Pragmatics in EFL Classroom: Teaching the Use of Directives in Risk Communication Context

Amy Ives Takebe, Oklahoma State University

Quick Guide

  • Key Words: English for Specific Purposes (ESP), risk communication, directives, phrasal verbs
  • Learner English Level: High-intermediate to advanced learners
  • Learner maturity: University or adult learners
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes (printing handouts & setting up video)
  • Activity time: 60 minutes
  • Materials: Sets of sentence strips (Appendix A) and class activity handout (Appendix B)

This lesson was created for EFL learners who are interested in serving as multilingual volunteers in the event of an emergency in Japan. By using excerpts from earthquake preparedness guides, this speaking and listening lesson teaches the use of directives in earthquake response contexts.



Step 1: Print enough copies of Appendix A and B. 

Step 2: Set up the When the Earth Shakes video (URL provided in the reference).



Step 1: Divide the class into small groups. As a warm-up activity, have students discuss typical recommended actions when an earthquake occurs. Encourage students to share their group’s suggestions to the whole class.

Step 2: Distribute one sentence strip from Appendix A to each student. Inform the students that the sentence strips they have are from a disaster preparedness guide. Each sentence strip has an incomplete sentence. 

Step 3: Ask the students to walk around the class checking each other’s sentence strips, and find a partner who has the clause that matches theirs. Check answers with the students, and tell them to work with these partner pairs from now on.

Step 4: Instruct the students to discuss with their partners which words in their sentence strips are emphasized (e.g., spoken louder or slower) for more effective instruction. Provide necessary feedback. 

Step 5: Inform the students that utterances that instruct the listeners to do something are called directives. Both bald imperatives (e.g., get away from the ocean) and polite requests (e.g., please help them) are forms of directives. 

Step 6: As a transition to the next activity, inform the students that phrasal verbs can also be used in post-earthquake instructions (e.g., shut off the gas valve, check on the neighbours). Invite students to share some example phrasal verbs.

Step 7: Distribute Appendix B.

Step 8: Have the students read the transcript in Appendix B and work with their partners to fill in the blanks. Inform the students that there could be multiple possible answers for this exercise. 

Step 9: Play the audio and discuss the answers. Pause or replay the audio as required and help with any parts the students find challenging, and give feedback on any possible answers from the students that were not in the video script.

Extension: As homework, ask students to review the local municipality’s safety guide and prepare presentations on example protective actions for other types of natural hazards (e.g., floods, landslides, heavy snow) as a group or an individual assignment. 

For Online Classes: For steps 2 and 3, put the clauses from Group B in Appendix B in random order. Divide the class into pairs. Use the breakout room feature on Zoom or other online conference platforms and have the students discuss which clauses from Group B would match that of Group A. 



Guiding the general public with appropriate language is a critical skill for multilingual disaster volunteers. This lesson introduces the students the genre of risk communication, a discourse context some students may find themselves in the future. 



FEMA. (2020, February 2). When the Earth Shakes [Video]. Youtube.



The appendices are available below.