Number one for English language teachers

Teen Talk: Talking politics

Type: Article

Is the language classroom a place for politics? Many would argue that it isn’t, especially with teens and younger learners.

Talking politics isn’t always easy in your own language, let alone a foreign one. Others warn that teens are not interested in politics. They don’t have a vote, so why should they care? But the media coverage of the impending US presidential election makes it difficult to ignore. Teachers can be assured that this is one political event about which most students will have some knowledge. While for young people, using the US elections could be a springboard to talk about politics and political apathy in a way that doesn’t offend or bore, but engages them. Here are some ideas.

Do a reverse quiz on the election to introduce the topic. In a reverse quiz you provide the answers and the students make the questions. Besides being good grammar practice for question formation, it also allows for different possible questions. My reverse quiz on the US Election would include the following: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the White House, Republican, Democrat, November 6.

Dictate the following sentences and ask students to rate them from 0-10, 10 being totally agree and 0 being totally disagree: Young people don’t care about politics. Young people are only interested in shopping and music. Young people don’t watch the news. It isn’t important to know about world politics. Use these to provoke a reaction and kick off a class discussion. Ask students to stand on an imaginary line in the classroom depending on what number they gave, or ask them to justify their answers.

In the run-up to the election, keep the momentum going. Give election watch assignments for homework, with students reporting back orally on what they found on television or the internet. Ask them to conduct informal polls among family of who they would vote for if they could. You may be able to prove that not all young people are ignorant of world politics. To borrow a phrase from the activist and filmmaker Michael Moore, it could be a mini slacker uprising.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I´m so pleased you´ve included politics! I´ve had some very sucessful teenager politics classes. We´ve looked at some different ways to influence politics and topical news stories ... students wrote their own draft laws and debated them eventually voting on the best ones. Most Parliaments/ Assemblies etc have an education service with resources that can be useful ... for example www.parliament.uk/education. Emma

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