Stories and Projects for World Cities Day

The United Nations celebrates World Cities Day on 31st October, and this year’s theme is ‘Inclusive Cities, Shared Development’. Take this observance and turn it into a great classroom project to learn more about the world around us and get your students to think about their own environment.

The Millennium Bridge with St Paul's Catherdral in London. Illustration by Nick Tankard in The Mystery of the Three Domes, written by Elspeth Rawstron. © Helbling Languages

The Millennium Bridge with St Paul’s Catherdral in London. Illustration by Nick Tankard in The Mystery of the Three Domes, written by Elspeth Rawstron. © Helbling Languages

Stories and cities: Awareness of the place around us

How can stories help you learn about vastly different cities all around the world? If we cannot travel to all the cities we dream of visiting, the next best experience is reading about them. Reading stories about places they love engages your students’ imagination and improves their language skills at the same time.

Think of the setting not only as the environment where the story takes place, but also as a character with its own ‘personality’ and role in the narrative. Imagine that one of your favourite stories was set in a different city. Cities have their own characteristics, and although they might be similar to each other, they all have their own peculiarities and distinctive features.

One way of selecting stories to read is approaching them through their settings.There are books we like reading because they take us on a journey through time and/or space. Let’s see what some of the Helbling Readers can offer us. When you’re reading them, pay attention to the description of the city in each story, and landmarks that appear and the lifestyle of the people that live there. If the story is set in the past, think about how the city has changed in time.

LONDON

Classics

Original stories

NEW YORK

RIO DE JANEIRO

ATHENS

HONG KONG

The map of Hong Kong. Illustration by Lorenzo Sabbatini in Dan and the Hong Kong Mystery written by Martyn Hobbs. © Helbling Languages

The map of Hong Kong. Illustration by Lorenzo Sabbatini in Dan and the Hong Kong Mystery written by Martyn Hobbs. © Helbling Languages

FIVE CITY PROJECTS IN THE LANGUAGE CLASS

The United Nations website draws our attention to the following concepts of urbanisation:

  • employment,
  • diversity,
  • social cohesion between different classes, cultures, ethnicities and religions,
  • opportunities,
  • connection and interaction,
  • and sustainable use of shared resources.

Let’s see three activities which can help your students understand these abstract ideas and see them from a practical perspective.

1 Study a map.

This is a group work activity. Look at the map of your own city. We recommend a simple view on Google Maps, but of course you can use your own maps or an atlas.

  • Search for three different cities.
  • Can you see any differences between the structure of the cities?
  • What is the countryside like around this city?
  • Are there any rivers, lakes or sea in the area?
  • How developed is the road system in and around the city?

2 Learn to talk about the different types of cities.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are four types of cities. Check out the chart they have prepared and place your city, your capital city and your favourite city on this grid.

Now look at these terms and define them by pointing them out on the map of your capital city. Some of them have very similar meanings.

  • suburb
  • district
  • neighbourhood
  • borough
  • inner city
  • outer city
  • city centre
  • commuter belt
  • downtown
  • marketplace
  • outskirts
  • high street
  • green belt
  • business park
  • industrial park
  • residential areas

3 Design your own city.

Here five areas and functions all cities should have. Write examples for each of them.

  1. PUBLIC SPACES
  2. PUBLIC TRANSPORT
  3. BUILDINGS
  4. STREETS
  5. LANDSCAPE

Draw a map of your own city and make sure that all these areas and functions are present.

  • What public spaces will you add?
  • How can people travel in the city?
  • Are there any green areas?
  • Does your city have a river or any mountains?
  • How wide are the streets?
  • Where are the residential zones?
  • How do you take care of waste management?

4 Present the city you would really like to visit.

Answer the following twelve questions when you talk about this place.

  1. Where is it?
  2. What type of city is it?
  3. When was it built?
  4. What are the main areas of the city?
  5. How can you travel in the city?
  6. What’s the name of the public transport system?
  7. Where is the nearest airport?
  8. What are the main landmarks in the city?
  9. What is the most popular food to eat in this city?
  10. How green is this city?
  11. How many people live there?
  12. Why do you like it?

5 Search the Internet, maps and encyclopaedias for different types of cities.

Here are some tips to begin your journey. Try to find these cities in the world and in your own country.

  1. The oldest city
  2. The most populated city
  3. The least populated city
  4. The largest city
  5. The smallest city
  6. The cleanest city
  7. The greenest city
  8. A very strange city

Check out the following blog posts to learn more about the literary aspects of some cities:

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