Teaching green ELT

Teaching language also teaches values and shapes attitudes, making English language teaching fundamental to climate and environmental action.

Education is a powerful tool. We can use our classrooms as safe spaces to explore issues about the world. Teachers can engage their students with local issues that effect their lives and help equip students with the language and skills they need to face the climate and ecological crises.

And you don’t need to be an climate expert to inspire curiosity and encourage critical thinking. We can raise environmental awareness and positively influence behaviour among students, who will likely go on to influence their family and friends.

Build sustainability into the curriculum

There is currently a mismatch between student experience and most course materials. While young people are engaged with climate activism through social media and understand the interconnection of climate with other issues, such as social and racial justice, textbooks generally isolate the environment to one brief chapter.

✓ Sustainability week for students with experiential events and guest speakers
✓ Environmental champions in your school – staff and students
✓ Invite local green groups into your school to speak to staff and students
✓ Teach ​English through nature projects

Videos

Forest Garden: ​how a diverse forest garden in the UK can help nature to adapt to climate change.
Kenyan youth climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti addresses #COP26.
Michael Moore presents Planet of the Humans, a documentary about climate politics and corporate interests in the USA.

Lesson materials and plans

Lesson materials, plan and ideas by topic – from animals to culture to shopping and social life – by ELT Sustainable
Teaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in English language classrooms and more from Renewable English

Teaching materials on deforestation, water waste, carbon footprint – and how to use them in class.
Climate Action in Language Education lesson plans by ELT Footprint founders for the British Council.
An extensive list of lesson plans and classroom materials compiled by ELT Footprint.
“Your one-stop-shop for celebrating our planet, and understanding what we need to do to save it.” By TedEd
Join as a free member to download ThoughtBox’s acclaimed Changing Climates curriculum for age 5 and up.
Climate learning resources and ideas from Climate Learning Events.
The Eco Schools Programme aims to build awareness and good practice in schools, with resources and ideas.
STEM Ginger Education specialises in sciences and English with plenty of activities, resources and support.
Resources to help scaffold school initiatives and get young people involved in environmental campaigns.
Integrating Global Issues in the creative English Language classroom​: ELT publication based on UN Sustainable Development Goals

Sources of inspiration

Fridays for future is a youth-led and -organised global climate strike movement.
Into Film suggestions for environment-themed films and documentaries that can be ordered, watched and discussed in your school.
Veganuary inspired and supported more than half a million people across 200 countries to try vegan in January 2021.
Use Positive News’ environmental section for inspiration and materials for lessons that focus on solutions and agency.
Climate Visuals offers royalty free, evidence-based and impact focused climate photography to use in your classroom.
Instituto Terra: ​A good news story. Over 20 years, a Brazilian couple have transformed a barren plot of land into a thriving forest.

Help students connect with nature​

Just teaching about environmental issues will not make our students – particularly children – care for the environment. Taught badly it could actually have the opposite effect. What will make our students care is a deepened connection with nature. So part of our responsibility as ELT professionals is to find ways of deepening that connection.

✓ Do an ‘eco tour’ of the school’s environmental projects and efforts
✓ Take trips into the countryside and do urban nature walks (see page 30 onwards)
✓  Do outdoor learning activities with young children
✓  Organise a ​nature photography lesson or outdoor drawing
✓  Play ​environmental games and activities
✓  Tree and leaf activities
✓  Nature documentary programmes and films
✓  Take the classroom outside

Encourage staff to model environmentally responsible behaviour and tell students what they are doing personally to reduce their impact on the environment

Outdoor learning resources

Council for Learning Outside the Classroom
Outdoor Learning Made Easy – a commercial organisation with lots of good general information on why outdoor learning matters.
A poem about learning outside

Teacher development and support

Language Teaching for the Planet free mini-course from ELT Sustainable
Language Teaching for the Planet course from ELT Sustainable
Practical Ways of Including Sustainability in your Language Classroom (English UK ELT Conference 2021)

Learn how to talk about the climate crisis with young people – and why it matters that we do – with ThoughtBox’s climate CPD.
Ask questions, share ideas and find information on the ELT Footprint Facebook group.
Discuss environment and other global issues on the IATEFL Global Issues SIG​ and F​acebook page.