A designer Lessons ESL lesson plan developed by George Chilton

This is a Business English class designed for an advanced group of students, with the aim of testing their detailed listening and note taking skills. Students who attend a lot of business meetings in English will likely appreciate this one!

I’ve set it out in quite a structured way, but you should find it quite easy to remix.

Featured image: Flickr, Jon Martin

Skills practised:

  • Listening for details
  • Rapid note-taking
  • Speculation and discussion
  • Presentation (optional)

The video can also be found on TED.com.

Stage one –

The objective of this stage is to direct students’ language as they discussHave the students mind map some language for agreeing, disagreeing, and speculating. Write this language on the board, including any phrases you want them to use. Spend up to 5 minutes on this section.


–          I’m not sure about that

–          I have another idea

–          I disagree


–          Yes, I see your point

–          I think so too

–          I completely agree

–          Yes, could be!


–          I wonder if it’s…

–          Perhaps…

–          I reckon…

Stage Two

The objective of this stage is to engage the students, and allow them to speculate and make guesses.

Put the students in small groups, and tell them that you are going to show them a few images. Explain that the images are composite photographs—they are an image made up of lots of smaller images, and they all represent a social issue. Students must discuss the following two questions:

  • What is the image made from?
  • What social issue could it represent?

Tell students to use some of the phrases on the board during their conversation. Note down errors as you monitor.

Display the following images, one at a time, and allow up to two minutes discussion each:

Do not give students the correct answers. These will be clear when they watch the video.

Stage Three – video listening comprehension

Play the video for 6o seconds. Tell students to describe Chris Jordan’s job and purpose. They must summarise what they hear. Play twice for lower level students.

Suggested answer:

Jordan’s work is about collective unconscious behaviour that, when added together, has catastrophic consequence.


Next, tell the students to find out what each of the images represents, and what the photographs themselves were composed of. Play the video from 1 minute, and stop the video at minute 7.

Answer Key:

Image one:

–          Composed of plastic cups

–          Represents number of cups used on airline flights everyday

Image two:

–          Composed of paper cups

–          Represents number of paper cups used every day

Image three:

–          Composed of prison uniforms

–          Represents number of Americans in prison

Image four:

–          Composed of cigarette packets

–          Represents number of Americans who die from smoking every year

Image five:

–          Composed of Vicodin pills

–          Number of hospital emergency room visits due to abuse and misuse of prescription medication every year

Image Six:

–          Composed of Barbie dolls

–          Represents popularity of breast augmentation surgery in the USA


Stage four – listening for details

Tell the students that they are going to watch the video again.

Note that in part A students must write what the numbers represent, in part B they must write the numerical answers. With lower level groups, I suggest that you pause every so often to allow students to keep up.

Hand out a piece of paper to each student.  Adapt the following questions to suit the level of your class:


  1. Listen and note down what each number represents:

1,000,000 _____________________

6 hours  _____________________

4 000 000 _____________________

40,000,000 _____________________

15 minutes_____________________

1 out of four  _____________________

2.3 million _____________________

10’ x 25’  _____________________

400,000 + _____________________

1,100 / day  _____________________


B. Answer the following questions in note form:

How many Vicodin pills are there?


What does that figure represent?


What fraction of overdoses are due to abuse of prescription medicine?


What’s the second most popular plastic surgery, and who has it the most?


Answer Key:

1,000,000  plastic cups used on aeroplanes

6 hours: 1 million cups used on aeroplanes in this time period

4 000 000 plastic cups used every day. Not recycled.

40,000,000 paper cups used every day (often  for hot drinks)

15 minutes – image represents 15 minutes worth of paper cups used

1 out of four  prisoners in the world are Americans imprisoned in the USA

2.3 million Americans incarcerated in 2005

10’ x 25’  = size of the canvass

400,000 + people die a year from smoking cigarettes in the USA

1,100 / day  number of Americans who die from smoking related illnesses every day

How many Vicodin pills are there?


What fraction of overdoses are due to abuse of prescription medicine?


What’s the second most popular plastic surgery, and who has it the most?

Liposuction: men.


Next, stop the video at 7 minutes and go over the students’ answers. If necessary, replay the sections they were unable to answer. Once you have made all corrections, tell the students to write down a summary of Jordan’s conclusion.

Suggested answer:

People are unable to comprehend such large numbers that represent terrible social and environmental problems. His photography attempts to translate the problems to a visual medium, that people can understand and relate to.

His big question is: “How do we change as a culture and how do we take responsibility as individuals?”

Stage five – discussion / optional presentation for faster groups

Finally, put students in small groups. Display the photographs again. Ask students to discuss in their groups which they felt was the most serious issue and why.

After 3 or 4 minutes of discussion, have each group feedback their ideas.

If time allows, tell students that they must think of a solution to an environmental or social problem that affects their business, school, country or community. They should describe the issue and decide on two or three ways of solving it. Have them briefly present their ideas to the class at the end.

Feedback with positive points and error correction.


Please note, all these images included in this post are low-res versions of Chris Jordan’s work. Visit http://www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/rtn/#silent-spring for more of his excellent work.