Lesson Plan: The Overton Window

I don’t believe in P.A.R.S.N.I.P.S when it comes to teaching adults. Things are happening in the world, and they’re not always great, so why should we avoid discussing them? That’s why I decided to bring up this topic in class and see where it gets us.

The lesson is based on this authentic video. You’ll also need this worksheet and these slides.
Level: B2-C1
Duration: 60-90 mins
Procedure:

0. WARM-UP/LEAD-IN
1) *SLIDE 1* Students discuss the question in pairs. Then do the whole-class feedback.
Notes: Since the outbreak of the coronavirus has been the only topic people are discussing here in Japan, you might want to change this question to a more specific one, for example, how did you feel when you first heard of Trump’s politics? And how do they feel now whenever they hear any recent news?
2) *SLIDE 2* Show students the term and ask if anyone knows what this is. It’s doubtful there’ll be anyone in your classroom who knows this term so this should serve as a meaningful lead-in to the topic. Tell students that they’re going to get to know what the Overton Window is right now.

I. LISTENING
1) *SLIDE 3* Pre-teach these words before listening.
Notes: you might want to check the transcript of the video though to see if there are any other words your students might need to be pre-taught.
2) Students watch the video and take notes to answer the questions in Task I  in the Worksheet (What is the Overton Window?). Do a pair check followed by the whole-class feedback.
Notes: Here, I let my students take as much time as they needed to discuss this concept. One of my students came up with a really simple explanation using her engagement and wedding rings. I definitely didn’t see that coming, but other students in the group found this example rather exciting.
3) Students listen again and fill in the gaps in Task II (re-play certain parts when needed). Conduct a pair check followed by the whole-class feedback. Use *SLIDE 4* for students to check the spelling.
Here, if time allows, you can focus on the features of connected speech; drill pronunciation; clarify the meaning of any unknown words; let students come up with their own examples using those words, etc.

II. TASK
1) Students look at the empty graph first *SLIDE 5* and familiarize themselves with it. Explain that the right/red side is for liberal ideas/policies and the left/blue one is for conservative ideas/policies.
2) Show them the filled graph *SLIDE 6* and let them analyze it.
Notes: The sample graph uses the example of gun law and policy so you might want to guide your students a bit and help them out on the way. Ask them if the ‘normal’ range is the same in their countries. My students found this example interesting and ended up having a several-minute discussion on gun policies in different countries (even though they’re IT people).
3) Students fill in the graphs in Task III. Depending on how much time you have, you can either ask them to choose one or tell them to do all three. Give them some time to write down their ideas and then let them compare and discuss in pairs. Move to groups of four or whole class (depending on how many people you have; I only had 4).
Notes: My students found the first topic (alcohol policy) to be the easiest so we focused on that one.

III. CLOSING
1) *SLIDE 7* Students discuss the questions in pairs or groups of three.
Notes: My time management sucks; we almost ran out of time here so I had to end up with focusing on Q2 only and do it in a teacher-fronted manner. However, since there were only 4 people, and together we’re a very cohesive group, this still felt cool and students were eager to interact.
2) Ask each pair/group to share the highlights of their discussions.
3) Q&A or whatever you do at the end of your classes.

(Download the Teacher’s notes.)

Let me know if you decide to try this lesson plan out, and I’d be grateful if you could share how it went!

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