“Anyone who believes in indefinite growth of anything physical on a physically finite planet is either a madman or an economist.”

Kenneth Boulding (1910 – 1993), American economist
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This free ESL lesson plan on overpopulation 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 continuing growth of the global population presents enormous challenges to the world. The more people there are in the world, the more social and environmental consequences there will be unless we can find a way to create energy and allocate resources in a better way. In this ESL lesson plan on overpopulation, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as why the population keeps growing, the future consequences of this population growth and whether there will be enough resources in the world to meet the demands of a growing population.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Population Day, which takes place in July. 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 | “Seven countries with big (and small) population problems”

The article talks about seven countries and the problems they will have in the future in regards to their declining, or increasing, populations. 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 written? 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. 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 “Hey Bill Nye, What’s The Best Way To Handle Overpopulation” by Big Think and explains the various problems associated with overpopulation and some possible solutions to these problems.


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 they think there are too many people in the world for the amount of resources available and some of their predictions for the future of population growth.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with overpopulation such as urbanisation, slum and food insecurity. 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 overpopulation. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the effect a growing population could have on jobs, crime and conflicts.


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