Evgeniy Kalashnikov Evgeniy Kalashnikov

Sacred Balance (Reading - Environmental problems)
Upper-Intermediate, B2 level


In this lesson students practice their reading skills for gist and specific information. The context is an extract from the book about the environment called 'The Sacred Balance' by David Suzuki. The lesson starts with thought-provoking lead-in which is a dictogloss. Then students practise in reading with the main task based on emphatic phrases. After that there is a follow-up discussion based on a mini-project.


Abc coloured sheets of paper
Abc markers
Abc poster stickers
Abc board
Abc glue

Main Aims

  • To provide gist and scan reading practice using a text about the environment in the context of an exctract of a book

Subsidiary Aims

  • To provide fluency speaking practice in a discussion in the context of local environmental problems


Warmer/Lead-in (9-9 minutes) • To set lesson context and engage students

Prezi Slide 1 as a background (a globe, example). Start your lesson with a dictogloss. Tell the students: T. : I am going to read you a quotation once and once only. You must be all ears (check if they understand: 'listen carefully') and try to remember as much as you can. You just listen and remember. Check if they understand the task: T.: How many times am I going to read the quotation? (1) Can you write? (no) What must you do? (listen and remember). Then dictate them the following: 'Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught, will we realize that we ..." Ask your students to work individually and write down as much of the quotation as they can. Then ask them to compare the answers with their partner and finalize their version. Elicit some ideas and show them the original quotation. (Prezi Slide 2) Then ask: T.: Is the idea in the quotation completed? (no) T.: What, do you think, you will have to do? (complete the sentence) Distribute coloured sheets of paper and say: T.: With your partner, please, think about two possible endings and write each one on a separate sheet of paper. T.: Can you write two endings on one sheet of paper? (no) Monitor and when they are ready ask them to stick their ideas onto the board and read them. Then show the original ending (Prezi Slide 2) and ask: T.: What do you think about the ending? T.: Which ending do you like best? T.: What are we going to talk about?

Reading for gist (9-9 minutes) • To provide students with less challenging gist reading task

Explain that they are going to read an extract from a book about the environment. T.: The name of the text is "The Sacred Balance". (Prezi Slide 3) Check if they understand the meaning of the word "sacred". Possible CCQs are: - Is it important? (yes) - Is it respected? (yes) - If something is sacred, can we destroy, ruin or kill it? (no) Show them three possible ideas what the text is about (Prezi Slide 3) and say: T.:Here you can see three variants what the text might be about. Which, do you think, is the right variant, based on the title? Elicit ideas and ask how much they are sure about their choice causing them to use modals of speculation: T.: Are you absolutely sure about it? Is it possible? Why do you think so? Distribute HO 1 and elicit what the task might be. Ask them to read the extract and check the ideas. Moreover, they should find at least three reasons to support the idea. Give them 2 minutes for that as the exercise is rather challenging for a gist task as there is a lot of difficult vocabulary). Possible ICQs here: T.: How many reason will you have to find? T.: How much time do you have? Conduct WC feedback. The right answers are: The correct idea is 1. Reasons given include: - Weather affects us less. - We forget the source of our food and water. - We depend on technological inventions that are not natural. - We have moved more and more to cities.

Main Reading Task (12-12 minutes) • To provide students with more challenging reading task for specific information

Show them two sentences (Prezi Slide 4) and ask a student to read both out loud. Ask learners: T.: Which sentence is from the text? (2nd) T.: Are they different or similar in meaning? (similar) T.: Are they totally equal in meaning or is there any difference? Do they sound the same? (the text sentence sounds more emotional? T.: Why, do you think, the author uses such an emotional sentence? (to draw the reader's attention to the problem, to sound more convincing) Say that you have five more sentences which are not from the text and ask what they must do. (find the parts in the text with the same meaning). Distribute HO 2. Let them read the sentences. Check students understand the word 'responsive' (readily reacting to suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts). CCQs: I am responsive to new challenges. Am I interested in challenges? (yes) Am I ready to meet them? (yes) First they do the task individually then check in pairs. While monitoring bear it in mind that timing must be flexible here. Conduct WC feedback. Ask students to say which paragraph is being spoken about to let other students (who haven't managed to find the answer) find it in the text. During feedback pay attention to the following words and phrases: 'reveal' (to make smth known, to show smth concealed) CCQs: If something is revealed, is it known to us now? (yes) Did we know about it before (no) Was it a secret? (yes) 'illusory bubble' - CCQs: illusory: Is it for real? (no) Is it imaginary? (yes); bubble - it is better to draw it and ask what the author means by that (isolated world, detached) 'conformity' (action or behavior in correspondence with socially accepted standards, conventions, rules, or laws) The right answers are: 1. Food is often highly processed, and comes in packages, revealing little of its origins in the soil. 2. We forget the source of our water … 3. … we … will risk or sacrifie almost anything to make sure our way of life continues. 4. … policy decisions will more and more reflct the illusory bubble we have come to believe as reality. 5. Consider our response to the insistence of a ringing telephone or our behavioural conformity to the commands of computers.

Follow-up activity (15-15 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to develop a further idea of the text

Ask students: T.: What was the last reason that we mentioned why people have become disconnected from nature? (a lot of us have moved to cities) T.: Has our life become better? (in some ways) What ways? T.: Do you agree that we have problems living in cities too? T.: In pairs think about what environmental concerns/problems we have in Saint Petersburg. Monitor and assist students with ideas if necessary. Divide students into 2 groups (give them colour names or count 1-2). Distribute materials for posters (glue, cut-outs, pre-made posters) for the follow-up activity (one per each group) and markers. (Check the Materials Section). Ask them to share ideas, add 2 more problems that are not mentioned in the poster and then to rank all in order of most concern to least concern for them. 1 - is the most serious. Check if they understand the task. ICQs: T.: How many more problems must you add? (2) What number will the most serious concern will have? (1) Do you have to rank all of the concerns? (yes) (Prezi Slide 5 - instructions) Monitor and mind the timing. Encourage students to give reasons. When they have finished, ask them to swap their projects, study them and say if they find anything surprising or interesting. Give some time to do that. Ask them to stick the posters on the board. Elicit some feedback. You might also identify some interesting facts for discussion. Thank students for their active work. (Prezi Slide 6)

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