Wage Equality – A conversation lesson for adults

This past week my dear friend Natália Guerreiro drew my attention to a blogpost by Elaine Hodgson on critical thinking in the EFL classroom. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d encourage you to do so.

Critical thinking and taboo topics are things I often think about. They were the inspiration for my first ever lesson on the blog (about drugs, in June of last year). I’m hoping this week’s lesson will be no different, as I usually try to choose topics that may lead to interesting discussions and, hopefully, some critical thinking.

Start this lesson by showing students the title of the video and elicit what ‘wage gap’ means. You may also want to get into the difference between wage and salary.

After that, show students these while-watching questions:

  • What point is the video trying to make?
  • What would happen if someone did the same thing as Alison in a real job?

Give students a minute or two to discuss their answers and then open it to the whole group. As a follow-up, put students in trios and ask them to discuss these questions:

  • Is this practice fair?
  • Does this kind of thing also happen in Brazil?

Give them a couple of minutes to think about them and then elicit ideas and opinions from the whole group.

Now, to prepare students for the text, show them the picture of the US Women’s soccer team. Ask them if they know who the women are and why they have been in the news recently.

Wage Equality

If students don’t know much about them, which is likely, tell the group they are going to read an article explaining why the US Women’s national team is taking their federation to court. Ask students to guess why and give them 30 seconds to confirm it.

The original article can be found here and my adapted version is below.

Wage Equality (NYT)

After checking the gist question, show students the specific information questions and allow more time for them to read the text.

  • How did U.S. Soccer federation react to the federal complaint?
  • What are the opinions of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic on this topic?
  • How much do women football players earn compared to men?
  • Is it legal to pay different salaries for people who do the same job in the USA?

Let students check their answers in pairs, and then check them with the whole group. After that, let students discuss in small groups whether they support the US Women’s national team claim. I have heard some interesting arguments about it, and if students only come up with one side of it, it may be worth it playing devil’s advocate to make the discussion more interesting.

Point 1: Men’s soccer generates more money worldwide, so they should be paid more.

Point 2: The US Women’s national team is much more successful than the Men’s, so they should get paid more.

Point 3: In sports such as Tennis (as it is mentioned in the article) women often get paid the same as men. Why should football be any different?

You could also go back to the text and work with the vocabulary highlighted in bold. These are the ones I chose to work with:

to make strides

to sell out

to weigh in

ought to


to strike someone as

(have) a bias

Either give students definitions for them to match or ask them to guess the meaning of the words/expressions in pairs (which works better with higher levels). Either way, concept check the expressions before moving on to practice exercises. For instance, it’s a good idea to point out that sell out is often used in the passive or that weigh in means giving your opinion or getting in a discussion forcefully.

A simple way of giving students controlled practice of these items is to get them to ask and answer some discussion questions.

  • Have you ever tried to go to an event that was sold out?
  • Do you think everybody ought to speak English nowadays?
  • Do you have any friends who strike people as being calm but who are anything but?
  • Does it bother you if your parents weigh in on your life?
  • Why do you think most Brazilians have a strong bias for or against the government?
  • In recent years, has Brazil made strides when it comes to the economy?
  • Is there revenue sharing in the company where you work?

Alternatively, you could show students a snippet from the video below to generate more conversation.

This is a long video, do I recommend using the bit from 2:41 to 5:38. To give students some context, check whether they know who John Oliver is.

Show them the following questions

  • How do some people try to justify the wage gap?
  • How can a woman avoid the wage gap?
  • How does a monkey react to being underpaid?

To finish things off let students compare their answers before a final group discussion. Ask them if they have any suggestions to deal with this problem (which could also be used for a homework writing activity).

Thanks for reading

4 thoughts on “Wage Equality – A conversation lesson for adults

  1. Pingback: Impeachment, what happens next? – A conversation lesson | ricardo barros elt

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