Ideologies

"A political ideology is a very handy thing to have. It's a real time-saver, because it tells you what you think about things you know nothing about."

Hendrik Hertzberg, American journalist
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This free ESL lesson plan on political ideologies 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.

An ideology is a blueprint for society: how governments interact with their citizens, how the economy is organised, and who is in charge. Many ideologies are exclusive, that is to say, they place certain groups at the top of the pecking order, whether those groups are nationalities, ethnicities, or classes of people. Understandably, those ideologies are often opposed by those excluded from power, often as violently as how these ideologies came to power or maintain their power. Other ideologies strike just the right balance to elevate a group of people to the top while throwing just enough bones down below to keep the little people happy. What unites all ideologies is that they claim to be the ‘correct’ one that will solve all the problems that exist in society. So far, not one has been successful in this endeavour. In this ESL lesson plan on ideologies, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as different types of ideologies that exist and what the students think about them.

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):

The Political Compass

Not a traditional article but a survey. The political compass, despite its many flaws, asks a number of question sin six categories to determine a person’s social and economic beliefs. It then plots this on a graph with four quadrants: right authoritarian, right libertarian, left authoritarian, and left libertarian. What do they think about the results of the test? Do they agree with the results? Were they surprised in any way?

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 a called “The 10 tactics of fascism” by Big Think which looks at the often-misunderstood ideology of fascism, and the various elements that are usually present in it, including extreme nationalism, the mythic past, and the macho leader.

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 why people are attracted to certain ideologies, whether any ideologies are dangerous, and the difference between liberalism and conservatism.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with political ideologies such as left-wing and right-wing, champagne socialist and identity politics. 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 political ideologies. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether social hierarchies are desirable, whether socialism and fascism are the same, and whether all ideologies have been proven failures.

HOMEWORK

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