Regardless of your political views, there seems to be no better topic for a conversation lesson this week than what is happening in Brazil.
Much like the first time I posted about this topic, It’s important to consider the group you are going to use this with. If students are confrontational or if they don’t have the best relationships to begin with, this may end not being a very successful lesson.
On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to foster critical thinking (as discussed here) in students of all ages.
In order to give students some background on the situation, start by showing this video from John Oliver discussing where things were a month ago. If you haven’t used any John Oliver videos before, it may be a good idea to elicit what students know about him and the kind of programme he presents.
These are the things students should pay attention to:
- What is the problem with the congress trying to impeach Dilma, in his opinion?
- What does he think of Petrobras?
- Why should Americans enjoy this moment while it lasts?
Give students a minute or two to compare their answers and then discuss them with the whole group.
Now get students together in trios or small groups and ask them to discuss the following questions:
- Did you watch the voting on Sunday? What did you think of the speeches?
- How did you react to congress voting to impeach Dilma?
Monitor students during the discussion and be prepared to provide them with adjectives to describe their feelings (exhilarating and outrageous come to mind, depending on their political views). Besides speaking about topics that might interest students, a conversation lesson should also get them to say more sophisticated things than happy or sad.
Let students discuss their ideas for about 3-5 minutes (or longer, if you feel they have a lot to say) and then open it to the whole group.
After that, tell them they are going to read an editorial from a British newspaper and elicit the difference between an editorial and an article. In short, editorials represent the beliefs of the newspaper whereas articles should report the facts and be unbiased.
The original editorial can be found here and my adapted version is below.
Firstly, show the title of the article to students and ask them to predict its content. Board students’ ideas and ask them to have a quick look at the article to confirm them.
Now show students these while-reading questions and give them more time to look at the article again.
- Does The Guardian think an impeachment will solve Brazil’s problems?
- What went wrong during PT’s time in the government?
- What is the problem with Brazil’s political system?
- What are the chances of Temer solving Brazil’s problems, according to the article?
Students compare their answers in pairs and then with the whole group.
As a follow-up, get students in different trios from before to answer this question:
- To what extent do you agree with the views from The Guardian? Why?
- How similar/different are the views from Brazilian newspapers?
Again, you may want to monitor students and provide them with different ways of expression agreement and disagreement (such as I wholeheartedly agree, I agree somewhat/to some extent or I strongly disagree).
To wrap things up (and perhaps to lighten the mood), you may choose to go back to the text and explore its vocabulary). These are the words I chose to work with and that appear in bold in the text.
to live up to
Either give students definitions for them to match or ask them to guess the meaning of the words/expressions in pairs (which works better with higher levels). Either way, concept check the expressions before moving on to practice exercises.
If you have read other posts on the blog, you might have noticed that my favourite controlled practice activity is to use the target language in discussion questions. You could choose to continue discussion politics (questions 1 and 2) or go in a different direction (questions 3 to 5).
- How do you foresee the impeachment process playing out over the next few weeks and months? Do you think new elections are a possible outcome?
- Do you think Brazil’s outlook is gloomy?
- Are you good at wooing people?
- Do you think the Olympic Games will live up to people’s expectations?
- Did you commit any misdemeanours when you were at school?
Thanks for reading.