USAirways in the waterLevel : High Intermediate (B2)

Skill: Writing Sub-skills: summarizing; writing concise sentences


Some students in my writing class tend to be wordy and write long, convoluted sentences that actually say little. I wanted to help them cut out unnecessary words and become more concise. I like to use articles and videos as springboards for writing assignment, so for this lesson I chose a short, engaging TED Talk by Ric Elias. Feel free to use this lesson.  Download worksheet TED Talk Plane Crash Worksheet .


Step 1:   Give students the following background information about Flight 1549. (If you have an IWB, you can easily pull up images of the plane in the Hudson or even play a short news clip about the crash). In January 2009,  US Airways Flight 1549 hit some birds just a few minutes after it took off from a New York airport, causing both engines to die. The pilot decided to land crash-land the plane in the Hudson River. Ric Elias had a front-row seat on this flight. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? At TED, he tells his story publicly for the first time.

Step 2: In pairs or small groups, have students discuss the following question:

  • Imagine you are on this plane as it is crashing. What thoughts would go through your mind?

Step 3:  Write the following words/expressions on the board:

  • brace for impact
  • bucket list
  • mend fences
  • ego

Make sure students understand what these mean.

Step 4:   Tell students they are going to watch a TED Talk video in which a passenger on Flight 1549, Ric Elias, explains the three lessons he learned as the plane was crashing. Set the following listening task:

  • What three things did Ric Elias learn as the plane was crashing?

  Step 5:    Watch the Ted Talk (5:09).               https://www.ted.com/talks/ric_elias

After watching, pairs of students discuss the three things Elias learned.

Step 6:  Writing task: Write one sentence that gives the necessary background information about the plane crash. (i.e. a sentence that answers what happened? where? why? when? how? who?) This sentence is similar to the first sentence in many newspaper articles, Monitor as students are writing, assisting as necessary. Students share their sentence with a partner. Ask a few students to then share their sentence with the class. Write these on the board. Next, students write one sentence that summarizes each of the three lessons Elias learned. Again, monitor and assist as required. When students have written their three sentences, they share them with a partner. Ask students to make sure each sentence contains the main idea of the Elias’ lesson. Also ask them to check if they the sentences have any unnecessary words. Ask a few students to share their sentences and write thee on the board.

Step 7:  Next, ask students to think about a scary experience they’ve had and from which they learned something important. In pairs, students interview each other about this experience and take notes. Students will use these notes to write a brief summary describing the scary experience and the lesson learned.

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