If you’ve enjoyed using The Curfew and Climate Challenge with your students – or even playing them yourself – here’s another great game from Channel 4 and Littleloud that aims to raise awareness of social and political issues.
In Sweatshop, you take on the role of a middle manager in a factory that supplies clothes to retailers in countries like the UK and Hong Kong. You must hire and fire the workers who stitch together baseball caps, trainers and sweatshirts. To maximise profits – and gain the highest score – you have the option of hiring cheaper child workers, speeding up the conveyor belt, and cutting corners by, among other things, not hiring health and safety officers.
Later on, we begin to see the impact of this way of working and the human consequences of bowing to the economic pressures faced by the factory manager. Through interactive and language-rich game-based tasks, we experience the system from the inside, in a more objective way than through a documentary or article, and develop a different sort of empathy and understanding with the different people involved.
Though Apple have recently decided to remove it from their app store, the game is still available online. Here are some suggestions for using it with Secondary students:
- students read some of the facts about sweatshops from the website – perhaps by doing a reading race or web treasure hunt, so you can grade the language to their level
- using the passive voice, students predict the stages a pair of trainers go through from factories to shops – then watch the game intro to check their ideas
- students brainstorm vocabulary related to employment and factory production – e.g. conveyor belt, wage, hire – and tick off each item when they see or use it
- students take turns to complete each stage of the game – using functional phrases and first conditional/modal structures to collaborate and decide what to do
- students explain what they did and why, using the past simple
- students reflect on their choices using the third conditional/modal perfect
- students discuss the issues in the game and reflect on whether a game is the best medium for exploring social and political problems
This is just a starting point. Can you think of any other ideas for using Sweatshop?