1. Forecasters

Introduction: Will things ever be the same?

This forecasting task for higher level students will appeal to those with an interest in current affairs, business, economics and culture. It centres on what may be the long-term consequences of the current lockdown. I started thinking about this during a recent video conferencing call, when one of the participants raised the prospect of a lot of airlines going bankrupt, and predicted that the days of cheap international travel are now gone.

All of us thought that this might well be welcomed by environmentalists. Among other positive changes have been a return of wildflowers to grass verges – will this herald a renaissance of bees? – cleaner air in cities, and a re-evaluation of the importance of front-line workers, especially in hospitals and ensuring the food supply.


To begin with, you can elicit students’ views on the likelihood or otherwise on such constraints international travel, but be careful not to pre-empt the main task too much. They then listen to the discussion below and write down the main topics covered, ticking them off from the list below. (In addition, they can think about whether they agree or disagree with the speaker.)

  • international travel 
  • conferences 
  • courses / study
  • the status of “ordinary workers”
  • bars & restaurants
  • family life
  • retail / shopping
  • politics 
  • the role of the state
  • money
  • climate change
Scott Donald’s predictions

Alternatively, you could generate discussion using the following links:

The UN Secretary General proposes a global ceasefire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JH9sZxVlpDo&feature=youtu.be

Bonuses for front-line workers in the food supply industry: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52119560

The return of the natural world: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-48772448

Main task

The students are part of a “focus group” commissioned by the government to discuss what the likely changes in our lives will be and, importantly, how people are going to react to these. This is to enable the government to make long-term strategic decisions. 

  • Assign students into groups / breakout rooms and make sure each group appoints a chairperson, whose main job will be to take notes. 
  • Each group should choose 3-5 topics, the ones that are of most interest to the students personally, with the aim of producing a report on the three most significant changes.
  • The chairperson can complete a document such as the one below. This can be shared through Google documents. Creating a separate document for each group and share the links in a central “control” document is a good idea. (You can find out about how to do this here: https://www.betterlanguagelearning.com/post/gdocs)
  • After they have done this, you can have the chairperson share the opinions of the breakout group in the main plenary room, or you can post the written reports.
  • The other students will want to agree with or challenge the ideas in these reports.

Language: lexis

Global, pandemic  happen/take place, unprecedented / seismic /once in a lifetime events / changes, travel & tourism, the ______ industry, “we’re all in this together”, virtual environments, online tools, conferencing apps, social distancing, income, welfare / benefits

cause and effect language e.g. one effect/result/consequence of….; (have an) impact (on), increase, decrease (in + N)


Future forms, in particular will (and future perfect, future continuous)

Mixing these with opinions and “softening”: It seems to me that; I think X is likely to + V, will probably + V

Superlatives: the biggest impact will be;

Present perfect for unfinished (recently finished) time: up till now, we’ve always had/ we’ve been used to + ing

Passives: these changes will be felt most acutely….

Variation / task repetition:

You can allocate different topics to each breakout room, or ensure that the different rooms choose different topics. The reporting back stage will be similar, with the other students agreeing or disagreeing in the plenary.

In the Willis model of task-based learning, there is a written report stage, and this task would lend itself to such a report, which could be written co-operatively in pairs or threes. In addition to the kind of language features above, this would also allow you to focus on key features of the genre such as introductions and conclusions; paragraph construction; and cohesive links in writing.

To follow up, in new groups, students could focus on one particular issue that has been raised and brainstorm what the government should do to prepare for this – continuing the scenario above – or else just their personal reactions to this and what changes they may have to make in their own lives.

12 thoughts on “1. Forecasters

  1. Phil Keegan

    Nice lesson Neil. I am going to try it with an advanced group I have. I made a screencast lesson on virus related vocabulary for my students in Vietnam which I would be happy to share with you if you are interested.


  2. Pingback: Teaching online – week four – The TEFL Zone

  3. Anthony Claff

    Hi Neil

    I shared this with a a group of ideas-hungry teachers last week. They really liked it. One of them used it with five different classes, at different levels and said it was very adaptable.

    Liked by 1 person

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