Beauty

“Beauty is no quality in things themselves; it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them, and each mind perceives a different beauty.”

David Hume (1711 – 1776), Scottish Enlightenment philosopher
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on beauty 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.

I’ve always been told by my mum how beautiful I am. I suppose that’s why everyone else tells me I have a face that only a mother could love. When we look at something, we instinctively know whether it is beautiful or not. But what is beauty? Why do we find some people or some objects aesthetically pleasing? And is beauty only something that is visible, or does it run deeper than that? In the past, knowing that something was perfect, or beautiful, as we would perceive it today, told us that it was safe to eat, or that it did not pose a threat. Beauty is therefore intrinsically linked to nature. In this ESL lesson plan on beauty, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what beauty is, where our perception of beauty comes from, and the effects this can have on society.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for International Beauty Day, which takes place in September. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

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

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

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):

HuffPost | 7 Ways The Beauty Industry Convinced Women That They Weren’t Good Enough

The article looks at seven ways the beauty industry has pressured women to change their habits including dying their hair, shaving body hair, and lightening and darkening their skin. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. 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. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “Why Beautiful Things Make Us Happy – Beauty Explained” by Kurzgesagt which explains the evolutionary reason why humans consider certain things beautiful.

Courtesy of kurzgesagt.org

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

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 which people are beautiful, how people can make themselves appear more beautiful, and whether physical beauty or intelligence is more attractive.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with beauty such as body image, beauty standards and photoshopped. 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 beauty. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how beauty standards change across different cultures, who decides what is considered beautiful, and the pressure that exists in society to appear beautiful.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of beauty. 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.

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