Download lesson plan here


What you can do:

* Lead in: (5 mins) Show the word cloud or board the following terms in a random pattern:

In pairs or small groups, get the Ss to predict what the theme of today’s lesson might be, as well as any phrases they would expect to here. Board the results.

* Pre-Viewing: (10 mins)

Then show a picture of David Graeber, and explain that he is a prominent anthropologist. Elicit what an anthropologist does, and give students a minute or so to discuss and have a guess as to why an anthropologist might be interviewed in relation to their previous predictions.

Then, show this list of questions and ask the students to make more refined predictions about what the video might say about the following:

1. the relationship between States and Markets

2. the relationship between US debt and military spending

3. where the idea of debt originates

4. the relationship between violence and debt

5. Debt in Japanese society

6. the special significance of the exact repayment of debts?

7. ‘gift economies’

8. what money is used for in stateless societies

*Video and discussion – (30+ mins)

Show the students the video interview – found online at – from 1:37 until the end, and ask the students to take notes about the answers to the questions, as well as anything else they’re not too sure about.

After watching, get the students to compare their notes in pairs or small groups, and then have a discussion in plenary about their understanding of the topic.

(answers to questions below)

1. (The State often artificially organises the markets)

2. (The US debt basically IS a result of military spending)

3. (Debt originated in morality. Morality is just paying your debt)

4. (When people get angry, they need exact debt repayment)

5. (The Japanese keep a very accurate record of debt)

6. (If you exactly repay a debt, you’re saying that you don’t want to have anything to do with the other party anymore. If you owe them a little bit more or a little bit less after the transaction, you’ll probably see them again to attempt some sort of rebalance – a warmer relationship)

7. (The person who gave away the most got the greatest status)

8. (Not to buy things, but to arrange marriages and settle disputes)

*Gap fill – work with articles (~15mins)

Now that the students have a reasonable understanding of the ideas of the subject, explain that you want to give them advanced practice of articles in English, which are incredibly troublesome for many learners. They should read the text (below) and complete the gaps with either the zero article, the, a or an. When they’re done, read through as a class and check the answers.

*Role-plays (30+ mins)

To round off the lesson with a fluency activity, use one or both of the following roleplay scenarios:

1. You need to barter goods in order for your community to survive. Group 1 has these goods: 12 fish, 18 potatoes, 5 lettuces, 14 loaves of bread and 8 kg of flour. Group 2 has these goods: 4 cows, 1 bull, 8 sheep, 6 dogs and 3 horses. Group 3 has these goods: 3 kg of cheese, 8 cauliflowers, 6 sweet potatoes, 5kg of Frankincense and 200g of bronze.

(Afterwards, discuss how each group approached the task and what the implicit beliefs behind their actions was.)

2. You have come to the bank to explain why you don’t need to pay back your debt to the bank because you have realised that debt has been artificially created. The other person plays the bank manager and attempts to reclaim the debt. Try to reach some sort of compromise between your two points of view

(obviously this is a fairly imaginary, humorous situation – not one which would actually occur in real life!)

*Suggestions for homework:

Students can write to answer the question ‘In what way is debt a legitimate idea, and in what way is the idea of debt a myth created by the state in order to create an economic environment in which the larger part of the population are in some way enslaved to it?’ (Max 500 words)

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