ESD resources for ESOL practitioners

This page hosts education for sustainable development (ESD) resources for educators, teachers and practitioners who teach English for speakers of other languages (ESOL).

These resources were commissioned by the ETF, delivered by HOLEX and developed and tested by Manchester Adult Education Service, Idea Store at Tower Hamlets Council and Westminster Adult Education Service.

Although developed within an adult education context, these resources will be applicable to ESOL teams in other further education settings too.

An important note on how to use these resources

The various resources outlined below provide ESOL practitioners with inspiration, resources to ‘adapt and adopt’, and tools to better understand and enhance your ESD practice.

In most cases the resources have been designed for level 2 learners and many include stretch and extension exercises. However, for the resources to be impactful, it’s vital educators ensure they’re fit-for-purpose for their learners, their current language proficiency, and their local context. Some things to consider include:

  • Vocabulary load, that is what words and concepts are unfamiliar to learners at different levels across the range of E1 to L2.  Research shows that learners do not get the meaning of a text if they don’t understand just 5% of the words within it. This shifts as learners develop their language skills but especially for lower level learners, vocabulary in the resources needs to be checked and simplified.
  • Vocabulary frequency also needs to be given more consideration. Vocabulary development for lower level learners needs to focus on commonly used words and concepts – e.g. ‘pledge’ is used rarely, and a word such as ‘promise’ is much more relevant to know and teach.
  • Learners should undertake explorative and familiarising tasks first, before moving onto information manipulation and task-based work.
  • Due consideration needs to be given to different interpretations of sustainability and how these concepts are viewed in students’ country of origin, compared to the UK.  This has implications for how the content will be delivered and how learners may interpret content.

Getting started with ESD resources

You may want to start with the ESD curriculum audit for ESOL practitioners (Word 1.9MB). In recognition that many ESOL practitioners already incorporate opportunities for learners to further develop their understanding of sustainability, including environmental, social and economic issues, this audit tool will enable ESOL leads to work with practitioners to highlight and share existing effective practice and ideas, as well as identify opportunities for further development.

Sustainability Starts

One simple way to bring ESD into your teaching and learning practice is through the use of Sustainability Starts – a simple activity to build understanding about each of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals whilst also developing their English language skills. These are a flexible resource which can be used in a variety of ways, for example as warmer or filler activities or as introductions to topics that can be developed further into a whole class discussion or a guided debate. They’re available in both digital (pptx 5.9MB) and printable formats (pptx 3.6MB) (PDF 2.2MB).

The Green Week toolkit

A popular way to raise awareness of sustainability issues and engage your colleagues and community in developing your whole-institution approach to ESD is by hosting a green week. The green week toolkit including lesson and workshop plans (Word 3.4MB) provides suggestions and learnings from those who’ve already successfully hosted events on suitable activities and suggested partners.

A map of potential partners and sustainability organisations who could contribute to your ESD work has also been developed. Feel free to add to this with your own suggestions.

As part of the Green Week toolkit, a number of teaching resources have been developed including lesson plans and accompanying resources such as slide decks, handouts and planning documents such as risk assessments. These are suitable for Level 2 learners and many include stretch and extension activities.

They’ve been designed so that you can either use a standalone lesson or workshop in isolation to embed into your curriculum or you can use all the toolkit across one or two weeks in a Green Week style event.

Resources to tackle local sustainability issues

To further enhance learners’ skills and agency, a second set of teaching resources have been developed, again including teachers notes (pptx 0.8MB) and slides (pptx 1.1MB), that cover how to tackle and change local sustainability issues. The aim is to provide learners with the vocabulary and language structures to enable them to take action to address their concerns by using their local authority residents’ website.

Many resources are still reliant on the traditional letter of complaint. By encouraging learners to engage in social justice through twenty-first century means, the hope is that it will provide them with the confidence to do so on an ongoing basis thereby fostering community cohesion.

Collectively, these lessons, workshops and tools not only develop learners’ language skills and sustainability knowledge, but also their skills and agency related to developing more sustainable futures.

We’d love to receive any feedback you have about these resources, and ideas for future support you need in enhancing your ESD practice.

To inform our work, or for more information about how to get support with your ESD work, please get in touch.

Finally, the ETF would like to thank all those who have contributed to the development of these resources, including those who wrote, tested and reviewed them.

Further support for ESOL practitioners is available here

More information on ESD is available on our ESD page.