Burkini Ban: a conversation lesson

The burkini ban created some outrage last week and I thought it would be a good topic for a conversation lesson. The text I chose also touches on the subject of politics, which can be a good segue to talk about other events in Brazil.

This was originally used with a group of C1/C2 teachers, but I have shortened the text. Still, some of the language used in the text is complex and I’d recommend you use it with B2+ students. This discussion is also more appropriate for a group of adults or young adults.

Start by showing students this picture and asking if they had seen it before. Elicit where the women are and what they know about the picture.

Burkini 1

Now ask students to discuss the following question in pairs.

Who is wearing appropriate clothes for the sport? Why?

a. Both women

b. Neither woman

c. One of them

The point here is to draw students’ attention to the difference in culture, but also to the fact that neither outfit looks particularly comfortable to play beach volleyball.

After the discussion, show students the next picture and elicit how much they know about it (where it was taken, what is happening to the woman).Burkini 2

Now tell students to watch a video and check their predictions.

(Play the first 20 seconds of the video)

Now play the rest of the video and ask students to answer these questions.

  • How have other countries reacted to the burkini ban?
  • What is the purpose of the burkini, according to a designer?

Let students compare answers and then check it with the whole group. As a follow-up, ask students to give their opinions on the topic.

  • Are you in favour or against the ban? Why?
  • Would it bother you if women were wearing burkinis at the beach in Brazil?

Now show students the second video and ask students to answer this questions.

  • Why has the decision been suspended?

Get students to compare answers in pairs and then check with the whole group. Ask students if they agree with the suspension being lifted.

Now tell students they are going to read a text written by a Muslim man on this topic. Ask students to guess if the article is going to be in favour or against the bans.

Show students the title of the article (Both Sides Are Wrong in the Burkini Wars) and get them to brainstorm what the author might say in the article. After about a minute or two, elicit ideas from students and board them.

Give them a short time (30-40 seconds) to have a quick look at the text and see if their ideas appear in the text.

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

Both sides are wrong -Daily Beast-

After checking if students’ ideas appear in the text, give them more time to read the text fully and answer the question below.

  • Why does the author think both sides are wrong?
  • Why does he say banning the burkini is political opportunism?
  • Why does he say this is what terrorists want?
  • What should women wear to the beach, according to the author?

Let students compare their answers and then check with the whole group.

As a follow -up, ask students to discuss the following question.

  • Is banning the burkini similar to the fact that being topless on the beach is illegal in Brazil? Why or why not?

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

a zero-sum game

to endorse


to kickstart

to debunk


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. Make sure you mention that propaganda has a negative connotation in English.

For some contextualized practice, you could get students to discuss the questions below. Because the text talks about politics in France I thought it would be appropriate to have questions about politics in Brazil.

  • Do you agree that a lot of posts on Facebook nowadays look like political propaganda?
  • With elections looming do you think political conversations are going to be more frequent?
  • Would you endorse any politicians with a sticker in your car?
  • Have seen any candidates who kickstarted their campaigns with ‘santinhos’? Is the city dirtier because of that?
  • Do you think agreeing with left/right wing ideas is a zero-sum game?
  • Do you trust magazines or websites who debunk lies candidates say?

Thanks for reading

[EDIT]: Reader Victor Viana has kindly prepared a powerpoint presentation for this lesson. You can find it here.




4 thoughts on “Burkini Ban: a conversation lesson

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