A designer lessons ESL lesson plan developed by George Chilton

This lesson plan aims to help students become motivated in their use of English out in the real world. They will start to plan and track their use of English and reflect upon their progress with other students in the class in what will hopefully become part of the weekly routine. To see the ideas behind this lesson plan look at Reflections on: Motivation

Big thanks to my friend Heather Van Fleet for passing on the video.

Update – Thanks very much to Alex Walsh (@AlexSWalsh) for creating these great worksheets based on this lesson plan. Really useful and clear!

Lesson Aims

  • Motivate students to use English out of the classroom
  • Discussion Activities
  • Second conditional
  • Listening comprehension

Stage One – discussion and second conditional

This is a warmer, but you can extend the activity if your students enjoy the discussion. It’s a way to begin an unplugged class, so you are limited only by the class time.

Write “30 days” on the board. Ask the students to think of things they could realistically  do for a period of 30 days  and  that would have a real impact on their lives. Give them some examples – but encourage them to think of ways together. Write their ideas on the board as they suggest them:

  • Change hair colour
  • Take a photography course
  • Do a language exchange with someone online
  • Stop using the internet
  • Start a blog

Now put the students in groups. Ask them a question along the lines of:

How would your life be impacted if you made these changes for 30 days?

Ask your students what conditional the question is. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you it’s a second conditional. If you need to, map out the structure of a second conditional statement for them to follow.

If + subject + past simple / subject + would + infinitive + clause

As a model answer – I asked the students to tell me how they would respond if I came in the next week having dyed my hair pink. I got some interesting responses; “I’d think you wanted attention.” “I’d imagine you’d broken up with your girlfriend.” “I’d think you were a bit strange.” As to how it would change my life, they told me it would probably change the way I felt about myself, and perhaps how others approached me. We also had an interesting chat about gender identity and difference, but that’s by the by.

Write a response to your model question (whatever it may be) under the second conditional structure, reinforcing what they are to practise.

If I changed my hair colour, my students would think I was an attention seeker.

Next get them to hypothesise how their lives would be different if they made some of the changes or started doing some of the things mentioned on the board.

Ask them to feedback some of their ideas. Error correct and check they are using the second conditional form correctly.

Stage two – (optional) video comprehension.

Skip to stage three if you can’t show video.
Write the following questions for your students:

  1. What was his first challenge?
  2. How did it affect him?
  3. Which mountain did he hike up? (Kilimanjaro)
  4. How long was his novel? (50 000 words)
  5. How many words did he have to write in a day every day? (1667/day)
  6. What changes didn’t “stick”? (Giving up sugar)
  7. Which were the most successful challenges and why?

Play the video once and see if they can answer the questions.

Next give them the following language chunks, show the video again and see if they can place them in the order he says them. Afterwards ask for your students to define them, if they can.

  • Stuck in a rut – unable to move forward with your life
  • follow in the footsteps of – to be inspired by and emulate another person
  • it turns out – the result was
  • give it a shot – to try something
  • likely to stick – to have a permanent effect

Give your students error correction and ask their opinion on 30 day challenges. Would they try a challenge? Why or why not?

Stage ThreeEnglish out of the classroom

Ask your students to construct a table similar to the one below. They should think of some activities they can do outside of the classroom for the next 30 days, and then decide how much time to dedicate to each activity per week. They should commit to their activities – and say they will do 3 hours outside the class. By adding more than three ideas they can give themselves a choice – and don’t have to complete every activity every week.

Take 5 minutes at the beginning of each class to ask your students to compare their progress. They will motive each other to practise and use English outside of the classroom.

Idea for table credit to http://learnercoachingelt.wordpress.com/

Activity Time to dedicate per week Completed
Read the news in English

Listen to a podcast once a week

Speak to my partner in English

Watch a series in English

Go to the cinema

Set my phone to English

Write emails in English

Set my Facebook to English

2 hours

30 minutes

1 hour

2 hours

2 hours


1 hour










Creative Commons Licence
Designer Lessons by George Chilton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.