Class Karaoke Climate Craic

One of the fun things I like to do during class (when face to face, much more fun that way), is play PowerPoint Karaoke. If you’re not familiar with PowerPoint Karaoke, it is a PowerPoint presentation (or even just a folder of images where you scroll through the pictures), and the students have to take it in turns – one slide per person – to give a talk on whatever subject is at hand. They have to connect what they are saying to the person before them, and the images could literally be anything under the sun. Generally I pretend that the images are being randomly generated and appearing at will, but it’s really just me with a PowerPoint pre-planned for them. I would use it for higher levels, B2 and above, although it works for storytelling at lower levels.

One class, C1 level, when doing this came across an image of the planet on fire, signifying global warming, to which pretty much everyone in the room said straight away “we cannot talk about this anymore.” What then followed was a really enlightening discussion on the thoughts of global warming and climate change from a group of teens still in school.

I asked them why did they think that way (which, when I ask ‘why’ in a class, I always want a detailed answer), which then turned into a really interesting full class discussion on the topic and how they genuinely feel about it – and it was brilliant, because it appears no one has asked them about it before, it’s just been preached to them.

As they were all still in school, they’ve had years of eco-friendly, green teaching, even planting trees and doing homework on how green their household is, they’ve been given books, presentations, gold stars for recycling coke bottles and turned off lights when they’ve left a room, but these kids knew deep down what we all know around the world.

We are completely fucked.

They explained to me that regardless of how green they attempt to be, how they watch what they eat, how they act and how they recycle, it didn’t matter, because government organisations and lack of effort on an international scale had killed off their futures. One even said she was tired of being told to help save the polar bears when chances are she’s not going to see old age if things get worse.

They had a point. And it’s valid – 71% of all emissions are from 100 companies worldwide. As a class they are incredibly bright and very aware of the world around them but they hate talking about how that might not be around them much longer. Them being told ‘every little helps’ clearly doesn’t have much of an effect after a while.

The road to hell is filled with good intentions. There are a lot of publishers pushing green material in some shape or form now, there is environmental chapters in nearly every coursebook out there and it became a part of our everyday life long before I had this class. But are we actually doing it right? Have we actually stopped to ask our students how this affecting them and how they think it effects their futures? It doesn’t sound like it.

I’ve published research on the effects of language and visual imagery in coursebook material on students and how it makes them feel, but maybe here is another study to take place – the topics that are covered – how do they affect our students deep down? There is a major difference between a publisher claiming ‘we have up to date and current material on aspects of life that everyone experiences’ compared to teaching a conditional statement of ‘if I have grandchildren, I’ll show them these images of animals that don’t exist anymore’ beside a photo of a giraffe.

The current news cycle of COP26 and all that goes on there makes a good discussion and class topic since its going on right now, and there are plenty of good documentaries to show too online, but I think we have to be very careful how we use this teaching material with younger generations who are just about to leave high school and have been told that we’re near ‘the point of no return’ at least twice a year now.

I’m not saying bin the climate unit of a book, or recycle it or compost it or whatever you do with books when they are done, but I do think there needs to be thought put into how we show this information to a younger generation, considering they are surrounded by it, both in their own language and English all the time.

Worth showing them this

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