It's a small world, after all : lesson plan challenge!

A friend of mine, Ken Dimmick, wrote this awesome poem which I just know can be turned into an amazing lesson plan.  But I was thinking, 2 heads are better than one... and 20 heads are infinitely better than 2...

Wanna help me put something together?

How would you use it in the ELT classroom - with business/general adults, teens or kids?  How would you construct the different parts of the lesson, would you use it as an ice-breaker, a supplementary material or the main text?

What would you do to encourage your students to think critically? 

Would you have them research aspects of the poem, get them conversing, what would you suggest to them that they could create as a final step in the process?

Get your thinking caps on, jot down what you think could be done or test out your ideas and then tell us what happened in the classroom - in about a month, I'll collate your ideas and type these up into a downloadable lesson plan to share:

Small World
by Ken Dimmick

I'm wearing rubber and leather sandals from China:
    rubber from Malaysia
    leather from god knows where
        (a cow of unknown nationality.)

My socks are from Bolivia
    woven from Egyptian cotton
        by a Brazilian factory
        hiring out-of-work Argentineans;

My trousers are denim, no longer "de Nimes," but
    constructed in the Phillipines
    of material woven in Mexico
    designed in Paris
    by a gay Italian, who like Madonna
        - the singer, not the saint
    has adopted a child from Malawi but that's another story altogether.

My shirt is from
    The Dominican Republic;
    of traditional Cuban design
    marketed by the Swedish firm: H&M
    yet purchased here in Stuttgart, Germany
        with my Mastercard from Texas.

And I have reason to believe
    that my pants, my briefs, my slip, my "Fruit of the Looms"
    began in a Guatamalan sweat-shop
        although the tag says Malaysia.

My Swiss watch
    fabricated in China
    is attached to my wrist
    by a leather band
    when still alive
    once swam free
        in Kenya's Lake Victoria.

But underneath it all
I am 100% pure American;
    in my particular case: mostly English genes
        (Celtic, Dane, Anglo-Saxon, Norman-French)
    with Irish and Scottish overtones.

I am the uncle of Africans
    my sister's sons, my nephews
And brother-in-law of an adventurous alliance
between Mexico and Quebec.

Yes, I am
as American as Apple Pie:
    made from the juiciest Japanese apples
    cooked in a crispy crust of Canadian wheat
    Jamaican sugar
    Irish butter and
    Cinnamon from the islands just west of Sumatra

Download the poem here.

image credit: atlas, it's time for your bath by woodleywonderworks

17 Responses to “It's a small world, after all : lesson plan challenge!”

  • Eva Büyüksimkesyan says:
    July 03, 2010

    Hi Karenne,
    This is a great poem with lots of discussion issues.I never taught business classes but I'm sure they will all say something about globalisation, kid workers, fashion, industries. Maybe if they want to contribute you can have a debate in the class or they can prepare presentations in class talking about the most important issue told in the poem or they can rank the problems from most important to least important.

    That's all that comes in my mind now I'm sure you will hear more soon from PLN.

  • Anonymous says:
    July 03, 2010

    It's a great poem full of ELT potential. I would put the students in pairs and ask them to find 5 issues related to it. Then discussion could ensue. In the end (or for homework)I would ask them to write a similar poem about the garments and accessoiries they are wearing.


  • Shannon says:
    July 03, 2010

    The poem really made me smile. It's especialy good for Independence Day, since it partly shows the image of the American as a result of immigration from everywhere.

    I would read it as a cloze test, and have students fill in the country names.

    Similar to Alice's idea, I would have students find 10 things in the room and list their countries of origin.

    Instead of a clothing poem, I would ask them to start their own with "I am sitting at my desk..." (Hopefully the students' desks at home are as crowded with clutter as mine: I am looking at an Ichiro bobblehead made in China, I wipe my screen with Candadian kleenexes as I drink Kenyan coffee from a "Country Store" mug made in China.

  • Emma Herrod says:
    July 03, 2010

    Hey Karenne,

    This poem is awesome! I hope the author is able to read our comments and how much we love it :)

    I think I would get my students to write their own version, following the style of the original. This could of course come as a final activity following discussions and tasks as suggested in your other comments above.

    For me personally there's too much in this poem for it to be used just as a warmer - I'd want to extract all the juice I can out of it!
    I wonder if all students are aware of the Disney song as per the title - that might be a nice warmer to have that playing as people come in. I find the song spooky :) but then I find most Disney things spooky so there ya go :)

    If clothing and personal objects are too similar to the original poem, they students could do as Shannon suggested and look at their desks. Or what about what they eat and drink (interesting to look at the airmiles which accumulate from a weekly shop when a lot of veg we could grow in our gardens for example) or how global their own personal interests are.

    Just some thoughts - your blog makes me thinks too damn much :)

  • About says:
    July 04, 2010

    Hi Karenne,

    I was thinking about using the poem with high level teens. I would make flashcards with all of the items and all of the nationalities and countries.

    Then I would put them in groups of four to read the poem. I would give them the flashcards and coloured arrows and a big piece of poster card.

    Then I would get them to make a graphic organizer showing the realtionships beteeen the items and the countries and natinalities.
    They could compare them with the other groups.

    Finally I would ask each member of the group to bring in a piece of favourite clothing from home the next class, and I would get them to research the country it was madde in and get them to do some kind of presentation about the country and the item of clothing. Maybe Prezi?? or glogster or pwpt or voicethread.

    July 04, 2010

    Wow! Fantastic ideas :-), what a great way to get to my computer this morning.

    Eva, your ranking the issues in order of importance is a brilliant suggestion for critical thinking

    "Alice," I love the idea of getting the students to write their own poems

    Shannon, I didn't think of how well it goes with the US independence day, but you're right!! Happy day by the way :-)
    The cloze test is a brilliant way to start off the use of the poem and what a great way to depersonalize using a desk for those cultures who might feel uncomfortable talking about their clothing!

    Hey Emma, well... I asked Ken if I could use the poem on my blog but I didn't tell I was going to do this :) :-) so I can't wait to send him the finished project (I'll compile everyone's ideas and then put it up as a downloadable lesson 'package') - super idea for same reasons as Shannon, to think of things they eat and drink - what a globalized world we live in!!! that's so funny you mentioned the disney song, I thought of the song for my title of this post but hadn't thought of playing the song in class! Great tip!

    Hi Leahn,
    What a brilliant interactive lesson and very much like the follow up tips to extend the lesson further, I think teens would really doing enjoy this too!

  • David Warr says:
    July 04, 2010

    Hi Karenne, I think this is a lovely poem too, with loads of potential. Here's an activity to help learners write a poem with a similar structure to Ken's, with a noun followed by a past participle.

  • Unknown says:
    July 04, 2010

    What a great global poem. I'd probably use it for something connected to adjectives, there are lots of good different ones in there and interesting order too (material woven... for example) and materials in general.
    I say I would, but because I'm a coursebook writer and given your views on coursebooks I highly doubt you would recommend your friend's poem be included in one! A pity, because I was going to ask Macmillan to cough up a fortune to get permission to reproduce it... :-) :-)

    July 05, 2010

    Hi David, clever site!

    Hi ya Lindsay, his email's on the bottom of the poem... just in case you guys do really have some money to throw at him... but I thought you said coursebook writers aren't rich :-) ;-) but seriously, Ken is actually really quite an amazing talented poet (very, very clever -

    his work is often thought-provoking - he'd written this for a fun summer event we were performing in).

    If you did want to contact him I'm sure he'd be able to do something on just about anything theme that matched the book!

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    Dani Lyra says:
    July 05, 2010

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Dani Lyra says:
    July 05, 2010

    Delete Comment From: Kalinago English

    Dani Lyra said...
    I loved the idea of posting a lesson plan challenge, this poem made me roll up my sleeves and write you some suggestions.
    High intermediate or advanced adult students.
    I'd Set the tune by talking about the poem, the idea behind it, ask students to predict countries that will be mentioned, issues that will appear. Reading, sharing.
    First task - From word to process writing technique.
    A student in a group reads a stanza, others jot down some words and together they try to reconstruct the stanza. Check against original.Share.
    Wrapping up - Students read the last stanza and write about themselves using the same pattern. I tried and found it hard to say I am as Brazilian as a caipirinha... I want to say that the rest of the ingredients are Brazilian too!! That alone could be a nice talk about nationalism, pride and cultural differences. You made me feel almost sorry I am on vacation! The semester is over in language schools in Brazil, resuming classes in two weeks. I'll let you know how it went in class as soon as I use it! Thank you and the writer for this wondeful poem!Sorry for deleting the two previos comments... fingers too fast to press enter and I had not finished....

  • Adam says:
    July 05, 2010

    Without doubt I would use this to demonstrate the evils of Globalisation and the complete ambivalence towards it by the majority of Americans.

    I'd get my students to categorise the ways in which the peoples producing each of the goods had been exploited by the demonic American infidel. ı could then get them to rank which was the worst.

    I hope this comment* will provoke as much outrage as I would want from my students.

    I promise to leave a less gloomy comment soon :(

  • Karenne Sylvester says:
    July 05, 2010

    Hi ya Dani, sorry it looks like you had a battle with the spam guard - sorry about that, if it wasn't there unfortunately my site would be filled with advertisements for the um, medicine, for elderly...

    Anyhoo, am glad I pulled you out of your holiday and you rolled up your sleeves to share with us!

    Adam, Adam, Adam... after you, an edu-blogger insulted the great Google God... now you bring hot water on over to this post :-) Just kidding, the thing is about critical thinking and challenging students is that a text should go in the direction the students want it to, and no doubt some students around the world will have things to say on the issues you raised as well as providing deeper thought on how we are all participating, via our purchase of cheaper items of clothing, no matter where we live, in the abuse of those less fortunate than ourselves.

    I suspect you will have a very interesting chat with your students and no doubt, a wealth of new vocabulary and different kinds of expressions will emerge on how to phrase x or y!


  • jessiev says:
    July 06, 2010

    this is really good! i would use this poem in conjunction with kelsey timmerman's great book, where am i wearing? (we interviewed him, here:

    and bring out a globe, and work on place names as well as business concepts/language.

  • Sukhdeepak says:
    July 06, 2010

    Very well written poem.

  • Sue Lyon-Jones says:
    September 19, 2010

    Great poem!

    I didn't leave a comment the first time round as others had already beaten me to the punch... like Adam, I'd probably use it as a springboard to get students talking about globalisation.

    If you decide to opt for that direction, here are a couple of links that might come in useful:

    Oxfam Education - Looking Behind The Logo: Lesson Plans

    Garment Workers Protest Low Pay in Bangladesh


  • Anonymous says:
    February 18, 2012

    This is a poem which is full of prejudices. Unemplyed people from Argentina do not usually go to work to Brazil. Many graduates emigrated to Europe, that is true, but not to Brazil. If I were you I would check where this information comes from and if it's true. Your students deserve real information. Thank you


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