Marine Life

"Great attention gets paid to rainforests because of the diversity of life there. Diversity in the oceans is even greater."

Sylvia Earle (1917 – 2008), American marine biologist
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This free ESL lesson plan on marine life 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 ocean contains some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, yet many of these species face the threat of extinction due to human activities. Some of the major threats to marine life include plastic pollution, rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification. Ocean conservation is not just important to protect marine life, it is also vitally important to preserve the way of life of millions of people as well. In this ESL lesson plan on marine life, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what marine animals they know about, what threats these sea creatures face and how we can protect them.

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

National Geographic | “10 Things You Can Do to Save the Ocean”

The article highlights a number of things individuals can do to help protect the ocean including using fewer plastic products, eating sustainably caught fish and responsible ocean travel. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of anything else to add to the list?

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 Survival Of The Sea Turtle” by TED Ed. It follows the life of a typical sea turtle starting from the moment the eggs are laid, to the perils it faces as a hatchling and finally to the threats posed by human activity.


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 which marine animals the students have seen, what kind of seafood they like and which places are the best for seeing sea life.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with marine life such as trawler, overfishing and sustainably caught fish. 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 marine life. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the importance of the ocean for the environment and for humans, the problem of overfishing and how the world would be different if the oceans became too polluted to sustain life.


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