Margaret Thatcher ESOL / Critical Thinking Activity: Lesson plan

margaret-thatcher-photoLEVEL: Upper-Intermediate – Advanced (B2 – C2)

TYPES OF ACTIVITY: Speaking; Debate; Compare and Contrast; Essay writing.

OBJECTIVES: The principal objective of this lesson is to help students to develop critical thinking skills while comparing and contrasting two important world leaders. The activity models a structured approach to developing ideas for a writing task or for a class debate

To begin the class, write the following statement on the board:

‘For a leader, it is more important to be strong than to be liked’

Allow the students a couple of minutes’ thinking time, then have them discuss this statement in pairs, focusing on the personal qualities which they consider a leader should have. Once they have done this, join the pairs into groups of four and have them share their ideas. Then each group should report to the class, and an opportunity given to respond and comment. Possible lines of discussion to explore could be the difference between totalitarian and elected leaders, or the difference between being admired and being liked.

Tell the students they are going to read a short biography of a famous leader, and they have to make notes on the main points of the person’s life and decide what qualities they had as a leader. Give half of the class Worksheet A: Margaret Thatcher, and the other half of the class Worksheet B: Mahatma Gandhi. (Here is a link to the worksheets.)

Allow the students to compare their notes with another student working on the same worksheet. Then place the students in pairs with someone who worked on the other worksheet.

First, each student explains the main points of the biography of their leader, and suggests which personal qualities that leader had. Then the students work together to find differences and similarities between the two leaders, recording their answers on a graphic organizer such as a Venn diagram. They should focus on the personal qualities that make each leader different and which personal qualities they have in common, as well as the differences and similarities in their political and social situations.

Once the differences and similarities have been identified, each pair of students must decide which of these can be considered significant in the development of the leader, and draw conclusions about leadership from these significant similarities and differences.

There are different possibilities for a final task to this activity. One possibility would be to ask the students to write an opinion essay with the title ‘What makes a leader great?’ The students would use their notes and ideas from the discussion phase to illustrate their ideas, and to inform their analysis of different leadership styles.

Another possibility is for each pair of students to prepare an oral presentation on the two leaders, focusing on the similarities and differences in their personal qualities. For the presentations, the students should be encouraged to find further information about the personalities and political and social contexts of the two leaders, including recordings of them speaking about their ideas and policies.

Speaking Activity: Mission Impossible!

English: A mechanical kitchen timer

This speaking activity is designed to help your students to revise their written work and improve their critical reading. It is quite a flexible activity, and can be used as a warmer or as a prize at the end of a lesson, or it can form the basis of a lesson in itself.

  • Explain to the students that they are going to create a story as a class, but that the exercise is timed. (I like to play the music from ‘Mission Impossible’ to introduce the lesson – this introduces a sense of urgency.) The time limit depends on the level of the group. I usually use five minutes to begin, then reduce the time as they become more familiar with the game.

  • The timing can be done with a stopwatch on a computer, if possible projected so they can all see the time, or with an egg-timer, preferably one with a loud tick. In any case, they students should have some object which they can pass to indicate whose turn it is, representing the bomb – if they are not passing an egg-timer, a ball will do, but they should pass it carefully, not throw it!

  • The first student is handed the bomb and is told to be very careful! Their task is to dictate the first sentence of a story to the teacher, who will write it on the board. Write what the student says, without judgement, but do not put the full stop until you are satisfied that the sentence is correct. You should not tell the student where the errors are – they must find them and correct them with the help of the rest of the class. Once the sentence is correct, the student can pass the ‘bomb’ to the next student, who has to continue the story with the next sentence.

  • The students each take a turn to add a sentence to the story being created, until the time runs out (the egg-timer rings, or the timer on the board / computer sounds – try to chose a fairly strident sound if possible). The student who is working on his / her sentence when the time finishes is eliminated.

  • If you play several rounds of this game, it is a good idea to make the final round a ‘Zombie’ round, in which only the people eliminated take part. This brngs them back into the lesson, and gives them a second opportunity. I find that they are normally much more careful when revising their work than the first time around.

Splendid Speaking podcast – ‘Reaching agreement’

Here is a recording from www.splendidspeaking.com which illustrates how to reach agreement in collaborative tasks:

http://www.splendid-speaking.com/learn/podcasts/int8.html

100th Post

This is my 100th post on this blog, and I feel this is a good occasion to thank all the people who have visited this site and shown interest in what I have published here. I hope you have found it useful.

thank you for your attention