Petroleum

"Whoever controls oil controls much more than oil."

John McCain (1936 – 2018), American politician
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This free ESL lesson plan on oil and gas 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.

Petroleum, or oil and gas, is one of the most precious commodities on Earth. It is the source of the vast majority of our energy, without which, we couldn’t perform our most basic tasks. But this reliance has also been to our detriment. Wars have been fought over access to oil, and human rights abuses are tolerated in return for a steady supply of black gold. The catalyst for the advances the human race has made over the last few centuries could also lead to its downfall. The fact that burning oil and gas is leading to catastrophic environmental damage is well know by all governments around the world, yet none are prepared to act to protect future generations. Why would they? They won’t be around to witness the consequences. In this ESL lesson plan on petroleum, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the world’s reliance on oil and gas, whether this reliance is sustainable, and some of the geopolitical issues presented by petroleum.

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 Guardian | Global oil demand may have passed peak, says BP energy report

The article refers to BP’s annual report on the future of energy, which concluded that demand for oil may have already peaked thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, and will be replaced by windfarms, solar panels and hydropower plants. 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 “How does fracking work?” by TED Ed which looks at how fracking extracts oil and gas, and some of the concerns associated with this method.

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 how the oil and gas industry affects the environment, how to reduce our reliance on petroleum and how important it is for governments to secure energy supplies.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with oil and gas such as oilfield, oil spill and pipeline. 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 petroleum. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as wars fought over oil, protecting jobs in the oil and gas industry, and what will happen when the oil runs out.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of oil and gas. 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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