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
Students will listen to a song about leaving home and saying goodbye. They will then write a letter to one of the people in the song to practice using the past and present voices. Finally, there are some discussion questions about being away from home. Seasons in the Sun was sung by Westlife, a 1990's Irish boyband. 

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Tell students they’re going to listen to a song about a man who is saying goodbye to some people. We don’t know why he is saying goodbye, but it is either because he is about to die, or is going to war.
Play Seasons in the Sun and ask students just to listen for which three people he addresses the song to. This will allow students the chance to simply listen to the song and enjoy it, without having to listen for too much information.
Tip! When using songs in class that are a little bit difficult for your students gradually ask them questions about the song.
Task 1
Play the song a second and third time, and have students answer the questions for task 1.
Task 2
Hand out the lyrics and check answers to task 1.
Next, get students to imagine they are the person saying goodbye in the song. They are all in the army (brainstorm different jobs: soldier, cook, engineer etc.) and have been stationed far from home. Get them to write a letter back home to one of the people in the song.
This is a good practice of using the past voice (talking about their relationship) and the present voice (to describe their current living situation).
Task 3
Put students in small groups or pairs and have them discuss some of the questions. Encourage them to choose any question they like. They don’t have to answer the questions in the order on the sheet.
Tip! Allowing them to choose their questions makes the task more personal and interesting. It gives them ownership of the learning.

by Phil Senior

Phil Senior is a British teacher living and working in Xi'an. Phil is an ESL materials specialist having written course materials for EF Education First in China, Russia and Indonesia. Some of his work will be used for the Brazil 2016 Olympics. He is also a former IELTS examiner for The British Council. Phil is currently writing a kids book called The Funky Bubble Box

Published in Song lessons
Cats in the Cradle was written by Harry Chaplin after his wife warned him that he was missing his children growing up because he was always busy. Its a song about a dad who was always walking and his son wanted to play with his dad. As the years quickly went by, the father then wanted a better relationship with his son, but his son is now grown up and too busy to call his dad. He's left it too late. The song was later covered by Ugly Kid Joe, the American rock band and they did a great job.

Want to teach this ESL song lesson but don't have Cats in the Cradle by Ugly Kid Joe? No worries, click here. You'll be helping to maintain this site too.


1. Play the song and ask your students to listen for who the song is about and anything else they hear
2. Play it a second time and ask what four stages of life are referred to in the song
Answers – a father and his son; baby’s birth and first steps (infancy), child turning 10 (childhood), child returning from college (late teens), and then becoming a man himself (adulthood)
3. Hand out the lyrics, go through any new language, and answer these more questions:
Why did he miss his son’s birth and first steps? (answer – there were planes to catch and bills to pay, i.e. he was away on business)
What did his son want to do with his dad when he was ten? (answer – play ball, learn to throw)
What did his son want to do instead of sitting and talking with his dad after coming back from college? (answer – borrow the car keys)
Why is his son too busy to talk to his dad at the end of the song? (answer – his new job’s a hassle and his kids have the flu)
What is the message of the song? (accept all suitable answers – e.g. spending time with your kids is very important)
4. Hand out discussion questions
Description: a song about parenting followed by discussion questions
Time: 30 minutes
Level: Low-Intermediate and higher
Keywords: parenting, stages of life, childhood, discussion

1 What are some of the things that your parents did that you would never do?
2 What do you think are some of the most difficult problems faced by parents?
3 How should you reward children for the good things they do?
4 Are all couples who can have children qualified enough for being parents?
5 Would you allow your child to pierce their body or get a tattoo?
6 What are some of the things you would not allow your child to do?
7 Should a good mother give up her job to stay at home to look after her children? Is it okay for a father to stay at home instead of the mother?
8 Do you think it is okay for children to call their parents by their first names?
9 Do you think there should be a maximum age for parents to have a new child?
10 Should children work?
11 Should parents read to their children? Why or why not?

Lesson written by Phil Senior

Phil Senior is a British teacher living and working in Xi'an. Phil is an ESL materials specialist having written course materials for EF Education First in China, Russia and Indonesia. Some of his work will be used for the Brazil 2016 Olympics. He is also a former IELTS examiner for The British Council. Phil is also writing a kids craft activity book called The Funky Bubble Box!
Published in Song lessons
The sounds of the late 60's produced some enduring songs that we all still know and love. One of the very best was the Mama's and Papa's California Dreamin'

This ESL song lesson is perfect for lower-level teens and adults. It's a very simple song for beginners to practice listening for colours, basic action, verbs, seasons, and simple adjectives

The California Dreamin' song can be downloaded immediately here. You'll be helping this website to stay open too.

Put students in pairs and give them these questions to ask each other:
1. What’s your favourite season? Why?
2. What do people usually do in their free time in this season?
3. What’s your favourite colour? Why?
Task 1
Hand out the gap fill lyric sheet. Go through the words together to clarify meaning of anything such as L.A., California, preacher, and gonna.
Play the song twice and students fill in the missing words they hear. Check the answers.
Task 2
Analyze the song with your students. Ask them these ESL concept questions:
1. Does the singer miss L.A.? How do we know? (Yes. “I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.)
2. How does he describe the place where he is now? (grey, brown, cold)
Draw on these themes and ask students to think about their own hometowns.

Brainstorm on the board words associated with ‘hometown’, including places, people, things to see and do, feelings, etc.

In pairs, get students to discuss these questions:
1. If you were away from your hometown what would you miss? (except family and friends) Why?
2. How does your hometown make you feel?
3. Think of two colours to describe each season in your hometown.
Why did you choose these colours?

Lesson written by Phil Senior

Phil Senior is a British teacher living and working in Xi'an. Phil is an ESL materials specialist having written course materials for EF Education First in China, Russia and Indonesia. Some of his work will be used for the Brazil 2016 Olympics. He is also a former IELTS examiner for The British Council.

Published in Song lessons
Next year, things are gonna change
Gonna drink less beer, and start all over again
Gonna read more books, gonna keep up with the news
Gonna learn how to cook, spend less money on shoes
I’ll pay my bills on time, and file my mail away, everyday
Only drink the finest wine, and call my Gran every Sunday

Next Year Baby is a brilliant track for ESL teachers and students alike as the lyrics are clear, not too fast, with easy to follow vocabulary and a perfect use of will and going to for future plans. Many of your students will be able to idenify with the singer and has probably made the same or similar New Year resolutions themselves.

You can download Next Year, Baby as an mp3 for this class immediately right here. In doing so, you'll also be supporting us.

1. Play Next Year Baby (once or twice) and ask the students to listen for the 11 things he plans to do next year. Please note that though the song is over four minutes long you only need to play the first two minutes where the main lyrics occur.

2. Feedback with the class what they heard. Also, ask general questions about the song itself, such as what they thought of it

3. Hand out the lyrics. Go through any words they don’t know, such as ‘resolutions’ and point out how ‘going to’ becomes ‘gonna’ in spoken English. Drill the pronunciation of ‘gonna’.

4. Play the song again and read along.

5. If it isn't the New Year ask students to imagine that tomorrow it will be January 1st and that they have all got to think of a resolution for ‘next year’. Don’t ask students to give their answers, instead this time tell them that they cannot repeat another student’s resolution. This means that if they volunteer their answer first they have more choice. If they wait it gets harder to think of something. This will encourage some of the shier students to speak.

6. Instead of an open class forum on resolutions, get your students to do a mingling exercise and find out each other’s resolutions. They can record them on their paper and then choose which ones they thought are most interesting

Description: a song about future plans, followed by an open class forum or mingling exercise

Time: 15-25 minutes

Level: Beginners and higher

Keywords: going to, the future, New Year, plans

Lesson Plan written by Phil Senior

Phil Senior is a British teacher living and working in Xi'an. Phil is an ESL materials specialist having written course materials for EF Education First in China, Russia and Indonesia. Some of his work will be used for the Brazil 2016 Olympics. He is also a former IELTS examiner for The British Council.
Published in Song lessons

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