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December 1997 - Issue No. #29 (p.18)

Teaching about Landmines

by Kip Cates (Tottori University, Japan)

Landmine Press Conference

One way to practice foreign language skills while raising awareness about the problem of landmines is to do a class simulation of a landmine expert press conference. Here's what to do:


Ask the class if they know what the word "landmine" means, then pre-teach relevant vocabulary. Explain how landmines are a major world problem, how NGOs like the UN and Red Cross are working on this problem, and how one organization, ICBL (International Campaign to Ban Landmines), won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work.

Press Conference Role Play

Next, tell the class that today they will role play a press conference on landmines featuring landmine experts and world reporters.

Choose three students from the class who are good actors to become "instant experts" on landmines. They will play the roles of:

  • a United Nations landmine expert

  • a Red Cross landmine expert

  • a landmine expert from ICBL

Have these three students sit at the front of the class "press conference style" and give them the instant expert cards below to study for 5 or 10 minutes.
While the three "land-mine experts" study their cards, tell the rest of the class that they will role play journalists from famous world newspapers. Have them get in pairs or groups to decide which newspaper they represent (e.g. Le Monde from France, The New York Times from the US, etc.). If they don't know many world newspapers, write a list on the board or make cards they can choose from. Once they've chosen their newspapers, ask them to write Wh- questions about landmines (Who, What, Where, When, Why, Which, How, How many, How much...) to ask the landmine experts.

When the experts and reporters are ready, start the role play with you, the teacher, serving as moderator.

MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen. I'd now like to begin our press conference on landmines. We're very lucky to have with us today three international experts on this topic who will be pleased to answer all your questions. Let me introduce them to you now:
  • On the left is (student's name) from the United Nations. She has been involved with landmine research for 10 years, spent 2 years in Africa studying the situation there and has flown to Japan for this press conference from UN Headquarters in New York.

  • In the middle is (student's name) from (imaginary Red Cross bio-data as above)

  • And on the right is (student's name) from (imaginary ICBL bio-data as above)

Now let's begin our press conference. Please raise your hand if you have a question, stand up to identify your country and newspaper, and ask your question to the experts on our panel. First question, please....

MODERATOR: Yes, the reporter wearing the blue sweater in the back.

STUDENT: My name is Junko Tanaka and I represent the Bangkok Post newspaper in Thailand. Here's my question: How many landmines are there in the world?

(continue in the same way with other "reporters" and their questions to the three experts)

After the reporters have asked all their questions, have each expert make a final comment about landmines.


Have students research and write reports about landmines, profile an NGO involved with landmines or write letters to an English newspaper.

Teaching Resources on Landmines


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650