Tag: Teaching literature

My Son the Fanatic – Various Tasks

A lot of teachers like to use fictional texts in their teaching. Sometimes, finding accessible texts for classes is difficult, especially as they are often long, and would take up too much lesson time. One option is to use abridged versions of the texts. Another idea I’d like to advocate is to work with the text over a number of lessons, using it to teach/revise a variety of langauge points and as a basis for all different kinds of activities.

As an example, this post is a treasure chest of tasks and activities you can do with your (B2-C2) learners based on the text “My Son the Fanatic” by Hanif Kureishi. The story centres on Parvez, a Pakistani-born taxi driver living in the UK, who is a tolerant, secular Muslim. The crux of the plot occurs when his son, Ali, converts to fundamentalist Islam, which leads to a family breakdown and social conflict.
The full text can be found here. The version I use is an excerpt  I have adapted from “Cross-Cultural Encounters: 20th Century English Short Stories” published by Reclam (1997). The book can bought from Amazon and my excerpt can be found here: Excerpt My Son the Fanatic. My excerpt from the story only goes up to the point where Parvez first notices his son’s conversion to a radical Muslim. The tasks below are based on this first part of the story; the web boasts a whole host of other activities which make more use of the rest of the plot.
For more background information on the story, the Wikipedia page is a good place to start! The screenplay has also been adapted into a film

Example Tasks

Grammar Focus

General Grammar Analysis

Advanced learners, or trainee teachers, can be asked to explain certain grammar points which appear in the text. This is a task that trainee secondary-school EFL teachers in Germany often face in their exams: Certain words or phrases are underlined, and students are required to explain the verb forms, word order, etc. The task aims to train them to explain grammar points in a concise manner, whilst still ensuring that the explanations distinguish this use of a word/verb form from other uses. The focus of the grammar analysis can be adapted to cover langauge points recently learnt/practised, or to include a variety of langauge points as a akind of revision test or endof-course task. Here is an example worksheet of this type that I have made (with answers):  Gram An My Son the Fanatic with answers

Logical Deductions (with modals)

1) Learners read the first three paragraphs of the excerpt (up to “Where had he gone wrong?”), which gives them a description of the problematic situation Parvez is facing regarding his son, Ali. They are then asked to suggest ideas as to what the problem might be. Learners can be encouraged to brainstorm ideas and then discuss how likely the suggestions are, i.e. how certain they are that this is the most logical explanation, and then formulate sentences to express their logical deductions using various modal verbs to show their level of certainty.
OR … 2) Learners read the first three paragraphs of the excerpt (up to “Where had he gone wrong?”), which gives them a description of the problematic situation Parvez is facing regarding his son, Ali. The next couple of sentences set  out the situation that Parvez is discussing the problem with his work-mates. Learners can be asked to write the dialogue, and/or act out the scene as Parvez’ colleagues suggest possible reasons for Ali’s behaviour. Again, learners should be guided to express the colleague’s logical deductions using various modal verbs to show their level of certainty.

Second Conditionals

1) Learners read the first five paragraphs of the excerpt, and discovering what Parvez’ colleagues think the problem is with his son, they can be asked to provide advice for Parvez, to answer the question ‘What could Parvez do now?’. If the focus is on using the second conditional to give advice, they could be guided to start their sentences with “If I were him/you,…”. Alternatively, groups could make up ‘chains’ of sentences, with each student providing a further sentence to develop the scenario, based on the preceding sentence – this can also involve using various alternatives to ‘would’ in the result clause, e.g. might, could, etc. For example: If I were Parvez, I would ask Ali if he is taking drugs. If Parvez asked Ali whether he was taking drugs, they might have an argument. If they had an argument, …
AND / OR … 2) After reading the whole excerpt, and finding out what exactly the ‘problem’ is with Ali, students can be asked ‘What would you do, if you were Parvez?’ which will lead them toproduce second conditional sentences. This task may also lead to some lively discussions about the role of religious fanaticism, but  – watch out! – it may be a rather sensitive (or even taboo) subject in some settings! 

Vocabulary Focus

Literary Studies Terms

Working with a text in class provides a good opportunity to teach / revise the vocabulary for discussing literature (e.g. narrative perspectives, literary devices, etc.). This may be particularly helpful if students are going to be working with more texts in future, or in settings where they are going on to English study literature, perhaps at university. A procedure I like, is to give the students some of the key literary studies terms, or the ones I think they’re still unsure of, and ask them to research and find their own definitions. They should then find examples from the text excerpt to demonstrate their understanding. As a slightly larger project, different groups of learners can be given different terms to work on, and can produce a way of presenting (teaching) these to the rest of the class, e.g. in poster form. Some terms that may be appropriate to study with regard to My Son the Fanatic: protagonist/antagonist, first-person narrator/omniescent narrator, tension/suspense.

Adjectives – For Feelings

If you read the full text with your class, students  can be asked to create a flow chart / time-line of Parvez’ & Ali’s feelings towards each other. Either individually or in groups, they can be given a certain part of the text to work on. You can use the task to train their dictionary skills: They can brainstorm adjectives they think describe the feelings and relationship (they could also do this in their L1), find synonyms in a thesaurus, and check the meanings and usage in a mono-lingual dictionary (e.g. OALD, aimed at learners), and perhaps a collocations dictionary, before agreeing on the most appropriate and fitting adjectives. Then, people who have worked on different sections of the text can put their adjectives into the whole diagram depicting the devlopment of the whole story.

Adjective vs Adverb – For Feelings vs Behaviour

 Work can be done on distinguishing and using adjectives and adverbs, using any part of the story (or my excerpt). Students are asked to make a time-line to show the development of Parvez’ feelings and behaviour. I like to encourage them to write adjectives above the time-line to show “Parvez is / feels…”, and use adverbs (they can be the adverbs of the adjectives) to show “Parvez acts/behaves…” below the line. The procedure for finding the most appropriate adjectives/adverbs and training dictionary skills can run the same as that described above (Adjectvies For Feelings) 
Within the excerpt, there are very few adjectives and adverbs describing Parvez and his behaviour; students could be asked to add them in to the appropriate places in sentences, to explicitly describe feelings and behaviour in cases where this is only implied by the text.

Freer Production

After reading the whole excerpt, learners can be asked to write or tell an anecdote from their own life, where they thought something was the case but it turned out to be different and had a surprise ending. These can be as long or short as suits your class, and will also depend on whether you set this as a homework task or do it (perhaps orally) within a lesson. For example: My boyfriend was being very distant and quiet, and kept taking phone calls in a different room. I thought he was no longer happy in the relationship and maybe he was cheating on me. But it turned out that he was planning a surprise birthday party for me!
Other creative tasks might be asking students to write a diary entry from Ali’s perspective, so show how he sees things, or to create ‘info boxes’ which could be added into or around the text to give the reader certain information more explicitly which is only implied in the text.
Students on EAP programmes can use this text to write an essay or a literary analysis. This will train them in the skills of citing secondary sources, and interpreting and using examples from a primary text. Below are some example essay topics I’ve come across (Note that some of them are based on the full text, not simply my excerpt).

– Analyse how Hanif Kureishi’s “My Son the Fanatic” represents and explores conflicting notions of modern British identity.

– Analyse the role of religion in the conflict-ridden relationship between Parvez and Ali.

– Compare and contrast Parvez’ and Ali’s philosophies of life.

– Argue that Parvez is more of a ‘fanatic’ than Ali.

– How likely are Parvez and Ali to resolve their differences in the future?

Research / Projects

I feel that the themes in this short story lend themselves to some larger research projects, which students can do in groups. They should be given / choose a format in which to present the information which they find out, for example posters, presentations, booklets, videos, wikis, etc. and other members of the class should be encouraged to engage with the new information in some way, so that the effort of the research project really pays off. One idea would be to divide research topics up among groups, but the make the final product a whole-class effort; this would probably require a format such as a booklet or wiki, which each group can contribute to. Some of the smaller products could also be created individually, such as posters or oral presentations. Below are some topics I have used previously when working with this text, some of them are also appropriate as pre-reading projects, which would provide learners with some more background information to help them understand the themes in the text.

 – Muslims in the UK/your own country (e.g. history of Islam in the UK/your country, links to immigration [in the UK esepcially the British Empire/Commonwealth], status of Islam, realistic view on how Muslims integrate into British society, etc.)

 – The image of Islam in the media (e.g. how are Muslims presented in national/international media, how this has changed over time [maybe post 9/11?], how accurate this image might be, etc.)

 – Islam the religion (e.g. basic tenets, beliefs and customs; holy texts; role of prayer; role of Mosques; comparison to other religions [in the UK e.g. Christianity]; etc.)

 – Drug Addiction (e.g. data about the problem in the UK/your own country, how governments/health services attempt to tackle the problem, ‘symptoms’ of drug abuse, consequences of drug abuse, how to help some you know who is affected, etc.)

 – Immigration & Culture-Clash (e.g. lives/challenges of young people whose parents immigrated, problems of culture clash – maybe examples in the news, generational conflict, etc.)

 – Stereotyping (e.g. stereotypes of Pakistani immigrants in the text, how true are they, what steretypes do you hae of other nations, where do they stem from, how accurate are they, etc.)


If your students read the full text, not only my excerpt, they could also research into topics of prostitution, parenting methods, fanaticism (e.g. Parvez vs Ali)

Online, there are lots of other tasks and activities, as well as interpretation guides for the full story, for example:

– Korff, H. & Ringel-Eichinger, A. (eds), One Language, Many Voices: Inhaltsangaben und Interpretationen, Themen und Wortschatz, Musterklausuren (Cornelsen, 2011). [Written in English, don’t worry!]

Also, please see another of my blog posts for more general ideas on working with fictional texts: https://clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/practising-english-through-reading-fiction/


Practising English through Reading Fiction

Those of you who’ve been following my recent posts, will notice that I’m going through a phase of thinking about how I can help students make their free-time English activities more effective for their learning. My general addage has always been: Whatever you like to do in your free-time, just do it in English! But the realisation that relaxing in front of ‘How I met your mother’ with a beer and a bag of crisps might not actually be helping improve students’ English as much as it could, has lead to me think up ideas for tasks that could further the learning that occurs through these free-time activities. Recently, I posted some ideas for practising English with news items (see here: https://clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/practising-english-with-news-items/ )  And then I asked some students what it is they do in their free time. The number one answer: Reading (fiction) books.

So here’s the next list: This time, activities that learners can do once they’ve read a book, in order to practise their productive skills in English (since reading is a passive skill). I’m sure teachers also use fiction as part of their courses and have a whole host of comprehension and discussion questions etc. These ideas could also complement those. But my main aim is to give students who are reading fiction for fun some ideas on how they can make this even more helpful for improving their English.

  • Write a short summary of the plot of the novel. You could also start a blog where you post summaries of novels you have read – other people may comment on your summaries and start a discussion.


  • Write a review of the novel. You could also discuss your review with a friend who has read the same book – or set up your own book club with friends to read and discuss novels together. Or again, post your reviews to a blog for discussion with other. Alternatively, you can slso post your reviews on sites like Amazon for others to read when they’re looking for something to read.


  • Pretend you work for the publisher, and write a blurb for the novel. You can look at blurbs for books on websites such as Amazon to see what kind of language they use and the techniques used to entice the potential reader to read the book.


  • Take on the part of a character and a) act out a scene , b) re-write a scene from that character’s perspective (using a first-person narrator).


  • Write a letter to one character explaining why you find their behavior unacceptable.


  • Watch the film adaptation of a novel, and write a review of the film comparing it to the original book version, or discuss your comparison with a friend who has also read the book and watched the film.


  • Pretend you are a teacher and  going to work on this novel with your students. Compose comprehension and/or discussion questions (and answers) based on the text. 


  • Pretend you are recording an audio version of the book and read some parts aloud. Record yourself, making sure to check the pronunciations and word-stress of any unknown vocabulary (e.g. using the online OALD). You can then listen to the recording (or play it to a friend) and check that your pronunciation and intonation are fluent and accurate. An official audio-book may be available – then you can compare your recording to that!

For more ideas on using literature to teach & learn English, please see the following websites:



English Language Teaching: Organisations you should know about

Teaching can sometimes be a rather lonely pursuit, especially for ELT teachers away from home  in foreign countries. It can also be a rather homogenising experience, if you’re teaching in a specific context and only really have contact with teachers in the same situation as you. In both situations, I think many ELT teachers miss out on the chance to hear about the current debates, research, trends, methods/approaches, etc that are being shared around the world. I believe that some sort of networking and sharing of ideas beyond a teacher’s immediate context is a key aspect of professional development.

The purpose of this post, then, is to provide a few links and tips that will help ELT teachers find this big world of ELT beyond their teaching situation and get them ‘networked’ with other teachers, to facilitate inspiration and development as a teacher. The list does not pretend to be complete; please feel free to add further links in the comments below. Also, I’m focusing somewhat on the German-speaking world since that’s where I am based and know most about what’s going on. Still, the first three links are of global appeal, and I hope that the list will be helpful for teachers in a wide range of contexts and locations!


IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language)


If I could only recommend one organisation, this would be it. I’ve been a member for a number of years and the conferences and publications have been a constant source of inspiration and professional development opportunities. Double thumbs up from me!

Based in the UK. They say about themselves: “With over 4,000 members IATEFL is one of the most thriving communities of ELT teachers in the world. Our mission [is] to “Link, develop and support English Language Teaching professionals” worldwide”.

As a member, you get a bimonthly copy of the ‘Voices’ mini-journal/newsletter with information about research and events going on in ELT around the world, a free copy of ‘Conference Selections’ with summaries of presentations given at the latest annual conference, free membership in a Special Interest Group with newsletters and events, a cheaper registration rate for the annual conference, and cheaper subscriptions to some of the leading journals in the field (e.g. ELT Journal).

Their next big annual conference is going to be in Manchester in April 2015, find out more here: http://www.iatefl.org/annual-conference/about-the-annual-conference

Each month, they provide provide a free webinar held by a famous name in the field. For details of the upcoming webinars (on topics such as coursebook evaluation, intercultural training, teaching with technology) see here: http://www.iatefl.org/webinars


TESOL International Association


They see themselves as a “global and collaborative community committed to creating a world of opportunity through teaching English to speakers of other languages.”  And say about themselves: “For nearly 50 years, TESOL International Association has been bringing together educators, researchers, administrators, and students to advance the profession of teaching English to speakers of other languages. With more than 12,000 members representing 156 countries, and more than 100 worldwide affiliates, TESOL offers everyone involved in English language teaching and learning an opportunity to be part of a dynamic community, where professionals like you connect with and inspire each other to achieve the highest standards of excellence.” See here for a brief introduction: http://www.tesol.org/docs/membership/tesol-brochure.pdf?sfvrsn=2

The host a large annual conference of which I have only heard good reviews (see: http://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/international-convention ), and provide publications and an online resource-bank, and guidelines for best practice in ELT. They also create a newsletter and have lively online discussion groups on specific interests within ELT. Webinars and online courses complement their busy programme of symposiums and conferences (though the time-difference makes webinars slightly problematic for those living in Europe!).  See here for the full programme: http://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/online-courses-seminars  and  http://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/symposiums-academies )

If you visit their website you will see that the homepage is very ‘busy’ and not always easy to navigate, but I think this simply reflects the variety of services and activities TESOL International Association offer and are involved in. If you have the time to click through, you will definitely find something that is relevant for you – whether you are a student, teacher, teacher-trainer, materials writer, etc. Definitely a thumbs up from me!


Teaching English – British Council


This is slightly different from the other associations listed here as it is mainly an online community. That makes it especially interesting to those who cannot travel to conferences, etc, and/or don’t have much spare cash to spend on memberships and travel costs. Why register with TE? They say: “Registration on this site is totally free and allows you to interact with other users as well as add comments and download certain material. You can:

  • build your own profile in an international online community;
  • access our tools for teachers;
  • join monthly online workshops;
  • watch our teaching tips videos;
  • sign up for a variety of teacher training courses;
  • join in discussions with teachers around the world.”

The online discussion forums are really lively and cover an enormous range of topics. They also offer free webinars and instructional videos and articles, as well as training courses and workshops, both as self-study and with a trainer (see: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teacher-training ). There is also free access to a number of journals and research publications via the site (see: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/publications ). Again, double thumbs-up!


TEA (Teachers of English in Austria)


They say about themselves: “As the only national association appealing to the needs of teachers and future teachers of English at all levels, TEA is concerned with helping to better the overall competencies of teachers of English in Austria by a commitment to excellence through international cultural exchange. Of equal importance, TEA is also a platform for the exchange of ideas that leads to overall improvement in the effective teaching of the English language.”

Members have access to a free online-journal and receive discounts at various cultural establishments around Austria (mainly Vienna). They also host an annual conference and a number of workshops and summer schools, see here: http://www.tea4teachers.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=35&Itemid=2

For me, what’s interesting about TEA is that their learners are German speakers, which means that a lot of what they do is directly relevant to my own teaching situation. But they do cover a wide range of contexts: young learners, adults, university, secondary school, business English, etc. So there will probably be something of interest to lots of you! Their conferences are naturally smaller than those of the international associations mentioned above, but that also means that the costs are lower, and the events are less overwhelming for new teachers / students.


German Association for Teachers of English (GATE)


Since this association is part of a larger umbrella organisation in Germany for teachers of all foreign languages, not everything is available in English (some parts of the website are still only in German). Not everything here will be relevant for everyone, particularly those teaching outside of Germany, and there is a real focus on secondary education. Nonetheless, they say about themselves: “The German Association for Teachers of English, English and more (E&M e. V.), represents the interests of teachers of English as a foreign language, irrespective of types of school and age of students. It also addresses academic staff in the fields of adult education and in-company language trainers.”

As a member, you get two magazines aimed at school teachers of EFL, a newsletter about teaching English in Germany, and can participate in their local and national conferences. Their website provides tips on lesson planning, articles on quality development, and information aimed different school-types in different Federal States. I think this organisation is of most relevance to those teaching English in German secondary schools; but if that is you, then it has quite a lot of very specific information.


MELTA (Munich English Language Teachers Association)


This is a more local organisation, aimed really at teachers based in and around the Munich area. Anyone is free to join, though, and to go along to conferences, talks, workshops, etc that they regularly organise. They often have famous speakers and themed one-day “conferences” on specific areas of ELT. Their welcome is warm, and the newsletter (free for members) is very informative, if sometimes very Munich-oriented. I think the best aspect of such local organisations (more are listed below) is the networking opportunity that joining provides. For such a small organisation, MELTA is very active and offers a wide range of events and professional development opportunities – (local) thumbs up!


Other regional organisations in Germany:

These are the clickable links to other ELT organisations in Germany which are similar to MELTA:

ELTAF (The English Language Teachers’ Association Frankfurt / Rhine-Main-Neckar)

English Language Teachers’ Association Berlin-Brandenburg

English Language Teachers Association Ostwestfalen-Lippe (ELTAOWL)

English Language Teacher’s Association Stuttgart

The English Language Teachers’ Association Ulm/Neu-Ulm 

Hamburg English Language Teaching Association


Other useful links:

A list of more ELT organisations (all of which are affiliated with IATEFL) in your country, here: http://www.iatefl.org/associates/list-of-associate-members

Links für Englischlehrer in Deutschland: http://www.wagner-juergen.de/englisch/



George Orwell’s “1984″: Discussion Topics ANSWERS

It’s taken a while … but for those who’ve been hoping for suggestions of possible points to be covered in the various discussion tasks, here they are!

I’m not calling them ‘answers’, since I think any teacher teaching the book should have read it and know the ‘answers’ that they are aiming for their class to reach, but here are some ideas anyway!


George Orwell’s 1984

Task 1


  • The novel uses technology-based surveillance in both public and private spaces, they also have a greater impact on the individual.
  • The person-based measures of surveillance make the existence of private space impossible (family/neighbors have an impact on the behaviour of the individual), while in our world family and neighbours don’t play such an important role
  • The novel doesn’t use technology such as means of personal communication, it also does not include the media as a public mean to watch and control people



Task 2

  • Orwell’s concept of surveillance is all encompassing and supports a specific ideology
  • Technical surveillance is accompanied by personal surveillance through individuals.
  • Surveillance is omnipresent and sometimes invisible
  • Lack of laws, mistrust of people and threat of becoming an unperson increase insecurity
  • Allusion to the possibility of reading people’s minds (O’Brien) è telescreens etc. not just used to control behavior but more importantly to control thoughts
  • But: Relative freedom from surveillance for proles
  • Orwell’s predictions are not entirely applicable to today’s situation
  • Surveillance technology exists (CCTV etc.) but no threat to people’s lives should something deviating be thought or said
  • No connection to the stabilization of a Party/Government ideology, rather prevention of terrorism etc.
  • Yet, it some instances surveillance has led to people being publically denounced as in the case of the American diplomat Victoria Nuland
  • In the next 20-30 years the technological possibilities of surveillance will increase but radical government shifts, increase of terrorism or shifts in public opinion of issues like privacy must accompany mass surveillance


Task 3

In both cases the checks and balances must be considered.

Government Corporation
o   In democratic systems it must be enabled by the public and have a basic order based on freedom and democracy (Totalitarian systems may employ surveillance in an Orwellian fashion)

o   Monitoring by transnational organizations (EU, NATO, UN)

o   Need to be able to account for what the material is used

o   May be able to enforce access to private homes

o   Control of public spaces

o   Not subject of public scrutiny

o   Question of what the material us used for (e.g. is it sold to governments, other people, corporations etc.)

o   In transnational environment, it is hard to appeal to a court

o   Economy orientation makes complete deviation from public demands difficult

o   No legal possibility to access homes or public spaces without permit


Task 4

The media is always a positive as well as a negative medium.

Positive Negative
o   Maintaining order through public scrutiny

o   Draws attention to problem areas and can rectify problems

o   False accusations and subsequent repercussions for individuals

o   Can be (mis)used to promote a certain political/social ideology


o   Depending on the readership, the media can influence public opinion.

o   Turn to a greater defense of privacy issues possible if false reports are known

o   Relieve and feeling of security when information about fellow workers, citizens etc. are broadcasted


Task 5

Fighting for Peace (War is Peace):

o   Contradiction in terms: How can war, a state of strive, violence and pain, simultaneously be peace, a state characterized by the absence of the former?

o   War means a stability of social/economic order and thus creates peace within society

o   In the novel, this is the background for the events and a defining principle of society

o   In real life, war is often followed by a period of uncertainty (post-WWII) in which war with its clear cut lines is still remembered è background for Orwell’s writing


o   People does usually not go with the prefix “un”: How can a person not be a person?

o   People who committed thoughtcrime are vaporized and effectively erased from memory, yet, they the fact that they are named unpeople hints at the fact that exactly this does not happen

o   In the novel, Winston becomes an unperson but still exists; Goldstein is an unperson that functions as the greatest symbol for hate

o   In real life, the Soviet Union used the term to describe people who were erased from history, yet, most of them are still known

Thought Crime:

o   How can something happening in somebody’s head be a crime?

o   It is not the actual act that makes a person a criminal but actually thinking deviating thoughts that warrant vaporization

o   In the novel, thoughtcrime is committed by mostly everyone but some people like O’Brien still go free; actual crimes such as murder go unpunished


Task 6

o   Mass data transfer from cellphones to servers in the US using Whatsapp and Facebook services. è contact lists and pictures are saved somewhere and can potentially be used against individuals.

o   CCTV as for example in Britain è makes it virtually impossible to go anywhere without being on camera (“Smile, you’re on CCTV)

o   Possibility of not using services such as FB/Whatsapp

o   Hard to escape surveillance in public spaces



For original post with task questions etc, please see here: https://clareseltcompendium.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/george-orwells-1984-discussion-topics/

George Orwell’s “1984”: Discussion Topics


Guide to level: Reading the unadapted novel “1984” will probably be too difficult for learners below a C1 CEF level. These discussion questions, however, could also work (with more scaffolding) with B1-B2 learners, who, for example, have watched a film of “1984”, acted out scenes, or read certain extracts. Tasks may need to be adapted accordingly.

Introduction: A literary studies class/lesson will necessarily a novel in a different way to an EFL/ESOL class. The tasks below are basically discussions which link some key themes from George Orwell’s “1984” to students’ modern lives and provide practise in oral communication. Other skills such as comparing/contrasting, debating, finding examples, expressing one’s own opinion, and justifying one’s own opinion, are also trained, and the discussion tasks can be used to recycle lexis or grammar structures from previous topics of study on a course.

Procedure: One way of using the tasks in a lesson would be to divide the class into small groups, each of which can work on one of the discussion tasks. To ensure that everyone in the small group participates in the discussion, you could either assign roles, or use the ‘placemat method’ to gather ideas before they begin to discuss. Each group can then present their general findings and conclusions to the class and discuss these in plenary. For classes in an EFL setting, you can also encourage students to use English-langauge press and media to find out about current affairs/events which might connect in to their discussions, and then make the project longer to include a web-quest or similar activities.

Depending on your class and course, you can choose a language focus. For example, you could look at polite phrases used in discussions (e.g. for agreeing, disagreeing, adding an example, expressing an opinion, etc) – then display these in the room whilst students are discussing tasks in small groups and encourage them to use a phrase from the list each time they speak. This may, at first, seem rather artificial, but the more often they use the phrases, the more natural this kind of language will become for them.


Task 1) Draw up and complete a chart highlighting issues surrounding privacy in the novel and today’s society. Do you see any similarities? Which situation do you think would be/is worse to live in, and why?

e.g. in the novel, Telescreens are everwhere  –  in our society, there are lots of CCTV surveillance cameras

Task 2) Compare and contrast the concepts of technological surveillance that Orwell predicted in “1984” and the forms of technological surveillance that are used today. How accurate were his predictions? What further developments do you predict we will witness in the next 20-30 years?

Task 3) “The impact of a privacy violation differs if the policy is implemented by a government or by a corporation.” Discuss –  Does it matter who is violating your privacy? Why (not)?

Task 4) Discuss ways in which the news media may shape public opinion regarding privacy issues. For example, what might be the effects of a nightly news feature that discusses economic losses due to employee drug abuse? What if it featured an employee who had a false positive drug test and was subsequently fired?

Task 5) Why are the following terms from the novel ironic? Find examples of where these ironies are highlighted in the novel and real life.

– fighting for peace
– ‘unpeople’
– thought crime

Task 6) Have you ever felt that your privacy is threatened by the government, corporations, the media, or anyone else? Have you ever had any experiences in which you felt that your rights to privacy were violated? Have you ever been in a situation that is reminiscent of a situation that occurs in “1984”? Can individuals do anything to protect their own privacy?

See also:

George Orwell’s 1984: Comprehension & Revision Questions

George Orwell’s 1984: Comprehension & Revision Questions


George Orwell’s novel “1984” has long since been one of my favourite novels, and has even had an influence on the English language. Many of Orwell’s coinages, such as Big Brother, Room 101 and Newspeak, are now comonly used when describing totalitarian or overarching behaviour by an authority. Even the author’s name has come to be used in adjective form: “Orwellian” can be used to describe any real world scenario reminiscent of his novel “1984”. In the novel, Orwell portrays a snapshot of how the various mechanisms of a totalitarian state affect individuals among the population. Many literary analyses have also highlighted parallels between behaviours and events in the story and recent or current real-world situations. With this novel, Orwell predicted the intrusion of technology into people’s everday lives, for example, and some fans even see modern inventions (e.g. surveillance cameras) as Orwell’s propechies coming true.



For EFL/ESOL teachers, the novel is not only an interesting read, but has plenty of potential for use in the classroom. In its unadapted form, the novel is probably too difficult for all but the most advanced learners, but lower-level learners could also work with excerpts or simplified versions. Film versions of the story can also aid comprehension.  Reading the novel can either be set as homework (checked regularly with comprehension or vocabulary and other language tasks), or made into a class project, where students act out different scenes.

The following tasks are intended to be completed after the entire novel has been read, and will check that students have understood the plot. The tasks will also provide opportunities for them to practise skills such as summarising, defining, and justifying their own opinions. Further follow-up tasks and discussions will follow in a later post.



Characters Match the character on the right to the characteristic on the left. One character and one characteristic are not used. Justify your decisions with an example from the story.
a. Antique Dealer/Thought Police                        Parsons

b. Winston’s “instructor”                                     Syme

c. War hero                                                      Goldstein

d. His children turned him in.                             Charrington

e. Wrote Newspeak                                           Latimer

f. Worked in Newspeak                                      Rutherford

g. Memorised Shakespeare                                Winston

h. Seen in the Chestnut Tree Cafe early              Julia

i. “The last man”                                               Comrade Oglivy

j. Arch-enemy                                                   O’Brien



Events Put the following events in the order of their occurrence within the novel.Link the chronology of events using adverbials of time and other transitions.
Winston begins to love Big Brother

Winston first sees and hates Julia

Winston is shot

Julia and Winston meet in the woods

Julia and Winston are arrested in the buff

The Old World battles with nuclear weapons

Julia passes Winston a note

O’Brien places the rats in Winston’s face

Winston’s Mom and Sister disappear

Winston is taken to Room 101


Quotes Identify the following quotes: Who said it and why is the quote important or significant?

1. “If you keep the small rules, you can break the big ones.”

2. “Of all the horrors in the world-a rat!!”

3. “You do not exist.”

4. “It’s a beautiful thing-the destruction of words.”

5. “…for the souls of men awaited the coming of the stars.”

6. “We are the dead.”

7. “I betrayed you.”

8. “We will meet again in a place where there is no darkness.”

9. “I hate purity. I hate goodness.”

10. “I tried to do my best for the party, didn’t I? I’ll get off with five years, don’t you think?”


Definitions Define the following words as they were used in “1984”.

1. Crimestop

2. Doublethink

3. Duckspeak

4. Ingsoc

5. Oldspeak

6. Doubleplusungood

7. Miniluv

8. Joycamp

9. Sexcrime

10. Unperson