When I first began teaching EFL in Thailand, one thing I was asked often was “Why does America allow people to have guns?”. As someone who is pro-gun control, I found it difficult to explain, so I created an EFL conversation lesson plan where students could discuss gun control, and using part of Michael Moore’s documentary “Bowling For Columbine” for better explanation.
This free lesson plan is a wonderful way for students to discuss their pro-gun control or anti-gun control opinions. I discovered, in Thailand, the majority of my students are pro-gun control but some, surprisingly, are not. This class discussion gets students talking animatedly about their opinions on guns, as well as gives them interesting information about American culture and its history of guns.
Level: Intermediate to Advanced Students
Time Needed: One 2-Hour Class or two 1-Hour Classes
Expected Outcome – Students will be able to participate in a discussion about guns, as well as learn new vocabulary associated with giving opinions.
Materials and Resources – Whiteboard markers, whiteboard, vocabulary sheet, and DVD copy of Michael Moore’s documentary “Bowling For Columbine”/
Step One – Ask students what they know about guns in America? Do they know people are allowed to carry guns? Do they think the law should be the same in their own country? Do they know what gun control means?
Step Two: – Distribute copies of the vocabulary sheet. (When I created this lesson plan, I watched the first 30 minutes of the Michael Moore documentary “Bowling For Columbine” and picked out vocabulary I knew my students wouldn’t understand. You should do the same for your students, as each group has different vocabulary skills).
Step Three: Go over vocabulary sheet explaining what each new word means. Get students to put the word in a sentence, so you’re sure they understand.
Step Four: Explain to students you’re going to show the first (approximately) 30 minutes of a documentary and give them a brief description about the subject matter of the documentary. I always explain about guns in America, the lack of gun control, what the Oklahoma City Bombing was about, what ‘Columbine’ was and how many students and teachers were shot and killed.
Step Five: Begin playing the movie, stopping every couple of minutes to explain things they won’t understand. I found, the 30 minute segment usually took me about 45 minutes to get through, so if you have two one-hour classes, you’ll have to break the movie up into two sections. I stop the movie right after the Columbine shootings and the CCTV video and 911 phone calls and begin the conversation segment of the class.
Step Six: Ask students to spend five minutes writing down A) Are they pro-gun control or anti-gun control and B) Why, using some instances from the documentary to back up their opinion if possible (this is more difficult for anti-gun control students, as ‘Bowling For Columbine’ is obviously pro-gun control, but it is possible as several of my anti-gun control students demonstrated).
Step Seven: Ask for a show of hands for pro and anti-gun students. Divide them up into two groups, even if that means 28 people in one group and 2 in another.
Step Eight: Choose individual students to explain why they are pro or anti-gun control, giving instances from the documentary to support their point. In advanced classes, you can ask students to challenge other students’ opinions by asking them questions. This section of the lesson plan should take between 20-30 minutes, depending on time constraints.
Step Nine: At the end of the session, ask students if anyone has changed their stance on guns as a result of watching the movie and the discussion. (I’ve had several changed from anti-gun to proi-gun control and, quite surprising to me, one who changed from pro-gun to anti-gun control).
In all instances though, my students enjoyed ‘Bowling For Columbine’, as they said it helped them understand American culture a little more.
Evaluation/Assessment: 1. Understanding of the material discussed, 2. Student’s ability to participate in the discussion in class and to give their own opinions about pro or anti-gun control.