Cover image via Flickr by @Doug88888

A designer lessons ESL Lesson plan developed by Matthew Watson Jones


A pre-intermediate to intermediate + ESL  lesson plan, aimed at practicing oral and written production of the third person ‘s’ and object pronouns, with a twist at the end.

About the author

Matthew WJ is an accomplished nose-flautist, English teacher, and stand-up comedian –  though not necessarily in that order. He is from the UK, but lives and works in  Barcelona, Spain. You’ll mostly find him studying, as he is currently getting through an MA in something very complicated and language related.  Matthew has also been further afield – teaching ESL in Japan – the only country in which he’s found people who love tea more than he does. He has kindly found the time to post this great lesson relating to the topic of gay marriage on our blog.


Lesson aims:

  • Third person ‘s’
  • Object pronouns
  • Relationship / Life vocabulary
  • Discussion, opinions
  • Writing (in pairs)

Stage one:

Write the phrase “Girl Meets Boy” on the board (or “Boy Meets Girl”, but “Girl Meets Boy” works better for what’s coming later), and near the bottom of the board, write They Get Married (give them space to have more stages after this)

Encourage the class to call out ideas for what happens to the boy and the girl, such as “he asks for her phone number”. After this point, always refer to them as “he” and “she”. When they’ve shouted out ideas, get them to pick which of the ideas they like the best, and you write up the most popular (or the one you like the best).

This is a great way to draw out natural vocabulary that everyone uses in their own languages – they go out, they start dating, etc. Depending on your group, this activity can grow and grow – mine ended up as a soap opera, with the girl’s parents spying from the next room, a divorce, she falls in love with his best friend… etc.

Try to focus them on using “he” and “she” forms correctly. It’s simplest to keep all the action in the present tense, and also a good opportunity to make sure they’re using that third person ‘s’. In the course of the task, “his” “her” and “him” should also emerge… if they aren’t using these well, correct them and re-explain the grammar.

When you’ve got a whole relationship in detail on the board, go back through it, pointing out how well they’ve done and underlining key expressions you think they will need later in the class (and in life).

Stage two 

Set up this video BEFORE the class, so that you can click into the video quickly, and they don’t get a chance to see the ‘Related Videos’ – you don’t want to give away the video’s secret in advance. You should, of course, watch it through before the class.

Tell the students that they are going to watch a video about the stages of a relationship, and that we see events through the eyes of one of the people in the relationship.

Play the video once through, STOPPING when he opens the box (1.33). Students may notice that some of the video is left – if they do, tell them it’s a secret. Of course, you’re leading them on to think that the camera’s perspective is that of a woman. I’ve had smart, open-minded students who say “he or she” about the mystery character. Avoid saying “he or she” yourself, and if you’re worried about giving the game away, just straight out lie and use the word “she” to describe the actions of the mystery character.

Now tell them that they’re going to watch the video again, only this time, you’re going to pause the video at certain points, and they’re going to write down what happens in each section. Point to the “Girl Meets Boy” story you have on the board, and tell them that you want it to be like this – using the present tense, and using “he”, “she”, “his” and “her”. Tell them “they” is OK for some actions, but when they do different things from each other, they have to use “she” and “he”.

Put the class in pairs, with a pen and paper. Below are the pausing times. You can play the section for them more than once more if they need it. I find it helps to pause at the end of the current scene, not the start of the next. At each pause, they have to write at least 2 sentences about what they have seen. Some scenes will require more than others. If one student of the pair is dominating the writing, hand the pen to the other student.


0.11               They meet on a boat

0.21               First Date, he puts “her” in a taxi.

0.35               Shopping, Beach, strokes face.

0.45               Restaurant, Hair Cut, mysterious girl, Argument

0.50              Meet the Parents

1.00              Moving In

1.12              Beach again (not much happens in this 12 sec bit)

1.18              Mother on deathbed

1.35              Park, Birthday, Proposal.

If they need vocabulary or grammar, at this point give it to each pair, and not to the whole class (unless they’re all making the same mistake). There are a few details, in particular the strange girl who greets them, where they should make their own judgement as to what has happened / who she is.

Once this is done, one thing I have tried and enjoyed is to show it one more time, only this time asking them to mark on their stories at which point:

  •  they fell in love (did they fall in love at different times?)

Pause again at the proposal, and ask what they think happens next. Write their guesses on the bottom of the board.

After they’ve checked their scripts through for accuracy, watch it again and get them to read out their answers for each stage. Write any great sentences on the board. Also write up a few questionable ones and get the class to fix them. If you’ve been watching them as they write, you should know who to ask at each stage to get the most useful answers. See if they disagree about anything (including the love question above) and get them to defend their position.

Stage 3

Finally, ask them if they want to change their “what happens next?” guesses (to heighten the tension), and show them the next and last scene up until 1.48, freezing on the on-screen message “It’s Time. End marriage discrimination”, and from here, if you have time, you can lead the class into all sorts of political / religious / sexuality discussions. Take it in any direction you want. Some possibilities could be Mariano Rajoy (I live in Spain), the Chick-Fil-A saga in the States, gay celebrities, different laws in different countries (in Australia, where the video was made, there is still no equality). If they are interested in American politics, you could show them Obama’s speech in favour of marriage equality, or this chart of gay rights laws from the Guardian:

Extra Activity; Homework

Get the students to think of a friend who is in, or was in, a relationship. Maybe give an example, showing yourself talking about how a couple met, when they got married, divorced, etc. Tell them it can have a happy ending, or a sad one.

  • If they all have smart phones (and in some classes, this might be the case) or recording programs on their computers, you can get them to record themselves explaining the stages of that relationship. Tell them they can record themselves as many times as they like, and they only have to send you / play in class their final version. Since in real life this is the kind of thing that is spoken, not written, tell them it has to be oral homework, and to make the language casual and friendly.

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