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Taking Risks Thematic Unit: An ESL Learning Situation that Contributes to Learners’ Personal Growth

Is Taking Risks Good for You?

Possibly, you often ask yourself this question. I definitely do. However, this time I used it as a guiding question for my thematic unit on taking risks. Well, teaching high school learners has some risks 😉 . When you work with teenagers, you never know who has a bad day, who had a fight with a friend, who did not sleep enough and the list can be long. Well, teens can be jittery, moody and even rude even though they do not always mean it. Of course, working with teens is also rewarding. I always tell myself that I am not just an ESL teacher, but also an educator and I am sure you feel the same way. I do not only teach English to my high school learners, but also good manners, life skills and valuable lessons that all contribute to their development.

Thus, when choosing the lessons I wish to teach, I often ask myself a couple of questions: Will my students be interested in this topic? Can they relate to it? Is there anything they can learn from this lesson (I do not mean only English, but some valuable life lessons.)? Am I enthusiastic about this issue? Is there enough content I can work with? These questions always help me decide what to teach. So, I have experimented with various topics throughout the years - Gothic fiction, Utopia, Dystopian novels, taking risks, teenage brain, music in teens’ life, the importance of focusing, facing changes in life, nomophobia, social media, the art of connecting - and I have always focused on teaching these issues from an angle that is relevant to my students, so they can personally relate to them. 

Well, last year, I became a bit tired of the way I used to teach my favourite unit on taking risks. I wanted something more, something better. That is why I have decided to revamp the entire teaching resource that now focuses on teenage behaviour, so students learn more about themselves while looking at both sides of the concept of taking risks. I did not want my students to only remember that they should avoid taking risks (e.g. experimenting with drugs). I also wanted them to develop a positive mindset because teens also need to learn that every challenge and every failure in life will help them progress and be a better version of themselves. 

Let us take a peek at this updated unit.

This resource is a comprehensive ESL competency-based, student-centered, differentiated learning and evaluation situation with a touch of growth mindset philosophy to contribute to students’ well-being, motivation and personal development. This unit offers a wide range of opportunities to develop and assess the three ESL competencies or four ESL skills. Learners have a chance to use and reinvest reading strategies, vocabulary, language and information, so they can acquire and confidently produce language.

This unit features engaging tasks developing learners' ESL skills: 

  1. Anticipation guide

  2. Vocabulary activities

  3. Three texts (two written texts and a video)

  4. Reading comprehension activities

  5. Reinvestment of understanding of texts activities

  6. Listening activity

  7. Writing activities

  8. Grammar in context (giving advice)

  9. Oral interaction activities

  10. Individual work, pair work, group work

  11. Tasks developing speaking, reading and writing skills

  12. Final complex task: Individual or group project (informative text)

This unit also includes a Teacher’s Copy with answer key, important notes and tips, pacing guide, and a set of conversation task cards including twelve questions and eight risk scenarios that also develop learners’ decision making and critical judgment skills.

This resource develops and evaluates the following competencies/skills:

  1. Competency 1: Interacts orally (C1)/Speaking skills

  2. Competency 2: Reinvests Understanding of Texts (C2)/Reading/Listening skills

  3. Competency 3: Writes and Produces Texts (C3)/Writing skills

Plenty of opportunities to develop and practice reading strategies

All activities guide students through the RESPONSE PROCESS:

  1. Explore phase (also called Engaging phase) includes:

  2. skimming, scanning

  3. using context clues to find meaning

  4. reading between the lines

  5. identifying the most/least important ideas or information

  6. visualizing

  7. taking notes (annotating)

  8. vocabulary activities

  9. Connect to the text phase (also called Reacting phase) includes activities that encourage learners to:

  10. personally connect to the text

  11. respond to the text by expressing their opinion, agreeing or disagreeing with ideas

  12. Generalize beyond the text phase (also considered the Reacting phase) includes activities that encourage learners to:

  13. draw conclusions

  14. make judgments

I am sure your students would be thrilled to learn more about themselves and how they can be better risks takers. This thematic unit is exactly the kind of resource that could teach them some valuable lessons. In addition, the great news is that this complete unit will save you at least four weeks of preparation time. 

Happy teaching!

All the best,

Kynga C.

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