In 1986, scientists were carrying out safety checks at the nuclear power station in Chernobyl, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). There was an unforeseen power spike sending readings dangerously high. Minutes later, the heat inside the nuclear reactor had become so hot that the cooling rods designed to cool the reactor to safe levels had buckled and could not drop into place. From that moment, the reactor was doomed and there was a catastrophic explosion which blew off the roof of the reactor and caused radiation to be blown high into the air and the surrounding countryside. The Chernobyl Disaster is still the world's worst nuclear disaster.

The aims of this English News Lesson about Chernobyl are:

To read an authentic news article in English and improve their reading skills (e.g. reading for gist, reading for information) 

To acquire new vocabulary in a natural way (i.e. through reading a news article like we do in our native language) 
To have a discussion about peace in order for students to practice reasoning skills and to make them think

by Phil Senior
Published in News lesson plans
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 07:10

ESL News Lesson: The Peace Index

Each year, The Instutute of Economics and Peace publishes its Global Peace Index which measures how peaceful countries are around the world and the changes in peace between regions and countries. Many factors are taken into account when the peace rankings are made.

This News English lesson plan has a number of English teaching activities which centre around an article about the peace index. Students discuss which countries they think are the most and least peaceful and why they think this. Students should also match the countries which appear in the article to which continent they lie in.

There are also additional scanning and skimming activities, good for IELTS reading practice and finally a class brainstorming activity. The ability to discuss current affairs is an important element in getting a higher score in the IELTS speaking component.

Written by Phil Senior
Published in News lesson plans
Every year, millions of Chinese students face the biggest challenge of their young lives by taking on the Gaokao exam - China's be-and-end-all test to see which students can enter which university. Failure in this exam can be disaster for the dreams of many young Chinese people and they will endure many sleepless nights revising for the exam and worrying about if they will pass it.

This ESL News lesson looks at the exam in a slightly different way in that the pressure to succeed and do well in this exam is so great, that a few people will try to cheat their way to sucess in the exam.

This News English lesson will be very relevant and interesting to students, especially in China. 

There are a number of different activities for your students to do, including colloquation activites, debate and discussion activities and other comprehension excercises. This will also be good for students in later middle school, high school, university or in preparation for an IELTS or TOEFL exam.

by Phil Senior
Published in News lesson plans
Made in Britain stars Tim Roth in one of his first roles as Trevor, a teen delinquent who hates authority and refuses to conforn to what society wants or expects. Trevor is actually very intelligent, but has become disillusioned by modern 1980's Britain and the education system. He has been convicted of stealing, taking drugs, shopplifting, vandalism and violent behaviour. He has become criminal and a racist, and prison beckons if he does not change his ways. This lesson is only suitable for adults.

For this lesson, you'll need the Made in Britain DVD. In ordering this, you'll also be helping us.

This film is for adult students ONLY! Under no circumstances should this film be shown to minors. The film shows scenes of violence and extreme racist views. The lesson plan should only be used with mature, open-minded students, who feel comfortable watching and discussing such content in an open class environment.  The use of this lesson plan is wholly at the discretion of the teacher. It is essential that the teacher watches the suggested film clips in their entirety before choosing whether or whether not to use this plan. 

ESL Adults discussion questions on teenage crime and delinquency

Show the film clips first before having the discussion. Make sure to lead-in to the activity in your own way first.

Are parents to blame for juvenile delinquency?
Should children who hate going to school be given something else to do?
Is corporal punishment a good idea for naughty children?
Should naughty children be rewarded for good behaviour with money instead of punished for bad behaviour?
Should parents of juvenile delinquents be sent to prison when their children misbehave?
How would you deal with Trevor? What is his 
What kind of problems do the young have in your country?
How does your country deal with juvenile delinquency? Do you think it is a good system?
If you were in your country’s government, what would you do differently?
Will juvenile delinquency ever go away? Why/why not?
What is the cure to juvenile delinquency?
Clip One (Start to 4:30mins)
The film starts with Trevor in court being convicted for a racist attack on an Asian man’s home. He is sent to a detention centre for children.
Clip Two (6:37mins to13:25mins)
Trevor arrives at the detention centre and is told about a contract he must sign to promise to behave. He pesters a staff member there to give him some money and goes out to the job centre. On the way, he steals a car and buys glue to sniff and get high. He abuses the job centre staff and throws a paving slab through the window.
Clip Three (18:02mins to 38:34mins)
The detention centre find out about the stolen car and refuse him lunch. He attacks the cook at the canteen for not serving him lunch. The centre workers lock him in a room to calm down and then a senior staff member come to look at his future. This scene is key for your class discussion! It is the foundation for your discussion. Stop the film and turn off the TV at “Yeah, he’s a waste of time”.

Lesson written by Stuart Allen
Published in Movie lessons
Lost was an HBO smash hit about a plane which crashes onto a deserted island thousands of miles from anywhere and the world believes the plane lost. In reality, many of the passengers are still very much alive. Lost continued for many years.

This is a supplementary activity for intermediate or advanced students who want to learn a few verbs in present continuous form which they may not have come across before. Advanced level students are always eager to come across new words and this is an exciting way to teach them something different.

To run this high-level present continuous TV lesson, you'll need the first episode of Lost Season 1 of Lost S01E01 - you can download this here. 

Before class, you should print out the jigsaw puzzle containing the words on page 3. You need to arrange your students into groups of three; you should make one copy per group. Cut up the puzzle pieces using scissors or a craft knife and paper clip the pieces together. Each group of three will now have a neat bundle of puzzle pieces. Remember to shuffle up each group’s pieces before you paperclip them together! (Tip: white card is better than white paper.)
In class:
Play the first episode of Lost (season one), where the plane crashes onto a desert island and everyone is in a state of panic and shock. Groups need to watch the movie and put the puzzle pieces into a pile in the order that they see the action. When the movie clip has finished, the students should put the pieces together from left to right, then right to left, then left to right, then right to left (as shown on page 4). If they have got the order right, then the puzzle should fit neatly together.
You should play the episode from the very start until 15:16mins. You might want to play the clip twice if your students need to see it again. 
Have fun! 
Published in Movie lessons
Lord of the Flies was a brilliant novel about a group of boys stranded on an island after their plane crashes on a school trip. All the adults are killed in the crash, leaving the large group of boys to survive and fend for themselves. Divisions soon appear in the group, leadership battles ensue and the film looks at our natural dark natures.

This movie lesson for teaching English is for Interediate/Advanced level mature students and has six different activities for you to use in classes. It will require your ESL students to think outside of the box and look critically at the scenes and language. Lord of the Flies is a GCSE text in British schools.

For this Lord of the Flies ESL movie lesson, you'll need the movie - you can get that here. You'll be helping us out too.

Lord of the Flies Classroom Activities

1. Discussion about Lord of the Flies and why the boys turned that way. Discussion lead questions are included in the free Lord of the Flies lesson plan PDF below.

2. Symbolism - what do different things represent in the film? For example, the conch, the logs, Piggy's glasses, etc. 

3. Students roleplay different parts in the story

4. Homework essay about what students feel about the film

5. Students roleplay an alternative ending to the film - what might have happened?

6. At the end of the film the police arrive (sorry, spoiler!), and it's clear that many of the boys are in trouble. Students roleplay possible police interviews and write police questions.

Lesson written by Stuart Allen

Published in Movie lessons
Divorce rates around the world, particularly in China, are going up and up. Kramer vs Kramer is a brilliant movie for ESL discussion classes to look at divorce, the causes of divorce, who should get what, and importantly, the custody of children after divorce.

In Kramer vs Kramer, Ted and Joanna have decided to divorce. Ted would like Joanna to come back, but she has moved on with her life and wants a clean break. After a year of travelling and starting a new life, she has now decided that she wants to fight Ted for custody of their son, Billy. Ted is against this, because she ran away for a year and he has struggled to become a good dad. Joanna feels that she is the mother and so has the automatic right to take care of their son. Students must debate and decide who should get custody of Billy.

If you want to teach this ESL divorce debate and discussion roleplay and need to by Kramer vs Kramer, then click here 

How to Approach the Lesson
Introduce the topic of divorce. Perhaps ask the students to get into pairs or small groups to think of problems that people might face in their adult lives. After a few minutes, write down their ideas on the board i.e. debt, job problems, marriage problems. Ask the students which of their suggestions are most common. Divorce is bound to come up and once it does, start moving the conversation wholly in this direction.
Ask the students what kind of problems and difficulties come as a result of divorce. The students are likely to offer things such as depression, family pressure, money and child custody. Again, once child custody is raised, talk about this in more detail.

It is important to get the child custody/divorce topic well discussed before playing the movie. It generates interest in what they are watching and the students will get far more out of the lesson.
Play the movie clips as shown in the free lesson plan accompanying this page. Make sure that you have watched the clips before hand so you are familiar with the clips!
After you have finished watching the clips, stop the DVD and tell the class that Joanne has come back and now wants full custody of Billy. Ask the class if they think it is fair or not and ask the class to give their reasons.
Divide the class into two groups. One group must argue for Ted to retain custody of Billy. The other group are in favour of Joanna getting custody of Billy. Give each student the info slip corresponding with who they support.
Tell the class that they have ten minutes to prepare arguments in support of either Ted or Joanne. After ten minutes, bring the two groups back together and let them debate who should get custody of Billy. The teacher should act as a neutral referee, only getting involved when necessary.
After the debate, maybe have a secret ballot to decide who gets custody of Billy. You can also have an open class discussion, using some of the divroce discussion questions below as a starter.

Divorce Discussion Questions for ESL Students

Divorce rates are climbing each year. What is the reason for this?
Should divorce be made illegal?
Do you think people get divorced to easily and quickly these days?
Who should usually get custody of children following divorce?
How much should the parent who doesn’t have custody of the child pay each month to the parent with custody?
How does divorce affect children?
Should parents ever continue in a loveless marriage to protect their children’s feelings?
Would divorce be less common if couples lived together for at least two years before marrying?
Why do celebrity marriages often end in divorce?
How do you feel about young, attractive women marrying older men i.e. a 25 year-old woman marrying a 70 year-old man? Should she get any money in the event of a divorce?
Is divorce a big problem in your country? Why?
Divorces usually end in a 50/50 settlement. Is this fair?
If you divorce, are you a failure?
ESL Class Divorce Debate 
Arguments for Ted Kramer to have full custody of Billy Kramer
Ted Kramer has looked after Billy for the past year, even though he admits that he has found it difficult
Ted quit his high salary, high pressure job to spend more time with Billy and to learn to be a better father.
Ted has proven his love for Billy
Joanna has a new job, which means that she will be working much of the time
Joanna walked out on Billy before. Maybe she will walk out on him again?
Joanna said in the lift that she was a bad mother and that Ted could look after Billy better than her.
Arguments for Joanna Kramer to have full custody of Billy Kramer
She is the mother and can probably look after Billy better
She is more experienced at looking after Billy, as she looked after him full-time before
She has found a new job with a high salary. Billy can now live better and go to a good school
She says that she was not thinking straight before because of the stress of living with Ted. She would never walk out on Billy again. 
Ted admits that he has found it tough to look after Billy in the last year. 

Lesson by Stuart Allen

Stuart Allen
Published in Movie lessons
John Q is about a nine-year old boy who falls dangerously ill with a previously undiagnosed heart condition. His hard-up family find that their medical insurance doesn't cover the costs of their son's illness and if they can't raise the money for an operation, their son will die. The movie investigates the problems with health systems and asks the question Should healthcare be free for all?

This movie lesson is perfect for older teens and adults who are on the topic of health or if you want to encourage a debate on whether healthcare should or can be free in your country. There is plenty of speaking and also a brilliant roleplay activity with roleplay cards should you wish to have an ESL roleplay class with caracter cards. (These cards are free to print in the downloadable lesson plan).

To buy the movie John Q for this lesson please click here

Classroom Activities to run with John Q

Activity One - Free Health Care vs Paid-Health Care debate
After watching Movie Clip Scenes 1 (please see John Q lesson plan), divide your students into two teams. One side argues for the benefits of free health care for all (but everyone’s taxes have to go up to cover it), while the other side argues for medical insurance with lower taxes for all
Activity Two - Students devise their own medical system
After watching Movie Clip Scenes 1 (please see John Q lesson plan), students must devise their own new medical system and present their system to the class. How can the Mike situation’ be avoided? The best new system is the winner and the teacher can award certificates/prizes
Activity Three - John Q scenes roleplay
After watching Movie Clip Scenes 2 (please see John Q lesson plan), hand-out to your students the role-play cards and recreate scenes from the movie! If you have a small class, you can do the whole thing or give selected scenes to groups from a larger class and put the whole thing together. Why not film it to make a mini-movie?

Lesson by Stuart Allen
Stuart Allen
Published in Movie lessons
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the supernatural has a big grip on our interests and we've all seen ghost and horror films on TV and in the cinema. Who doens't like tales of monsters, ghosts, UFO's and vampires. Particularly for teens learning English, the supernatural is a great ESL topic or unit for Intermediate+ level students.

In this movie lesson, students will discuss the supernatural, share ghost stories that they have heard or know, listen to the teacher tell a ghost story in English or roleplay a ghost tale. Students can even write their own ghost tale; perfect for creative writing classes or a Halloween ESL class theme.

Play clips of Ghostbusters and then choose the activities you want to run for your own ESL supernatural class.

If you'd like to show the movie clips from Ghostbusters but can't download it you can buy it here

What to do in class
Get your class to sit in a group on the floor and sit down with them to create a close, team atmosphere. Show your class the ghost photos below and ask them what they think the photo shows. Ask them to look again more carefully and they will notice an eerie ghost figure.
Discuss with them what they think it might be, whether it is a camera trick or it’s real. If your students think it’s real, ask them who the ghosts might be and from which year they lived. Your students should be really interested in this topic, so use this to your advantage in getting language from them. If they can’t produce the exact word they need, encourage them to explain the word.

Share Ghost Stories

Do any of your ESL class have any ghost stories to share? Maybe someone has seen a ghost or knows someone that has. The more story telling and talk you can get out of your students before the movie the better!
After you have finished your ‘on the floor’ chat, your class will be fully ready and keen to watch the movie. Show the selected movie clips and choose one or some of the suggested Ghostbusters classroom activities.

Activity 1: Ghost discussion quesions

Activity 2: Write your own ghost story

Activity 3: Students write and act out their own ghost story

Lesson by Stuart Allen

Published in Movie lessons
Saturday, 30 January 2016 12:12

ESL TV Lesson: Fawlty Towers (Hotel English)

Hotel English is a specialist subject area of English language learning - English for Special Purposes (ESP). Hotel English is generally taught to hotel staff in non-English speaking countries so that they can deal with English-speaking / International guests. You may teach Hotel English to concierge, silver service, room keeping or porter service staff in hotels. Hotel English is often taught either in the hotel itself or within a private language centre.

The 1970's BBC TV show Fawlty Towers centres around a mad-cap B&B owner, Basil Fawlty, who runs a small hotel in Torquay, England, and who hates most of his guests and is rude to them. Fawlty Towers has been voted one of the best British comedy series of all-time. You can use parts of Fawlty Towers to teach a really high-quality Hotel English lesson - the lesson here has four very relevant activities for Hotel English students. Additionally, you can also use this lesson in just a standard ESL adults or teens oral conversation lesson.

Do you need the Fawlty Towers DVD set to run the movie part of this lesson? Please click here

Some of the Activities in this Hotel English Lesson Plan

- Writing a Hotel English complaint letter and professional reply
- Booking a hotel room roleplay practice dialogue
- Students watch clips of Fawlty Towers and make notes of good service / bad service and present it to the class
- Hotel Management team activity

The Hotel Management Activity 

Your group are the new management team of the Bridge Hotel. The hotel has had many problems in the past and is losing money each year. The investors have turned to you to solve some of the problems and hopefully get the hotel to make a profit.
Here are some of the problems. Decide which ones are the most important. You don’t have a lot of money, so discuss with your group which problems you can fix this year. You have enough money to solve five problems this year. Present your plan to the class later when you have decided which five and why.
It is hard to get to the hotel. Buses from the airport are only once a day.
Guests are bored. There is nothing to do after dinner.
There are no attractions for children. Children want to go home.
Rooms are too expensive.
Rooms are dirty. Staff don't do a good job cleaning hotel rooms.
The hotel is on a flight path. You can hear planes all day.
The swimming pool is too cold.
Staff aren’t interested in the guests. Service is bad.
There is a beautiful beach nearby, but there have been sharks spotted, so all beach activities are off.
The restaurant doesn’t do very good food because the old chef returned to France.
The lift is broken. Guests must take the stairs.

Written by Stuart Allen

Stuart Allen
Published in Movie lessons
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