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Global Issues in ELT Class

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Our world is affected by many global issues and that brings the need to apply various topics such as wildlife protection, human rights, and global public health to our ELT classes. 

Written by ozguozturk

Among these problems, global warming is perhaps the most common. It becomes more engaging and easier for both juniors and teenagers to grasp when it is applied with certain activities which students enjoy. In certain respects, many English teachers today focus on global issues and they can be very innovative when doing so. Lots of fun games and learning methods based on assignments are used, and CLIL methodology helps us in different ways. It is also important, however, to deal with these problems in a sensitive manner, and also ensure that you teach what is on the curriculum or syllabus. I use STEM methods and the CLIL approach together to provide this, and build some class activities accordingly. STEM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects. That means I need to work with other colleagues who are not English teachers. It is similar to the CLIL approach, which is an outstanding method for student interaction, where a foreign language is used to discuss a school subject.  In this way, since it is important to understand the content, the language is meaningful. And with STEM, students will look at various aspects of the problems. They see the empirical characteristics of the subjects; they use technology to illustrate their comprehension of the subject and their perspective; they design something to solve the problem and they make some measurements to explain the situation and to rationally solve the problem.  

The importance of English in understanding scientific facts is key. Many studies and a lot of scientific research are in English. To understand them one has to have a good knowledge of English language. That’s why we start teaching English at the very beginner level of students, at pre-school level in some private schools and 2nd graders in public schools in Turkey. Younger students have fun while they are learning English because there are lots of games, songs and many enjoyable activities. However, it is seen that high school students, especially when they come to the 11th class and when they are so close to choosing their future jobs, start to withdraw themselves from studying English and focus only on the selected subjects at school. However, when they ignore learning English, they will have a bigger problem, as they need to study a preparatory class in the first year of university. They start from scratch but it will be more difficult to learn English at that point because they have forgotten lots of things and the trainers at faculties think that they know English. I aimed to create an awareness of the importance of English by adding STEM activities into my lessons. 

For instance, I used this combination while revising perfect tenses in one of my classes. The level of the students was A2 and they were 15 years old. However, the activities are for all ages and all levels. It was a really fun lesson, although it was a big class of 40 students.

The primary aim was to integrate STEM subjects into English lesson plans within the CLIL approach on a lesson about climate change. Students identify some basic vocabulary on the topic; describe the fundamental characteristics of global warming-causes & effects; use technology for the assignments and activities; create a model of a building that will help prevent global warming; understand the topic's reading text; revise and practise perfect tenses. I developed a CLIL & STEM Integrated English lesson, improving my students' 21st century skills. While doing some group activities, they interacted and collaborated, used technology for their assignments, produced creative works, developed some solutions to problems that boosted their critical thinking, and were inspired by each other.

In the first activity, we talked about the weather that day. Then, I asked the students if they felt the high temperature when it was summer and extreme weather conditions in different parts of the world. They were aware of the changing weather conditions in Turkey. They talked about the whirlwind which was an unusual event for Turkey. I asked them if they had heard about the terms “global warming” and “climate change”. Then, showed them this video from YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPqd20tdncg 

In the video Bill Nye, who is popularly known as the Science Guy and is an American mechanical engineer, science communicator, and television presenter, talks about climate change using a language everyone can understand, emojis. All the children and teenagers love to use emojis to express their feelings. That’s why I used this video for a catchy starter for my lesson.

After that we watched a video about an experiment on Climate Change from a website which I really like to follow to find new ideas for various kinds of STEM activities:  https://www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/cub_air_lesson07_activity2

In this video, we model the Earth's greenhouse effect using modeling clay, ice chunks, water, aluminum pie tins and plastic wrap. Students observe and record what happens in this closed environment and discuss the implications of global warming theory for engineers, themselves and the Earth. They didn't do this experiment at school, just watched the video. But, in the assignment part, they could prepare a video like that (Do an experiment with household items and record it.)

In the second activity I asked my students: “What can cause global warming?” I wrote their opinions on the board about the causes & effects of global warming. After completing the activity, I clarified the differences between global warming and climate change. This was an enlightening moment for my students because to some of them, global warming and climate change were the same, and some of them had thought that they were different problems and no correlation between them.

As the third activity I delivered the reading worksheet which I found on https://climatekids.nasa.gov/climate-change-meaning/

And also opened it from the interactive board. We read the passage silently. This was the Science part of my lesson plan. After reading the text, students made three sentences about the topic by using Past Perfect Tense. 

1. Something they had already known 

2. Something they had just learned

3. Something they hadn't known, yet (something they wanted to dig deep)

Then, as another activity, the students created a word cloud with one of the web 2.0 tools, WordArt, or it can be arranged on Menti. They wrote as many words as they could remember from the reading passage in the previous activity. By this way, we could revise the vocabulary that they learned in the reading passage. 

For a fun activity, I created a Digital Escape Room on Google Forms. I sent the link via an instant messaging application, where they could click on the link from their cell phones or computers, to reach the instructions for the Escape Room game, and they tried to break the codes to get the password to escape from the room. This was the Maths part of my lesson plan. It was a very enjoyable activity because it turned out to be a competition. They tried to finish before each other. 

https://forms.gle/WGbusvZ1Dj7JkRCs5

At the end of the lesson, I assigned them a Choice Board which I made with Google Docs. The students chose the style of their assignment from the choice board. Some of them worked in groups, some of them worked with their pairs and some of them worked individually. On the choice board there were six alternatives for students to choose their own style of assignment. This part included the Technology and Engineering tasks to encourage them to use their technological skills and needed engineering skills to complete them. 

1. Create a 3-minute video: on the causes of global warming or do an experiment with household items and record it;

2. Design a comic strip about the differences between global warming and climate change;

3. Create a poem or a song about the effects of global warming;

4. Create an infographic about the impacts of global warming on ecosystems;

5. Design a poster -by drawing or a digital one - about climate change with a slogan;

6. Design a building model which uses less energy and helps to decrease the effects of global warming.

Students assessed each others' work. On an online voting tool, I uploaded the pictures of the assignments that students did at home. Then the students voted for them to choose the best works of each category. 

I use the combination of these two approaches with other topics, as well. I used it while teaching themes like wildlife protection, saving the water & saving the world, new energy resources, bullying and cybersecurity. When you think of it you can find many other themes. You can make some improvements for your lesson plans. You can choose different real-world problems and change the topics, the activities, the web 2.0 tools to be used. We are the most imaginative teachers of them all. So, be creative! Then, right below the comment line, please write your thoughts about the implementation of my plan in your class or suggestions about what improvements can be made in the plan.