Charity Water: a conversation lesson


Most of the ideas for lessons I post here come from either a video I come across on Facebook or something I read in online editions of newspapers. This one, however, comes from a podcast.

I’ve been doing a lot of driving recently and podcasts keep me entertained. The best one I listened to this year was an interview with Charity Water’s founder Scott Harrison, which you can find here. It really struck a chord with me and I thought it could generate meaningful conversation with my adult students.

This lesson is aimed at students who are B2 or above, but can be easily adapted for B1 students if you don’t use the podcast snippet.

Started by asking students this question.

  • How many of the things you did today before coming to class used water?

Tell them you are interested in menial things like brushing their teeth or having a coffee. Give students a minute to brainstorm ideas and then ask them to compare what they did with other students. If you have a larger group, you can ask students to stand up and mingle in order to find the person that had the most things in common.

After that, put students in pairs or trios and ask them to discuss the following questions. Depending on the level of your students, you may want to clarify ‘take for granted‘.

  • How difficult would your day be if you had no access to water for 24-hours? Why?
  • Do you think we take clean water for granted? Why?

Allow students to exchange ideas for a few minutes and then elicit some opinions. After that, show students the image below and ask them if they have heard of Charity: Water.

Charity Water

If students haven’t heard about it, ask them to guess what kind of organization it is, then   play the video for students to check their answers.

Play the video again and ask students to answer these questions.

  • How long do people have to walk to get water?
  • What kinds of diseases does dirty water have?
  • How many people does dirty water kill?
  • What are the positive consequences of having access to clean water?

Get students to compare answers and check with the whole group.

Put students into new groups and ask them to discuss the following questions

  • How did you celebrate your last birthday? Did you throw a party?
  • Did people give you gifts? How did you like them?
  • How do you think birthdays can be related to charity?

After a few minutes, elicit some ideas from the whole group and explore possible ways a birthday can be related to charity.

Now tell students they are going to listen to an interview with Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity: Water. Students need to pay attention to these questions. I should warn you that this can get a little emotional.

  • When did Scott come up with the idea of donating a birthday?
  • How does ‘donating a birthday’ work?
  • Why is Rachel’s story special?
  • How much money was she able to raise?

Play the interview from 49:00 to 53:59

Get students to compare answers and then check with the whole group. If necessary, replay parts of the interview students may need to get specific answers. At the end, for example, he says lots of numbers which may confuse students.

Now get students to discuss these follow-up questions:

  • Do you think this is a good idea? Why or why not?
  • Would you consider donating your birthday to charity? Why or why not?
  • Do you think something like this would work in Brazil? Why or why not?

After a few minutes, elicit ideas from the whole group and make sure to ask students if they agree with each other’s opinions. This could be a good moment to introduce new ways of agreeing and disagreeing (such as ‘I agree to some extent, but…’).

Students are now going to read an interview with Scott Harrison. The original interview can be found here and my adapted version is below.

Scott Harrison – Charity Water (Forbes)

  • What was Scott’s life like before he started doing charity work?
  • Are the values in his company similar to that of other companies? How so?
  • What has been the key to their marketing success?
  • How do they provide clean water to people?
  • What tips does Scott have for people that want to create their own business?

Get students to compare answers in pairs and then check with the whole group. As a follow-up, ask students to discuss if Scott’s tips at the end of the article are relevant for their jobs.

Alternatively, you could also go back to the text and explore the vocabulary that appears in bold.

an entrepreneur

to end up (doing something)

a (conservative) upbringing

to relish (doing something)

to stand out

to seek out

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. Also, work with the catenation in ‘end up’, ‘stand out’ and ‘seek out’.

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

  • Is anyone in your family an entrepreneur? Is that an easy lifestyle?
  • How did you end up studying __ at university? Was it an easy decision?
  • Do you have any friends who stand out (because of their ideas, clothes, etc)?
  • Do you relish the idea of continue working at your company for many years?
  • What kind of upbringing did you have? Did your parents encourage you to learn English from an early age?
  • How often do you seek out information in books/texts in English?

Thanks for reading



One thought on “Charity Water: a conversation lesson

  1. Pingback: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish | ricardo barros elt

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