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Sparking Their Curiosity: Pairing Trends with Language Learning

November 15, 2019

A naturally curious mind takes interest in a wide range of subjects to find connections to help solve everyday problems better.

—Thomas Oppong

We often hear the saying that all knowledge starts with curiosity. This week, while listening to a podcast, I heard something that made even more sense than that. Brené Brown, a social scientist, suggests that we need to know at least a little bit about something in order to become curious about it.

You can use current events and trends to spark your students’ curiosity. Once they know a little bit (and show interest in learning more), follow up with one or more of our topical lesson plans.

Trending This Week: The Bay of Fundy

If your students have never been to the east coast of Canada, they may have no knowledge, and likewise no curiosity, about the Bay of Fundy, one of North America’s natural wonders. A report that came out this week had #BayofFundy trending on Twitter and inspired this post.

Researchers have just finished surveying the seafloor of the Bay of Fundy and reported finding 1.8 million items of trash. Plastic bags made up approximately half of the litter that was found.

Pairing Trends with Topical Lessons

Now that you have this little bit of knowledge, are you curious to learn more? This is where ESL Library comes in.

After finding an interesting news item that sparks your students’ interest, visit ESL Library and search for related lessons. For this week’s trend, you would find a Famous Places lesson on the Bay of Fundy. In our Discussion Starters section, you would also find related lessons on Ocean Garbage and Banning Plastic Bags.

If you’re interested in the flipped classroom approach, you could assign some digital tasks to your students from The Bay of Fundy lesson.* In addition to learning about the world, your students can increase their vocabulary, improve their reading and listening comprehension, and practice speaking about relevant topics that people in their communities are also discussing. They’ll also improve their digital literacy.

As your students learn a bit about this natural wonder of the world, you may notice their curiosity heading down another path. They might show interest in learning about other environmental issues or other famous Canadian places. They may even show interest in researching other natural wonders of the world, such as Mount Everest or The Great Barrier Reef.


As an ESL Library subscriber on a Standard plan, the Read & Listen digital task is available for you to assign to your students. As a Plus user, all of the interactive tasks are available to assign for homework or in‑class use.


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Comments (1)

Joanna P.(Teacher)

In my New Jersey high school ESL class for mixed levels we did an entire 3 week unit on Ocean Pollution. I have used the Ocean Garbage and World Ocean Day packet as a vocabulary builder and practice the reading comprehension. I have also used outside reading to supplement the lessons. I did a lot of DO NOWs showing pictures from National Geographic Videos and Pictures of Ocean Plastic and Ocean Pollution. I used a lot of Graphic Organizer such as Cause and Effect, Problem/Solution. We did essays using supplemental reading on How does Ocean Pollution and in particular the Red Tide in Siesta Key, Florida negatively impact Tourism? We did a reading on the Florida Red Tide that I found online regarding most updated news about Red Tide in Florida. We also used NOAA and other scientific websites that explain in greater detail on the causes of Ocean Pollution.


Then last, we did a Problem/Solution Graphic Organizer based on the WasteShark from Ranmarine.


The students really enjoyed this unit. They actually told me today that the Ocean Garbage packet was very difficult as they have never heard of this vocabulary. We have practiced the vocabulary so many times now that I plan on assessing them on the spelling and meaning. I will ask them to illustrate a drawing of the meaning of this vocabulary word. I plan on saving this UNIT in my teacher files and will use it over and over in future years. I think this unit is a great transition into Climate Change.

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