Nothing to Declare

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Let’s look at a lesson I’ve made to help a student talk to border control officers.

Customs officers

Note: I’ve shown these specific parts of the video to my students:
00:38 – 01:31
01:31 – 03:02
03:02 – 03:34
05:51 – 06:53
06:53 – 07:58
07:58 – 08:52

Here’s the video in question and below it you can find my lesson plan:

1) Start the lesson by asking some simple questions such as
Have you gone on vacation this year? Where have you been to?
What was your best and worst trip ever?
How many times have you traveled abroad?
What countries would you most like to visit?

2) When the students are done answering the questions, ask them if they’ve ever been stopped at the airport customs. If they answered yes, you can ask them why they were stopped, otherwise, ask them if they know anyone who’s had a problem at the customs. Ask them why customs officers question passengers at the airport and what kind of crimes they think passengers mostly commit.

3) Ask your students to work in two groups and think of as many questions they’d expect customs officers to ask as they can in 5 minutes. Tell them that they won’t get points if each group has the same questions.

4) Watch the first part of the video and ask your students what made the man suspicious.

5) Before watching the second part of the video, ask the students to predict where the man is from and what he will say to the officer. Then, have them watch the second part and see what the man says. After finishing watching the video, ask them which questions the officer asked the man before checking his bag.

6) Then, give the students the questions below and have them watch the second part again to find the answers for them
Which country did the plane come from?
Where did the passenger start his trip from?
What did the sniffer dog find out about the passenger?
Which items can you not bring to the UK?
Which board game did the passenger carry with him?
What is the passenger’s profession?
What suspicious object did the officers find in the man’s suitcase?
Why does Officer Fitts not trust the passenger?

7) Before watching the third part, have your students try to answer the questions below:
Why did the passenger carry the passport?
Will the officers carry any extra searches on the man?

Then, have them watch the video and compare their answers to the truth.

8) Before watching the fourth part, ask your students what Swab test means and explain it if needed. Also, ask your students what the officers meant when they said “He could be a swallower”. Then, ask your students a few more questions:

What did Officer Turney find out about the passport?
What did the officers find when they searched the passenger?
What did the officers swab test?
What did they find in the passenger’s clothes?

9) Before watching the last part of the video, ask your students what they think will happen to the passenger and what the officers will do with the passport. Then watch the last part and compare their answers to the facts. Ask them if they were surprised with what happened and explain what contamination means, if needed, using an example.

10) As a follow-up activity, give your students the following questions to discuss together and get their answers once they’re done:
1) Do you think the passenger knew that he shouldn’t carry someone else’s passport to another country?
2) Why do you think the officers questioned the man?
3) Do you think it was really difficult for the officers to communicate with the passenger?
4) Do you think the officers were unfair to the man based on his country?
5) What do you think customs officers pay attention to (e.g. body language, appearance) before they stop people at airports?

11) After the discussion, ask your students to work in small groups and think of which restrictions there are when people travel to a foreign country. You can give them a hint by writing the following things on the board:

• Alcohol
• Tobacco
• Medication
• Firearms
• Pets
• Food
• Money
• Gold

Ask your students to write down their ideas below each of the suggested questionable things.

12) When your students are done, you can make them role-play in pairs as a traveler and a customs inspector. Give them the questions below and tell them that one will ask the questions and the other will answer them. Tell your students that the customs officer suspects the traveler and has to choose one of the restrictions they’ve made note of before to ask additional questions to the travelers and that the customs officer must then choose whether to let go or arrest the traveler. Make your students swap roles (or partners). The questions you can give them for starters are as follows:

Welcome to our country. May I see your passport please?
Where are you coming from?
What is the nature of your visit?
How long are you planning to stay?
Where will you be staying?
Have you ever been to this country before?
Do you have anything to declare?
Do you have anything in your pockets – keys, cell phone, loose change?
Do you have any luggage, other than hand luggage?
Did you pack your bags yourself?
And have you left them unattended at any time before or since arriving at the airport?
Are you carrying any firearms, liquids or flammable materials?
I’m going to need to check your bags, could you open them for me, please?

13) Get feedback by asking the students what they were stopped for and what the end result was.

For homework, you could ask your students to choose one country that your students have traveled to or want to travel to, look for information online and make a list of things that people should know about when they go through customs inspection to share with the class on the following lesson.

That’s it for this week. I hope you and your students enjoy this idea and I’d love to know one thing:

Have you ever been stopped at a border control? If so, what happened to you?

Leave a comment below and see you next week! 🙂


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