Enviromental activities – Linking the classroom to the world

Why the environment in EFL and ESL classes?

The urgency of environmental problems has led to a quantum leap in the attention paid to green issues. The environment has become the subject of newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television reports, documentaries and feature films. In this post I present the rationale behind incorporating environmental issues into language teaching.

EFL/ESL and the environment

What have environmental issues got to do with language teaching? Shouldn’t language teachers confine their concerns to the teaching of grammar, vocabulary and communication skills? Well, there are several compelling reasons for introducing the environment to the EFL and ESL classes.

  • The urgency of the environmental situation.
    Animal extinction, deforestation,  desertification, climate change  and other environmental problems are so pressing that they need a response from all the educational community. As educators we have an ethical responsibility to contribute to our students awareness of environmental issues and to foster students ability to make independent, responsible and informed choices where the environment is concerned.
  • The environment issues are a rich source of content.
    If we are to use content (content based instruction) as a starting point for language teaching, environmental problems can provide invaluable content for the integration of content into English language teaching.
  • Environmental issues are real.
    Introducing environmental problems into language teaching classes links the classroom to the world at large. Learners will be able to write , read and talk about real issues.
  • Environmental issues are motivating.
    Learners are fascinated by environmental problems such as the destruction of rain forest and animal extinction…
  • Environmental issues can be integrated into all school subjects.
    The green issues can be integrated into science, history, geography, mathematics and even art and music. This helps bridge the gap between English language teaching and other school subjects. Learners gain academic knowledge and develop skills that can enhance achievement in all areas of the curriculum.
  • Environmental issues offer an opportunity for the integration of skills.
    Environmental activities provide invaluable opportunities to carry out projects and tasks that integrate the four skills . (Here is an example of an integrative environmental activity.)
  • Environmental issues encourage discussion.
    Learners are involved emotionally in the protection of the environment. This stimulates students to discuss problems, brainstorm solutions and share reactions.
  • Environmental activities can be fun.
    By engaging students to do tasks that focus on what we can do to help save the earth, we lead our students to be active, lively members of a community, NOT depressive, defeatist minds.
  • Environmental activities are learner-centered.
    It is learners who are engaged in the language teaching process. The teacher provide guidance while the learners discover for themselves the environmental threats challenging the world.

How to implement environmental activities

For the implementation of environmental activities int EFL and ESL classes, a global approach must be held. This should involve the following:

  1. Awareness of the problems
  2. Concern about the environment so as to become motivated and work actively for its protection.
  3. Skills needed to identify and solve problems. This include communication skills, cooperative problem solving, critical and creative thinking and informed decision-making.
  4. Action. Students must be actively involved in doing something to remedy the environmental problems.


We as teachers will gain a lot by incorporating environmental issues into English language teaching. Our students will be motivated, will learn about real challenges facing the world, and most importantly will be actively involved in doing something to solve the environmental problems.

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