“You can choose your friends, but you sho' can't choose your family.”

From 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee (1926 – 2016)
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This free ESL lesson plan on family 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.

For many cultures around the world, nothing is more important than family. Families are there through the good times and the bad. In this ESL lesson plan on family, students will have the opportunity to talk about their own family experiences and discuss and express their opinions on issues such as family roles, family values and how important family is in society.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for the International Day Of Families, which takes place in May. 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):

Seattle Times | “American family decline: It’s about money, not morals”

The article talks about the decline in traditional American family values and how the lack of economic opportunities for the working class have contributed to this, rather than a decline in morals as is often suggested. 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 written? 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 “How The Nuclear Family Broke Down” by The Atlantic and explains how the concept of family changed from the extended families of the past to the smaller and more independent nuclear families of the post-World War 2 era, and then how these types of families also went into decline.


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 family means to them and their own family experiences.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with family such as fly the nest, take after someone and black sheep. 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 connection between family and society. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the pressure in society to start a family, traditional family roles and whether or not there has been a decline in traditional family values and the effect this has had on society.


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