A designer lessons ESL lesson plan developed by George Chilton

This is two part ELT lesson plan, the first part introduces the concept of the American Dream through images, encouraging students to construct their own interpretations of the concept – both orally and in writing.  The second part of the lesson is a videogloss activity which tests your students’ listening skills and introduces new vocabulary. You can cover grammar points as issues arise.

Lesson aims

  • To encourage discussion
  • To make comparisons
  • To construct an argument
  • Videogloss
  • To watch penguins do cool stuff.

Stage One

The slide show show four images; – one is a portrait of Christopher Colombus, the next is a painting entitled American Gothic by Grant Devolson Wood, the third is a photo of the Statue of Liberty and the final image is a colourful portrait of Barack Obama (by Petr Kratochvil).

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To save an image just right-click on it and select “Save image as.”

10 minutes – Ask the students to choose which image they prefer. You can give them stock phrases to help them do this – or you can monitor them and interject when you feel you need to. Get them to talk about why they have chosen a particular image and hopefully – if they’ve had their coffee – they will catch on to the theme.

20 minutes – Show them some quotes relating to the American Dream. There are some below, or choose others. There are plenty to go around. Read them together, decide which is the closest to their idea and of course guide them through any difficult vocabulary.

“Every man, every woman and every child in America has a mountain. It is a hard, lonely, dangerous climb – and yet, still they  aspire to climb it. They do it alone, but with fierce determination – for behind them they have the support of a great nation. When they reach the peak, they can look down and truly say that they have found what it is to be a countryman of this nation; that they have reached their innate potential. Everyone can conquer their own peak…. And that, that is the American Dream.”

“Success is somebody else’s failure. Success is the American Dream we can keep dreaming because most people in most places, including thirty million of ourselves, live wide awake in the terrible reality of poverty.” Ursula K. LeGuin.

“My fellow Americans, this is an amazing moment for me. To think that a once scrawny boy from Austria could grow up to become Governor of California and stand in Madison Square Garden to speak on behalf of the President of the United States that is an immigrant’s dream. It is the American dream.” Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Ask the students to talk to each other in small groups. They can answer questions along these lines:

  1. Do they think any of the pictures represent the American dream? If so, which ones and why?
  2. What is their concept of the American dream; is it positive or negative?
  3. Is the American dream a fantasy, or can it come true for every American?

At the end of this stage, your students should have formulated an idea of the American Dream, spoken about images using language to express likes and dislikes and given their opinion.

Stage Two – Videogloss

The aim of this stage is to encourage listening for detail and to learn some collocations and idiomatic expressions.

Have a set of the following lines from the video cut out on strips – make one set for a group of three students.

  • build their nests
  • they need pebbles
  • at last
  • impressive property
  • demonstrates your worth
  • just right
  • turn to a life of crime
  • just over his shoulder
  • looking for more
  • coming along nicely
  • a particularly sharp look-out
  • it takes one to know one

Explain that your students are going to watch some guys impressing their potential girlfriends.

3 minutes – Ask your students to predict how the guys might try to impress the girls. What are the traditional ways of doing this? How could this relate to the American Dream? Quickly mind-map this on the board.

You’ll probably get answers along the lines of

  • Showing they are successful
  • Buying them flowers/ drinks
  • Showing off their wealth

5 minutes – Give your students (groups of three) the quotes from the video.  Tell them that they have to listen and put the slips in the correct order.

10 minutes – Watch the video again to check their answers. Ask them to define the underlined phrases as a class. If they cannot, give your own definitions using the video to aid and illustrate.

15 minutes – Next, ask the students to reconstruct the narration using the framework they have in front of them (the strips in chronological order). They should write it together in their groups. Make sure to monitor / error correct as you go.

If you have time, ask what parallels, if any, we can draw between the guys impressing the girlfriends and the penguins building their nests.


Finally,  ask your students to write their own definition, understanding and opinion of the American dream either in class or as homework.

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Designer Lessons by George Chilton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Creado a partir de la obra en designerlessons.wordpress.com