The United Nations

"More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations."

Kofi Annan (1938 – 2018), former Secretary General of the United Nations
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This free ESL lesson plan on the United Nations and international relations 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 20th century set the stage for two of the most devastating wars in human history. In order to prevent this from happening again, the countries of the world came together to establish the United Nations. Then they immediately divided themselves into two camps during the Cold War and went about fighting proxy conflicts all over the planet. The United Nations aims to prevent conflict and protect vulnerable people from human rights abuses. The fact that the world is still ravaged by conflicts and human rights abuses has led many to declare that the UN has failed in its most basic mission. But is that the fault of the UN, or is it the fault of individual members who constantly undermine the UN’s efforts? In this ESL lesson plan on the United Nations, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the importance of good international relations, and the successes and challenges of the United Nations.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for United Nations Day, 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):

Time | The United Nations At 75: It Has Never Been More Needed Nor Under Greater Threat

The article looks at the reasons why the United Nations was established and some of the problems it faces when trying to deal with the many global problems of the 21st century. 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?

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. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.

The video for this class is called “The Problem With the UN Veto Power” by NowThis World which looks at the UN Security Council, the body responsible for making security decisions, and the problems it faces thanks to the veto power of its permanent members.

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 international relations including how the international community can prevent wars and human rights abuses, which countries are the most powerful, and the various international organisations that exist in the world.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with the United Nations and international relations such as sovereignty, self-determination and peacekeeping vs peace enforcement. 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 United Nations. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the UN’s successes and failures, the effect of veto powers in the UN Security Council, and the future of the UN.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of international relations. 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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