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A picture is worth a thousand words

‘My syllabus is so full already’ or ‘I have so much to get through I don’t have time to teach a whole lesson about environmental issues’ are reasons I have often heard for teachers not feeling able to bring sustainability into their classes. I can relate to this as the organisation I work in has courses where every lesson topic is pre-arranged.

I strongly believe there are ways round this. As I have written about previously, one of them is to bring a green twist to every lesson no matter the topic.

Activities based around pictures are a fantastic way to do this. A picture can be the source of so much discussion, communication, interaction and learning. It also has the advantage of working in both high and low context environments in terms of the tech teachers have in their classroom. It can be displayed on a projector or a piece of paper, or even just a phone.

This lesson activity is an example of how a picture can bring that global issues focus to a lesson on a set topic. The idea came about through a picture created by Phubes, a Thai street artist, shared on ELT Footprint by a teacher called Clyde Fowle, and then grew into a lesson idea through a collaboration between Clyde and myself. What’s more, there are two versions of the material. One is by me for if you have 10 minutes or less. The other is by Clyde if you have more time, and I have to say, I really want to use his version!

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Sustainability when you have set lesson content

Many of us don’t have the freedom to choose what we cover in a lesson. What can you do to bring a sustainability twist to every lesson even when you have to operate within what may seem like the tramlines of set lesson outcomes?

There are many possibilities. Here is one I learnt in the InnovateELT conference in a session by Dan Barber which focusses on learners applying critical thinking skills to any text. I’ve embellished this with support from images to steer learners in the direction of the environmental considerations of any text on any topic.

Find out how this works for me and could work for you and click below to access the article.

articles transport

Where’s that video I saw the other day? I need it for my lesson.

Do you ever spend ages looking for the right picture, video or text for your lesson? I can only imagine the hours in my teaching career I’ve devoted to this!

Other times, seemingly out of nowhere, the right text, video or picture comes, and creating a lesson around it is a smooth, enjoyable process.

One thing I’ve learnt is to be always on the lookout for pictures, videos and texts that can later be used for teaching. When I find them I save them in my profile on, which is a bit like an online ‘favourites’ toolbar, and it allows me to tag the site. In this case I tag it as ‘make a lesson with this’. That way, whenever I go back to the tag I have all the sites, videos and pictures that at some point I though would make a good basis for a lesson. This has had a tremendously positive effect.

An example of how I’ve used this is when my brother sent me a fantastic video by WhatsApp, I saved it with that tag, and came back later and built a lesson around it.

At first sight the video appears to be a car advert, but appearances can be deceptive! What’s more, this advert was banned most unfairly. It’s edgy, visual and had a great twist. Perfect for a lesson on a transport theme and puts the climate crisis centre stage.

Would you like to see the lesson? I’d love to show you so just click below to access it.

What about you? Have you found a method of finding, during and retrieving materials for lesson plans that come up? I’d love to hear your ideas so please post a comment!

Did you enjoy this? Find out about ELTsustainable membership and what it can do for you. Click below to find out more.