Flight 1549: disasters as fodder for EFL lessons?

UPDATE 8Mar09 - this lesson plan now has an additional animated video which can you use to discuss process with students -especially good if teaching ESP:Aviation students.

Disasters in the news are great opportunities to get your students talking.

Whenever a major crisis hits the news media, words and facts fly out and students begin embedding statistics about the event in their brains.

If your students are anything like mine, after any major incident, they arrive in the classroom bursting to share what's happened (maybe because I'm constantly reminding them that I want them to small talk).

They're often able to tell us in English- even the lower level students - just how many people were involved, where 'it' occurred and the process: the before, during and aftermath.

They have opinions too.

Sometimes in their passion of finally having a story for me, though, I see clear areas of grammatical weakness and occasionally their sequencing adverbs are a little off.

Does this happen to you too?

If you'd like to test this exercise out, the crash of Flight 1549 into the Hudson River is a great example. It's dramatic, it's almost everyone who fly's greatest fear and it had a happy ending.

flight 1549 A very 'real' way to demonstrate the importance of adverbs of sequence/ adverbials of time.

- first
- then
- next
- after that
- finally
get this picture here

If you'd like to spice things up and get your students stretching their linguistic muscles, add things like:

- initially
- firstly, secondly...
- while

Stick up words/ phrases + adverbial clauses like
- by the time
- during this time
- in the aftermath.

What exactly do stewardesses say?

To really hone in on the point, once you've finished discussing the story as it occurred in the news, why not go through in-flight safety instructions.

And for my TwIT teachers, I really don't have to remind you that you can grab videos of flight 1549's crash (here) to turn this into a great multi-media lesson. You can also use this tracking map from the New York Times.

SimplyConversations lesson:
Business Travel (freelancers, institutions)

Any more tips, tricks? Related links? Don't hesitate to add them below in the comments box. Ta!



Animation Video

Recommended book: Aviation English
USA + world

8 Responses to “Flight 1549: disasters as fodder for EFL lessons?”

  • Anonymous says:
    January 17, 2009

    Nice lesson ideas Karenne, as always! You're so right that current events like this provide the perfect opportunity to hear students' opinions etc. It is also when you find out interesting little bits about their lives too, e.g. if someone has a pilot in the family etc.
    Good to see some language focus too, it's not all just chat!

  • Buthaina Alothman says:
    January 18, 2009

    Thanks, Karenne! An interesting idea for a multimedia lesson. And, yes, events make great authentic material for such lessons and for opinion discussions. I'd like to see this lesson in action. If I use it for a class next semester, I'll definitely let you know.

  • Illya Arnet says:
    January 19, 2009

    Thanks, Karenne, fo rsharing htis great lesson idea! I did quite a bit on Obama and realized that the class prefers to talk about real events than the rather artificial topics in the book. It generates so much more vocabulary!

    I'll leave a message and say how it went :-)
    Greetings from Switzerland

  • Anonymous says:
    January 19, 2009

    Yes this is a good conversation topic. It can lead to a whole lot of linked topics, such as : are you nervous when you enter a plane ? what do you do then ? and (very important for me !) do your *ears* hurt ? if someone has a solution for ears (I've heard quite a few !), explaining this in English can be a great challenge ! oh and why to you take the plane anyway ? is this a good way to protect the planet ? hmm ? à bientôt Karenne !

    Marianne Dorléac

  • Susana Canelo says:
    January 19, 2009

    Thanks Karenne for sharing !!!
    You're right. Shocking news are a really good topic. Connecting with their own lives, like suggested Lindsay is great too.When they need to say something they really need language !!!
    A hug

  • The TEFL Tradesman says:
    January 20, 2009

    It's also good for teaching some basic verbs to low-level learners too - like "Can you swim?". Could break off into a lesson on water sports, too.

    January 20, 2009

    Super, super tips Lindsay, Marianne and Sandy.

    BTW Sandy, your picture is scary-looking: whatever do your students say? LOL.

    Hi Buthaina! I visit your youtube page (and your delicious) and you've got excellent playlists, nice to meet you. Do come back and let me know how it goes with your ss.

    Same too Illya - I agree with you and think students like stuff they can immediately link to reality.

    Sometimes (not always) the textbooks are just written too generally or too carefully. It's understandable -they have to avoid offending people but it's like Susana said: when they need to say something, they need language!

    I'm gonna do - another thing you can't write in print "gonna" - another posting related to your comment, Susana.

    'til then,


  • Anonymous says:
    February 08, 2009

    Nice and well tuned . Authentic material undeniably involves students better and deeper.It also connects them to their life environment.

    The news are often about things real events happening to us or around us,So the effectiveness of their use as a medium to present learning is practivally overwhelming.

    Similarly the design of really communicative tasks turns students interest and participation on.
    All in all the sort of teaching that respects learners' brains and capacities.
    Keep clicking


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