"You Are in the IWW" is an excellent "T-Chart" organizing activity that leads into a comparative-contrast essay and/or group report on the differences and similarities between the IWW and AFL unionism; industrial vs. trade. It comes from Bigelow & Diamond's excellent The Power in Our Hands: A Curriculum on the History of Work and Workers in the United States. Though it concerns unionism in the U.S., the notion of workers' union can be introduced in the ESL/EFL classroom as well. Cooperative Learning of four member teamwork (reporter, collector, grammar/spelling checker and timekeeper) keeps all students involved. This is how the activity works:
Instructional Objective: To practice organizing by comparison and contrast with the use of transitional expressions, and separation of opinion from fact.
Aim: How can we organize an essay or report showing the differences and similarities between ideas?
Motivation: We learned about labor unions; how they were formed to help workers get better working conditions and higher standards of living. However, there are differences and similarities between industrial and trade unions. Today, we will find out what they are and separate opinion from facts about them. In the end, we will take a vote to see what kind of union you might like to join if you were a worker.
(Divide the class into groups of 4 and distribute one handout to each student. Tell the students this will be a cooperative learning activity and assign responsibilities.)
Tell students they must separate facts from opinions. Perhaps divide Student Handout #10-A responsibilities by paragraphs; there are 13 paragraphs so assign 3 each for a group of 4 students. Put the facts onto a T-Chart: Facts about the AFL/Facts about the IWW. Each student would have his or her own T- Chart. Walk around the class and assist the students in deleting opinions. After sufficient time, have the students within a group exchange T-Charts adding more facts or pairing similar facts about each union on the same line. Write (+) if the facts are comparative and (-) if they are contrasting.
Introduce Transitional Expressions for comparison (ex. Similarly, In the same way, etc.) and contrasting (ex. However, On the other hand, etc.) and tell the students they are to use one TE for each pair of facts; it helps to practice by having whiteboard contest writing two facts on the board and having teams choose a TE and write sentences on the board. Each group then collects its comparative/contrast sentences and divides them into two paragraphs with a sub-topic sentence such as: "There are many similarities between the AFL and IWW" or "There are many differences between the AFL and IWW."
The reader in each group stands and gives the report to the class with the group's findings. It could be as short as two comparisons and two contrasts but must be separated by similarities and differences with a sub-topic sentence introducing each set of facts. Once the reports are given, make sure each member of each group has copied his or her group's findings.
(At this point, review what the class findings are and have a hand vote or secret ballot in which the students choose one or the other union to join, or neither.)
Either in class or at home, tell the students they are to write a four-paragraph essay entitled: "The AFL and IWW Unions" or something similar. First paragraph is introduction with topic sentence two sub-topic sentences, and a reason for writing. The body has two paragraphs: a paragraph on comparison, and one on contrast. The last paragraph is the conclusion in which the topic sentence, two sub-topic sentences, and a remark about the topic are stated
From my experience, it usually takes four to six class hours to complete this activity. The handout could be distributed in advance with a vocabulary list if you choose, but it should be read aloud in class to make sure the students all understand the details. You will find your class highly motivated, learning how to organize their thoughts, reports, essays, and a union in their workplace one day.