Why a wall won't stop immigration - a discussion provoking video

To build or not to build the wall? This is the question!!!

For many people living in America it is a vital question since it would mean the end of their present life, social status, school, family bonds, job and many other things. No matter what we think, it would be a disaster for millions of people both outside and inside the country. I was writing my MA thesis about immigration policy in America and Ellis Island, in particular. Limitations are nothing new! There was an Exclusion Act for Chinese, there were Quota Acts for immigrants from Europe. People who live long enough to remember or know the US history would say that history likes to repeat itself.

Should we talk about it with students? I think we should, especially with those more advanced ones, as there are not so many social or current affair topics in the coursebooks. From time to time, I discuss with my advanced students current issues such as natural disasters that have just hit certain places in the world or Brexit, for example. Young people should have their opinion. I always try not to push them and stay objective, neither for nor against. So at the end they never know what my real opinion is. Let's not forget, however, that those are sensitive issues and we should be careful discussing them in the class. It all depends on the group - age, ethnicity, level of advancement etc.

Topic: immigration, social issues, borders

Time: 45 min

Age: 13+

Level: B1 and above

Activity aim:

  • to discuss the reasons of immigration in general
  • to discuss and list advantages and disadvatages of immigration
  • to discuss the reasons of people emigrating to the USA
  • to discuss  +/- of building the wall on the border with the USA
  • to discuss the topic of bordes and their types

Film address: https://youtu.be/K_P9PR5ckFk

Stage one

Write down the word IMMIGRATION on the board. Ask your students why people emigrate in general and write it down. Maybe there are some immigrants in your group and they could also tell why their family had to emigrate. They usually give typical reasons: enconomy, religious persecution, famine, poverty, war, lack of employment etc. 5-10 minutes

Stage two

Divide your class into two groups. Group one has to write down as many advantages of immigration as possible. Group two has to list all the disadvantages of it. Give 5-6 min for that. Now class discussion - they have to convince each other giving their arguments. About 10 min

Stage three

Ask your students if they have heard about the idea of building the wall on the border USA-Mexico. If yes, ask them about their opinion.( 5min.) Now, tell them that they are going to watch a film giving reasons why it is not a good idea to build such a wall. They have to open their notebooks and list all the reasons they have heard in it. Play the film.

Stage four - pair work

Students work in pairs and compare the reasons they have just written down with their partner.
 (5 min)

Stage five 

Class discussion. Students tell all the reasons they have listed and they discuss with each other if they agree or disagree with it.(10 min)

As you can see, the students do all the job. I try not to interfere or comment. Sometimes, I only ask: Really? Do you really think so? Why? Why not? That's all.

Stage six - homework

  • They can continue the started topic by looking for some info in the press or youtube about the advantages of building such a wall (thanks Gari)
  • You can ask them to express their opinion in a form of a blog entry. They have to write max 100 words. 
  • As a follow up activity they can watch at home an add created in response to what is happening in the USA. Borders! Another topic worth discussing. What kind of borders are there and why? Should we have borders around us at all? Can they be avoided?

Hope you will like it. Comment - share - enjoy:)


  1. Hi, there. Immigration is a current and important subject to be discussed. I enjoyed your post and also the lesson plan.
    I take the opportunity to invite you to take a look at a post on my blog where you can find a similar activity for learners.
    Best wishes, Neusa, Brazil

  2. Sorry, the link to my blog is https://teachernc.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/atividade-com-o-filme-obrigado-por-fumar/

  3. Really interesting.The activities are also envolving! Also a possibility for reflection!


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