So you’re well into the academic year; the what-did-you-do-at-the-weekend conversation died off many moons ago and the role plays are starting to wear a bit thin. You’re sick of the sound of your own voice and student enthusiasm appears to be on the wane. Where to next? Ever thought of causing a controversy?

Gun laws, sexual equality, religion, arranged marriage and the death penalty - these are just some of the contentious (and less imaginative) topics which, if managed correctly, can incite engaged discussion, inform presentation work or even lead to classroom debates resulting in rich(er) and more spontaneous output where the communicative aim has a basis in reality. What’s more, they can make the lesson more engaging for tired teachers too.

But before you rush off to plan your lesson to end all lessons – a note of caution! Controversies can stir passions beyond constructive debate. Matters relating to culture, religion and politics can be an emotional minefield and for some learners national pride and religious allegiance are sacrosanct. And whilst you may be careful not to give offence, you can’t guarantee that others won’t (intentionally or otherwise). So give some thought to local and class sensitivities and always try to anticipate problems with and between students, or you could just find yourself at the centre of a controversy of your own!