“People shouldn't be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

Alan Moore, British writer
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This free ESL lesson plan on government 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.

A government is a system put in place to govern a group of people, usually a nation state. There have been, and continue to be, many different forms of government around the world, from monarchies to dictatorships to democracies. Even within democracies, considered by many to be the best form of government, there are different types with some having presidents and some with parliaments. In this ESL lesson plan on government, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as different types of government, how their own government works and the responsibilities of government.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Parliament Day, which takes place in June. 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):

Slate | Juan Linz’s Bad News for America

The article looks the theory of Yale political scientist Juan Linz, who had recently died. Professor Linz had theorised why Western European democracies seemed to be much more stable than Latin American democracies. His conclusion: presidents (or in the case of Europe, a lack of presidents). Disagreements in the parliamentary democracies of Europe would be met with new elections, while disagreements between presidents and congresses in Latin America, due to no democratic mechanism existing to resolve these disputes, would often lead to military coups or other forms of political violence. The obvious exception to this theory was the United States, but Linz was writing a quarter of a century between the political polarisation that would occur during the presidency of Donald Trump. 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 “Parliamentary vs. Presidential Democracy Explained” by TDC which uses the parliamentary system of the United Kingdom (technically a constitutional monarchy) and the presidential system of the United States to highlight the differences between the two common forms of government.


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 function of government, where governments derive their power from and the different types of government in the world.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with pets such as the corridors of power, pull strings and big government/nanny state. 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 government. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as which people have the most influence over governments, why governments fail and the differences between presidential and parliamentary forms of government.


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