Conspiracy Theories

The language of cover-ups, hoaxes and secret plots. All is revealed… or is it?

As people rely more and more on the internet to be informed, fake news and conspiracy theories have become much more widespread and increasing numbers of people seem to be convinced about ideas that, to most people, seem ridiculous. Where do these theories come from? Why do people believe them? How do we stop the spread of fake news and misinformation? These are just some of the questions that come up in this intriguing package of English language teaching and learning resources.

The following lesson materials are aimed at Upper Intermediate to Advance level students.

An introduction with a discussion on some of the most well known conspiracy theories plus vocabulary exercises comparing and identifying synonyms. There’s also a version including notes for teachers.

The reading texts are taken from an article in Time Magazine from July 2019 on some of the most enduring conspiracy theories. There are several texts covering different theories so students can choose which to read. The writing exercise give students an opportunity to take their own “angle” on how they might approach writing an article as a journalist about a conspiracy theory and write up a summary of their article. An optional homework could be to write up the complete article if they are feeling motivated about the subject. Finally some discussion questions go into a bit more depth about what defines a conspiracy theory by comparing and contrasting the stories. The vocabulary list will be useful for students to look up new words both in this lesson and the following video lesson.

The videos included in this lesson are all about conspiracy theories that have become very popular in recent years. There are a choice of three videos to watch, so it would work best for the student/s to choose one video to watch in their own time and make notes for the questions (the videos are between 5-10 minutes long each). If it’s a group or class they can compare answers in the following lesson. Not all the questions are answered in each video, so the student/s will need to speculate and give their own ideas for some of their responses (see grammar).

As conspiracy theories rely on a lot of speculation and guesswork the grammar focus is on modal verbs for speculation (present tense) and adverbs & adjectives of certainty. See my previous blog on Space for extra grammar materials on modal verbs which includes language for speculating about the future and the past. As well as the summary and accompanying exercises there are also some ideas for speaking activities where these grammatical forms can be used.

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