Posted 21/10/13

The month of October is Food Issues Month. The online event is being organized by the IATEFL Global Issues SIG. During the last couple of weeks, bloggers and lesson planners have been sharing ideas for addressing food issues in the classroom. A lot of the discussion has taken place on the Facebook page and I would suggest ‘liking’ it right now if you haven’t already. This lesson plan uses a piece of sculpture art by British artist Banksy. The Sirens of the Lambs invites us to examine and explore attitudes to animals that are bred for human consumption.

  • Language level: Intermediate + (B1)
  • Learner type: Teens; Adults
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Activity: Videotelling
  • Topic: Animal welfare
  • Language: Narrative tenses
  • Materials: Video clip
Sirens of the Lambs pdf [downloaded 3326 times]

Lesson plan outline

Use the following videotelling script below to take students through the narrative of Banksy’s The Sirens of the Lambs. Involve students by asking questions and where possible, teach unknown words or language as they are introduced. These can be written on the board.

Videotelling sample script

I want to tell you about a strange sight that New Yorkers have been witnessing recently. It involves a truck. On the side of the truck, there is a sign that says: Farm fresh meats.

  • Can you guess what the truck is carrying?

Answer: livestock.

  • What is livestock? Can you give me some examples?

The truck is packed with cattle (cows and bulls), sheep, pigs and chickens.

  • Where do you think they are going?

Answer: the slaughterhouse (also called the abattoir).

  • Has anyone been to New York City?
  • Did you go to the Meatpacking District?

This slaughterhouse truck is moving around New York City’s Meatpacking District.

  • What is the meatpacking industry? What does it involve?

Answer: The slaughtering, processing, packaging and distribution of livestock (according to Wikipedia).

  • Do you think that the people who live in this part of the city are used to sights like this?

Although there are fewer meatpacking plants than 150 years ago, slaughterhouse trucks are probably a fairly common sight. But there is something strange about this truck. It’s the animals.

  • Can anyone guess what is strange about these animals? What are they doing?

Many of them are pushing their heads out the sides of the truck. They are squealing. It’s as if they are calling out to the people in the street – people like me and you. Perhaps they are squealing for help.

  • How do you think the people in the street react as the truck passes?

[Elicit as many ideas as possible and write them on the board. Offer some of your own suggestions such as the ones below.]

* Some stop to watch / stand and stare in disbelief.
* Some pretend not to notice.
* One girl screams and runs away.
* A baby starts to cry.
* Some people take photographs with their mobile phones.
* Young children point and wave to the animals.

Perhaps the strangest reaction of all is this: Many people smile. Some even laugh. They seem to think this is funny.

  • Can you explain why people would react in this way?
  • What about you? How would you react?

Next stages

  1. If you wrote language items on the board, give students one minute to memorize as many of them as possible.
  2. Clean the board. Go over the videotelling script a second time and elicit as many new language items as possible.
  3. Tell students that what you have described to them is a piece of art. Ask them to guess about the nature of it. You could ask them to draw a picture of how they imagine it to look.
  4. Show students the video (link here).
  5. Tell students about the piece of art (the title, the artist, the ‘Better Out Than In’ New York residency, etc.) See link here.

Follow up 1

Dictate the following five statements to your students:

  • I eat meat and I am completely comfortable about it.
  • Although I eat meat. I am not always comfortable with it.
  • I am selective about the meat that I eat.
  • I am a vegetarian.
  • I am a vegan.

Ask each student to choose which statement(s) applies to them. Each statement requires explanation/justification. Ask students to write 50 words to explain/justify their stance (allow access to bilingual dictionaries if possible). Then ask students to get into groups to share their views.

Follow up 2

Ask students to investigate the story of Temple Grandin (‘The woman who thinks like a cow’.) As a proponent for farmed animal welfare, and as a consultant to the livestock industry, her fascinating story offers a balanced view of the issues being discussed here.

Follow up 3

Kieran Donaghy at Film-English has posted a video activity on Factory Farming titled The Scarecrow. It would make a good follow up to this one.


Posted 21/10/13

11 Responses to The Sirens of the Lambs

  1. Eva Suárez says:

    Thank you, Jamie. Banksy has left lots of materiales these past weeks in New york, I would also recommend his official facebook page, where you can find all his actions in New York.


    Thanks Jamie! We can also ask students to draw what they think the scene is about describing the setting in that way they can practise other items too, then they can compare, that’s funny!. I’ll do it and let you know how it goes.

  3. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Eva – a good resource.
    Isabel – if you get your students to create drawing, please let me see them.
    Jamie :)

  4. Duncan says:

    This is great! An interesting take on a serious topic. I will definitely be using some form of this lesson in my class next week.

  5. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Duncan. Good luck :)

  6. Siren of the lambs is a very provocative lesson that integrates critical thinking with language skills in a challenging way. I am using this with an English for Academic purposes class and it has been a successful resource on several levels. Introducing the issue of animal rights through art also added another valuable dimension that encouraged critical thinking. Thanks!

  7. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you for your very nice comment Narelle
    I am glad you like the activity
    Jamie :)

  8. Hi Jamie!

    Very inspiring topic and lesson. I’m going to use it combined with Kieran’s lesson and see how it goes.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Edward. Glad you like it. Good luck!
    Jamie :)

  10. Wonderful response from my students. I included a couple of things, like a Micro-writing activity and I joined it with the 1st and 3rd follow-up you recommended.
    Amazing work, Jamie. Thanks again!

  11. Jamie Keddie says:

    Great to hear it Edward. Thanks for reporting back!
    Jamie :)