A designer lessons ESL lesson plan developed by Neil McMillan

EXPLICIT LANGUAGE WARNING: This lesson focuses on the development of speculation & listening skills in relation to rapid American English, and the use of the vocabulary of equal opportunities, sexism and racism in open discussion. It has been designed for advanced classes with mature adults able to cope with potentially offensive language. It is, however, unerringly fair in its distribution of insults: nobody need feel left out …

Additional note: this lesson was created to explore the topic of equal opportunities as part of the Grade 10 (C1) syllabus for the Trinity GESE exam. In that light, it’s also useful for developing discussion techniques, defending points of view, building arguments etc. in line with the Trinity syllabus.

Stage 1

Show the following video from the beginning to 1’12”, WITH THE SOUND OFF! Invite the Ss to describe / speculate on who the people are and what they are saying.

My group correctly guessed that this is some kind of office dispute between the woman and the man, and that the third character tries to smooth things over when he arrives. One student also divined that the origin of the discussion has something to do with the fridge. As ever, encourage the use of modals and related speculative language in their discussion.

Stage 2

Give out the following sentences to pairs, cut-up, and invite the Ss to put them in order in light of their speculation. Explain that the blank spaces represent the names of the characters.

  • Hey,_________________. Is that the last pineapple-flavoured water?
  • Yeah, _________________. It is the last one.
  • Well you can’t take it __________________. I called it this morning.
  • Well, ___________________ , there’s little you can do about it now.
  • ________________________, I don’t go round eating your granola bars, or your zero carb salad dressing.
  • Hey, morning ____________________. Morning, _____________________.
  • Fuck me now.
  • Hey, ____________________. Did you notice she took my last pineapple water?
  • ________________________, it didn’t have his name on it.
  • Hey, _______________________, why don’t you two just share it?

My group, understandably, were unsure where to place the ‘fuck me now’ and couldn’t yet guess the satirical content of the clip.

Language to notice:

to call something = to claim possession of (Am.Eng); can also refer to a decision, eg. to make a call, good call / bad call

Stage 3

Play the clip again, still with the sound down, for them to check the order of the sentences. Invite the students to ‘act out’ the dialogue as if they were dubbing actors – a good opportunity for you to check pron, intonation etc. At this point, however, it becomes obvious to some that the characters say a great deal more than the dialogue they’ve been given. So …

Stage 4

Play the clip again with the sound up, and ask the students if they can catch any of this extra dialogue, which you have previously described as names. Be prepared for some overwhelmed Ss, as the dialogue is extremely rapid. However, it should be possible for one or two strong listeners to catch the occasional phrase, and work out that the characters are basically insulting each other along gender and racial lines.

Stage 5

Having prepared your students for the strength of the language involved, give out these sentences to pairs:

  1. race-of-women-who-can’t-get-enough-of-my-people
  2. chauvinist-bigot-that-keeps-a-glass-ceiling-over-my-head
  3. enslaver-of-my-people-for-400-years
  4. recently-promoted-with-twice-my-salary-for-the-same-work
  5. colonisers-and-destroyers-of-humble-lands
  6. emotionally-driven-irrational-hormonally-unstable-bitch
  7. Uneducated-unless-by-affirmative-action-policies-welfare-stealer
  8. Taker-of-Satan’s-apple-and-therefore-creator-of-all-evil
  9. sexually-threatening-coke-dealer-who-likes-KFC-a-little-too-much
  10. you-womb-that-seems-to-live-even-though-bleeding-for-days

Ask them to read them through and decide which character used each ‘name’, and to whom.


White man to white woman: 6, 8, 10; white woman to white man: 2, 4; black man to white man: 3; black man to white woman: 1; white man to black man: 9; white woman to black man: 7; black man to both: 5

At this point it might be necessary to unpack some of the language and elicit definitions of key terms such as glass ceiling, affirmative action, chauvinist as well as the stereotypes embedded in references to KFC, the womb, the sexual attractiveness of Afro-American men to white women, etc. The dialogue basically consists of a variety of the discourses of discrimination, mixing up both biblical and colloquial masculinism with the languages of the feminist and civil rights movements.

Stage 6

Play the clip one last time to check the above answers and put the offensive names in the correct order. Ask if the ‘fuck me now’ comment now makes sense. I found it productive to gauge general reactions to the piece: it is supposed to be a comedy short, but did anyone find it funny? Was anyone offended? Do they see a point to the satire? Do they recognise these types of offensive language in their own countries, or do other stereotypes preside?

Order of ‘names’

6, 2, 10, 4, 8, 3, 1, 9, 7, 5

Stage 7

Depending on your group, extract more explicit discussion points for further development. I chose to focus on the terms glass ceiling and affirmative action. I asked:

  • Does a glass ceiling exist for particular workers in your country (e.g. women, immigrants)? Are there any industries where genuine equal opportunity exists? How can unfairness be fought against?
  • Is there a policy of affirmative action in any areas, or not? If so, does it work? Is it fair? If not, should one be introduced? What would be the consequences?

As ever, this is too juicy a topic to feedback only on structural issues. Nevertheless, there should be plenty of language points emerging from such a discussion, and you may wish to revise or introduce frames for giving opinions, defending points of view, making counter-arguments, giving examples, speculating, hypothesising and so on.


A full 5 minutes of video remain to be seen. However, as it goes on in the same vein, introducing gay, Muslim, Latino, East Asian and disabled characters (no offense to anyone I may have missed out), with the same rapid-fire trading of insults, it may be advisable to scaffold any follow-up activities if you don’t want to leave your students completely overwhelmed.

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