June 5 is World Environment Day. I consider myself quite green and try to help students understand how important it is to take care of our planet. June 5 is an important day in the EFL classroom every year. Our town, Gualeguaychú, is well-known for a movement against paper mills that are polluting our water and air. In addition, our education system encourages us to include Environmental Education as a cross-curricular content in teaching.
For these three reasons: my own interest, the town where we live and what our government expects from us, I designed a sequence for my students of Heroes de Malvinas High School. The aims of the sequence were:
- To become aware of the problems our environment goes through
- To learn vocabulary related to the environment
- To understand the importance of waste segregation
- To enjoy a day outside the classroom
Activity 1: Connecting people to nature
We saw this video in order to activate prior knowledge
I asked students to think and, if possible, write down all the things from the video they were able to say in English. They knew words like water, fire, people, city, monkey, bird, elephant, fish, and many more.
Activity 2: Green mottos devoweled
I explained the reason why we were seeing that video. We talked about World Environment Day, its origin, and this year’s theme “Connecting people to nature”. I showed them some mottos written without the vowels, just consonants, like this:
WHN Y CNSRV WTR, Y CNSRV LF.
They had to guess what the motto was. When a student or pair of students had the answer, they came to the front and showed me what they had written. If it was right, I showed the answer to the rest of the group. As we saw the mottos, I isolated new vocabulary and wrote it on the whiteboard.
Activity 3: Waste segregation
I told students we were going to see a video about waste segregation and asked them to predict what it might say. They expected to find information about types of waste and the advantages of recycling.
After seeing the video, we checked predictions. We saw it again, this time pausing to analize it in detail. I isolated more vocabulary from the video and they took notes.
Activity 4: Field trip to Ecopark Gualeguaychú
The following week, we went to the ecopark in our town. We had a mini tour, in our mother tongue. Juliana was our guide. She explained that the ecopark is a waste segregation plant and she told us how it works. She helped us understand that waste is a serious problem and insisted that we should have separate containers at home and take them according to our town’s garbage collecting schedule. We also took a lot of pictures (see below)
Activity 5: WhatsApp revision time
Between the visit and the following lesson, I asked students to write down what they remembered about the ecopark. They came up with more detail than I had expected. They did this in their mother tongue. I used what they wrote to write questions about the ecopark, in order to use them in the final activity of the sequence.
Activity 6: Assessment game
The following class after the visit we played a game about waste segregation, including information from the video and the field trip. These were the questions:
- How many people work at the plant?
- What time is the morning shift?
- Who pays their salary in winter?
- How long does it take for a pile of garbage to reduce?
- How often is soil added to avoid bad smell?
- What’s the Spanish name of the liquid produced in waste?
- Who are in charge of separating glass?
- Who are in charge of separating recyclable materials?
- How long has the plant been operative?
- How many years were the containment cells supposed to last?
- Where did the people work before?
The game was simple. They worked in small groups. I gave them all the questions. They had 5 minutes to understand the questions and try to remember the information they needed to answer it. After that, each group had to choose one of the questions, in any order, and answer it. If the answer was right, they scored a point. If not, the question was available for any other group to answer.
I think this sequence was a way of teaching in connection to the real world, and that is what matters most to me. They learned a lot of vocabulary in context, which matters a lot to me, too. Besides, they enjoyed the visit and learned a lot about waste segregation and the environment through the use of authentic materials. We applied two of the basic principles of CLIL (content and language integrated learning): that language is used to learn as well as to communicate and that the subject matter determines the language needed to learn.
I´m very pleased with the experience :)
What about you? Do you have lessons or sequences "off the textbook"? How do you integrate the real world and authentic materials in your classroom?
For the organization of the field trip: Andrea Takats from Universidad Autónoma de Entre Ríos (UADER) and María de los Ángeles Gómez from Secretaría de Medioambiente de Gualeguaychú.