Human Rights

“When you deprive people of their right to live in dignity, to hope for a better future, to have control over their lives, when you deprive them of that choice, then you expect them to fight for these rights.”

Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan
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This free ESL lesson plan on human rights 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.

Every person on the planet is born with the same human rights without exception. These rights include the right to life and liberty, the freedom from slavery and torture, and the right to work and education. However, protecting and enforcing these rights around the world has been extremely difficult and human rights abuses continue on a daily basis. In this ESL lesson plan on human rights, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as why we need human rights, countries that have a poor record on human rights and how human rights can be protected.

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

BBC | “Venezuela: UN investigators accuse authorities of crimes against humanity”

The article refers to a recent report by the United Nations into human rights violations in Venezuela, the country widely regarded as having the worst record on human rights in the world. 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? What should the world do about this situation? Could anything similar be happening in their countries?

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 “What Are The Universal Human Rights” by TED Ed which gives a brief history of human rights, what our rights are and some of the problems that have been encountered when trying to protect these rights.


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 human rights are, which people need protecting the most and who is responsible for protecting these rights.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with human rights such as speak out, stand up for someone and violate. 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 human rights. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as why it has been difficult to implement socio-economic rights like education and health, what current human rights issues there are in the world and what needs to change to protect people’s human rights.


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