This free ESL lesson plan on nuclear power 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.
Mention nuclear power, and one cannot help but think of radioactive spiders or three-eyed fish in the ponds of Springfield. Nuclear power is scary, and disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima do nothing to allay our fears. But nuclear power has the potential to help humans meet their ever-increasing energy needs, and as the process doesn’t release carbon emissions, it could be considered a ‘clean’ energy. On the other hand, nuclear energy has also given us the power to destroy our species many times over in the form of nuclear weapons. In this ESL lesson plan on nuclear energy, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as whether nuclear power is a viable source of energy and the dangers of nuclear weapons
This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, which takes place in August, or the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which takes place in September. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.
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 article gives a brief history of nuclear weapons and arms control treaties, as well as asking if we will ever live in a world free of nuclear weapons. 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?
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 “How do nuclear power plants work?” by TED Ed which explains how nuclear energy is created and some of the problems associated with the storage of nuclear waste.
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 whether the students are concerned by nuclear power, whether nuclear energy is better or worse for the environment and whether all countries should have access to nuclear technology.
After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with nuclear power and nuclear weapons such as nuclear winter, rogue state and mutually assured destruction. 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 nuclear weapons and nuclear war. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as when nuclear weapons have been used in the past, whether nuclear weapons are value for money, and the prospects of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world.
After the class, students will write about their opinion of nuclear power. 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.