Number one for English language teachers

Teen Talk: Boldly go...

Type: Article

Lindsay Clandfield explores the outer reaches of the universe.

In 2008 it was NASA's fiftieth birthday, which means there have been more space stories than usual in the news recently. The latest is that NASA says the survival of humankind will depend on space exploration. (They would say that though, wouldn’t they?). We’ve done so much damage to this planet, it’s time to move on and find another one.

The whole area of space exploration is a great starting point for activities to get younger learners talking. First is a variation on the 'desert island' activity. Students imagine that they are going to live on a space station for three months. They can each take four things with them from home, apart from clothes. What will they take? Once students have made their lists, put them in pairs and tell them they are going to the space station together, but they have to reduce their eight items to five. Can they agree what they will give up?

There is always the classic speaking activity, 'saving-humanity-by-sending-people-to-start-over-on-a-new-planet' situation. Prepare a list of twelve people, each with different jobs and interesting, potentially controversial, characteristics. For example: a police officer with a gun, a doctor with a drinking problem, a soldier with excellent survival skills but a bad temper, a sixty-five year-old science teacher, a pregnant shop assistant...

Following an environmental disaster, these people have arrived at NASA and will be sent into space to inhabit a new planet. The problem is that the spaceship only has room for nine people and the pilot. The students have to decide which people go and which people stay. Push them to produce more by asking them to give reasons, and then counter reasons (e.g. "Are you sure you want the doctor? What if he/she starts drinking again?").

There are lots of other space lessons you can do too. Create a quiz on the solar system. Ask students to make a list of their own top five science fiction films. Bring in a text on the first moon landing, or the first space tourist. Hold a design competition for a a new space suit and ask students to present their ideas. The sky’s the limit.

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Readers' comments (5)

  • In my experience adapting material and ideas is one of the keys to effective teaching. I've never done a 'space' lesson so thanks for the idea!

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  • Maybe not completely original however it is good to have someone 'jog' our memories of activities that may have been around for awhile (like some of us!) but we haven't thought to use in a while. Furthermore, anyone who volunteers their ideas to help others can only be congratulated. Anonymous should appreciate the work of others and support rather than try to undermine others. Tracie

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  • I'm with you pip. I work alongside many novice teachers desperate for ideas. This site is not perfect and you have to cherry-pick and adapt much of what's on here. Love to observe one of Mr Anonymous' original lessons!! Keep up the good work One Stop!!

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  • Indeed, 'anonymous' it may not be entirely original, but the point is that readers come to this site for help and advice - are you suggesting that something that could potentially help a new teacher is invalid because it lacks originality? If you are a teacher, I pity your students who receive such unhelpful feedback and I am hardly surprised you brand yourself anonymous if that's the sort of feedback you leave. - Phil Stiles

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  • It's hardly original is it?

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