Ethics in Action

A lesson plan for Civic Education in the English as a Foreign Language Classroom
by Angel Bonilla
Executive English Program Coordinator
Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano
San Jose, Costa Rica


To have students explore their perceptions of right and wrong as citizens and individuals.


In one of my classes with advanced students, I have used a segment of the movie Fried Green Tomatoes in which one of the characters has been waiting for a vacant space at a parking lot. All of a sudden, a space becomes available but when she is about to park, a couple of teenage girls take over on the space. The way the lady decides to express her anger is by crashing her car against the teenagers' car several times. They had not only violated her right to park but on top of that they insulted her.


Have the students watch the segment without audio. It is so short that it only takes 5 minutes to view the excerpt. Afterwards, the students split into groups of three. I ask students to choose one of the characters in the segment and to write dialogue based on their understanding of what has taken place. Each group will work separately on a script. Once the groups have finished their scripts, I ask them to present them by acting out the situation. Once students have presented their version of the situation, the class comes back together and in a semi-circle discusses why each group approached the situation the way they did. The instructor functions as a moderator synthesizing the ideas and leading students to the understanding that we are individuals responsible for our acts and that one has to respect others' ideas and positions in order to survive in the system one lives in.

Prior to the role plays, the teacher can have a couple of students state their opinions on the possible answers to one of the questions. This will get everybody to agree or disagree with the assertions thus creating a conducive environment to sharing.


  1. Who has the right to park in the spot? First come first served? The older person?
  2. Had you been the Lady, what would have been your reaction?
  3. What would have been different if the person waiting for the spot had been a man?
  4. What if the people driving the "usurping" car had been two teenage boys?
  5. What do you think the situation would have been like if it had taken place in Costa Rica?
  6. Role play the situation with groups where everybody is:
  7. of the same sex

    of the same age


    middle age people

    people in their 60īS

    from another country*

* This specific role play can bring some biases due to stereotyping, but would make the students aware of the different angles from which you can analyze right from wrong. The core purpose of the activity is to understand why we react the way we do in certain circumstances depending on the setting, values, and rights as individuals and as citizens.

I hope you can find some use to this activity in the EFL classroom, both to create awareness and educate individuals.

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