Ancient Mysteries

"But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea."

Plato, ancient Greek philosopher (on Atlantis)
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This free ESL lesson plan on ancient mysteries has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Ancient cultures from all across the world independently constructed the similar pyramid structures. How could this be? Does this suggest some kind of connection between these cultures that we are unaware of? Aliens, perhaps? Or maybe an ancient, advanced civilisation that spanned the globe? Could it really just be a coincidence? Well, yes. Turns out that putting a brick on top of another but slightly further forward is a pretty obvious way of building very large structures, just like something pointy makes a pretty effective weapon. Then again, there are things from ancient times that we don’t understand, and it’s fun to speculate about what might have happened in the past. This topic is a great opportunity to practice modal verbs of past deduction and speculation with your students. In this ESL lesson plan on ancient mysteries, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as why so many people want to believe alternative history, why we treat myths and legends as actual history, and the ancient mysteries from the students’ countries.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Readers Digest | 10 ancient mysteries researchers still can’t explain

The article looks a number of unexplained ancient mysteries, including the Nazca Lines in Peru, the Plain of Jars in Loas, and the Voynich Manuscript. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.

The video for this class is a called “The Evidence That The Lost City of Atlantis Existed?” by The Infographics Show which explores the evidence surrounding the legend of the lost city of Atlantis.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including who built Stonehenge, the purpose of the Nazca Lines, and what Jesus got up to during his life.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with mysteries such as one of life’s great mysteries, shrouded in mystery and hard to swallow. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about political ideologies. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether there was an advanced civilisation 12,000 years ago, whether aliens had a hand in building the various pyramids around the world, and whether the Knights Templar still exist.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of ancient mysteries. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


Did you find this lesson plan useful?

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1 thought on “Ancient Mysteries”

  1. Thank you, James. Another interesting edition to the library! I haven’t tried it yet but I like the look of it. It should be very engaging and easily adaptable.
    Many thanks!

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