Review: 50 Ways to be a Greener Teacher

This resource is an ideas bank for ‘greening your teaching’. It includes ideas to help you bring the topic of climate change and sustainability into ELT classes, and for localizing such issues. It also includes activities for greening institutions, not just classrooms – embedding a green culture in schools.

The author, Christopher Graham, is one of the founders of ELT footprint, and is an experienced consultant who has worked on green-related projects for institutions such as the British Council. The resource is published by Wayzgoose Press, who have really nailed the formula for these ‘quick dip-in’ ideas bank booky thingies. You can spot a Wayzgoose cover a mile off these days too!

The overall approach

From my initial skim read of the contents, I thought the organization of the book was exactly what I wanted to see from a resource like this.

I’ve just come from an international school environment in which a small group of teachers worked hard to develop a green culture across the school. What started as a ‘Grow Green Campaign’ with small but impactful changes around the campus, evolved into a ‘Grow Green Committee’ leading to a green culture embedded across the school and local area, as well as gaining Eco-Schools accreditation with a view to promoting their great work within a green network. Basically, having witnessed impactful change at whole school-level, I was really hoping this book wasn’t going to only go for the narrow, ‘do this in your classroom’ type ideas bank. It didn’t disappoint!

Early on, the author states the importance of such a school-wide approach to environmental awareness, hinting that it’s likely to lead to real action/change rather than simply paying lip service to the topic. They summarise the ethos of the book as:

‘Green teachers teach best in green schools’

And stress the need to ‘make green the default context’.

The book is organized in a way that takes ‘greening’ from classroom-level discussions or awareness-raising exercise onto a level of sustained inquiry and engagement through projects, and then towards creating lasting impact through green movements within a school or institution. This is excellent – it recognizes that teachers will be approaching ‘greening’ from different stages along the journey, and while they can dip into the resource simply for a classroom idea, they can also move through the resource with clear direction and larger-scale purpose. Clever, I thought. But then the writer is a consultant in this area, so, pfff probably sounds obvious to them! Haha.

Aside (for Adrienn specifically) – a nod to translanguaging in the intro:

Approach to the activities

This is a 120-odd page resource book including 50 activities. So, they’ve gone for concise: information on level, purpose, (functional) language focus, procedure, sometimes some links where relevant, info about differentiating across primary/secondary etc. Here’s what an activity looks like:

Similar to Hall’s book I reviewed recently. Certainly enough information to use as a springboard. As the author states in the intro, teachers will be adapting this for their own contexts, so a full kinda worksheet approach isn’t necessary (perhaps not helpful even). There are some prompts for the functional language and skills learners are likely to need during the activity. Less experienced teachers may feel the need for more support on that front, e.g. some examples of sentence starters, process language, a list of phrases worth teaching, and so on. Again though, it’s a bit beyond the scope of the book, and perhaps better to let the language needs evolve and give more emphasis to the content here. Works fine for me. I don’t know if the level needs to be mentioned to be honest.

Contents in each chapter

There are five chapters/sections. Each includes 10 activities.

Chapter 1 – Greening your Classroom

Activities include creating green spaces, writing green commitments, delegating green roles to students, basically classroom-level initiatives. There are also some links to resources for learners and teachers (CPD-related). Overall there are some useful ideas here, but I feel like some are a bit too general. For example, there is one on leading in-house workshops which makes a good point (be an agitator!) but could provide at least a few general bullet points for directions! E.g. ‘Why not do a workshop on…’ I know its all about context but…

Anyway: overall section rating for me 7/10

Chapter 2 – Greening your Lessons and Teaching Materials

Includes ideas for providing green hooks in lessons, using images effectively, relating lessons to the SDGs, creating a bank of green materials for use across the school, etc. This is a strong section with tons useful tips!

Aside

A couple of points I’d add on a practical level here would be:

This is part of the ‘look for the hook’ info (note this does continues in the book with good examples – this section overall is more substantial):

In my previous context, I tried to drive teachers (albeit subtly) towards cross-curricular hooks. See the ideas in this previous post (e.g. prompting a discussion on themes) which could be adapted to a green focus and used as a basis for a workshop. This relates to a later idea in the book about going cross-curricular too.

The other thing – the SDGs. I find this comic really useful for introducing the topic for EAL at both primary and secondary.

Overall section rating: 9/10

Chapter 3 – Involving Learners in Green Initiatives

Ideas for relating green issues to learners’ everyday lives outside the classroom. These include: raising awareness of carbon footprint, planting trees/veg, animal adoption, green-themed days. Looking at this list of activities as a whole, I was surprised just how many initiatives like this were part of my previous school – wow. Anyhow, this again is a strong section with ideas for really engaging the learners in the topic. Arguably this is the most important section for me too, the ‘lets take this beyond just the classroom’ bit. Love it.

Section rating: 9.5/10

Chapter 4 – Green Project-based Lessons

These ideas are slightly longer on the procedures front (2-3 pages). They provide some great ideas for more sustained inquiry on the topic, examples include: in-school recycling projects, evaluating how green your home is, design green homes, etc. While this book is aimed at those in ELT, I feel like this section would be useful for PYP teachers who have some flexibility regarding the focus of inquiry they can take. If you teach at the BC, this is a nice section to be thinking ‘right, I’m going to scrap this Primary Plus booklet and build something more engaging and useful around these ideas!’ Some of them are already a bit Secondary Plussy actually.

Overall section rating: 8/10

Chapter 5 – Creating a Green Movement in your School

These are whole-school ideas that typically involve getting advocacy and support from senior leaders/other stakeholders at the school. They include things like creating an eco-policy, engaging with suppliers, going cross curriculum and so on. As I said, I’m glad the author chose to move the resource towards these whole-school ideas. I’d have liked a tad more advice mentioned on how to go about them though. Some of them, like the idea on agreeing a school eco-policy, include guiding questions to at least get the reader started. Others, like I mentioned the cross-curricular one, hint at importance but don’t really suggest practical tips as such. Still, good points are made in this section for sure.

Overall section rating: 8 ish. Maybe 9 ish for relevance, but 7.5/8 for execution.

Overall

This book is packed with useful ideas for putting green issues on the agenda. It is organized logically, moving from classroom-level initiatives through to prompting change at whole-school level, remaining highly practical throughout. There could be a tad more detail and guidance at times, although the concise nature of the resource does make it very readable, and there’s usually enough there for teachers to run with. There’s undoubtedly a need for this resource and I would highly recommend it for those working in ELT as well as those in international school contexts.

Rating:

Right, before you complain about my maths re: averages for each section, I’m adding marks for general relevance/usefulness etc.

4.5/5

Buy it here.



Categories: General, reviews

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