EFL - ESL activities and games for discussing current social issues

The first of three upper-intermediate ESL lesson plans on the theme of 'society'. It focuses on vocabulary and discussions around current social issues and includes a lead-in activity, several classroom exercises and a game. And don't forget, if you use an Android device, you can get offline access to these materials through the TEFL Handbook app.

Lead-in activity

Start by eliciting or adding four social issues to the board. Then discuss concepts and vocabulary related to each one. Use this spider diagram as a guide.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for discussing social issues | Upper-intermediate

ESL activities for discussing social issues

Group discussion

Discuss one of the social issues from the board as a group.

Consider the following:

Is it a problem in this country?
What is its impact on society?
What are the possible solutions?

Add any new ideas and vocabulary to the board.

Discuss in pairs

Following on from the previous activity, students will now work in groups of three to discuss the remaining social issues left on the board.

Before they begin, encourage them to use the questions from the previous activity to kick off their conversations. You can add the following prompts to the board to remind them:

In this country
Impact on society
Solutions

When they have finished, have another group discussion on each issue. Again, add any new concepts and vocabulary to the board.

Class debate

The students will debate some controversial arguments related to issues in society.

Organise this depending on the size of the class. One option would be to pair the students up, assign each student to one side of an argument, and have them present one at a time. For a larger class, you may want to divide it into two groups and have them work on a couple of issues.

Give the students enough time to prepare their arguments. Five minutes if you've paired them up, ten minutes for two larger groups.

You will chair the debates and make sure that everyone has had a chance to say their piece and respond to any counter-arguments. Make it more fun by picking a winner at the end of each debate, based on their performance. You should justify your choices.

1. Is animal testing a justified?
2. Are video games containing violence appropriate for children?
3. Is euthanasia justified?
4. Torture is justified when used for national security.
5. Cigarettes should be banned.

ESL classroom games

ESL Pictionary: Social issues

Players have to represent abstract concepts related to society on the board while their teammates guess what they are.

Start by dividing the class into two teams. On each turn, give the student in play an abstract concept related to societal problems. That student must then represent it on the board using only images and symbols. Their teammates earn a point when they guess it correctly.

To make it more competitive, split the board into three parts, set a stopwatch for two minutes and give the student with the marker three concepts to represent. The team with the best time wins.

Try to use new concepts that came up during the lesson. If you're stuck for ideas, here are a few to get you started:

1. Graffiti
2. Healthcare
3. Debt
4. Drug dealer
5. Unemployment
6. Overpopulation

More upper-intermediate ESL lesson plans

We hope that you found a few of these ideas useful. Our next free lesson in this series is on using conditionals. Also, be sure to bookmark our complete list of upper-intermediate level ESL lesson plans, as well as our entire collection of ESL courses.

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