English and ESD, ESD and English

Introductory activity

How do we “do ESD in an English way” or “teach English in an ESD way?

Print and copy the statements on English and ESD, and give one or two each out to teachers working in pairs.  They should then look at each statement critically, and consider:

  • the practical opportunities offered by the statement;
  • its implications for how they teach.

Each pair then shares its thoughts with the whole group.

Which statements are a particular priority for your class or school?

Speaking and listening ~ talking for a purpose

For CPD material on supporting and evaluating speaking and listening click here

Drama ~ issues and controversy

Engaging children with sustainable development issues means creating spaces for them to explore things that matter: things which involve emotions, values and controversies.  Drama activities can provide a safe space – and useful frameworks – to do this.

These activities can also protect us as teachers.  We may not wish to be in the role of ‘solution-provider’, especially when solutions are likely to be provisional or controversial.

The section Drama and role play ~ looking into an issue shares ideas and activities for using drama, taking a story about conflicts of interest over land use in Mali, West Africa as a starting point.

We suggest that you make use of this section, and then use the following activity as a tool for evaluating your work.

To access Drama and role play ~ looking into an issue, click here

Evaluating learners’ engagement through drama

This activity makes use of the PDF Harts ladder of participation.

Harts ladder of participation is a useful model for thinking about children’s engagement, how they learn, and how we intervene in that learning.

We often find ourselves moving between ‘rungs’ on this ladder.  Experience of the ‘middle rungs’ may be needed by children, to develop skills that will enable them to move further up the ladder.

Taking one of the drama activities you have planned, work in pairs using Harts ladder to answer the following questions:

Where on the ladder is the activity you have planned?

Are there small changes you could plan in, to make this activity more participatory and learner-centred?

Using story … for global learning

For CPD material on Using story … click here

Non-fiction writing ~ critical literacy

There is an enormous and growing range of writing available on sustainable development issues: on the internet, in news media, in educational and theoretical writing, in campaigning materials etc.

With such a complex and contentious subject, perspectives will often be contradictory and conflicting, and similar words may be used in drastically different ways.  This seems particularly true of the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘development’!  Indeed, there are over 200 definitions of ‘sustainable development’ currently doing the rounds].

As with other issues in this information-rich age, not all of this writing offers accuracy, is of a high quality, strives for a degree of balance, or declares its bias openly. 

If this can be confusing for adults, it can be no less so for children.  There is therefore a need – and opportunity - for children to develop their skills for looking critically at texts of all kinds, and applying those skills to their own writing.

This includes

  • questions of definition, use and precision of language;
  • questions about perspective and bias;
  • questions about genres and ethics [eg ‘balance’ in the news].

Looking at the Johannesburg Summit

We share three downloadable case studies of work devised by teachers in the lead-up to the 2002 World Summit on sustainable development.   We invite you to work in three groups, to consider how you would use these examples and activities to help children look critically at what they read and see.

This might include reflection on:

  • the bias, assumptions and values involved (of both stimulus material and teaching responses);
  • the classroom context (including age-appropriateness, children’s background and experience);
  • levels of support and scaffolding children might require (might too much input from a teacher foreclose children’s thinking?);
  • critical and thinking skills involved: does it encourage closed or open questioning, a range of thinking skills, including critical reading and creativity?
  • ideas about adapting or extending these activities – perhaps with a more recent topical focus.

The critical literacy case studies are:

  1. The summit in the news
  2. Looking at cartoons
  3. The paradox of our time [teacher case study]
  4. The paradox of our time [stimulus sheet]

Writing ~ future messages

“To be imaginative ... is not to have a particular function highly developed, but it is to have heightened capacity in all mental functions.  It is not, in particular, something distinct from reason, but rather it is what gives reason flexibility, energy and vividness”  Kieran Egan, Imagination in Teaching and Learning [University of Chicago Press, 1992]

Language is a tool for making meaning of the world and it has an important part to play in imagining and enabling change.  The stories we tell have a particular role in that context.

In a sense ‘sustainable development’ is a story people tell about how they would like the world to be, and how they would like to get there.  This section is therefore about creating and imagining a sustainable world  through creative writing. 

Other opportunities for children to use writing skills might include:

  • using poetry to articulate feelings and responses;
  • using scripts and sequencing activities to help them think through processes [eg recycling, trade, food production, and the way different people see these];
  • persuasive writing [eg letters to newspapers or decision makers; creating posters and leaflets; scripts for advertisements; articles and web pages; reviews of press or internet texts; presentations on paper or electronic media];
  • creating instructional texts [eg how not to waste the school’s energy].

Using a range of real texts as a model offers support to children and often results in work of a high quality.  Any of the texts used as a stimulus in this article could also serve as models for children’s own writing.

Activity: Future messages

We share this activity as a stimulus to your thinking about raising questions about the future with children.  Thinking about the future is a major part of thinking about sustainable development.  It helps give purpose to imagination and creativity.  There are a number of excellent materials around to support this area of work, for those who would like to take this further [eg “A futures perspective in the curriculum” - Module 3 in www.unesco.org/education/tlsf]

  • Ask teachers to work in two groups to organise a futures activity for children.
  • Ask them to imagine that it comes at the end-point of a half term’s work looking at sustainable development issues, and is intended to help bring some of that work together.
  • Group 1 will focus on children writing a letter to the future [eg to their class in 25 years’ time]; Group 2 on writing a letter from the future to the present.
  • We offer the proforma Future messages to help with this process of planning and reflection.  This is based on a 5 stage planning cycle.

Ways in to the activity

  1. There are some suggestions for generic futures-related writing activities on the PDF Writing: visions of the future.  We suggest that you use or adapt one of these.
  2. What support will children need [eg writing frame or proforma, model texts]?  What other stimuli or resources might be required?
  3. The letter writing task itself.  How will you introduce and organise this?
  4. Considers other opportunities which might come out of this process [eg for further creative work such as role play or visualisation activities].  Groups might also want to look at extension ideas  or other/cross curricular opportunities.

    Ask the two groups to share their practical ideas [1] to [4] at this stage, and compare notes.  Invite them to evaluate/reflect together in a plenary session, focused on the key question 

  5. How will this activity help children synthesise their ideas and feelings about sustainable development?