"All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret."

Gabriel García Márquez (1927 – 2014), Colombian author
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This free ESL lesson plan on privacy 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.

Privacy is the state of not being watched. It is the information that other people don’t know about you. Some people say that only bad people want and need privacy, but these same people lock their doors and put passwords on their email accounts. Privacy is necessary in a society that thrives on creativity and innovation. Without privacy, we’d have nothing but obedience and conformity – not a bad thing for a tyrannical dictator. In this ESL lesson plan on privacy, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the meaning of privacy and why it’s so important.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Data Privacy Day, which takes place in January. 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 | Is privacy dead in an online world?

The article looks at whether privacy is possible in a world where we hand over large amounts of personal information to social media companies and other websites. 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?

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 TED Talk by Glenn Greenwald called “Why privacy matters” in which he explains the importance of privacy and how a lack of privacy affects people’s behaviour.


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 a lack of privacy changes people’s behaviour, the kinds of things people would prefer to keep private, and whether the students always respect other people’s privacy.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with privacy such as invasion of privacy, in the privacy of one’s home and skeleton in the closet. 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 privacy. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as whether different cultures have different attitudes to privacy, the relationship between privacy and security, and whether privacy actually exists in the modern day.


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