12 Ways to Incorporate Global Issues into Your Classroom

As usual, the world is in crisis. Ecological catastrophes, wars, corruption scandals, financial meltdowns, and politicians with bad hair. Do we keep our classroom insulated from these issues or do we incorporate them? For those inclined to the latter, here are some ways to do it.


1. Show & tell (who, where, when, what, why, how)

Show and Tell can be used with most students above Beginner levels. For homework once or twice a week, the students find an article or topical piece and present it to other students the next day. Provide guidance by showing them how to do it and by getting them to pick out new words and phrases they learned from the article. As a scaffold, ask them to focus on six questions (who, where, when, what, why, how).


2. Time Line

Many stories are long-running sequences. Get students to research the roots of these stories and create a Time Line. Keep the format open: the Time Line could be illustrated, horizontal or vertical, or anything students choose. Two examples of stories that worked well on a Time Line: The Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, and the FIFA corruption scandal.


3. News you can use

Rather than only using the big stories about disasters and scandals, get students to choose articles from supplements on lifestyle topics. For example, they read about health, personal finance, travel and new technology. They then discuss which advice or insights they’d use in their daily lives.










4. Photo speculation

Cut out photos – the more, the better – from the week’s newspapers. The students speculate about what’s going on. As an extension, get them to match the photos to headlines and then choose an article to read. One teacher, Renée Watson, created jigsaw puzzles of the faces of five African American men killed by the police. The students did the puzzles before Watson elicited what they knew about the men. Then the class read about and discussed the killings.


5. Teach-in

Teach-ins are a way to inform would-be activists of an issue at stake. Organize an expert to come into the classroom to talk about an issue. Make sure the students are prepared with key vocabulary and questions. One example: a friend came to my class and spoke about a 6-month sailing trip and what she’d learned about the pollution of the oceans. The discussion veered from pollution to how to survive while cooped up in an 8 x 12 foot cabin space. The main thing was that the students were motivated to listen and interact.


6. Gallery walk

Gallery walks work especially well with photo exhibitions. If there are any in your area, try taking the students along. What did the students like and dislike? Why? What topics or themes are present? What did they learn about the photographer/artist? Several years ago, I took a group of adult students to an exhibition of photos by Sebastião Salgado. They were blown away, as was I, and we ended up developing a global issues map based on all the places and people Salgado had photographed.

Rwandan refugee camp. Salgado

Rwandan refugee camp. Salgado










7. Editorial

Students focus on a topic of their choice and write an editorial or ‘think piece’. This needs to be planned in stages: show a model, highlight the structure, and point out useful phrases. If necessary, help the students to brainstorm the issues pertaining to the topic.


8. Cartoon captions

Collect topical cartoons. Blank out the captions and get students to create their own. This will need scaffolding: first, ask the students what the cartoons are about and do an example. Then have students work in groups. Finally, get them working alone.


9. Readers’ Theater

Readers’ Theater involves developing and performing scripts based on something the students have read. No props, sets or costumes are required. The students read a text and, in groups, turn it into a theater piece with dialogue, characterization, and movement. Some kind of conflict is essential. As preparation, students need to see what a script looks like, know how to highlight parts, read expressively, and use ‘the stage’. One group of young adult learners enacted a scene from the story of the Chilean miners trapped underground in 2010. Another staged a mock trial after a celebrity murder case.


10. Problem/Solution poster or Cause/Effect chart

For more visually oriented students, posters and charts are motivating and immediate. A basic kind is a T-chart with columns that match problems and solutions or causes and effects. But posters and charts can take almost any form: clouds, leaves, trees; the only limit is our imagination. After showing students examples, have them create their own chart or poster to represent a news story or issue.


11. News sources comparison

High level students can compare the treatment of a news story by different newspapers or media outlets. Which words are commonly used in both reports? How do the articles differ? Think about tone, length, detail, point of view, and language. A Venn diagram is a good tool for showing similarities and differences.

Venn diagram







12. News article transformation

An interesting exercise is to get students to change the genre or the length of the article or to inhabit the story and rewrite it from the protagonist’s perspective (e.g., I instead of she). This requires higher-order processing and various subskills such as synthesizing, adapting, and extending.


How do you incorporate global issues into your classroom? Do you have any activities to share? Let us know!



6 Comments on “12 Ways to Incorporate Global Issues into Your Classroom”

  1. Stuart Morris says:

    This is a great post, lots of really nice ideas.
    I will be planning these into next years curriculum.

  2. hafif asanabil says:

    thank you so much,sir

  3. Kip Cates says:


    Article: 12 Ways to Incorporate Global Issues into Your Classroom
    By: J.J. Wilson (April 6, 2016)
    Source: your blog
    For: Global Issues in Language Education Newsletter (GILE)
    – a quarterly JALT SIG newsletter

    Dear J.J.,

    Greetings from Japan!

    I’m writing to ask permission to reprint your great on-line article “12 Ways to Incorporate Global Issues into Your Classroom” for the Global Issues in Language Education Newsletter that I publish for the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT).

    Your article is a great intro to dealing with global issues in English language classes. I would love to reprint it in our GILE SIG newsletter to encourage our readers to experiment with the ideas you mention. If you can give me permission, I can arrange to run this in our summer issue coming out at the end of July.

    I hope you can accept this invitation to reprint. I know our GILE Newsletter readers would be interested to learn about your ideas and experiment with them in their classrooms. You can learn more about our SIG and the newsletter at: http://gilesig.org.

    I hope to hear from you soon on this. Thanks a lot!

    Kip Cates
    GILE Newsletter Editor (JALT)
    Tottori University, Japan

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