“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Lord Acton (1834 - 1902), British historian, politician and writer
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This free ESL lesson plan on corruption 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.

Corruption is a problem all over the world and can result in a lack of development for a country or the destruction of trust in the political process. Sometimes, acts that might be considered corrupt, such as lobbying and the payment of foreign bribes, are not even illegal. In this ESL lesson plan on corruption, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the different types of corruption, the effects of corruption and how to solve this problem.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for International Anti-Corruption Day, which takes place in December. 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 opinion piece 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):

The Guardian | “If you think the UK isn’t corrupt, you haven’t looked hard enough”

While corruption is usually associated with poorer countries, the article outlines the types of corruption that happen in the UK, even referring to the claim that it is the most corrupt nation on Earth. 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?

Students may also be interested in looking at Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index (referred to in the article) which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people:

Transparency International | Corruption Perceptions Index 2019

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 “What’s The Cost Of Corruption?” by CNBC International and provides an overview of the different types of corruption that happen around the world and what the consequences of these activities can be for a country.


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 what kinds of corruption the students know about and if their country has any problems with corruption.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with corruption such as bribe, graft and influence peddling. 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 corruption. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how corrupt politics is, the effects of corruption for society and whether the world is becoming more or less corrupt.


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