Low-level Teens and the Global SIG Food Issues Month (some more materials!)

When Lindsay Clandfield posted a comment on my blog, bringing my attention to the IATEFL Global SIG’s Food Issues Month, it immediately grabbed my interest. For the month of October, teachers around the world are sharing ideas, lesson plans, materials, resources, projects – anything and everything they are doing with learners that is of relevance to this event. (You can read more about how to get involved here.)


In order to participate, I decided to make some materials to use with two classes of mid-Elementary level teens.

This would be my second lesson with both classes, taught back-to-back with just ten minutes between them. The first lesson was a ‘Getting to know you‘ lesson, and in classes to come, we will be getting stuck into the second half of Pearson’s Choices Elementary course book. Part of the introduction to the unit we will be starting with involved review of vocabulary related to jobs, so I had this in mind when I planned the lesson and materials. Outside of this, I had no idea what I wanted to do.

A lot of brainstorming and googling later, having realised just what a massive content area is covered by the Global SIG’s event, I fixed on the issue of child workers on cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. I must admit, I hadn’t realised how prevalent child slavery still is in the chocolate industry. I think it’s something that gets swept under the carpet a lot, in the interest of £££.

I thought/hoped it would work well to take something very well-known, well-liked and very part of the average western child’s life i.e. chocolate and use this as a starting point/springboard for an exploration of the lesser known, darker side of it i.e. child slavery on cocoa farms as part of chocolate production. The progression from known to unknown is also present in moving from familiar jobs to unfamiliar jobs i.e. baker, farmer, waiter etc. to chocolate taster and cocoa farm worker.

In Practice:

The lessons were 1hr20 mins each and we did not manage to complete all of the activities in either class. I think I possibly spent too long on the lead-ins. However, the learners were engaged by the materials, and learnt some new vocabulary (which they did then proceed to use receptively in reading the text and productively in speaking and writing about it! Yay, teens!) as well as doing some reading, speaking (so therefore listening too, though this wasn’t the skill focus) and writing. I pre-taught a bit of vocabulary for the reading text, and elicited possible content based on this, so when they came to read the text, it was manageable for them.

The chocolate quiz was, of course, much enjoyed by the learners, and served to highlight the contrast between the sweetness of chocolate in rich, western countries and the bitterness of life on the cocoa farms, echoed in the contrast between the job of chocolate taster and the job of cocoa farm worker.

I found that when they worked together in groups, for example when I asked them to discuss their response to the text/gist question, they would say a few words in English, then lapse into Italian with chunks of English woven in, then worked together to attempt to reformulate their shared ideas in English. I was happy with this, because they were discussing their understanding of what they had read in English, related to a very meaty issue. It was also very obvious that they were not being lazy! 🙂

It was interesting using the same set of resources with two classes in a row. Even though I had little time in between the classes to reflect, I did make several changes in how I used the materials in the second class: I felt the first time round that the lesson had been too teacher-centred. I think this had a lot to do with it being my first time to use the sophisticated technology that IH Palermo is endowed with – i.e. interactive e-beam whiteboard, projector – in combination with this being a level/age group combination with which I also have little experience. So I missed a few tricks in terms of involving the learners. Live (or teach) and learn!

The materials consist of:

  • A powerpoint-based chocolate quiz
  • A handout for the learners
  • Teachers notes

(These can all be found here – scroll down to number 2.)

To this I added a few e-beam scrapbook pages – one with a picture of a chocolate taster  (an ad-hoc ‘flashcard’ to introduce this job – which the majority of learners expressed a certain keenness on doing in future!) and one with the pictures I used for pre-teaching the vocabulary (those pictures included in the teachers notes) plus one with pictures and words, which I got the learners to join up after I had elicited the vocabulary.

Note: I see one class again on Friday, the other on Monday. I plan to review what we did today and finish off the writing task before moving on to the course book. It will be interesting to see what they remember, i.e. what they took away with them, from today’s class… <watch this space!>

If you use these materials or adapt them for use for a different age/level, I’d be very interested to hear what you did and how it went! 🙂


2 thoughts on “Low-level Teens and the Global SIG Food Issues Month (some more materials!)

  1. Pingback: Food Issues month – Week 2 summary! | Global Issues SIG

  2. Pingback: Low-level Teens and the Global SIG Food Issues Month (Part 2) | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

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