Category Archives: education

English Language Teaching for Sustainability

 Photo by Artem Podrez from PexelsWe have been witnessing a growth in interest in the focus on sustainability in English Language Teaching in recent years, and there are a lot of materials available online. There was a growth in activity around CoP26, but also at Cop27.

Global Issues Special Interest Group

One of the earliest groups that have focused on producing materials in this area is the Global Issues Special Interest Group of IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (GISIG). The SIG has been developing materials for some time and their remit in terms of issues is wider than a simple green agenda. There are lots of useful links to other resources on the website.

Cambridge University Press & Assessment

Alongside a larger organisational move to being sustainable, CUP&A are putting effort into exploring ways of brining more awareness of sustainability for teachers and learners, as well as re-visiting their materials. There are some good background materials as well as materials themselves.

Activity cards for Young Learners, Teens, Adults

The British Council Climate Connection

The British Council have also been working to develop a range of materials and resources related to climate and environmentalism with their web pages called The Climate Connection. The resources include information for teachers, as well as learning materials for students. There is an accompanying MOOC which provides background knowledge and also a MOOC wrapped around CoP26.

Adult ESOL
Adult English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provides English language education in the further and informal education sectors in the UK working mostly with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. A range of materials is available from different sources.

National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults (NATECLA) is a professional organisation for Adult ESOL teachers and have produced a Padlet of useful links to resources and materials connected to sustainability.

The Education and Training Foundation (EFT) have produced a range of materials focusing on English for Sustainability. As well as lesson plans for direct teaching, this includes an audit document, as well as creating a Green Week.

Other interesting websites
set of English language materials, called Renewable English, created by Harry Waters and other that take an activist approach.

A post from the Global Partnership on Education looking at Climate Change education.


Goulah, J. & Katunich, J. (Eds.) (2020) TESOL and sustainability: English language teaching in the Anthropocene era. London: Bloomsbury.

Harry Waters — Cultivating young change makers — talk given at the IATEFL Young Learners conference, January 2023

These are notes I took from Harry Waters’ keynote while attending the IATEFL Young Learners Special Interest Group conference, 2023.

See Harry Water’s website:

HW defines a ‘changemaker’ as someone who is taking creative action to solve a problem.

They are:

  • Tenacious about the greater good
  • Deeply connected
  • Team players
  • Intentional about solving a problem
  • Motivated to act
  • Creative

Changemakers are not born, but need to be developed/ supported, following the three e’s:

  • Engage
  • Empower
  • Enact

A great place to start is the Sustainable Development Goals. These can be linked to many lessons we teach. These can provide an interest, and we can link out to people in the world who are engaging in various relevant activities.

Look for influencers who the students might relate to, for example:

You are looking for social media case studies of people trying to make a difference.

You might also explore stories like:

Greta and the giants — Zoe Tucker

Here we are — Oliver Jeffers

Think also about ‘proximity’. Consider: 

  • Local issues — What is happening in your local neighbourhood — take pictures from around the school and the local area. Find local environmental or social issues
  • Issues in the school, e.g. Bullying, children missing school, children not eating before they come to school, etc.
  •  Local flora and fauna

Think about ‘connection’. Is the topic interesting for the students, does it try to include all of them, how important a topic is it? Good things in life aren’t just about making money.

Ideas should be student led, but teacher (school) supported, e.g. refillable glue sticks, biodegradable flower pots; refillable water bottles. Meat free Mondays — the idea comes from the students, but the teacher presents it to other staff, or the head teacher.

Project ideas can be presented to others via public speaking, or making videos about the topic. These could be presented at assemblies, or parent teacher meetings as ‘good news stories’.

Set the children a homework of finding TikTok videos about deforestation. This helps them do something meaningful with social media, helps to reset their algorithm.

Set up an Eco club and clean up the local park, area surrounding the school, etc. Litter picking is always a good starter activity.

Listen to what the students say to you about their lives and make suggestions back about what they can do.

Encourage students to tell others about what they are doing in different ways, give a presentation, make a video, write a blog post, make art, write poetry.

Go on protests with your students.

Clothes swap/ present swap/ letter writing campaigns/ invite in the local councillor.