“Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.”

Will Rogers (1879 – 1935), American stage and film actor
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This free ESL lesson plan on consumerism 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.

The consumerist society we live in these days is characterised by the desire to buy ever more things. We feel happy when we make purchases and material possessions can make our lives feel fulfilled, but what is the cost of this shopping behaviour for our values and our planet? In this ESL lesson plan on consumerism, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as why people buy things they don’t need, how consumerism affects the environment and whether we will ever live in a society free of consumerism.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day which take place in November, the day after Thanksgiving. 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):

BBC | “Black Friday: Police called as sales turn ugly”

The article reports ugly scenes from shops across the UK as Black Friday, the traditional American sales day, becomes more and more popular in the country, and shoppers become ever more desperate to find a bargain. 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? Does anything similar happen in their country?

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 “America’s Dopamine-Fueled Shopping Addiction” by The Atlantic and explains why people buy so much stuff, the effect this can have on the environment and some possible solutions to this problem.


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 whether they think we live in a materialistic world and if they think consumerism is becoming a problem for children .

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with consumerism such as splash out, keep up with the Joneses and guilty pleasure. 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 consumerism. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how consumerism affects the environment, whether consumerism is necessary for the economy and whether men and women feel differently about consumerism.


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