The Secret Agent

Age range: 12-18 (or older).
Suitable after 2 years of English (depending on activity).
Theme: secret agents, technology, gadgetry and James Bond exhibition.
Lexical area: inventions, gadgets and equipment
Cross curricular links: Science and technology, history, media and film studies.
Internet links:

Instructions for assistants are in italics.

This Essential UK can be used flexibly, depending on the level and interest of your students. You do not have to use the reading text but can introduce the theme and idea of the exhibition briefly, using some of the suggestions below.

The reading text ‘The Bond exhibition’ is not included in the class version. Click here for the text.

The Bond exhibition.

If you are a James Bond fan you will probably know that he has many toys, or technological gadgets. These gadgets help him fight villains, escape from danger and communicate with his masters. Some people go to see Bond films just to see the technology he uses. This technology can sometimes be a window into the future. Not all Bond gadgets are pure fantasy. Some of them become reality. The fantasy car phone first seen in the Bond movie From Russia with Love in 1963 is now available to us all.

Journalists who wanted to see scenes from the latest Bond movie Die Another day were given a very special DVD last November. After 36 hours the DVD changed colour and the scenes from the film disappeared!! A self destructing DVD is just the sort of gadget you will find in the films and perfect for promoting the Bond love of new technology.

Do you want to see these gadgets and see how Bond films are made? Come along to London’s Science Museum for a day with James Bond. This interactive exhibition celebrates 40 years of fun and gadgets with Britain’s most famous secret agent. You might see the technology of the future. You will certainly have a good time.


Introduce this theme in a variety of ways:

    a. write the title of the reading text on board and allow students in pairs one minute to confer and write any words they associate with this name. Establish who he is.

    b. Use some theme music and a picture of one or more of the actors playing Bond. Elicit who the character is. What type of film the music is for. Have they ever seen a Bond film.

    c. Introduce the idea of gadgets with one or two from your bag. Has anyone else got a gadget on them. Establish what a gadget is. Get a dictionary definition.

    d. Write up the names of three Bond films. Does anyone know what these films might be about? What type of person is James Bond.

    e. Take three normal objects that Bond may have (an umbrella, a watch, a suitcase) and ask students how spies might use these objects (the umbrella is really a secret gun, the watch also takes photographs or is a telephone) or find drawings of two gadgets from encyclopedia and ask students to guess what they are/used for.

If appropriate you could give brief information about the creation of Bond by Ian Fleming and a brief description of the Bond character (tongue in cheek, of course!). The pre reading task can also be used even if you are not intending to use the text.

  1. Before you read

    Guidance will depend on level of students. For lower levels give some verbs and question them to elicit ideas: e.g. Do secret agents have a 9 to 5 routine? Do they travel much? For higher levels who work well in groups or pairs b) and c) can be done without you and then hold a feedback session e.g. Does a secret agent use technology? What for? What might he use to protect himself? This exercise helps anticipate the vocabulary and ideas for the reading passage or the topic.

      a. Describe the work of a secret agent (spy). What do they do?
      b. Think of three objects or gadgets that a secret agent uses in his work.
      c. Give two examples of new technology in your home or school.

  2. Read the text 'The Bond exhibition' and find out

    Give a glossary or work through words from the text very quickly, e.g. Find another word in the text for: film, a piece of technical equipment, a criminal, to destroy by itself. With higher levels discuss the type of text, e.g. Who do you think wrote this text? Is it from a book? Magazine? Brochure? Who is the writer talking to?

      a. Who is James Bond?
      b. Why does he need gadgets?
      c. What piece of technology was used to promote the latest Bond movie?
      d. How can you find out more about Bond’s gadgets?

  3. A secret agent's toys (suitable for intermediate and up)

    Speculate with students using the first example and then allow them in pairs or groups to discuss the other gadgets. Is it possible to make false finger prints? How? Why would they be useful? Your feedback can bring out the point that Bond films sometimes predict future technology years in advance.

    In James Bond films there are many gadgets used by the secret agent. Some of these gadgets are pure fantasy but some examples of technology exist in real life. Which of these gadgets do you think are real inventions in use today?

      a. False finger prints (Seen in many films where Bond uses his hand as identity to gain access to secure areas. It is now very easy to make false prints which fit over your fingers)

      b. X-ray sunglasses (to see inside clothes, pockets and bags) (Pure fantasy and causing a lot of humour when Bond can see through women’s clothes.

      c. Phones that can send photographs (a reality)

      d. An electronic pet robot with camera (similar ones used by the authorities at Ground Zero when it was not possible for humans to get in and investigate an area of debris)

  4. Your gadgets (all levels)

    The gadget list can be prepared in pairs or groups and then compared. They must agree on a definitive list.

      a. Name as many gadgets as you can from your home or your bedroom.
      b. What’s the most useful gadget you have? Why?
      c. Make a top five gadget list for the 21st century. Be prepared to explain why each one is so special/useful/interesting.

  5. Guess the gadget (all levels)

    Play this as a whole class or team game. If they need ideas, have cards prepared with gadgets written on them: washing machine, pocket calculator, digital camera, toaster.

    Think of a gadget in your home or used at work or school. Ask questions to guess the gadgets chosen by your classmates. You can only ask questions which have a Yes/No answer.

      Example questions: Have you got one of these things?
      Is there one in this room?
      Is it very expensive to buy?
      Is it smaller than a TV?
      Is it used for housework? Studying? Writing? Communicating?
      Is it made of metal/plastic/wood?

  6. A day in the life of a secret agent (suitable for lower levels)

    Give guidance with prompts on the board and run through question forms with the whole class. Put two student As together and two student Bs together at the planning stage. Speculate with the whole class to get their ideas flowing. Does he work a lot of hours? What sort of sports does he do? How does he travel around? What does he do in the evenings? Is he the type of person who gets up early?

    Student A: prepare questions to find out more about a secret agent's daily routine and hobbies or interests

    Student B: You are a secret agent. Make notes on a typical day in your life. Are you the type of person who gets up early? What do you do in the mornings? How do you spend your evenings?

    Student A interviews Student B (the secret agent).

  7. British inventions (all levels, depending on interests)

    Prompt the use of suitable language: Who invented the..? X was invented by… We use the passive or active voice. If students are interested and have knowledge in this area get them to prepare one or two more questions to challenge their classmates. Talk about scientists and inventors in their country too.

    Many advances in technology were invented by British engineers and scientists. Look at the following list. Can you match the invention to the inventor?

    The electric light (4)

    1. Tim Berners-Lee

    The first steam locomotive (5)

    2. John Dunlop

    The first pneumatic tyres (2)

    3. John Logie Baird

    The World Wide Web (1)

    4. Thomas Edison

    Television (3)

    5. George Stephenson

  8. Inventions quiz (all levels)

    Play as a pair, group or whole class game. If students are interested ask pairs or groups to suggest more questions.

    Try this quiz. How much do you know about technology?

    a. Which came first? Put these inventions in order.

      The first railway (2)
      The electronic calculator (4)
      The first steam engine (1)
      Television (3)

    b. Match the inventions to their era in British history

    radio, steam boats, artificial intelligence, railways, space probes, telephone, electrified cities

    The First Industrial Revolution (The Machine Age 1780-1900) steam boats, railways
    The second industrial revolution (1900-1950) radio, telephone, electrified cities
    The third industrial revolution (The digital age 1970-) artificial intelligence, space probe

    c. Which is older?

      A fax machine or a video recorder? (video 1963 fax 1988)
      The internet or a personal computer? (internet 1969 personal computer 1981)
      A DVD or a floppy disk? (floppy 1970 DVD late 90s)
      A felt tip pen or a ball point pen? (ball point 1888 felt tip 1960)

  9. Exhibitions (Intermediate learners and up)

    a) The Bond Exhibition.

    Can be done in pairs or small groups. Elicit a couple of suggestions before starting and focus on how to give reasons why: because I like, am very interested in, am fascinated by, would like to know how…Give them your choice and own reasons as a model.

    The exhibition currently showing at London’s Science Museum is divided into different sections. Which part of the exhibition do you think will be the most interesting? Why?

    1. Bond music: looks at the creation of the music for the film and the title sequence which introduces the film. Look at the people who put music and images together.
    2. Q Branch: this is the research and development section of MI6, the British secret service. They build and design Bond’s gadgets. See some of the technology used in Bond films.
    3. All-Action stunts: Action sequences and dangerous stunts are part of Bond films. See how these are filmed and see how they are planned.
    4. Bond’s women: The beautiful, and often dangerous, women in Bond films are an important part of the story. See photographs of Bond women and see some real costumes from the films.
    5. Bond’s world: here you can see the drawings and models of buildings made for designing the film world of Bond. Here you can learn something about the job of a production designer.
    6. Marketing Bond: When a new James Bond film comes out the film company must make sure as many people hear about it as possible. Here you can see posters, adverts and promotion organised for different parts of the world.

    b) Exhibitions (all levels)

    Higher levels can be given more freedom to work in pairs and small groups. Lower levels can work through the questions with the whole class and describe an exhibition to their partner. Planning an exhibition might be too ambitious for a lower level group but you can give them examples of objects and keep it a very short task for students with limited English. Encourage higher levels to say why they have chosen their exhibits/objects.

    Have you ever been to a science exhibition? When? Where? Did you enjoy it?
    What sort of exhibitions are there in your area? Art? Local crafts? Historical?
    Describe an exhibition you visited which you liked. What was it for?
    Plan an exhibition for your school. Pick a topic, for example, “Learning past and present”. What types of objects will your exhibition include?

  10. Films and books (all levels)

    a) is a good chance for some vocabulary expansion for lower levels and helps to reinforce vocabulary for higher levels. Higher levels can do b) in pairs. c) is a task suited to higher levels. Try to get them to give specific examples to back up their arguments.

    a) Film types:

    Bond films are spy films and also action-packed adventure films.
    Make a list of the different types of film you know: comedy, adventure……….
    What’s your favourite type of film?

    b) Your experience of films:

    What’s the last film you saw? Did you like it?
    Have you ever seen a Bond film? Which one?
    Have you ever seen a film in English?
    What’s the best film you have ever seen? Why is it so good?

    c) Books into films:

    James Bond is a character created by the writer Ian Fleming. Fleming’s books were used as the basis for the first films. Have you ever seen a film based on a book? Which film? Did you prefer the film or the book?

    Some people say that books are always better than the film versions. Recent examples are the films made of the Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings. Are books always better? Do you agree? Or do you enjoy the film versions more?


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