Democracy

“In a democracy, the poor will have more power than the rich because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme.”

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), Greek philosopher
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on democracy 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.

Democracy is so universally accepted as being the correct form of government that even North Korea added the word “democratic” to the country’s official title! But what does it actually mean? “Demo-” comes from the Greek for “the people”, and “-ocracy” comes from the Greek for “rule”. So, democracy means rule by the people. All the people. Today, democracy has simply become a byword for elections, but when these elections result in governments being decided by less than 30% of the population, can that ever be considered truly democratic? A true democracy should represent all people in society, including both the majority and the minority. But is that even possible in today’s world? In this ESL lesson plan on democracy, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what democracy means, whether it is the best form of government and what problems are associated with it.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for International Day of Democracy, 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):

MIT News | Study: Democracy fosters economic growth

The article refers to a study in which the authors challenge the popular view that dictatorships can be better for economic growth than democracies. 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 Socrates Hated Democracy” by The School of Life which explains why Socrates had deep suspicions of the concept of demcracy.

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 what democracy is, the most and least democratic countries in the world and when democracy has produced the wrong results.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with democracy such as mob rule, minority rights and demagogue. 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 democracy. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the effect of large political donations, the media and social media on democracy, and whether jury service should replace elections.

HOMEWORK

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