Levels/contexts Archives: intermediate upwards

World Car Free Day

Sit down if…

When the class starts, ask students not to sit down. (If your students don’t usually stand when the lesson starts, ask them to do so.) Tell them you are going to read out the statement “Sit down if…” and if the sentence is true for them, they can sit down.

Sit down if…

  • you came to school by bus
  • you came to school by train
  • you came to school by tram
  • you came to school by trolley
  • you came to school by bike
  • you walked to school
  • you came to school by car

Picture swap

Once everybody has sat down, put the first of the following pictures on the board or project it. Ask students to have a think and put any idea/thought/feeling/impression they get when they look at the picture on the board, around the photo. After they have collected a nice amount of ideas, change the picture for the second one below. Now, ask your students to relate their previous ideas to the new picture in pairs. Conduct brief open-class feedback at the end of the activity.



Sources: http://bit.ly/2bnBHLm and http://bit.ly/2aWeeQG

Key lexis

After getting the main theme of the lesson, tell students they are going to read about a special day in connection with the pictures, but they need to clarify some words for the text. Put students into pairs and ask them to match the following words with their synonyms or definitions.

1. dedicated to sg a) take part in
2. aim to do sg b) a collection of gases in the sky that prevents harmful rays from reaching the Earth
3. implement c) traffic jam
4. participate d) made or used for a particular purpose
5. congestion e) try or intend to do sg
6. ozone layer f) take action or make changes

Key: 1-d / 2-e / 3-f / 4-a / 5-c / 6-b

If there are some uncertainties, quickly pre-teach the problematic words so that everybody understands the items.

Note: This activity is adapted from Breaking News English. Other online activities, listening at five speeds, multi-speed readings, dictation, speaking activities and printable handouts are available for this lesson at http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com.

World Car Free Day

Hand out the text and ask students to read it and complete it with the words they have been working with. Note that in some cases, they need to change the form of the words. To check the solutions, ask a student to read it out or play the audio that is available on the BNE website.

Should you wish to share some more information on World Car Free Day, consult the following pages:

  • http://days.tigweb.org/world-car-free-day
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car-Free_Days

1-minute challenge

Ask the group to come up with 20 questions they would like to ask about World Car Free Day.

Reflect and share

To reflect on the theme and idea of this day, ask students to come up with some pros and cons in connection with the idea behind the initiative. You might want to switch pairs if you feel some movement would do good to the group. Conduct open-class feedback in the end and lead a whole-class discussion.

Check your chair

Collect as many questions/controversial statements/quotes about the article or the topic of travelling or sustainability as the number of group members, write them on a piece of paper and before class, stick them on the bottom of your students’ chairs. When you reach this stage, tell students to check their chairs, get the slip of paper, and discuss the question with their partners. After a specific amount of time, make them swap questions with another group member. After discussion, pick some of the questions and ask the group what they have discussed.

Possible questions:

  • Do you think city centres should be closed to traffic?
  • Do you like the idea of World Car Free Day?
  • Some cities leave thousands of bicycles for anyone to use. Do you think it’s a good idea?
  • Do you think you should change the way you travel around every day?
  • Do you think events as WCF Day have a big impact on the world?



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World Humanitarian Day

Impossible choices

Tell your students that you are going to show/say 2 things to them and they need to decide which one they would choose. The item they choose, they can keep it forever. However, they will never see the other one again. Students can take notes which one they choose. (This task is based on the following video: http://bit.ly/206O0tD)

The items:

  • chocolate – coffee
  • cellphone – bathing
  • identity – wealth
  • life jacket – life saving medicine
  • yourself – person you love most

Note: You might need to give some explanation about what the items mean or what the context is, e.g. ‘bathing’ = you could never shower again; ‘life jacket vs life saving medicine’ = you are fleeing an area of conflict and you are taking a sick child etc. Feel free to take these clarifications from the video.

Reflect and share

After doing the activity, ask students how they felt about making the decisions. Were there easier and more difficult choices? Could they choose at all? You can also tell them about the video and ask why they think this video was made in the first place. Who needs to make such decisions?

World Humanitarian Day

To check their predictions, play the next video about World Humanitarian Day. First, students can get a general understanding of the video and the issue. When they watch it for the second time, ask them to focus on the following questions: WHO / WHAT / WHEN / WHERE / HOW. This will give them a chance to focus more on the content of the video.

Language practice

The ensuing activities aim at familiarising students with World Humanitarian Day by working with the following text. For practising grammar, you can turn it into a gap fill.

Put the following verbs into the text. Note that you might need to change the form of the verbs.

call / affect / deliver / risk / take / highlight / mobilise / come / launch / hold

Every day, humanitarian aid workers stand on the front lines of war and disaster, braving tremendous dangers and difficulties to (1) ___________ assistance to those who need it most. World Humanitarian Day (WHD), which takes place every year on 19 August, recognizes the aid workers who (2) ______ their lives in humanitarian service, and (3) __________ people to advocate for humanitarian action. The day was designated by the General Assembly seven years ago to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.

This World Humanitarian Day, the UN and its partners are (4) __________ for global solidarity with the more than 130 million people around the world who need humanitarian assistance to survive. Under the theme of ‘One Humanity’, World Humanitarian Day will (5) ________ how the world (6) ________ together in Istanbul for the World Humanitarian Summit earlier this year, and made commitments to support people (7) __________ by crisis and ensure that aid workers can safely and more effectively deliver to those in need.

Events will (8) ___________ around the world on 19 August to honor the work of humanitarian workers and to celebrate the theme of ‘One Humanity’. In New York, a wreath-laying ceremony will (9) ___________ at the United Nations headquarters, and a high-level event will be held in the General Assembly Hall. In addition a digital campaign will (10) _________ place on the day to raise awareness of the impossible choices that people caught in crisis face. World Humanitarian Day will also feature photo exhibitions and film screenings documenting the lives of those affected by conflict and disaster.

Key: deliver / risk / mobilise / calling / highlight / came / affected / be held / take / be launched

From http://www.un.org/en/events/humanitarianday/

For practising vocabulary, you can check the meaning of the coloured words by providing a definition and asking students to match them with the words.

  • _______________: to publicly say that something should be done
  • _______________: a circle made from leaves or flowers that you put on the place where a person is buried
  • _______________: to happen at the same time as something else
  • _______________: very big, powerful
  • _______________: loyalty and general agreement between members of a group or between different groups, because they have a shared aim

Key: advocate / wreath / coincide with /  tremendous / solidarity

Share your poster, share your slogan

At this stage, ask students to create something related to World Humanitarian Day. For instance, you can ask them to create a poster for the day. They can simply draw them or if they can use a computer in class, they can design one with the help of it.

Instead of or in addition to this, you can ask students to come up with a 6-word slogan. It can be anything related to WHD but can only contain six words. Encourage students to share these slogans at the end of the class, by e.g. putting them on the board or the walls of the room.

Note: The idea of a 6-word slogan came from  World Savvy.

Follow-up video

For students who are interested, you can suggest the following video on children in conflict. It is easy to follow and subtitles are also available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u41A21vEQg

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Earth Day

I want…

Put the following sentence on the board and ask students to complete it with their own names and finish it.

  • I, _______, want…

Give students a couple of minutes, let them compare their ideas in pairs, and in the end, collect some ideas by writing them on the board. After that, put the following sentence on the board and ask students to put themselves in the place of Earth and finish the sentence.

  • I, the Earth, want…

Proceed in the same way as before: allow students to compare their ideas and write some of their suggestions on the board.

Checking predictions

Play the video and ask students to check their ideas and complete them with any other idea they can see in the video. Clarify any problematic vocabulary after watching, e.g. destruction / intact / pristine

Jigsaw reading

After watching the video and getting the main idea, students learn some essential information about Earth Day. Put them into groups of four and give each student in a group the same paragraph. The groups read their own part and discuss it briefly. Then, mix students by creating groups where each student has a different paragraph. In the newly formed groups, students tell each other what they have read, thus they have the chance to go through the whole text. (At the end of the lesson, you might want to provide students with the whole text.)

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day is an annual event to celebrate the planet’s environment and raise public awareness about pollution. The day, April 22, is observed worldwide with rallies, conferences, outdoor activities and service projects.

Started as a grassroots movement, Earth Day created public support for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contributed to the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act and several other environmental laws. The idea for Earth Day was proposed by then-Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who died in 2005.


The first Earth Day was in 1970. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, after seeing the damage done by a 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, was inspired to organize a national “teach-in” that focused on educating the public about the environment.

Nelson recruited Denis Hayes, a politically active recent graduate of Stanford University, as national coordinator, and persuaded U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey of California to be co-chairman. With a staff of 85, they were able to rally 20 million people across the United States on April 20, 1970. Universities held protests, and people gathered in public areas to talk about the environment and find ways to defend the planet.

“Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values,” according to the Earth Day Network, which was founded by the event’s organizers to promote environmental citizenship and action year-round.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for being the founder of Earth Day. This is the highest honor given to civilians in the United States.

Modern Earth Day

Earth Day continued to grow over the years. In 1990, it went global, and 200 million people in 141 countries participated in the event, according to the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day 2000 included 5,000 environmental groups and 184 countries. Hayes organized a campaign that focused on global warming and clean energy. “The world’s leaders in Kyoto, Japan, in late 1997, acknowledged the scientific fact that the leading cause of global warming is carbon emissions from fossil-fuel consumption, and that something must be done to address those rising emissions,” Hayes told National Geographic.

In 2010, for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, 225,000 people gathered at the National Mall for a climate rally. Earth Day Network launched a campaign to plant 1 billion trees, which was achieved in 2012, according to the organization.

The impact of Earth Day

Earth Day is important because it reminds people to think about humanity’s values, the threats the planet faces and ways to help protect the environment, said Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio.

Mia Yamaguchi, outreach coordinator at the CoolClimate Network at the University of California, Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, said “There are many, many things that any one person can do to manage their own environmental impacts, which I think makes it really different from worries like the national debt or U.S. foreign policy.”

In those cases, “I can probably write a letter to a politician, maybe donate to a cause,” she said. “But if I actually start looking at what it would take to improve my vehicle’s fuel efficiency by 5 miles per gallon, that makes a big difference.”

The CoolClimate Network has a variety of online widgets for people interested in calculating their own energy footprint.

Adapted from http://www.livescience.com/50556-earth-day-facts-history.html

The impact

Now that students have watched the video and familiarised themselves with Earth Day, they can start thinking about the impact of Earth Day in more detail, i.e. why the “wants” of Earth are important. Ask them to formulate at least 5 sentences based on the video. You can give them an example: Rainforests are important as they provide habitat for plants and animals.

Giving Earth a hand

In this last activity, students collect possible ideas about what an individual can do to protect the Earth. Put them into groups and ask them to come up with as many (realistic) ideas as they can. When they have finished, ask them to present their ideas to the class. You might want to emphasise that even the smallest steps can make a difference.

Optional homework

Ask students to do some research and look for organisations/events/NGOs/companies that are running interesting and exciting projects or campaigns on Earth Day and collect information on how they can join and take the initiative within the scope of these programmes.

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International Stress Awareness Day

Guess the topic!

Before telling students what the topic of the lesson is, put them into 4 groups. Each group gets an envelope with 8 words and expressions related to stress:

fatigue / headache / loss of concentration / nervousness / erratic sleeping patterns / irritability / excessive sweating / difficulty in making decisions

Students have a think and try to guess the topic.

After coming up with the solution, you can share some information on International Stress Awareness Day. It is usually held on 2 November, but some countries might have it on another day, e.g. the U.S. (16 April). For more info on stress in schools: https://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/coping-with-stress-at-school/

Pre-reading True or False

Students get 9 statements in connection with the text they are going to read. In pairs or individually, they try to predict whether the statements are true or false. Get some feedback before moving on to the reading task.

Are the following statements true or false?

  1. Stress can take ten years off your life. T / F
  2. Stress decelerates the aging of our cells. T / F
  3. Stress makes us more prone to age-related diseases. T / F
  4. People with hectic lifestyles are more likely to live longer. T / F
  5. Our body’s system of cell reproduction gets faster because of stress. T / F
  6. We age because of something connected with our DNA called telomeres. T / F
  7. Having very short telomeres means we live longer. T / F
  8. Having children makes you die early. T / F
  9. We may soon be able to measure our stress levels. T / F

(Key: T F T F T T F F T)


Students read the text and check their solutions.

It’s official. Stress can take ten years off your life. That’s the conclusion from researchers at the University of California, who have been studying the effect of stress levels on the body. They found that stress accelerates the aging of our cells, which makes us more prone to age-related diseases. This is bad news for people with stressful jobs and hectic lifestyles, as they are more likely to die earlier than less-stressed people. It’s a message for us all to slow down and take things easier.

The researchers discovered in their tests that the system of cell reproduction and replacement, which of course keeps us going, becomes faster under duress. Each time a cell in our body is replaced, part of our DNA, called telomeres, shorten. When they become too short, cells cease reproducing and our bodies continue the aging process. This means longer telomeres lengthen our lives. Stress makes them shorter, and so we die prematurely. The simple message, therefore, is to take life easy.

Research leader, Dr. Elissa Epel, compared 39 women who looked after children with chronic illnesses with a ‘control’ group of 19 mothers of healthy children. The length of the life-giving telomeres was then measured in their blood. The women who had the more stressful task of caring for chronically ill children aged the equivalent of ten years compared with the other women. Their stress levels caused them to age faster. It has always been common knowledge that stress kills. Now we may soon be able to measure how dangerous our careers and lifestyles really are.

Collocation flip

Prepare flash cards with one part of the collocation on one side and the other part on the other side. Have students guess the missing part.

E.g. “take ten years __________” // “__________ off your life”

  • take ten years – off your life
  • conclusion from – researchers
  • more likely to – die earlier
  • cell – reproduction
  • aging – process
  • die – prematurely
  • common – knowledge
  • may soon – be able to


Rank the following ideas according to how much stress they mean to you. (1 = most stressful, 10 = least stressful)

  • _____ Christmas shopping
  • _____ writing assignments
  • _____ commuting
  • _____ money
  • _____ using social media
  • _____ watching/reading the news
  • _____ homework
  • _____ food in the canteen

Note: The previous four activities come from Breaking News English. Other online activities, listening at five speeds, multi-speed readings, dictation, speaking activities and printable handouts are available for this lesson at http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com.

Ping-pong debate

Divide the class into two groups. Write a statement on the board. Assign the pro and contra sides to the groups. Have students collect as many arguments as the members in each group. As in a ping-pong match, they “throw” arguments at each other but do not reflect in this round. Make sure everybody says one argument from the collected ones. After the first round, give them time to write down their reactions. Do a second round with the reactions in any kind of debate format.

Possible statements:

  • Stress always has negative effects.
  • Stress is always bad.
  • No one can live a stress-free life.
  • Stress always has a positive influence on students’ performance.


This unit was created with the contribution of Zsófia Jákli, a teacher trainee from Hungary.


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World Water Day

The missing piece

Write the following quote on the board (or project it) and ask students to have a think and guess the missing word in pairs. Conduct open-class feedback and confirm the right answer or give the solution (=water).

“_________, thou hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while every mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

Reflect and share

In the same pairs, have students discuss some questions related to water and water usage. Some possible questions:

  • Is water important to you? Why? / Why not?
  • What do you use water for on a daily basis?
  • Do you take water for granted?
  • Could you live without water?
  • Have you ever been in a situation when you were in need of water but you didn’t have access to it?

Key lexis

Check students’ understanding of the following vocabulary items: faucet / swamp / pond / be exposed to / germs / contaminated / diarrhea / dehydration / well

Orientation to video

Tell students they are going to watch a video about water crisis. In pairs, ask them to brainstorm some ideas they think might be mentioned in the video. When they have finished, put their ideas on the left side of the board (e.g. in the form of a mind map).

Then, play the video until 2:03 and have students check their solutions. You can also tick the correct ideas on the board together with the students.

Solutions – finish the sentences

In this part of the lesson, students are trying to think of how the water crisis could be solved. Put the following sentence beginnings on the right side of the board and ask students to finish them. (At this point, you might want to switch some pairs so that students don’t always work with the same partner.) After some time, conduct open-class feedback and put some ideas on the board.

  • One way to solve the water crisis is …
  • If the crisis is solved, …
  • In the future, this means …

After the activity, play the rest of the video. Make sure students are aware that the content of the video is not the one and only solution to the crisis.

Dear …,

Finally, students work individually. Tell them they have the chance to write a letter to a family caught in the water crisis. (They can make up a name.) They can express their feelings and opinions in connection with what they have seen in the video,  their own water usage, anything. Collect the letters and report back to the class in the next lesson in the form of a short feedback.

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