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Vol. 19 [1] May 2011

Between the Keys logo

The Official Newsletter of the Materials Writers, a JALT Special Interest Group

Eco-friendly Cooperative Housing Activity


Asako Kajiura

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

asachan728 at

The Eco-friendly Cooperative Housing Activity is a communicative activity for students to develop their English discussion and presentation skills. This activity is suitable for intermediate level students. You can download the handout.

Time estimated:
90 minutes
Home appliance list handout (see Figure 3)
Objectives & Content:
The topic of this content-based English lesson incorporates environmental issues. Teachers could use it to augment lessons on global warming, energy use, environmentally- friendly housing, etc. The activity sheet uses a metaphorical icon of nature - trees, instead of money to make students consider how their everyday shopping decisions affect the environment. Students can reflect upon how their actions can both contribute to and solve environmental problems.


This lesson gives students the opportunity to practice conditional sentences (see Figure 1). Understanding the conditional mood is vital for effectively communicating in English. Moreover, learning and practicing how to make and use conditional sentences is important for well-know standardized tests, such as TOEFL and TOEIC. Conditional sentences are one of the most frequently tested grammar points in those tests. Of course, teachers can introduce or focus upon other grammar points which they feel may be useful or relevant during the activity, such as subject-verb agreement, use of the passive voice, or the use of gerunds/infinitives etc. Other teachers with more competent students might want to only focus on the flow of the discussion.

Useful expressions

In this class, students are able to learn and practice some expressions useful for discussion (see Figure 2). Teachers might want to provide a ‘debriefing’ section at the end of the class, in which students are asked to reflect on situations in which they could use the same expressions outside of the classroom.

Academic skills

Discussion: One of the objectives of this activity is to develop students’ ability to conduct and participate actively in substantive discussions. Students practice initiating discussion, presenting suggestions and opinions, and explaining their opinions and assertions in a non-threatening environment. I have found that students who are living in cooperative housing situations: sharing rooms, living in dormitories, being co-responsible for bills, etc. can bring their own experiences to the discussion.

Presentation: Students learn how to organize and give an effective and persuasive presentation. Students practice some basic presentation skills, for example, voice projection, articulation, pace, fluency, body language, eye contact, and gestures. They must logically explain their discussion results. I have found that facilitating communicative activities in which students are required to practice new information for instance, grammar points, useful expressions, and practice with expressing their own opinions helps the students to realize the importance of applying the new information and skills in their own conversations outside of class. I have found that many students do start autonomously incorporating the new linguistic information and skills following activities such as this. I was very pleased that after this lesson, a number of students told me that they would like to do the activity again.

  1. The teacher writes the useful expressions and grammar points on the board. The teacher can write the rules of the activity (optional).
  2. Students practice the useful expressions and grammar points (optional).
  3. Divide students into groups of 3-5.
  4. Each group receives one handout.
  5. Tell the students the following details.
    • The group members are going to live together in a cooperative house.
    • The group members are going to decide which items are needed for the house.
    • Instead of money, trees are used for purchasing needed items, and the price in trees for each item is listed in the table.
    • Each group member has 7 trees.
    • When the group decides to purchase eco-friendly items, the group is rewarded with eco-points (trees) for being eco-friendly.
    • The group members are going to present their decisions to the other groups at the end of the activity.
  6. Explain the rules for the activity. (Teachers might want to write the rules on the board.)
    • Rule 1. The group members must be honest about their needs and should not purchase eco-friendly items only for the eco-points.
    • Rule 2. The group members must think not only about their needs, but also the environment.
    • Rule 3. The group members can purchase more than one of the same items.
    • Rule 4. When the group members purchase more than one of the same eco-friendly item, they can receive eco-points only for the first purchase.
    • Rule 5. Each group must have logical reasons for their decisions. The reasons for purchasing each item should be included in their presentation.
    • Rule 6. When there is disagreement during the discussion, the members must politely present their opinions with logical explanations.
    • Rule 7. All members must contribute opinions during the discussion.
  7. Give students enough time to discuss and decide upon the items they are going to buy and the reasons for their decisions.
  8. Each group presents and explains the reasons for their purchases.
  9. Teachers might want to provide a ‘debriefing’ section at the end of the class, in which students are asked to reflect on situations in which they could use the same expressions outside of the classroom.