Megxit- classroom resources

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced their decision to step down as senior members of the Royal Family last week. As it happens, I am dealing with current affairs and the media in my C2 classes. And as of next week, we will be talking about diversity and inclusion, tackling some aspects of race relations. That is why I decided to use this news story as an excuse to design some activities to link both units.

  1. Watch this clip from BBC’s Newsnight where royal correspondents discuss their views on the subject (source). Pay attention to the underlined expressions related to ‘getting information’:

Click on the screenshot to open the video and transcript in a new tab

2. Read the following opinion article on the treatment that the tabloids (and the media in general) have given to the couple, and especially, to Meghan Markle as mixed-race (source). Some sentences have been removed. Choose from sentences A-G the one which fits each gap (1-6) best. There is an extra sentence which you do not need to use.

Click on the screenshot to download pdf file

The text includes a wide range of vocabulary, with some expressions which might actually be interesting to include in your wordstock; however, they may make it harder for you to understand the text. Should you have any trouble, you can click on this interactive version of the text on Thinglink:

3. Mediation in writing: You are a team of journalists working for El País in English. You have been asked to write a news story for their website on Harry and Meghan stepping down as senior royals.

El País is a serious newspaper. Therefore, they tend to use:

Read the following source https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10721340/queen-arrives-church-summit-meghan-harry/ and select the relevant information

  • Think about how you would express those ideas in a way which is more suitable for your newspaper and your target audience.
  • Write a 150-175 word news story.

Download the pdf version of the source article (text only)

4. Follow-up: Share your views on Twitter. Use the hashtag #Megxit to be part of the conversation. [I opened a shared Twitter account for my students so that they would not need to use a personal account. Using Twitter provides real online interaction, and it seems only natural to use social media when discussing ‘the media’ in 2020]. 

  • How do you feel about #Megxit? Do you feel for them? Deep down, are you saying ‘good riddance’?
  • Do you support their decision to step down as senior members of the family?
  • Have they been harassed into leaving by the press, especially the tabloids?
  • Should they continue to be supported financially by the Crown (i.e. by British taxpayers)? 

Keeping up with the news in English

If you want to keep up with the news, these may be useful sources of information:

To see the front pages of newspapers every day, you can visit these links:

You can also watch these news channels: 

Radio:

Further ideas: https://natalialzam.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/la-radio-como-recurso-en-el-aula-idiomas/

MFL teachers in the UK complaining about GCSE exams

Modern Foreign Language (MFL) teachers in the UK have recently complained to the exams regulator in England, Ofqual, about the excessive difficulty of language GCSE and A-level exams. You can listen to the news report to know more about this:

 

Passive voice in headlines and real-life examples

(Updated 17.2.2020)

If you want to revise how and why to use passive voice in English, you may watch this video:

(annotated pdf file of the presentation used in the video here)

Headlines (both newspaper headlines and TV / radio headlines) tend to use passive voice structures. Why? Because that way:

a. you can make the relevant information the focus of information, by placing it at the beginning of the sentence:
A Lidl employee is believed to have been fired for working too much. 
Paul McCartney is considered the “most successful songwriter in history”. 
b. you can be more impersonal in your statements:
It is estimated that cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year. (*)
Cybercrime is estimated to cost global economy $445 billion a year. 
It is now believed that dinosaurs were killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. (*)
Dinosaurs are now believed to have been killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. 
(*) The “It is believed…” option tends to be used only in writing, and only in certain kinds of writing: academic writing, for example, when you want to sound “scientific”, or “impersonal / detached” from the information you’re giving. On the contrary, for headlines, the alternative option (He is believed to …) is much more common.

 

Some examples in the news:
  • Nissan is understood to have decided to cancel plans to expand its operations in Sunderland. (…)
  • The Japanese car maker Nissan is expected to announce next week that it’s cancelling planned investment in its plant in Sunderland. (…)
  • It’s now thought the announcement will lead to immediate job losses.

Go to this form (opens in new tab), where you can find many examples of active sentences (which in English may sound a bit too artificial, to be honest), and turn them into passive sentences, so that they can be more appropriate to the context (headlines):

As you will see, some of the feedback for your answers contains clips from real news where these sentences are used.

You can also find many headlines featuring passive voice on the handout below. Most of them, as headlines typically do, omit many grammatical elements, such as articles, auxiliaries…The links and the QR codes take you to the source of the article / headline:

(Open in new tab)

WhatsApp chat group insulting students lands teachers in trouble

Read this piece of news about a group of teachers who expressed their true opinions about their students and their families in a whatsapp group (in a non-PC way), and were caught red-handed, after the comments in the group were leaked to the educational authorities.

Then, discuss:

  • To what extent is whatsapp a private tool? Are opinions and comments on whatsapp within the public or the private sphere?
  • Are the measures taken appropriate for their action?
  • What would happen if students’ comments about their teachers on their whatsapp groups were read? What about parents’ comments about teachers, or their children’s schoolmates?

Topic: school policies versus students’ appearance

This piece of news has hit the headlines recently: Emily Reay (17), a naturally red-head student has been barred from classes for being too ginger. For the last three years, she’s been dying her hair to get a more ‘vibrant colour’. She’s now been requested by her school to change her appearance, or else she will not be allowed to attend lessons.

She wonders “The school’s uniform policy clearly states no unnatural hair colours, like blue or green. Is ginger not a natural hair colour?”

You may read the full story here:

Nice topic for a little speaking practice / debate / argumentative writing:

  • Are the teachers at the school being fair in this situation? Do you understand the school’s intention in doing so?
  • Should schools have a say in these matters (hair colour, tattoos, piercings…)?
  • To what extent can school policies have an effect on students’ appearance?

Miguel Hernández

2010_10_09_Miguel Hernandez’s last letters