"The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all."

Article 5, The North Atlantic Treaty, 1949
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This free ESL lesson plan on NATO 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 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO, was established in 1949 to guarantee the security of Western Europe. The main threat at that time was the Soviet Union and its nuclear arsenal. The principal way the organisation guaranteed its members’ security was through Article 5, which stated an attack on one member would be considered an attack on all members. Despite various NATO operations (for example in Kosovo and Libya), Article 5 has only been invoked once – when terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, resulting in the Afghanistan War. Many have questioned NATO’s role in the modern world, especially since the Cold War finished. NATO insists it has a role to play in guaranteeing European security, as well as providing military support to the war on terror. In this ESL lesson plan on NATO, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the historical and modern role of the military alliance.

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 | Nato considers new mission statement

The article, from 2010, refers to a meeting between foreign and defence ministers from NATO countries, who met to discuss the future roles of NATO, including forging international partnerships, missile defence, and cybersecurity. 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. 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 “What is NATO?” by CNBC International which explains the history of NATO, why it was formed, its current role, and tensions over defence spending commitments.


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 countries are NATO members, why NATO kept expanding after the Cold War had finished, and how effective NATO has been in guaranteeing security.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with NATO such as collective defence, nuclear first strike and missile defence. 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 NATO is obsolete, the military action NATO has taken in the 21st century, and what role the alliance should play in the future.


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