Orlando Shooting: a conversation lesson

Although the events that took place in Orlando this past weekend were horrific, I think they are worth discussing with students. From a language perspective, much like the topic of impeachment, things like terrorism, homophobia and gun laws have frequently come up in the news recently. An important part of conversation lessons is to empower students to talk about these.

This is a lesson that can be used with both adolescents and adults, as this is a subject I believe everybody can benefit from discussing and being better informed about.

Start the lesson by showing students the pictures below and eliciting what they are about.


Put students in pairs or trios and ask them to tell each other how much they know about the topic. Give students a minute or two to discuss it and then board their contributions (things like number of victims, where the event took place, etc.)

Now tell students they are going to watch a video with some factual information about the attack. As a gist task, ask students to see if any of the information they came up with appears in the video.

Click here for the video.



Show the video again, but now tell students to answer the questions below.

  • Where is the shooter from?
  • Did Obama say the attack was directed by Isis?
  • What did the shooter’s ex-wife and father say about him?

As a follow-up, ask students to discuss if they think something like this has happened or might happen in Brazil.

Students are now going to read an article from The Guardian. I actually adapted this from two different articles. If you’d rather use something more authentic, you can find the originals here and here. My adapted version is below.

Let’s not give in to fear after the Orlando shooting (The Guardian)

You may also want to pre-teach the word queer, as it appears many times in the article and some students may not be familiar with it. Then tell students to read the article and answer these questions.

  • What is the importance of nightclubs in the LGBT community?
  • How does terrorism affect people, according to the article?
  • Why does the author say prayers are not enough?
  • Does the author blame Muslims for the attack?

After checking the answers put students in small groups and ask them to discuss the questions below.

  • Are you in favour of people being able to buy guns easily? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree that prayers are not enough? Why or why not?
  • What can be done to prevent future attacks like these?

After 3-4 minutes, turn this into a whole group discussion.

You could also show students these different newspaper front pages and discuss how each one covered the story. It may lead to an interesting discussion about tabloid and broadsheet newspapers.

Finally, you can go back to the text and explore the vocabulary that appears in bold.

to give in (to)

in the wake of

to turn to

to make out

to unfold

to smear

(find) solace (in)

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. You could also focus on the pronunciation fo ‘smear‘ and the catenation in ‘make out’, ‘give in’ or ‘wake of’.

For some contextualized practice, you could get students to discuss the questions below.

  • Is it fair that Muslims get smeared every time there is a new attack like this?
  • Who or what do you find solace in when you are going through difficult times?
  • Who do you turn to when you need advice?
  • Do you think there may be changes in gun laws in the USA in the wake of this tragedy?
  • Where do you look for news if you want to see a story like this unfold? (e.g. TV, the internet, etc.)
  • Is it easy not to give in to fear after an attack like this? Why?

Finally, I asked my students to watch this video for homework, where Anderson Cooper pays tribute to all the victims of the shooting. It’s a tearjerker and possibly too long to use in the classroom, but I think it helps drive the point home.

Thanks for reading

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