"In all recorded history there has not been one economist who has had to worry about where the next meal would come from."

Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005), Austrian-American management consultant
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This free ESL lesson plan on economics 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 economy is the way goods, services and wealth are distributed through society to those who need them. The principal job of any government is to oversee this distribution to ensure it functions smoothly. As the number of goods and services, and the wealth created, expands, we say the economy is growing. When the economy grows, people get richer and living standards go up. At least that’s what the economists tell us. A wealthy economy does not necessarily mean that the wealth is distributed equally, and even in the richest nations there can be extreme levels of poverty. In this ESL lesson plan on the economy, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what the economy is, how it works, and how it grows.

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 Bank of England | What is GDP?

The article provides a summary of what GDP is, the different ways it is calculated, and some important indicators of the strength of an economy that GDP cannot tell you about, such as health and happiness. 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. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.

The video for this class is called “What causes economic bubbles” by TED Ed which looks at how tulip mania in the 17th century artificially pushed the prices of tulips above their true value and the consequences of this for the world economy.


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 how the economy affects the students’ lives, countries with strong and weak economies, and what governments should do to ensure economic success.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with economics such as GDP, inflation and recession. 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 the economy. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the connection between the economy and happiness, the difference between socialism and capitalism, and the effect of a growing economy on the environment.


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