledge. During this time the teacher monitors to see how much help students are going to need in the plenary stage. 
  • Bring the class together, go through the answers and teach any vocabulary that is new, giving students time to make notes. Work on any pronunciation difficulties.

Vocabulary practice and brainstorming in preparation for the discussion

  • Put students into groups of about three and ask them to work on the following: Which body parts do you think can and can’t be transplanted? Which parts are you not sure about?
    On the donor card you can refuse to donate certain parts of your body. Is there anything you would not donate? Can you explain why? 
  • Students use the vocabulary they have just been working on to answer these questions, but let them know their answers are not limited to those words in the vocabulary exercise. 
  • As a round up to this exercise ask students to talk about their thoughts. Make a list on the board of the parts that students believe it is not yet possible to transplant.

Discussion

  • Pose the following questions to your class: 
    • Do you feel there is any ethical objection to transplanting a collection of body parts, for example, a whole face or an entire body? If a person was paralysed from the neck down do you think a complete body transplant would be a good option? 
    • If someone has a malfunction in their brain but a healthy body, could a head transplant be a consideration? 
    • How long do you think it will be before medical science is able to transplant an entire body or head? Do you think funding would be well spent to achieve this? 
  • Allow students a few minutes to make a few notes alone and have some thinking time before they begin the discussion. Then arrange them into small groups to start to express their ideas. Finally bring the class together and chair a whole class discussion. As the class discuss the teacher listens and take notes as the students speak, picking out errors and writing down phrases that students are lacking to make their points concisely and accurately. 
  • As a round up, if nobody brought it up in the class discussion, tell your class that whole body transplants (for monkeys) already happened in the 1970s:
    Robert J. White (born 1925) is an American surgeon, best known for his head transplants on monkeys.
    In the 1970s, after a long series of experiments, White performed a transplant of one monkey head onto the body of another monkey, although it survived just a few days. These operations were continued and perfected to the point where the transplanted head could have survived indefinitely on its new body, though the animals were in fact euthanized. The problem with this operation is that since no one currently knows how to repair nerve damage which would arise when the spinal cord is severed during the head transplant process, the recipient would become paralyzed from the neck down. However, it is thought that stem cells might be able to repair the damage.  
  • Once the discussion has come to a natural end, spend some time going over the language that has come up, giving students time to note error corrections and useful phrases.
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Author: 
Stuart Wiffin and Helen Gibbons
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