A Common Voice? - Activities

Activity 1 - Language Barriers

This activity aims to have pupils explore some of the issues surrounding migration between member states and the experiences of those involved. One of the most difficult issues facing someone moving to a new country is that of language.

Provide your pupils with a copy of the poem “You have to Live in Somebody Else’s Country to Understand” by Noy Chou, which appears on page five of the PBS educational resource of the same title. Place your pupils in groups of four and ask each group to create a tableau or series of tableaux to illustrate the poem.

When they’re complete, ask each group to present their tableau to the class. Each character in the tableau should use words or phrases that describe how their character is feeling.

For further advice on tableau, please see pg. 67 of Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stage 3.

Activity 2 - Effecting Change

Remind your pupils of the previous activity where they considered what it is like for a newcomer to country. Place them into groups, and ask them to discuss what they could do to make someone coming to live in Northern Ireland from another EU country more welcome and included. You might like to pose the following questions to get them started:

  • What can I do as an individual?
  • What can we do as a class?
  • What can we do as a school?
  • What can we do as a community?

Ask each group to write down their ideas and to write each idea on a separate piece of paper or Post-it® note. Then, have them complete a Priority Pyramid with the question: "How can we make things different for someone coming to live in Northern Ireland?"; written on the side of the pyramid. Ask them to consider their group’s Post-it® notes and prioritise them in order of importance. They should put what their group feels are the most important factors for making things different at the top of their pyramid and the least important at the bottom. When all groups are finished, allow each group to share their ideas with the class and justifying their decisions.

Throughout the activity, encourage your pupils to challenge stereotypical views people have of migrants and language problems, and distinguish between fact, opinion, stereotypes and propaganda

Activity 4 - A Common Voice?

Split the class into groups of four or five pupils.

Ask half of the groups to brainstorm and research the following question:

“What would be gained by having one official language for the EU.”

Ask the other groups to brainstorm and research:

“What would be lost by having one official language for the EU.”

The groups should think about what things might change, and the consequences of these changes. Prompt the class to think about how it would affect:

  • their lives – Would they have difficulty adapting to using a different language?
  • their identity – Would they feel less British or less Irish if they had to speak a different language? Would they feel more European? Would they speak their native language less often?
  • their education – How would their school be different if classes were taught in a different language?
  • the economy – Would Northern Ireland organisations find it easier to do business in the EU or would they face more competition?
  • law and order – If court cases were carried out in the new language how would you understand what was going on if you were standing trial or in the jury?
  • employment – Would having one official EU language make it more difficult for you to get a job? Would it make it easier for you to get a job in another EU country? Would more jobs be lost or be created?


Ask each group to nominate a spokesperson to feedback on what they discussed. To debrief, ask pupils:

  • How realistic do they think a plan to introduce one official EU language would be?
  • What language would they choose, and what criteria would they use to choose it? (For example, the language of the largest country (French), the language of the EU country with the biggest population (German) or the EU language with the most native speakers world-wide (Spanish)).
  • What does the activity tell them about the importance of language?