Raising awareness in the English classroom

As a foreign language teacher the option not to "go by the book" can give you a freedom and a power, which will give both you and your students an insight you never imagined! The option to raise awareness using English as a vehicle, will take off you the "burden" to just teach rules,and random lists of vocabulary! After all, being a teacher is more than just a job!

This year I have chosen to focus on  four different issues to raise awareness: Safer Internet, Bullying, Racism and Environmental Conservation. Each of them was covered occasioned by the respective Day dedicated to it. And on this day I taught it to different levels using a variety of lesson plans according to level. I must admit that we only had time to scratch the surface, but I like to think that this is only the beginning and we will be able to do more in the future.

Starting with Safer Internet Day on February 10th, being an Ambassador of Saferinternet campaign in my school, I was given the chance to have access to lots of material in order to prepare for the day. We had the opportunity to talk about Netiquette, Privacy, Cyber-bullying. We watched some related videos and information leaflets were distributed to students. One can find a lot of material on www.saferinternet.org  . With my younger students we did some activities from the e-book Play and Learn: Being Online, published by European Schoolnet, which can be downloaded for free. Students had a good time while learning a lot of useful things about safety on the Internet.

The Day against Bullying is on March, 6th. Our shool took part in a joined event organised by three local Primary Schools. In class, however, we did some interesting things as well. With older students we took an anti-bullying quiz found on www.teachingtolerance.org, we talked about bullying statistics, created some posters in pairs or groups and an information leaflet was distributed Bullying: Advice for young people/forms of bullying. With younger students we coloured pages on the theme Be a Buddy not a Bully found on ElementarySafety.com and we made Friendship Wristbands found on www.KidsCanHaveFun.com. Bullying is a serious problem for students around the world today and, in my opinion, the more we do the better. The truth is there are loads of material found on the Web and one can get to choose what to focus on.

The Day against Racism is on March,21st. I spent days looking for material to do on this day. What I have found was enough to be covered not just in a lesson but in months of lessons. Again, there's a lot to do and you can choose what would be appropriate for your students. I have found extremely useful and full of interesting ideas the site http://www.theredcard.org/educational from which we did an activity on stereotypes, during which students had to decide who is who matching photos to jobs. The results were very interesting as to how young students form stereotypes according to experience. With another class we had to elicit ideas as to what racism is and what respect is. They had to write their ideas on post-it notes and stick them around the appropriate term on the papers on the wall.

On April,22nd is Earth Day. This year we talked mostly about sorting out garbage and recycling. With younger students we watched a Peppa Pig episode on recycling and coloured a page about different recycling bins:cans, paper, bottles. Then we did a cut-and-paste activity on sorting trash in Recycle-Garbage columns. With older students we played a Find-Someone-Who to celebrate Earth Day found on education.com. We all did different kinds of  word-search and colouring pages for the day as well.

These special days have stayed with my students memories of the year and mine, too! On these days we all shared our experiences and knowledge of the world and we did this in our English class! What students find engaging they wish to participate in and they have to do their best to express themselves and voice their beliefs.