"When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw."

Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013), former anti-apartheid revolutionary and president of South Africa
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This free ESL lesson plan on crime 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.

Crime is one of the biggest concerns for people in every country in the world, if not the biggest concern. This concern can become so strong that people are even afraid to leave their homes. Walking down the street, somebody may snatch your phone out of your hand or worse. There are many causes of crime, ranging from socio-economic factors to pure greed. Whatever the cause, we expect the government and the police to tackle this problem and keep us safe. Some governments have been more successful in the fight against crime than others. In this ESL lesson plan on crime, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the causes, effects, and solutions.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for the Day of International Criminal Justice, which takes place in July. 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):

The Hill | American attitudes are disconnected from reality on crime trends

The article offers an explanation as to why Americans contend that crime has increased over the last year when the reality is that crime decreases, portioning some of the blame to the media’s focus on sensational stories. The article also explains how the fear of crime can affect our everyday behaviour and decisions. 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 “How Scotland is Curing Crime” by Bloomberg Quicktake which looks at the measures taken by the police in Glasgow to reduce violent crime.


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 main causes of crime, common crimes that happen in the students’ countries, and what solutions they can think of to reduce crime.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with crime such as petty crime, pickpocketing and victim blaming. 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 crime. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether video games and movies could be responsible for crime, whether drugs should be legalised to reduce crime, and whether parents are to blame if their children become criminals.


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