“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have, and we need to defend it.”

Sir David Attenborough, British broadcaster and natural historian
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This free ESL lesson plan on biodiversity 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.

From the smallest bacteria to the largest mammals and trees, biodiversity is all the various organisms working in unison to support their mutual survival. Take one of these organisms out of the equation, and the whole ecosystem could collapse. This is not just something that affects wildlife; humans are also part of the food chain. Take the humble bee for example. Human activities, including habitat destruction, the use of pesticides and climate change, have cause bee populations to go into decline. If bees don’t pollinate plants, we don’t get to eat. Humans, therefore, have a huge role in ensuring the continuation of biodiversity on the planet. In this ESL lesson plan on biodiversity, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what biodiversity means, why it’s important, and how we can protect it.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Earth Day, which takes place in April, the International Day for Biological Diversity, which takes place in May, or World Environment Day, which takes place in June. 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.


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):

World Economic Forum | 5 reasons why biodiversity matters – to human health, the economy and your wellbeing

The article explains that biodiversity is not just important for plants and animals, but also for humans. This importance includes food security, human health, and how much of our economy depends on biodiversity. 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 is biodiversity so important?” by TED Ed which explains what biodiversity is, and why it’s so important for the various forms of life on Earth.


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 the most biodiverse places on Earth, how humans benefit from biodiversity, and the human activities that are threatening biodiversity.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with biodiversity such as endangered species, ecosystem and food chain. 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 biodiversity. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how climate change affects biodiversity, the students’ thoughts on hunting endangered species, and the consequences if the world becomes less biodiverse.


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