Tips for Teachers: Get your students off to a flying start with Amelia Earhart

Are you looking for original ways to get students to read? Look no further! This blog post introduces one of over 100 fascinating historical characters featured in the new Amazing People ELT Readers, and includes some ideas showing how to easily create inspiring and meaningful classroom activities around these ‘amazing people’.

Do you know who Amelia Earhart is? A nurse? One of the many people declared dead in absentia? The ‘Queen of the Air’?

That’s all true, actually, but Amelia is most well known for the fact that she was the first woman to fly solo and non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean.

Amelia was born in 1897 and declared dead in 1937, so she was alive during the First World War and the Great Depression. She lived at the same time as Pablo Picasso from Amazing Architects and Artists and Marie Curie from Amazing Scientists, and was inspired by Charles Lindbergh, who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone and non-stop.

Collins English Readers - Amazing Architects and Artists     Collins English Readers Amazing Scientists

Would you like to find out more about Amelia’s life? She and Charles Lindbergh are amongst the five aviators featured in the Level 2 reader Amazing Aviators.

Collins English Readers - Amazing Aviators

You can also watch a video of Amelia telling her own life story.

Amazing Aviators - Amelia Earhart video

Teaching Ideas:

Below are some classroom ideas showing how you can use Amelia’s story in Amazing Aviators with your students. You can adapt the ideas to use them for many of the other Amazing People ELT Readers, or you can use them with Amelia’s video.

If you’re interested in a complete lesson plan to go with Amelia Earhart’s story, this will soon be available in the Teacher Zone on our ELT Readers webpage. Just click on the Teacher Resources button to sign up!

1. Ice Breaker: Introduce the topic of flying by asking your students some questions. While you ask the questions, write down important vocabulary on the board, e.g. flying / flew / plane / pilot / captain / scared / a bumpy flight / a smooth flight…

  • Have you ever flown in a plane?
  • Where did you fly to most recently?
  • How much time did you have to spend on the plane to get there?
  • Was it a big plane?
  • Was it a smooth/bumpy flight?
  • Did the captain speak to the passengers while you were on the plane?
  • Is anybody in the class scared of/passionate about flying?

If you like, you could ask your students to discuss all or some of these questions with their partner. After a few minutes ask them to report back on their partner’s experiences.

2. Comprehension: Prepare a handout with some important events in Amelia’s life, but with some words missing. Ask your students to find the missing information in the story or watch the video with the class and ask your students to complete the sentences. After students have completed the exercise, compile the answers on the board, inviting the whole class to contribute. If you think gap-fill questions are too difficult for your students, you can also create true or false statements to test comprehension – or a mix of both.

Here are some examples of sentences you could use:

Fill the gaps

  • Amelia was born in Kansas in __________.
  • In 1907 Amelia’s family ____________ to Iowa.
  • Amelia was with her father when she saw an ____________ for the first time.
  • She thought the plane looked _________________ .

True or false?

  • Amelia finished high school in 1916, when Europe was at war in WW1.
  • When Amelia saw an aircraft for the first time, she thought it looked very safe.
  • Amelia was born in Iowa.

The timeline in Amazing Aviators is a great starting point to prepare this exercise, but please do cross-check your questions with the story text, as the timeline includes more dates than the story.

3. Vocabulary: Ask your students to pick 2 words they don’t know and have never used before from the story. Can they guess what the words mean? If they can’t they may look the words up in a learner’s dictionary. Now, ask your students to think of a way to explain their words to their partner. Students now get together in pairs and explain the words to each other. Together, they also come up with an example sentence for each word. Then open a whole class discussion where each pair of students explains their favourite one of the four words they had to their classmates. To conclude, pick a couple of all the words from around the class and use them in a game of ‘hangman’.

4. Personalisation: In her story, Amelia explains that when she first saw a plane she thought it looked dangerous, but a couple of years later she changed her mind and thought it looked exciting. Show your students the picture of the Lockheed Vega aircraft on p. 51 of Amazing Aviators or stop the video at around 10 mins to show them one of Amelia’s planes. Ask your students if they would like to fly in a plane like Amelia’s? Do they think the plane looks dangerous or exciting? Would they like to learn how to fly a plane?

5. Field Trips/Media: If time and resource allows, you could take your students to a Science Museum, a Transport Museum or a War Museum in your area, similar to the Imperial War Museums, located in London, Manchester and Cambridgeshire. There, they might be able to look at planes similar to the one Amelia has used. Also, it will help to embed the topic of aviation within the wider context of history.

Find out more about Amelia Earhart:

The official Amelia Earhart website has a wealth of resources, including a detailed biography, photos, videos, songs, downloads, information about events and more.

The Amelia Earhart Museum is located at Amelia’s birthplace in Atchison, Kansas. This site gives details about Amelia’s life and the Ninety-Nines, the organisation of female pilots that she helped establish.

The Library of Congress has a timeline and stories about Amelia’s life.

Collins English Readers - Amazing People