Speaking of… Escaping the Iron Curtain
Ian Kime
March 29, 2021

Speaking of… Escaping the Iron Curtain

I’m really starting to like making these “Speaking of…” resources. The hardest part is finding a video that is both interesting enough to talk about and offers a worthwhile opportunity for an activity afterwards. But, I’m getting the hang of it!

I stumbled upon a great YouTube channel recently – Great Big Story – which has dozens of short videos covering interesting and bizarre stories. Look out for more Great Big Story inspired Speaking of…’s. I was so sad to read that the channel closed down in 2020, but luckily, they have unwittingly left behind a treasure trove of ESL material.

Today, the story is about a young man named Daniel Pohl escaping the Iron Curtain by zip-line with his crazy friend in order to reach his American dream in Las Vegas. Look forward to a good story, a fun discussion, and an activity that will have your students escaping an island. Get ready to be your students’ favorite ESL teacher of all time.

Download the PDF:



Warm up: Ask your students one of the following questions…

  • How do you define freedom?
  • When or where did you feel the most free?
  • Have you ever been zip-lining?
  • Do you know of any escape stories? Escape from prison, a country, etc.


Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ou2Yj6CJUQ

Get your students first impressions of the video. What do they think of these characters? Does this story remind them of another? Are they impressed? Inspired? Motivated? What emotions does this type of story evoke in your students? If necessary, watch a second time. I almost always watch videos a second time with my students unless they are incredibly advanced C1 listeners (#rare).

Discussion aide: 

Screen-share page 1 of the PDF with your students and give them a few minutes to read through the phrases. Have everyone take turns choosing a phrase they agree with and elaborating. Then, tell everyone to choose a phrase they disagree with and elaborate. Students can absolutely repeat phrases or add to others’ comments. Let the discussion last as long as you want. Encourage students to comment or enter into debate if it makes sense.

Bonus activity: 

On page 2 you will find a map of an island prison. The offline instructions are written at the top. If you are teaching online, screen share page 2 and let your students come up with 6 different obstacles. Then, if you have the capability, put your students into pairs or small groups in different breakout rooms to plot their escape from the island. If not, students can work as a class to plot their escape. However, most teleconferencing platforms allow for breakout rooms so please use them! Give your students 10-15 minutes to plot their escape and then have them present their story to the class in a similar way to Daniel Pohl in the video (in the past tense).

Can you think of anything to add to this resource? Maybe a set of questions you could ask your students or some supplementary rules for the activity? Let us know in the comments!

Ian Kime

Ian Kime

I have been teaching English abroad since receiving my CELTA certificate in Poland in 2018. I enjoy tracking my individual students’ development but love having lessons with big groups! Now that I teach online, I am accompanied by my sidekicks Olaf, Mała, Pirate and Bandit on a regular basis.


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