Critical theory lesson: Homelessness
This critical theory lesson was originally taught to a group of Chinese teenagers back in 2012 as part of my ELT research studies. It has since been revised and updated.
Show the students the family photo and introduce each member of the family. Explain that this is the Smith family, Alison, David, James and Susan. Do they like this particular family (why or why not?) Do the students think they are a typical or ordinary family (why or why not?) What good things might happen to a family like this? What problems could a family like this have?
Tell the students that David (the father) is currently unemployed and Alison (the mother) works as a nurse. Alison’s hospital is having problems and needs to save money. As a result, many of the nursing staff (including Alison) are being laid off/made redundant (check with students that they are familiar with this term and explain that it is not the same as being fired.)
Now, both David and Alison are unemployed. Elicit from students what they think David and Alison should do? Have students work with a partner and discuss the problem, and consider an action plan for both David and Alison. Provide students with a copy of the Action Plan handout. Encourage each pair to write down action points in their notebooks and consider which would be most important. Point out the following useful phrases on the handout for students to use during their discussions:
When students have completed the action plan, elicit ideas as a class and decide what the most important points for David and Alison are. Ask students what would happen if either or both their parents were unemployed. What could the students do to help their parents in such a situation? What could David and Alison lose if they do not have jobs? Try and elicit that they could ultimately lose their home since they would have no money coming in.
Section B Speaking and Writing
Have students look at the two pictures of houses (the modern housing development and the single detached house). Elicit from the students that they are houses and then ask the students to tell you what the difference is between a house and a home. What makes a house a home? Is the difference significant or quite small? The students can relate to their own experiences if they wish.
House: a building for people to live in, especially one that has a ground floor and one or more upper storeys.
Home: a place where you live permanently, especially as part of a family or household; the family or social unit occupying a permanent space.
Show/Write the above definitions on the IWB/board and ask the students if they can see any further differences between ‘house’ and ‘home’. Provide assistance as necessary but try and elicit that a ‘home’ is more personal and familiar, it has character and is somewhere you should feel safe and secure. Then ask students why having a home is important? Refer back to David and Alison and have students consider whether they think a home is important for them and why. What do the students consider important about their own homes? What makes it a home for them? What do they like about it?
Provide students with the Table B handout.
Check that students are familiar with the vocabulary presented around the table. The photographs of the rooms of the house should be quite familiar to the students but they provide context. First, elicit from the students what is meant by physical, emotional and social needs. Try and have them tell you that physical needs relates to the body and health, emotional relates to happiness and wellbeing and social relates to contact with other people like friends and family. Check that students are clear on the distinctions between each of these categories prior to starting the activity.
Divide the class into small groups and have them look at the table and discuss what physical, emotional and social needs each room of the home helps to satisfy. Go through an example (kitchen) as a class to ensure that students know what to do. For example, the kitchen satisfies the physical need of providing food, which is necessary for health and survival. The kitchen can be a very social place, where friends and family gather, talking and cooking together, also satisfying the emotional need of being happy. Complete the table with these particular examples.
Then when students are ready, have them discuss and complete the table with three further rooms of their choice. Monitor each group carefully to ensure they are on task; asking to clarify any of the answers as necessary. If students are not sure or are not comfortable completing some of the information, do not push them. Students can complete the chart as best they can. Once complete, students can give feedback to the class. It is important here to show that the home is a very important place as it satisfies many different needs.
Once the table is complete, go through and quickly summarize the main points, bringing out the key points of the importance of the home. Have students answer the following question; What do the students think would happen if suddenly, they no longer had a home? Students can first discuss this with a partner before giving feedback to the rest of the class.
Section C Reading
Give the students a copy of the reading text titled 'Girl in the Shadows'.
Have the students look at the title and first paragraph of the text only. Give the students a few minutes to think and talk about the title and first paragraph with a partner. What do they think the story is about? Which city is this? And, when do they think the story takes place (now or in the past)? Have the students write down their thoughts in the space under the first paragraph in the story. When ready, discuss the feedback as a class but do not confirm any of the predictions at the moment. On the board, write down the ideas from the students for confirmation later.
Next, have the students read the rest of the story. When the students are ready, check the predictions they made to see how accurate they were. Concept check the main points of the story with the students to ensure they have understood. As a class discuss whether any of the students were surprised by the story. What do they think about this?
Then have the students look at the seven words highlighted in blue in the text. Have them work together in pairs to complete activity C2; matching the words to their definitions. When they have done this, check answers as a class. As a class, have the students use these words in their own examples.
Remind the class that Dasani and her family are homeless in New York, a very large and rich city. What do they think about their city? How does their city compare to New York in terms of size and population? Is there a problem with homelessness that the students know of? Have the students look at the photos you have of homeless people. Have the students ever seen anyone like this before when they have been out in their city? How do they feel about this? Why do they think these people are homeless?
Have the students consider the following questions:
Next, put the students into small groups and have them either recreate what happened during an encounter they have had with a homeless person (using the same sort of language etc.) or have them imagine what they would have done (the above questions can be used to elicit some of the responses and the photos can be used to provide context.) One student should play the part of the homeless person with the others playing themselves, as they were in that situation. Initially, students may not be very comfortable with this but have them think carefully about how they would respond to this situation, and how they, as the homeless person, would feel.
When the role-plays are over, ask students how they felt both in terms of themselves and in terms of the homeless person. How did they feel playing the homeless person? What did they think about the reactions they received from the other students? What is the reasoning behind such reactions? Are such reactions fair and reasonable?
Finally, give students the handout from crisis.org.uk. Explain that Crisis is a UK charity that helps homeless people. These are statistics from crisis.org.uk about homelessness in London, UK from 2014 (The Homeless Monitor: England 2019 report from Crisis has been attached with more current statistics. The original worksheet questions can be swapped out and updated as necessary). Have the students give their best guesses to the missing information. Were the students surprised by any of the statistics? Do they think it is similar in their city or not?
First, students are going to reflect on what has been discussed so far in the lesson. Ask them to spend around 5 minutes writing down what they feel are their responsibilities towards homeless people in their community or neighbourhood. For example, what do they personally feel they should be doing about the situation, if anything. Students may have a variety of opinions on the topic and that is perfectly acceptable. Let them present their ideas and opinions and allow that as part of the overall class discussion.
Once this written work has been completed, have students note down the key points they raised from their written work above. Extend that by having them in small groups consider what the local community should do about homelessness, the local government (on a city wide basis) and central government (on a national basis). The main points from these discussions can be noted down - this does not need to be done in a great deal of detail, just ideas would be sufficient. Nevertheless, if students would like to provide more detail then that is to be encouraged. Tell students that with this information, they are going to create a new charity that is going to try and combat homelessness in their home city.
In their small groups, the students can decide on the charity name and the charity's mission statement. Elicit what students think should be included in a mission statement and why. Encourage students to write these down until there are enough ideas to help the students create a cohesive mission statement. When they are ready, they can write the mission statement for their charity (a short paragraph should be sufficient.)
Then show students some example charities and the slogans they use. For example, the homeless charity Crisis uses the slogan 'Fighting for hope for homeless people'. Show other examples from different charities (not necessarily homeless charities).
Again, working together have the students create a slogan that would be suitable for their charity campaign. Finally, the students should consider and note down what their charity is to try and achieve and in what time line. For example, do they want to help a certain number of homeless people during the next year? Give students plenty time to complete this section in as much detail as possible. Furthermore, if students disagree with helping homeless people, then they should think of an alternative campaign. Differences of opinion are to be welcomed and encouraged.
The final part of the task is for students to use their newly created charity to launch a campaign that is to be presented to their classmates. Give students time to prepare and then have each group present an overview of their charity and what it hopes to achieve. Encourage questions to be asked following each presentation and provide feedback as necessary. Prior to the presentations starting, it would be useful to point out that differences of opinion are to be encouraged.
Once the presentations are all complete, answer any questions the students may have and thank them for taking part in the lesson.