This month I have written a short story and prepared some activities that go with it for you to use with B2 level students onwards.  The drawing was done by a good friend of mine called Maj-Lis Strunk.  The story touches on immigrants and refugees motivating students to reflect and discuss this important current topic. I hope you will find it useful.

Here are the pre, while and post activities.

Pre activity

Tell your students that they are going to read a short story.  Ask them to look at the picture and tell their partner what they think the story could be about.

While activity

Ask your students to read the story called “The Journey” and do the vocabulary activity afterwards.

THE JOURNEY   “Phew, we made it Mummy!”   “We certainly did, my little one.  It was such a long way, wasn´t it? We covered thousands of kilometres”.   “Looking down, I saw so much, Mummy.  There were huge forests, wide lakes, snow-capped mountains, cattle grazing, industries blowing out black smoke and people.  So many people walking in a long line, Mummy!  Where were all those humans heading?”   “Well, my sweetie, we´re living through hard times.  Those people we saw are called refugees.”   “What does refugees mean, Mummy?”   “Refugees are people who have to leave their country because of persecution, war or violence.  They flee from their home towns and cover long distances often walking across rough terrains.  They can barely take any belongings with them as they normally have to leave their homes quickly.”    “Why, Mummy?”   “Because if they stay in their villages or towns, they may be killed.  There are many wars going on where two opposing sides are fighting each other and destroying buildings and homes.”   “That´s terrible!”   “So, all those refugees you saw are looking for a safer place to build their homes and settle down“.   “It´s a bit like us trying to find a place to make a nest and sometimes escaping danger”.   “Yes, perhaps it is, my sweet one.  The world is full of perils.”   The hummingbirds stayed in silence for a few minutes while each one reflected on their journey and rested their wings as they had flapped them thousands of times to get to where they were. “We really put a lot of effort into getting to this safe haven, didn´t we Mummy?”   “We certainly did.  I don´t know about you, but I´m exhausted!”   “Imagine those people down below carrying their possessions on their backs.  I even saw an old lady being carried on a kind of stretcher“.   “Yes, little one.  It really isn´t easy.  Not only do they have to walk a long way, but they also have to fit into an unknown environment, where they need to adapt and survive, often in challenging circumstances.  We know this feeling, don´t we?”      “Yes, Mummy.  We´re always on the move adapting to new climates and food.”   “However, those people down there often have to learn a new language and different customs.  They need to be flexible, patient and understanding of their new habitat.    Their situation as newcomers in a foreign land also requires a warm reception from those already living there so that things can work out.”    “That´s a lot to take in, Mummy!  It must be really tough.”   “Yes, my sweet one.”   The young bird was weary from flying, talking, reflecting, thinking….  He soon fell asleep while his Mum went out to find food for them.   At least, she didn´t have to carry him or any heavy belongings on her back.  She collected some twigs and branches to make a more solid nest.   While she was flying around, she wondered why she had heard so many different ways of saying her own species –  “hummingbird” – on her travels.   She had learnt that in English speaking countries, they were called hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their wings which flap at high frequencies audible to humans.  In Brazil, they were known as “flower kissers” perhaps because they suck nectar out of brightly-coloured flowers.  The French called them “fly birds” because of their small size and the way they flap their wings like flies.  There were so many different names for her species.    “Interesting!”, she thought to herself.    Then she said out loud in the hope that someone might be listening   “Isn´t it interesting that people from many different nationalities and races have various concepts of the same thing or word.   Isn´t it interesting that we experience the world subjectively?  Isn´t it wonderful that diversity provides so many opportunities to learn about the world we live in?  What a shame there are so many conflicts and wars.”  

Vocabulary exercise

The following words appeared in the text (underlined).  With a partner, write a definition for each word.   You can use a dictionary.

Settle down  
Safe haven  
Take in  


Grazing Feeding on growing grass, as cattle do.
Flee To escape, often from danger.
Settle down To begin to live a quiet and steady life and perhaps get a regular job.
Perils Serious and immediate danger.
Safe haven A place where there is security.
Stretcher A framework of two poles with a long piece of canvas between them, used for carrying injured people.
Newcomers Someone who has recently arrived in a place.
Take in To completely understand the meaning or importance of something.
Weary Very tired, especially from hard work.
Twigs A small thin branch of a tree.

Post activity

Discuss the following in pairs.

1.  Try to reconstruct the story in pairs.  One person remembers the first part and then the other the next part and so on.

2. Do you know where your grandparents and great grandparents came from?  Tell your partner what you know about their lives and journey. 

3. Have you ever been to a foreign country?  Tell your partner how you felt being there.

4. In 2015, there was a poster campaign in London tube stations called “I am an immigrant”.  The images show immigrants in different jobs.  Go to this website and read about the campaign: http://www.iamanimmigrant.net/i-am-immigrant-poster-campaign.  Now tell your partner what you think about this initiative.

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