This free ESL lesson plan on polarisation has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.
The world is increasingly finding itself split into two distinct camps. While people have argued over politics for centuries, nowadays, even the most apolitical issues appear to be fractured down the middle. How is it possible that things like climate change, backed by proven statistics and science, can divide people based on their politics? But it didn’t always used to be like this. Sure, things like abortion and gun control have always been divisive issues in the United States, but Democrats and Republicans used to talk to each other and reach agreements for the common good. It is surely no coincidence that every society on Earth has found itself polarised not too long after social media became as popular as it is today. In this ESL lesson plan on political polarisatioj, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what polarisation is and what its causes are.
This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for International Fact-Checking Day, which takes place in April. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.
For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):
The Conversation | Political polarization is about feelings, not facts
The article explores the reasons behind polarisation, which it likens to fans at a sporting event who, surrounded by thousands of their fellow supporters, develop a higher sense of euphoria and animosity towards opposing fans. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.
The video for this class is called “Do politics make us irrational?” by TED Ed which looks at how political beliefs and cognitive dissonance lead us to blur the boundary between fact and reality.
The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.
This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including polarising issues, the effect of the media and social media on polarisation, and whether people have lost the ability to argue and debate rationally.
After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with polarisation in society such as partisan, echo chamber and social media bubble. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.
If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.
Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about polarisation. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as divisive leaders, who benefits from polarisation, and how society can heal these divides.
After the class, students will write about their opinion of polarisation. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.