Global Issues: 7 Ways to Teach Them

A global issue is any issue that affects the global community. They can be environmental, political, social, economic and more. They range in seriousness and severity from minor issues that affect everyone to global dangers that threaten the existence of the entire human race. 

Global issues can no longer be dismissed as something that does not affect us. They affect us both personally and collectively. They permeate every aspect of our lives: the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the products we buy, the infections we contract.

Therefore, since they can no longer be safely ignored, global issues should form part of the foreign language curriculum as well. Research has shown that most teenagers are interested in global issues and feel they should learn about them at school. There is also increasing interest in global issues in the worldwide teaching community.

Global issues offer many opportunities for meaningful discussion, debate, and expressing different points of view. They can help students to develop and improve their communication skills, and also critical thinking.

The activities that follow will help you include global issue content and topics into your lessons.

1. Around The World in 80 seconds

CEFR level: A2 and above | Duration: 25 minutes

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Display random letters of the alphabet on the board. Ask students to think of names of countries starting with each letter, e.g. A – Angola. Write them on the board and ask students to think of a person associated with each country, e.g. Brazil – Pele, UK – Queen Elisabeth etc. With older students, expand this to include a landmark, object or food.

global issues

2. News Of The Day

CEFR level: B1 and above | Duration: 40 minutes

Ask students to go online before the lesson and search for the news of the day, taking notes. Give them the definition of ‘global issues’ as opposed to ‘local news’. Ask them to present to the class the news they have found and explain whether they are global or local or both. As a follow-up activity, they can discuss and rank them according to their importance.

3. World Peace

CEFR level: A2 and above | Duration: 40 minutes

Write on the board various names of Nobel Peace Prize winners, such as Martin Luther King, The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela etc. Students choose one each. Ask them to search online information about the person they have chosen. This could include date of birth/death, country of origin, year of award, and their contribution to world peace. Students present their findings in class.

4. My Other Half

CEFR level: A2 and above | Duration: 40 minutes

Find a set of photos of global issues and print them out. Cut them in half and distribute the halves to students, one paper each. Ask them to observe every detail of the photo, take mental notes, and think how they would describe it to a listener. Then, ask them to put them face down and go around the class talking to each other. The aim is to find their other half.

5. Aware Consumers

CEFR level: B1 and above | Duration: 40 minutes

Students form small groups and go online (in class if possible or at home). Ask them to visit one of the big local supermarket e-shops. The aim is to find products with advertising incentives, such as:

  • Lower prices
  • Discounts
  • Freebies
  • Competitions
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Cartoon characters

Discuss what is the audience these promotions are targeting (age, sex, occupation etc.)

6. Say No To Racism

CEFR level: B1 and above | Duration: 30 minutes

Find a video that discusses the issue of racism such as the one below. Ask students to comment. Ask them if they think racism is a serious problem, and if they have personally experienced it. Discuss what causes racism and what can be done about it both globally and on a personal level. Finally, ask them to form groups and try to design anti-racism posters, which will be displayed on the classroom walls.

Three Myths about Racism | Candis Watts Smith | TEDxPSU

7. Whose Job Is It?

CEFR level: B1 and above | Duration: 45 minutes

Ask the class to make a list of all the different household chores (e.g. cooking, cleaning, shopping etc.) and put them on the board. Ask them who does each task in their homes (father, mother, grandparents, siblings etc.). Put the answers on the board next to the chores. Discuss about the balance and distribution of the tasks, and also about their own contribution. Compare to how these tasks used to be distributed in the past.

Learning is meaningful only when it is viewed as part of the human condition. This is why we need to understand other cultures and the interrelationships that bind us all together. What we do as teachers, students, or generally as citizens, affects our own small ecosystems and beyond. Talking about global issues helps our students become more aware of the world we live in.

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Education born and bred. I have worked as a teacher for many private language schools, as a test centre administrator, as a teacher trainer, as an educational consultant, and as a publisher. I am an advocate for literacy and a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom. I have a BA in English and an MBA in Marketing. I mostly write about English Language Teaching. I live in sunny Athens.


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