Lesson Plan: The Harmful Effects of Microplastics

Author: Joshua Werner

Page one on the worksheet is a nice warmer which was taken from Harmer (2007:288). The table creates a motivation for the learners to find out what is to follow and activates their schemata of knowledge (Harmer 2007:288). This approach in line with the principles of green pedagogy as it activates systemic knowledge and leads to metacognition (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:6;13;31).

The reading task to follow is intended to teach the learners new vocabulary and reading skills which are in line with the Austrian upper secondary curriculum (please refer to the lesson plan for details). This includes a scanning activity (Richards 2015:460) which is accomplished by a matching task (Thornbury 1999:97). These are followed by an exercise where reading for detail is required and a cloze exercise: rephrased sentences from the text where the key-words are omitted which is to see how well the main content of the text is understood (Tanner 1998:63). The past reading stage involves a set of questions emotionally connecting the readers to the text content which leads me to an additional elaboration considering the task from the perspective of green pedagogy.

The students are introduced to the topic of microplastics pollution and its effects on major parts of our lives from a social, environmental and economic perspective. It, therefore, points at the so called hotspots (Green Pedagogy Manual, 2018:12). The text is supposed to have a shocking effect to its readers and is aimed to first provoke then lead to and finally answer the question: “Why is this topic relevant to me?” (Green Pedagogy Manual, p.12). It further aims to trigger the question: “How likely is this to be a realistic scenario?” or in other words it reactivates systematic knowledge and repeats the question which was already brought up in the explanation of page one of the worksheet: “What knowledge do I already have that can help me answer this question?” (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:12).

Exercise 4 is meant to lead to an emotional involvement in the topic and provides a first metacognitive look at one’s own value systems (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:19).

Exercise 5 is an activity to prepare the class for the tasks to follow were respectful interaction is key when collecting and exchanging points of view. Additionally, it is a warm up for the mediation with other people (Green Pedagogy, 2018:5). It enables the learners to participate and cooperate in creative and practice-oriented teaching-learning settings (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:12). While all parts of the exercise are intended to develop community and help to foster the feasibility of social exchange, part “c” does so by, once again, provoking metacognition as the learners have to reflect on their own behavior (Green Pedagogy, 2018:30-31).

Exercise 6 is an extension to “4”; however, now the learners start exchanging opinions in a controlled manner (i.e. an interview). Therefore, social exchange is taken to the next step and different perspectives and value systems are shown (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:19). Due to the preparing step of Exercise 5, the students must respect the other’s opinion. The so-called “clarified hostility” (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:19) should be felt for the first time.

In the following task (i.e. exercise 7) there is provocation in various ways. This is the last step in several stages of provocation and irritation. The latter two should reach a kind of climax here. The students have to reflect on the writer’s opinion who describes a worst case scenario. Then they have to reflect on their own personal values. This followed by direct interaction with peers of different opinions and with different values. Summarizing the 2 opposing and 3 common views is meant to remove the potential tension between the students. Particularly the latter is meant to show that we are human beings with common goals and values who may have different opinions. These differences in points of view should trigger the motivation to learn more about the topic (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:6).

Seeing so many different perspectives, the learners are also supposed to notice that their individual ways are not the only ones. Different points of view entail different argumentations. This influence of multiple perspectives is meant to have a deconstructing effect that asks the question: “Who is right now?”. This breaks up linear thinking patterns (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:31) and paves the way for co- construction of newly formed strategies (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:11).

In the project work stage, the students get the chance to research and find out about facts related to the topic. In addition, the exchange with the group and the whole class takes place. As per the Green Pedagogy Manual this process is meant to “allow the systematization and the formation of rational patterns which help to clarify and justify assumption in order to become assertions that can be applied models (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:12). However, in this case the applied model is the learners’ future behavior. Furthermore, the final step serves as a feedback method and an evaluation stage (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:13)

In the post presentation stage, reflection and evaluation play an important role. Metacognition is key here (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:13). The final step of meditation on and evaluation of one’s own learning process and ultimately one’s value systems is meant to take place here. This is intended to reflect itself in every individual’s behavior as values have a strong influence on our actions (Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:19)

Forming a goal to pursue for three months is meant to create a habit in the students to stabilize the newly learned values within their minds. In the words of Bourdieu to shape the habitus (Bourdieu in Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:10).

This lesson plan is in line with the requirement to provide as much learner autonomy as possible; as per the Green Pedagogy Manual: “According to Siebert (2009) learning processes need to importantly take into account learners’ self-organization, as learners decide which contents are meaningful, whether uncertainties exist or if further steps of learning are required and thus teaching and learning needs to be regarded from the point of view of the theory of self-determination.”(Green Pedagogy Manual 2018:9). Scaffolding is provided throughout the lesson plan as the students gradually achieve more and more autonomy in working on the topic as well as in the interaction with each other until they finally act individually based on their own personal goals.

The final discussion three months later has another metacognitive function. Final feedback can be provided here. Additionally, this concept shows appreciation for each student’s hard work as she/he receives the opportunity to share individual experiences.