Endangered species

Ian Munby, Hokkai Gakuen University

Quick guide

Key words:Internet research, oral presentation, global issues, creative writing

Learner English level:Intermediate to advanced

Learner maturity level:University

Preparation time:60 minutes(or fiveminutes if you use the attached materials)

Activity time:90-120 minutes

Materials:A sample A4-size poster as audio-visual material and copies for each student, a list of names of endangered species (one species for each class member), writing task instructions, and an example of a completed writing task. A kitchen timer is also useful for timing presentations.


In this activity, each student researches, prepares,and presents an oral presentation about an endangered species. In the follow-up activity, they assume the role of the same endangered species and write an essay detailing the story of their lives (and deaths) in the first person.


You will need to research an endangered species and give an example presentation to the class in the week before presentation day. You will also need to provide an example of a completed writing task.


Step 1:Give your example presentation using a presentation poster, complete with pictures and key words, within a set three-minute time limit. I use the example of the Iriomote Yamaneko (wild mountain cat; Appendix A).It is best to do this by projecting the poster onto a screen. If you don’t have a projector, you can make a large poster, or simply distribute copies of the poster before the presentation. They will eventually need a copy anyway as a model for their own posters.

Step 2:Divide the class into fouror sixgroups of threeor fourstudents. Assign one different endangered species to each member of the class. Here is an example I used with a class of 24.




North America



1.Japanese Otter


9. Tiger


13. Sea Otter

17. Iberian Lynx

21. Giant Panda

2.Japanese Giant Ibis

6.Mountain Gorilla

10.Ganges River Dolphin

14. Gray Wolf

18.Golden Eagle

22. Orangutan

3. Ryukyu Flying Fox

7. White Rhinoceros

11.Snow Leopard

15. Steller Sea-lion

19. Ibex

23. Komodo Dragon

4.Japanese Crane

8. Gazelle


16. Bald Eagle


20. Polar Bear

24. Dugong

Step 3:Ask the students to come back the next week with their own A4-size presentation poster ready to give a three-minute presentation.Give them the following guidelines: They must not use any extra notes, or write anything on the back of their posters. They should give Japanese translations for any infrequent English words that they do not expect their classmates to know.

Step 4:  Have students present on their endangered species. I prefer to use the revolving simultaneous group presentation format recommended by Tomei,Glick,andHolst (1999) because it maximizes student talking time and minimizes participant fear of speaking in front of large groups. In the first half of the lesson, half of the groups are presenters and set up in different corners of the classroom while the remaining groups play the role of small, mobile audiences.Each student in each group presents on their species for 3 minutes. In this way, there are threeor fourpresentations happening simultaneously in different corners of the room. After each group finishes, the audience groups move around to listen to the next group. In the second half of the lesson, the presenting groups become audiences (and vice versa) and the process is repeated. In this way, each group repeats their presentations threeor fourtimes. I use a kitchen timer to control proceedings. With very large classes, presentations can be done over twoclass periods.

Follow-up activity

Assign a writing task for independent study. See Appendix B for an example.Ask the students to imagine they are the endangered animal they have researched for their presentations and to describe their life history and the events of the last sevento 24 hours of their lives, leading to their deaths, as in the sample essay. The length should be about 400-500 words.


From the learner’s point of view, this is an extremely challenging but enjoyable task that gives them opportunities to (i) practise research skills, (ii) develop all four language skills, (iii) raise awareness of global issues, and (iv) be creative. As a teacher, I found my students’ essays to be much more interesting to read than what they produce for most other writing tasks.


Tomei, J., Glick, C., &Holst, M.(1999). Project work in the Japanese University Classroom. The Language Teacher, 23(3). Retrieved from www.jalt-publications.org/tlt/articles/1999/03/tomei.


The appendices are available below