Dorota Smyk | Stefan D. Keller

Shopper, swapper, or else?

Dorota Smyk | Stefan D. Keller

Discussing fashion consumer habits in a formal debate

For many teenagers, shopping for clothes is an integral part of their identity formation. However, the fashion industry has enormous environmental and societal costs. In this teaching unit, learners hold a structured debate about fashion consumer habits and possible alternatives. To be able to do so, they prepare an online survey, do research, form an opinion and come up with convincing arguments. If desired, a formal debate is an excellent opportunity to assess learners oral interactive skills.

A formal debate is an organized argument or contest of ideas in which the participants discuss a topic from two opposing sides. Those who agree with a particular statement or idea make up the pro side. Those who disagree with that motion as it is called in debating ( make up the con side. During the debate, each side tries to convince the audience of their point of view by using the best arguments. In upper-secondary EFL classrooms, debates provide an effective way of practicing learners oral interactive skills and generic argumentative language.
The target task
The target task in this unit uses an online survey tool to prepare a structured debate about shopping habits and the fashion industry. Learners first explore their own shopping habits. They then use the online survey tool Edkimo ( to create a classroom questionnaire in which they analyse their peers attitude towards fashion. They then do research on the topic and use that information in a structured debate. For many teenagers, shopping and spending money are an integral part of their identity formation. The teaching unit thus presents an interesting and engaging topic for this age group and introduces learners to the idea of environmental and social responsibility.
What kind of shopper are you?
At the start of the unit, learners explore their own habits regarding shopping and the fashion industry by answering questions such as the following:
  • Expense: How much of your monthly budget do you spend on clothes?
  • Brand loyalty: Is it important for you to own and wear clothes of a particular brand? Would you describe yourself as brand loyal?
  • Production: Do you know where (or how or by whom )your clothes were produced?
  • Sustainability: Do you care or worry about the sustainability (or eco-friendliness) of the clothes you buy?
Learners are encouraged to write down their own questions about different aspects of the topic they find interesting. They then exchange and compare their questions and interview each other. The class finally decides on the ten questions that should go into an online questionnaire (worksheet 1). The decision should be based on the relevance of the questions and their linguistic appropriateness.
An important goal here is also to raise learners awareness as to the types of questions (genre awareness/discourse type) that are characteristic of such surveys. They should become able to identify general and specific questions as well as several types of question formats including single-choice questions (yes/no; true/false), multiple choice (predefined answers), rating scales and open questions. At the end learners fill in the questionnaire online and share their responses in class.
Learning more about consumer behaviour
In this phase, learners expand their knowledge of different types of fashion-related consumer behaviour. They read reports that prompt them to reflect further on their own shopping habits and the dark side of fashion. In groups they are asked to research a different consumer habit from fast fashion to clothes swapping. The reports trigger deep learning about the social and environmental costs of excessive shopping. Functional skills include reading for gist, extracting explicit and implicit information, identifying...

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aus: Unterricht Englisch Nr. 164 / 2020

Integrated skills

Friedrich+ Kennzeichnung Unterricht (45-90 Min) Schuljahr 10-13