A Utopian Society?

This is a lesson plan for English and ESL classes based on the idea of utopian societies and people going off-grid.

It features an article about a German scientist, Gustav Obermann, who has started his own colony for people choosing to opt out of modern life.

This is followed by;

  • a list of reading comprehension questions
  • a table of essential vocabulary
  • a classroom activity
  • a list of discussion/conversation questions
  • a writing exercise

Finally, there are some teacher’s notes to help you.

You can use this in any English or ESL class but also an IELTS for speaking, reading or writing.

I have written the article with the intention of creating more heated discussion in the classroom.

Feel free to use this in your class today!

 


 

Introduction

 

What is a utopian society?

Is a utopian society possible?

Is your society utopian? Why/why not?

 


A New World

 

Many people are giving up on the modern world and wanting to go ‘off-grid’.

What does this mean?

“Allow me to explain,” says Dr Gustav Obermann. “As people, we need to be part of a society where we know all the other people in our group and where we feel safe. The modern world can no longer provide these needs for us. We have all the modern technology we think we need, and we live in these huge impersonal cities where we know no one. It is no way for any person to live.”

Dr Obermann is the mastermind behind A New World. This is a place where people give up living in the city and their jobs, they cancel all their social media memberships and throw away their smartphones and computers. Then they live on the farm that Dr Obermann began twenty years ago.

“We have in our community many people with invaluable skills,” he says. “Such as farmers, engineers, people who understand how to generate energy from the sun’s rays or the wind. We have a place here where we are totally self-sufficient. And the people — they are happy.”

One look around the farm and it is obvious that the residents are living a contented life. Everyone is smiling, everyone seems to know each other and no one seems to be in a hurry to do anything.

“That is the problem with the modern world,” says Dr Obermann. “We live in huge overpriced cities, we have jobs that just create much stress in our lives and we are never able to completely rest. We are always at work. Even when we go home, we are expected to be on call 24-hours a day.”

The farm that Dr Obermann started has fields around it. They are full of produce and there are people in the fields tending to the crops and ensuring that everything is looked after.

And there are no animals on the farm. There are some dogs and cats, one man has a parrot. But these are considered pets and part of the community.

“We are not meat-eaters here,” said Dr Obermann. “This has nothing to do with animal rights — although many of us feel strongly about that — but more to do with pure economics. It costs a lot of resources to feed cattle or pigs. And for what? The meat they produce only lasts a short time. But growing vegetables and other crops take much less consideration. It is far better to eat like this from an economic point of view.”

There are many children on the farm and they are educated by some of the adults.

“The children do not attend normal school,” says Dr Obermann. “What would they learn anyway? How to live in a world that would only make them unhappy. No, we don’t allow that. We teach the children basic skills like reading and writing and of course maths. Then when they are older they learn useful skills like farming and cooking, repairing things using your hands.”

And no computer skills for the children?

“No,” says Dr Obermann. “All computers are banned here. And we have no internet.”

 


 

Reading Comprehension Questions

 

How does Dr Obermann explain society at the beginning of the article?

What does the modern world lack according to Dr Obermann?

What organisation does Dr Obermann run?

What do the people do in this place?

How long has it been in operation?

What is Dr Obermann’s impression of modern cities?

Try to describe the farm.

What is Dr Obermann’s reasons for not eating meat?

Who teaches the children?

What do the children learn?

Are there any computers on the farm?

 


 

Essential Vocabulary

 

off-grid

society

modern technology

huge

impersonal

mastermind

social media

memberships

community

invaluable

skills

generate

energy

sun’s rays

self-sufficient

obvious

residents

contented

overpriced

stress

on call

produce

tending

crops

ensuring

parrot

meat-eaters

animal rights

pure economics

resources

cattle

consideration

economic

banned

 


 

So Much To Do!!

 

As one class brainstorm all the things that need to be done on Dr Obermann’s farm A New World.

Get one student to write all the things on the board.

Don’t stop until you are sure you have covered all the tasks that need to be done.

 


 

Discussion Questions

 

What do you think of Dr Obermann’s A New World?

Is this kind of place sustainable?

Do you think a utopian society is possible in the modern world?

Would you like to live off-grid? Why/why not?

What kind of people choose to do this? What are their reasons for doing this?

Are the skills that people teach the children enough?

What is missing in A New World?

Are computers absolutely necessary in our lives today? What about smartphones?

Is this kind of farm legal in your country? Why/why not?

Is Dr Obermann very intelligent? Or completely insane? Or both? Explain your reasons.

What kind of people lives like this in the world today? Think of very traditional people. Are they happy do you think?

What is wrong with modern society? How can we improve it?

 


 

Writing

 

You have joined Dr Obermann’s A New World.

You are very happy there and you want to write a letter to your family to tell them all about it.

Write a letter and explain all the great things about living on the farm. Write about what you do in the day and how you spend your evenings.

Try to convince your family to join you.

 


 

Teacher’s Notes

 

Introduction

Get students to read out all the questions, one-by-one, then discuss in the class together.

Reading

This could be done as a reading assignment before class or in the class with several students taking it in turns to read.

Check for pronunciation.

Reading Comprehension Questions

This could be done as homework or in class.

Go through all the questions, getting a different student to read out a question each time. Then elicit answers from the class.

Essential Vocabulary

This could be done as homework or in class.

If you do this in class, it is a good opportunity to help the students learn how to use a dictionary effectively.

It would be better if the students each had their own vocabulary notebook to write down new words learned from the reading exercise.

Get the students to write down the word and the meaning in English. Try to make them avoid using a translation app as this will just slow them down.

For making their own sentences, you could give them some time and go around the class assisting where necessary.

Once all the students are ready, you can get them to read out their sentences in class.

Check for the correct use of the vocabulary and sentence structure.

So Much To Do!!

This is a simple brainstorming exercise that involves all the class. You should just observe but you may need to generate some ideas at the beginning.

Discussion Questions

Get students to read out each question in class. Then discuss with all the class.

Encourage and push for responses where necessary.

Writing

Do this as a homework assignment.

You could mark all the writing assignments privately or ask the students to read out loud in class, depending on the students’ levels of confidence and their culture.

 


 

Feel free to use this as part of a lesson plan or exercise in your English/ESL class.

I hope it is useful and I welcome any comments you might have.

Many thanks!

 


 

You can download this lesson as part of a FREE book — just click HERE and I will send it to you.

2 thoughts on “A Utopian Society?”

  1. This is a very nice article about that ever elusive utopian world. In fact I wanted to find out more about Dr. Obermann because his community is very enticing, especially with all the stress of modern society and their alienation from nature. Additionally the topic lends itself to the very core beliefs that humans have about survival on this planet and the meaning of existence.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *