Levels/contexts Archives: intermediate upwards

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The last present

Don’t tell your students the topic of the lesson yet. Put them into groups of 3-4 and ask them to think about the last present they got.

  • What was the occasion?
  • Who did they get it from?
  • How did they react?

Conduct open-class feedback and encourage students to share their experiences.

Watching the video

Tell students they are going to watch a short video entitled “The Present”. Play the clip until 0:54 and ask students (still in groups) to try to answer similar questions, but now with regard to the video.

  • What’s the occasion?
  • Who gives a present to whom?
  • What do you think the present is?
  • How is the boy going to react?

Conduct open-class feedback and put the ideas on the board.

Then play the video until 2:40 and ask students to predict what is going to happen. Again, put the ideas on the board. When you have finished, play the rest of the video.

Reflect and share

Put the following questions on the board (or project them) and let your learners discuss them.

  • What’s the message of the film?
  • How does the boy’s story make you feel?

Conduct open-class feedback.


Ask students to collect adjectives they would use to describe feelings in connection with the film: those of the boy, the mother, the dog, and their own. Collect the ideas. At the end of the activity, you might want to teach the following adjectives, too (if they are not mentioned by the students):

helpless, disappointed, enthusiastic, negative, acquiescent, resilient, empathic, hopeless, motivated, frustrated, excluded etc.

Who do these adjectives describe: the boy, the mother, the dog, or the students themselves?

Giving advice

After discussing feelings and reactions, ask students to imagine that they will meet the boy and the mother in the film and have the chance to talk to them. What advice would they give them? Encourage them to use should/shouldn’t/have to/don’t-doesn’t have to/must/mustn’t.

Now expand the activity. Tell students that (since they did a really good job!) they also have the chance to give advice to every person on Earth. They are offered the chance to choose 5 pieces of advice and forward them to everybody in the world. Ask them to agree on the 5 pieces of advice that will be forwarded by you. What advice would they give people about persons with disabilities?

Language dos and don’ts

By this stage of the lesson, students will probably have used language related to disabilities. Throughout the lesson, make notes how students refer to persons with disabilities. Now show them the pictures below and ask them to say what they call the following people. Take notes.



Let students discuss, agree and disagree with each other, and say what they know about the correct form. Then present the right column of the following table first. If the correct forms in the left column have already been mentioned, write them in. For the others, ask students to think of the correct forms. Give them if necessary.

Disability Vocabulary

Dos and Don’ts

Affirmative Language

Language to Avoid

person with a disability, people with disabilities, disabled

handicapped, cripple, victim, crip, unfortunate, defective, handi-capable

wheelchair user, uses a wheelchair


blind, low vision, partially sighted

sightless, the blind

mobility disability

deformed, maimed, paralytic, lame

psychologically/emotionally disabled, emotional disorder

the mentally ill, mental, crazy, insane

developmentally disabled

retard, mentally defective

birth anomaly, congenital disability

birth defect, mongoloid

a person who is deaf or hard of hearing

suffers a hearing loss, the deaf

person with epilepsy

spastic, epileptic

speech disability, communication disability



healthy, normal, whole
non-vocal, a person who is non-verbal

mute, dumb

person of short stature

learning disability


chronic illness

suffers from, afflicted, stricken with

Source: http://www.michellehenry.fr/disabled.htm

International Day

Finally, raise awareness of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities that “aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of on the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.” (UN website)

Ask students to guess the following data.

  • _____ people: world population
  • Over _____ people in the world have some form of disability
  • More than _____ disabled persons are children
  • Children with disabilities are almost _____ times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled children
  • _____ % of all people with disabilities live in a developing country
  • _____ % of disabled persons cannot afford health care
  • _____ countries have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Key: 7 billion / over 1 billion / 100 million / four / 80 / 50 / 160



Optional tasks

Famous people with disabilities

Tell students that many famous people have some form of disability. Here is a list of some renowned people with disabilities. Choose the ones relevant to your students and ask them to match the people with the disabilities.

Word cloud

At the end of the lesson (or in another lesson or as homework) ask students to sum up what they have seen and talked about. You might ask them to write a short summary or create a word cloud about disabilities. If your learners can use technology in class (or at home), this should be easy – they can create one on the Internet. Should you (or the students) be in favour of more traditional ways of poster-making, they can make one on paper. One possible word cloud looks like this:


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Holocaust Memorial Day


Write on the board: Holocaust – when? who? where? what? why? how?

Ask students, in small groups, to discuss the questions for 10 – 15 minutes, to see how much they know. You could allow them to use phones / tablets to access the internet if you like. Elicit answers and tell them it’s Holocaust Memorial Day on 27th January and that we need to remember the Holocaust so that it never happens again.

Reading / quiz

Ask learners to read the short text about the Holocaust in this link and try to remember all the important facts. They can have time to discuss in pairs which facts they think are most important.

Then click on the link to the quiz under the article and get the class to do the quiz to check what they remembered. If necessary, they can read the text again, or access the text on their own phones / tablets / computers.

Film trailers

Ask if the class know any films about the Holocaust, and why they think many films have been made about it.

Dictate these 3 questions:

  1. What do you think the story of the film is?
  2. Who do you think are the main characters?
  3. What do you think is the message of the film?

Tell learners they are going to watch 3 film trailers and then write their answers to the 3 questions for each of the films, in pairs. At the end, they will read what the other pairs have written and anyone who has seen the films can decide which version is closest to the truth. (If no-one has seen the films, you could look up summaries online. Alternatively, you could choose to use only one or two of the trailers).

Play the first trailer, then give pairs 10 – 15 minutes to write their answers.
Repeat with the second and third trailer.

Blu-tac all the writing to the board / walls of the classroom. All the learners stand up to read them. They select which is closest to the truth, and you can select some common errors and elicit corrections.


Dictate or display these questions:

  1. What has the world learnt from the Holocaust?
  2. Which situations share similarities to the Holocaust in the world today?
  3. What can we do to stop the Holocaust happening again?

Learners, in groups of three, discuss the 3 questions and make a poster to put up on the wall.


This unit was created by Linda Ruas, GISIG Joint-Coordinator.

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World Tuna Day


  1. Don’t tell your class the topic of the lesson.
  2. Show the 3 pictures below to your students. Ask them to work in pairs. Tell them to find a connection between the 3 pictures.




  1. Invite a few pairs to explain what they think the connection is and accept all answers.
  2. Say that Picture b) shows pieces of tuna, Picture a) shows a turtle caught in a net and Picture c) shows fishermen catching tuna with poles and lines.
  3. Explain that the topic of the lesson is World Tuna Day which is remembered each year on May 2nd. Ask students why they think it’s important to remember tuna. Suggest that this celebration by the United Nations is an important step in recognising the important role of tuna to sustainable development, food security, economic opportunity and the incomes of people around the world.
  4. Write the following questions on the board
    • Do you like eating tuna?
    • Would you be sad if you never ate tuna again?
    • What can we do to stop tuna fish disappearing from our oceans?
    • What do you know about the organisation Greenpeace?
  5. Ask students to discuss their answers in groups of 4. Nominate one student in each group to be the reporter. He/she should write down the main points discussed by the group.
  6. Take feedback from the reporters in each group. If the class doesn’t know anything about Greenpeace, explain that it an independent organisation, which uses non-violent methods to show environmental problems, and to force governments to find solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Jigsaw listening task

  1. Tell students that they are going to divide into two groups. Each group will watch a different video about tuna fishing. Write the following key vocabulary on the board:

the Maldives   to benefit s/o or sth   to breed        a vessel     massive

to haul in a net   to decline   vulnerable   an activist to wipe away the future

  1. Explain the meaning of these words/phrases and model the pronunciation of each.
  2. Divide students into two groups. Tell Group A they are going to watch a Greenpeace video about sustainable fishing: youtube.com/watch?v=KxrCjWjqqME
  3. Tell Group B they are going to watch a Greenpeace video about stopping the world’s largest tuna boat from catching fish www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA7enHKa5As
  4. Tell groups that they should watch their video clip and write down 3 questions for the other group to answer.
  5. Give each group 10 minutes to watch their clip (on their smartphones or tablets) and write down their questions.
  6. Invite students to make new groups – 2 students from Group A work with 2 students from Group B. Give groups 10 minutes to watch each other’s clips and answer the 3 questions.
  7. Watch the 2 clips as a class and check the answers to the questions. Pick up any other vocabulary items that students ask about. E.g. to deplete the (fish) stock/to plunder.

Follow-up task

  1. Ask students to choose one of the tasks below:
  • Write an email to your local supermarket explaining why it’s important to sell only pole and line caught tuna
  • Role play a conversation between a Greenpeace activist and the captain of the Albertan Tres fishing vessel
  • Organise a class debate on the topic: Tuna fishing is an important source of income for many poor people and should not be stopped
  • Plan a campaign to raise awareness amongst other students about the problems of overfishing
  • Plan a fun event to fundraise for Greenpeace


This unit was created by Julietta Schoenmann, GISIG Joint-Coordinator.

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International Children’s Day

Getting started

  • ask students about what is celebrated on the 1st of June and write down any words they can come up with associated to that day
  • show them the 1st picture and ask them if that’s the image that comes to their mind when they think of children and what it is that they feel by looking at it


Source: http://parenteffectivenesstraining.net.au/children-playing-whats-the-big-deal/

  • show them the war child picture and ask them about what they feel about it, what’s wrong and if these two words should ever come so close together (“war” and “child”)


Source: https://tuesdayjustice.org/2017/02/07/child-soldiers-an-introduction/

  • ask Sts if they know anything about the subject, or if they can identify any countries where this situation occurs
  • briefly tell Sts about the war in Sudan and Emmanuel Jal (a former child soldier himself who managed to survive and, through his hip hop music, has been exposing the problem to the world and getting support in the fight against it. He now lives in Canada.)
  • show Sts the words in the box and tell them that they were taken from the lyrics of one of Jal’s most famous hits. Make sure Sts understand all of them and ask them to say which ones are positive

       freedom                     reason            cry                   lost                     struggle

       child                     war                     tension               pain             depression

  • tell Sts they are going to be given an incomplete version of the song’s lyrics and they are to pick the right missing word from the box (with more advanced students, you can skip the previous 2 steps and simply ask them to try and figure out what the missing words should be)
  • check how Sts are getting along with the task. They can work in pairs.

I believe I’ve survived for a 1_________________ to tell my story to touch lives (2xs) All the people struggling down there
Storms only come for a while
Then after a while they’ll be gone
Blessed, blessed
I’m a 2________________ child (2xs)
I believe I’ve survived for a XXXXXX to tell my story to touch lives (touch lives, touch lives, touch
lives, touch lives, touch lives, touch lives, touch lives)

My father was working for the government as a policeman
Few years later I heard he joined a rebel movement that was formed to fight for 3____________________
I didn’t understand the politics behind all this ‘cause I was only a 4____________
After a while I saw the 5_____________ rising high between the Christian and the Muslim regime
We lost our possession
My mother, my mother’s mother suffered 6_______________and because of this…
I was forced to be a war child
I’m a war child (ane ge kore, kore*) 2xs
I believe I’ve survived for a XXXXXXXXX to tell my story to touch lives (touch lives, touch lives, touch lives, touch lives, touch lives, touch lives, touch lives)

I 7 _____________my father in this battle
My brothers too perished in this 8___________
All my life I’ve been hiding in the jungle
The 9____________ I’m cutting is too much to handle
Who’s there please to light up my candle
Is there anyone to hear my 10_______________.

*South Sudanese dialect, translation: ‘and I’m crying, crying (lyrics by Emmanuel Jal and Clinton Outten)

Source: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/files/yhrs_lesson_2_worksheet_1_2014.pdf – please see note below

  • after 3-5 minutes (depending on Sts level), tell them to stop and listen to the music to check their answers (you can simply use the audio from the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT-0NG5_fhw or create an mp3 version of it
  • ask Sts about their results and about the feelings that prevail in the song
  • ask them to guess the song title. The word “Warchild” is expected to be amongst the suggestions provided
  • finally, ask students to work in pairs to write another stanza (about 40-50 words) for the same song using 5 words from the box. Tell them that rhyme is not essential. (if you have longer lessons, Sts can write more stanzas). Sts’ texts are to be read aloud and then collected either for an exhibition, for marking, for (later) improvement/rewriting (during the next lesson), to be part of a Children’s International Day poster (depending on the T’s aims).


Note: The Amnesty International website provides the most reliable transcription of the lyrics as well as a lesson plan. Due to the transcript’s reliability I chose this version to create the worksheet I include here. I 1st used this song in class 6 years ago, with a variation of the lesson plan here presented which did not include the lyrics worksheet.

This lesson is one of the 4 winning entries for our Special Days Competition 2017. It was created by Cristina Oliveira. Cristina has been in TEFL (elementary to upper secondary levels) for 20 years in schools around Portugal and has worked with a wide range of students. Deeply interested in Global Issues she is always keen on promoting projects with her language students to draw awareness to these problems while boosting not only students’ language skills, but, more importantly, their confidence and willingness to be active society members. She also teaches Portuguese to both native and foreign learners.

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International Day of Happiness

Overview of the session

  • To elaborate on the concept of happiness
  • To introduce World Happiness Day
  • To practice critical thinking
  • To develop small scale class research

This session can be easily tailored to meet the demands of different classes with different levels of language proficiency. This one has been designed for a 90-minute coeducational class with about 20 intermediate students and focuses on the basics of conducting a study.

In order to do this session, the teacher may wish to review the concept of research and data collection first. And if the class is ready to write then the concepts of reporting the findings and discussion can also be included. To talk about the concept of discussion we need to concentrate on critical thinking and providing good evidence.

Lesson plan

  1. Begin the class by introducing World Happiness Day.
  2. Very briefly seek the students’ opinion about the importance of this day.
  3. Read the short passage on the concept of the day: http://www.dayofhappiness.net/about/
  4. Invite all the students in the class to think of two or three things (depending on the number of students) that make them very happy.
  5. Put their answers on the board. If the class is coeducational, clarify which options are mentioned by boys and which by girls. (Probably there will be some overlaps.) Try to make this exciting and fun. (If the class is not coed, then categorize, for example age wise, or nationality wise, and if none apply, then only put the data on the board and later compare against some data from another source.)
  6. Prepare a table to put the collected data in it. Help the students to understand what the data is about.
  7. You may wish to teach them how to make a pie chart with the information collected.Example: In order to give you a taste of what this means here is an example. The data is hypothetical. Imagine that these are the points raised by your 20 students (12 girls and 8 boys) concerning what makes them happy.
    Girls 12
    Boys 8


    Listening to music Shopping for clothes Giving gifts Walking in the rain Sports Passing exams Listening to the sea Sleeping under the stars Drinking coffee
    girls 5 5 3 2 2 5 1 1 0
    boys 7 1 0 0 3 3 1 0 1

    On the whole 40 answers have been provided.

    Since the number of boys and girls in your class is not equal, you need to change this frequency to percentages:

    Listening to music Shopping for clothes Giving gifts Walking in the rain Receiving gifts Passing exams Listening to the sea Sleeping under the stars Drinking coffee
    girls 20% 20% 7.5%
    boys 17.5% 1% 0

    You may also wish to help the students draw a graph or a pie chart for the collected information.

    You may point out that based on the findings:

    There are certain activities that both boys and girls believe make them happy. You may also want to highlight the activities with the highest frequency.

  8. Try to help the students go beyond results and interpret the data. This can be done by they brainstorming their thoughts and trying to find a justification for their thoughts.Here are some points to help students reflect:
    1. Look at the broader picture. Why do you think these points have been picked by the sample population? Provide evidence.
    2. Why do you think some activities are more enjoyed by girls? Give logical evidence, based on some reliable information or a sound piece of evidence.
    3. Why do you assume some are enjoyed only by boys?

    (What questions you ask will depend on the way you have categorized the responses.)

  9. At this point refer the students to the introduction of second reading passage, which is a report on World happiness day: http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017/Give the students time to skim through the introduction of the passage and study the tittles. The introduction provides some general information on the happiest nations of the world, the criteria based on which the countries have been selected and some more general information on the level of happiness of certain countries. (It also gives the students some idea about the content of the report, which may make the students eager to go and study the report or at least parts of it in their own time.)
  10. Invite the students to read the section on Norway and the section titled Happiness is both social and personal. Discuss the points raised with the students making sure that everybody has understood the passage. Focus on the key variables used by the report to select the level of happiness. (If there was time ask them to compare and contrast the data collected in the class with the existing literature. Ask them to work in groups. Then encourage them to think of some sound argumentation concerning the reasons behind these similarities and differences.)

    You may wish to once again clarify that discussion is mainly about the interpretation of the results of the study. It may be built on some assumption, but still there is the need for providing evidence and/or argumentation.

    The Part of the passage to be read

    Norway tops the global happiness rankings for 2017

    Norway has jumped from 4th place in 2016 to 1st place this year, followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland in a tightly packed bunch. All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. Their averages are so close that small changes can re-order the rankings from year to year. Norway moves to the top of the ranking despite weaker oil prices. It is sometimes said that Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it. By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies. To do this successfully requires high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance, all factors that help to keep Norway and other top countries where they are in the happiness rankings.

    All of the other countries in the top ten also have high values in all six of the key variables used to explain happiness differences among countries and through time – income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, with the latter measured by the absence of corruption in business and government. Here too there has been some shuffling of ranks among closely grouped countries, with this year’s rankings placing Finland in 5th place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia and Sweden tied for the 9th position, having the same 2014-2016 score to three decimals.

    Happiness is both social and personal

    This year’s report emphasizes the importance of the social foundations of happiness (see Chapter 2). This can be seen by comparing the life experiences between the top and bottom ten countries in this year’s happiness rankings. There is a four-point happiness gap between the two groups of countries, of which three-quarters is explained by the six variables, half due to differences in having someone to count on, generosity, a sense of freedom, and freedom from corruption. The other half of the explained difference is attributed to GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy, both of which, as the report explains, also depend importantly on the social context.

    However 80% of the variance of happiness across the world occurs within countries. In richer countries the within-country differences are not mainly explained by income inequality, but by differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships: the biggest single source of misery is mental illness (see Chapter 5). Income differences matter more in poorer countries, but even their mental illness is a major source of misery.

    Work is also a major factor affecting happiness (see Chapter 6). Unemployment causes a major fall in happiness, and even for those in work the quality of work can cause major variations in happiness.

  11. Finish the class by seeking the students’ opinion about having a World Happiness Day again. If they think it is necessary, then ask them to reflect what can be done to make it a memorable day. If they disagree with having such a day, then encourage them to provide reasons. This could also be given as homework and then discussed during the next session.


Options for homework

  1. Reading:
    Read the report on World Happiness
    Depending on the language proficiency of the students you may pick parts of report to be read by the students. If different people/groups have been assigned different sections, then they may present the summary of what they have read to the class during the next session.
  2. Writing:
    Essay/Paragraph topic: If you want to make a person or a group of people happy, who would they be and what would you do?
  3. Vocabulary:
    Think of/ look for as many words as you can that are synonymous with “happy” or relate to happiness in some way. (e.g. elated and smile)
  4. Collect data from people outside the classroom concerning what makes them happy and prepare the results in the form of a table or chart. Then write a short paragraph about your findings.
  5. Ask the students to make PowerPoint slides of the main idea discussed in the the lesson. It can be on the concept of World Happiness Day and/or data collection and discussion.
  6. The students may be invited to prepare or select a picture/photo for the World Happiness Day and share it with their classmates. Then the class may vote for the best image.


This lesson is one of the 4 winning entries for our Special Days Competition 2017. It was created by Mandana Arfa-Kaboodvand. Mandana has a PhD in TESOL from the University of Exeter, UK. She has been a language teacher for almost 30 years. She was a university lecturer in Tehran, Iran. At present she works as a senior lecturer at Westminster International University in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Her main areas of interest are language teacher education; teacher development; language and culture, and teaching English to YLs. Email address: [email protected].

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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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