Society Changers

Follow-up exercise to reading unit on famous people who have greatly improved society.


In EUB, a reading course, we spent a unit focusing on two people whose actions have positively affected the lives of many people in their homelands and around the world: Wangari Maathai and Muhammad Yunus, both of whom have won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work.


At the end of the unit students were asked to form pairs and then do the following:

  1. Choose “someone who has made an important contribution to improving society and/or the world”.
  2. Do research in their free time about the person they choose.
  3. Make an oral presentation in pairs in front of their classmates.

It must include:

  • Background information about the person
  • A detailed explanation of how that person`s actions benefited society.
  • Limited use of realia, such as photographs and posters, to improve understanding and make their presentations more interesting.


2 hours for preperation (mainly as homework assignment), 1 hour for presentation


Regarding the steps above:

1. Make it clear that students are NOT choosing role models, but instead people who have changed society for the better, so they cannot, for example, choose a famous sports person like Ichiro Suzuki, who is very disciplined, skillful, and a good role model. They could, however, select Norihiro Akahoshi, whose charity has provided wheelchairs and support to the disabled community in Japan. ***Teachers must approve of the person selected. For example, students are not allowed to choose someone they studied in class (e.g. Martin Luther King, Chris Moon, Wangari Maathai, etc.), otherwise the subject matter will not be new or interesting to their classmates.

2. Students mainly used the Internet to gather information and print out pictures for their presentation.

3. On the day of the presentations, we divided the class into two groups and used adjacent classrooms to create a more intimate atmosphere and increase the presentation time available for each pair.

4. Students are evaluated on the basis of their research and presentation content, delivery, and teamwork.

5. One section of the end of year term exam was about the content of the presentations, so both teachers and students in the audience must take detailed notes.

6. Suggest that pairs do their best to make the presentation interesting and interactive. For instance, they may do part of it as a role-play, or as a live interview of the subject of their talk.

Options: Have students write a report about their “special person”.

Possible Problems: It is helpful if students have a checklist to ensure they stay on schedule and are properly prepared.

High School
Computer, internet access