Space Travel

“All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct.”

Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996), American cosmologist and planetary scientist
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on space travel 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.

In 1961, the human race ventured into space for the first time when Yuri Gagarin completed an orbit of Earth. Eight years later, in 1969, the first humans landed on the Moon and since then, we have gone no further. Today, many important scientists have warned that if we do not find another planet to live on in the future, humanity faces the risk of extinction due to global warming, the threat of nuclear war or artificial intelligence. Plans are afoot to visit Mars in the coming years, but it is unlikely that the Red Planet could be a viable home, meaning we will have to look further afield, probably in another solar system, to find a new home. In this ESL lesson plan on space travel, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as whether they would like to travel in space, why we might need to colonise other planets and how we might achieve this.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for the International Day of Human Space Flight, which takes place in April, or for World Space Week, which takes place in October. 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.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
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):

TOR | “Science vs. The Expanse: Is It Possible to Colonize Our Solar System?”

The article refers to the popular sci-fi TV show The Expanse, which shows a future in which humans have colonised various places in the solar system including the Moon, Mars and Ceres, and asks whether or not this is a realistic future for humans. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. Do they agree with what was written in the article? Did they read anything they disagree with?

Video activity
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. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “Could We Actually Live On Mars?” by TED Ed and explores the possibility of colonising Mars and the challenges this would entail.

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

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 how the students think it would be to travel in Space, the prospects of turning the Moon into a holiday resort and what TV shows or filsm the students have seen that involves space travel.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with space travel such as terraform, space tourism and wormhole. 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 the need for space travel. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether or not humans will ever colonise other planets, why humans would want to settle on other planets and the genetic and technological challenges this would present.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about the colonisation of space. 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.

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