What was the most important invention of the 20th century? When I asked this question I got a familiar range of answers: the internet, the phone, the plane, television. But I wanted to suggest another candidate. Its inventor is a man called Malcolm McClean, and his invention was ... the shipping container. To find out just how much this metal box changed the world, students read an article about McClean and his box in Unit 8 of the SB. The idea for the article came from a BBC documentary I watched just before working on Beyond B2, and it was gratifying to see how students were also fascinated by the revolutionary impact of such a simple invention.
Keeping with the theme of world commerce, the latter part of the class was spent preparing for the last major writing task of the term: an FC-style essay. As I explained, this is a genre they will have to write in the exam. As a lead in, I got students to think of the good and bad things goods being transported cheaply around the world. We then looked at the model essay in Unit 8 of Beyond, analysed its structure and picked out the words and phrases that are used to argue that globalised world commerce has done more harm than good. Their homework is to argue for the other side of the debate. It'll be interesting to see the results as it's a text type students can find it hard to get right.