Resources 1: Text on litter

Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils


Litter is any kind of ‘left-over’ or waste product that people do not put in its proper place, such as a rubbish bin. People who simply drop waste such as fruit peel or empty cans on the ground are guilty of littering. We sometimes call these people litter bugs.

Litter does not just happen

People are responsible for litter. An item of waste, such as the wrapping from a bar of chocolate, is not litter if it has been placed in a rubbish bin. It becomes litter when someone drops it on the ground, leaves it lying on the ground where he or she has been sitting or throws it out of a window.

Litter can be dangerous to people

Broken glass and sharp rusty cans that are left in places where people walk – and especially where young children play – can cut them. These cuts can lead to serious infections. Fruit and vegetable waste is sometimes slippery and if people step on it they may fall and break an arm or a leg. Litter can be a cause of road accidents when drivers try to move their cars or trucks out of the way of sharp objects that could cut their tyres. Plastic bags and pieces of cardboard sometimes blow onto the windscreens of vehicles and stop drivers from seeing clearly.

Litter can be dangerous to animals and birds

Glass and cans may also cut the feet or mouths of domestic or wild animals while they are grazing. Nylon fishing line that is thrown on the ground or into water can get wrapped around the beaks or legs of birds and cause them to die because they can no longer move or eat. Sea creatures, such as seals and sharks, may get caught up in old fishing nets. If they cannot free themselves they will also die.

The dangers of plastic

Plastic litter causes problems for fish, birds and people. In rivers and the sea it can be harmful to fish because they can get caught up in it and not break free. Plastic bags on beaches have led to the deaths of many seagulls. Even loosely woven bags, which vegetables and fruit are sometimes packaged in, can be harmful to birds. They get inside these and cannot find a way out, as the material is very tough. Pieces of plastic or plastic bags can get caught in the outboard motors of boats and can cause the motor to stop working.

If we want to keep our country clean and beautiful and to protect our people and our wildlife, we must not throw litter. It is not difficult to throw a can, bottle, plastic bag or piece of paper into a bin rather than on to the ground.

Writing tasks based on Litter

  1. List seven kinds of litter that are mentioned in the article. (To answer this question successfully pupils need to find information in several different paragraphs, so they have to read carefully.)
  2. Explain what the word litter means. (Pupils could copy an answer from the first paragraph of the text without really understanding what the word means but the next question can help you to check their understanding because you are asking them to use a word or words from other languages that they know – for many pupils their home language.)
  3. What is the word (or words) for litter in any other languages that you know?
  4. List three kinds of litter that are harmful to birds. (Birds are mentioned several times in the passage, not just in the paragraph with the heading that includes birds. Pupils need to find each reference to birds and then link this to different types of litter and the problems these cause.)
  5. In your own words, describe three of the ways in which people can be harmed by litter. (Pupils should use the sub-heading to guide them and then try to express the content of the paragraph in their own words rather than just copying from the paragraph. This will help you to see if they have understood what they have read.)
  6. Do you agree with the writer that it is not difficult to throw waste into a rubbish bin? Give a reason for your answer. (This is a personal response question that encourages pupils to think critically and express their own ideas.)
  7. Suggest what else can be done with waste products such as glass, paper, plastic, fruit and vegetable peels. (This is also a personal response question and encourages class discussion about the environmental topic of recycling.)

Notice that the answers to questions 1 to 5 require pupils to read the text carefully whereas questions 6 and 7 require them to use their own ideas.

Answers to the writing tasks

  1. Fruit and vegetable peel, glass, cans, plastic, fishing line, paper, cardboard.
  2. Litter is waste material that people do not put in its proper place (such as a rubbish bin).
  3. Words from languages used in your class.
  4. Nylon fishing line, plastic bags, woven fruit and vegetable bags.
  5. People can cut themselves on broken glass or sharp cans. People can slip on fruit or vegetable waste and break an arm or leg. People can be involved in road accidents when drivers try to avoid litter in the road or when they can’t see because of litter blown onto the windscreen. People on water in motorboats may not be able to safely reach land if the motor of the boat is damaged by plastic. (Four ways are mentioned here.)
  6. This is a question to which pupils should be encouraged to give a variety of responses. For example, it is not possible to put waste in a rubbish bin if there are no bins in the school grounds or in the streets.
  7. This task gives you and the pupils an opportunity to discuss various forms of recycling. For example, vegetable and fruit peels can be put into a compost heap or dug straight into garden soil in order to enrich the soil. Plastic strips can be woven into useful mats for the floor. In some towns and cities, glass, cans and paper or cardboard can be taken to recycling facilities and people can even be paid for what they collect and bring to these places.

Taken from Taitz, L. et al, New Successful English, Learner’s Book, Oxford University Press

3. Learning how to summarise

Resource 2: Introductory questions