Susie Wolff and International Women’s Day: a conversation lesson

Being the unaware man that I am, I only remembered today was International Women’s Day when I checked Facebook this morning. As luck would have it, I was already planning to have a lesson about Susie Wolff, because of a quote I came across last week.

In a short interview, she said: “We are all defined by our strengths and character, not by our gender.” I thought that would strike a chord with my female students, but decided to expand the lesson a bit to generate more conversation.

I do realize she is now retired, but the point is women achieving things in a field dominated by man. She now runs the Dare to be Different initiative to showcase, inspire and celebrate women in motor sports.

Start the lesson by showing students the picture below. Don’t tell them the name of the person, but ask them to guess what her profession is.

Susie Wolff.jpg

If your students are anything like mine, their guesses are going to be things like actress or model. Ask them to justify their answers before showing the second picture of Susie Wolff.

Susie Wolff, Williams F1 Development Driver


Ask students if they would like to change their guesses. Tell them this is Susie Wolff, who was the first woman to drive in Formula 1 in 26 years.

As a follow-up, put students in trios or small groups and ask them to discuss what stereotypes they think women may suffer from. After 2-3 minutes, turn this into a whole group discussion.

Now tell students they are going to read an article from Vogue magazine about Susie Wolff. The original article was heavily edited for length and can be found here. My adapted version is below.

Fast and Fabulous (Vogue)

Ask students if they are familiar with Vogue. If they aren’t, tell them it’s a fashion and lifestyle magazine. Show them the title of the article (Fast and Fabulous) and ask them to predict its content. Elicit ideas and board them. Then, give students 2 minutes to have a quick look at the text and check their predictions.

Now show students the specific information questions. Tell them they are going to have more time to finish reading the text and answer these.

  • What do you think of Bernie Ecclestone’s comments in the first paragraph?
  • What is the stereotype of women in Formula 1 in the last few decades?
  • Why is there so much secrecy surrounding Formula 1 cars?
  • What is Wolff’s background in racing?
  • Was it easy for her to become a Formula 1 driver?
  • Why did she drive a pink car in Germany? Did she like it?

Give students a chance to compare their answers in pairs before checking with the whole group.

To wrap up this discussion, ask students to compare race-car driving to their own professions and whether women face the same or different challenges than Susie Wolff did.

You can also use this video from Microsoft made for International Women’s Day as a way of generating further discussion.

Tell students to pay attention to following questions as they watch the video:

  • What is the message of the video?
  • Do you think it’s an important one? Why?

Get students to discuss these in trios or small groups. Afterwards, ask students if they think this and other similar initiatives can affect future generations.

Alternatively, go back to the text and work with the vocabulary that appears in bold.

  • to make a remark
  • to cope with
  • be at stake
  • prying eyes
  • to underestimate
  • to run in the family
  • to struggle to/with

You can provide definitions for students to match these to or ask them to try to guess meaning from context in pairs. After you have clarified the meaning and pronunciation, get students to answer some questions using this target language.

  • Have you had any teachers or professors who made inappropriate remarks in class?
  • Do you find it easy to cope with all the aspects of your routine?
  • Have you ever felt underestimated by someone at work?
  • What sort of things run in your family?
  • What’s at stake when you make a mistake in your profession?
  • If you are struggling with a personal problem, who do you usually ask for advice?

As a freer practice activity you can get students to create their own questions or to create a dialogue that includes 2-3 of these. You could also give students a topic for conversation (e.g. what are your plans for the next holiday weekend?) and tell them to use 2-3 of these expressions while they discuss the topic with their partner.

Thanks for reading.

7 thoughts on “Susie Wolff and International Women’s Day: a conversation lesson

  1. I loved this lesson, Ricardo.
    My favourite part was the Microsoft video! Fantastic….
    Thank you for these lovely, well made and thought provoking lessons you provide us.


  2. Adorei, Ricardo! Não chorei com esse haha mas entendo você…

    E super dá para trabalhar Simple Present, Verb To Be e professions haha 🙂

    Obrigada por partilhar…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Casey Affleck and International Women’s day: a conversation lesson | ricardo barros elt

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