Learn, Think, Act: Implementing Global Citizenship One Coffee at a Time

Ah, coffee! If you’re like me, you need a good ol’ cup of java to start your day. Everyone is thirsty for coffee in North America, so it’s a great topic to tackle in the ELT classroom. It’s universal, yet there is a dark side to America’s favourite beverage: the economic disparity between growers and consumers and the unsustainable growing methods that are destroying our planet!

Use Oxfam’s Learn, Think, Act framework to implement global citizenship education in your classroom to take a deeper look into social and environmental issues, develop self-awareness in your learners, and get them to take action.

Learn: Content is Key

Global citizens are informed. Universal topics related to social and environmental issues are not only are rich topics for learning language, but also prepare learners with valuable real-world knowledge. Explore the effects of the coffee trade in your class with a social/environmental focus. Start your unit with an essential question, such as ‘’How do the products we consume on a daily basis affect society and the environment?’’

Using authentic web-based articles, a documentary, or news clips will help students discover how many farmers in coffee-growing countries live in extreme poverty and how unsustainable farming methods lead to deforestation. Visit the Fair Trade website to learn how their mission supports the values of global citizenship, fights poverty, and promotes equality. One student from Morocco said, “I found this topic very interesting. I learned information that I didn’t know before. Also this project treats an actual problem that people are not aware of at all.’’

Think: Connect and Reflect

Global citizens have self-awareness. They critically examine their own lives and understand the implications of their decisions on the lives of others. Do you ever think about the producers of the many products you consume on a daily basis? What are their lives like? How can you as a consumer change the lives of others?

After studying the topic, have your students do some free writing or reflection writing on the topic. Have them share their thoughts with each other by having them respond to each other in an ink-shed or in an online forum. Following the unit, a Chinese student reported, ‘’I don’t really drink coffee, but the next time I do, I will look for the Fair Trade logo.’’

Act: Forge New Pathways

Global citizens take action! Design real-world opportunities for students to interact in their communities and share their newfound knowledge. Have your advanced-level learners work in teams to design a survey on coffee consumption habits and interview students on campus. Send your intermediate-level learners out to your local coffee shop to interview baristas. Give your beginners a scavenger hunt at the local grocery store to identify other types of fair trade products.

Use your imagination and resources in your community to transform student learning. Give them the opportunity to reflect on their experience and you’ll be surprised by what they’ll report! My Moroccan student reported, ‘’…this project helped me improve my research skills. Moreover, it helped me work as a team and respect my classmates’ opinions.’’

Transform your classroom with the Learn, Think, Act framework! #worldofopportunities


Oxfam (n.d.). Global citizenship. Retrieved March 15, 2015 from http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/global-citizenship

Standish, A. (2014). What is global education and where is it taking us? The Curriculum Journal, 25, 166–186.

About Sherry Blok

Sherry Blok
Sherry Blok is the assistant director of programs at the Centre for Continuing Education, Concordia University. Montreal, Canada. She holds a master’s degree in second language education from McGill University and has more than 20 years of experience as an ESL lecturer in the intensive English program at Concordia University. She received the TESOL Teacher of the Year Award in 2015 and has presented nationally and internationally on topics related to English for academic purposes, global citizenship education, assessment, and teacher feedback.
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One Response to Learn, Think, Act: Implementing Global Citizenship One Coffee at a Time

  1. Rosalie says:

    There is no place more beautiful where one would desire to pass their allotted time on earth, nor is there any other
    place better suited for growing specialty coffee.
    To simplify it further, if you have great relationships-especially the most important
    one, which is with yourself-the rest will naturally follow.
    Regular vegetable oil works great, but some prefer
    a more professional approach.

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