Six ways to exploit Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize in class

I haven’t done a current news item six for a while, and with all the flurry about my last post I’ve been thinking hard of a follow up. I have a new class that has just started, and the other day someone asked me what I thought of Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. We had a bit of a chat, and it got me thinking… I haven’t got anything about Obama on this site, and he is such a current favourite among English teachers. Here then are six ways you could exploit this event in class.

1 Introduce it creatively. Two ways to introduce the topic. 1) write the letters for Obama, peace, nobel all mixed up on the board and ask students to make words with them. Can they find two names with the letters? 2) Write or project the following text on the board and ask students to speculate what it’s about and what the gap could be. This was taken from the official White House blog post by Barack Obama.

Good morning.  Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning.  After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, “Daddy, you won the ______________, and it is Bo’s birthday!”  And then Sasha added, “Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.”  So it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

2 Use the Press release for text study. If you go to the Nobel Peace Prize website you can see the official press release. It’s a nice short text that begins like this.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples…

Use the whole text for language study. There are several collocations on politics in there, some interesting structures and lots of lexis relating to international relations.

3 Examine the debate. Of course, this nomination and award has not been without its controversy. Many think that it is too premature for Obama to get this prize. Others see it more as encouragement. Some of this debate is raging back and forth on newspaper sites. Check out this opinion column from the Telegraph “Obama winning Peace Prize is absurd” and the responses below to give you a taste. Ask students to read these and then give their own opinion (or the other way around).

4. Teach peace slogans This can lead in nicely to some teaching of famous peace slogans, like “Make Love not War”, “Give Peace a Chance” “Let’s try Preemptive Peace” etc. There is a collection here used by activists to put on signs. If you have access to internet with your students you could get them to make one of these or one of their own into a button, using this nifty little web tool called Cool Text.

Sample peace button I made with CoolText

Sample peace button I made with CoolText

5 Make a peace “glog” (or poster). If you’re working with either young learners, secondary school students or adults who like getting creative you could make a glog. A glog is a poster online, like a single webpage with images, music, text etc. Check out this site to find out more. I’m currently using Glogs with one of my classes, and asking them to make a Nobel Peace Prize glog is an idea I’m thinking of trying out. Of course students can always make a traditional paper poster too, and put them up around the class.

6 Hold your own awards ceremony. After all this you may be a bit “peace-d out”, so use this as a springboard to host your own awards ceremony. You could have categories such as “Most Participation”, “Best Contributions”, “Top Talker” etc. Students cast their nominations by secret ballot, and later on in the year you hold an award ceremony to give out certificates or little candies or something like that. It’s an idea.

Published in: on October 13, 2009 at 6:27 am  Comments (7)  
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  1. Very much liking the critical approaches Lindsay. There’s a lot of mileage in that at the moment. I am planning on asking my students’ opinion about Obama’s nobel prize honour and anticipating many of them will find it difficult to comprehend WHY he got it. As one of them said to me in an email the other say “aren’t you supposed to make peace before being awarded prizes for it!”. Fair point. No matter the level, I think we can all definitely explore the debate around this issue, and try follow up activities too. I would also get students to come up with the reasons why Obama got this prize – then can you let me know as I am in the dark as to where exactly in his political career he has proved himself worthy until now 🙂 There is also a lot of scope for asking S’s what they think about the concept of awarding a prize for “encouragement” – shame more of their English exams are not structured that way eh!!!

    • Thanks Sara for the comment. I’m doing this lesson today in class too. I’ve found a great collection of quotes from other world leaders about this, which makes for interesting follow up reading. Check out

      • Let us know how it goes. Your link is great. Perhaps a good lesson would be “the langugae of humble grovelling” 🙂 let’s see if Obama lives up to the high expectations almost all the commentators seem to feel he deserves.

  2. Just to let you know that I did numbers 1, 2 and 3 with an adult class last night. It worked a charm. I even found the video of Obama saying those first lines on youtube, and a CNN video of European reactions to the peace prize. Made for stimulating discussion!
    At the end, instead of making peace buttons, the students wanted to learn about word clouds (e.g. so we did peace wordles!

  3. Peace is not beneficial for all people.

  4. Great post Lindsay and great minds think alike – we’ll be publishing a Guardian Weekly news lesson on Obama’s Nobel prize next week!

  5. i am a indian. i want nobel prize winner.

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