The Rainforest

“At first, I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.”

Chico Mendes, Brazilian Environmentalist
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This free ESL lesson plan on the rainforest 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 Amazon Rainforest is known as the lungs of the world. Although that title might not be as deserved as we think, considering most of our oxygen comes from the oceans, it does highlight the importance of rainforests to the environment. Trees store huge amounts of carbon, helping to offset the problem of climate change. If we cut them down, it stands to reason that global warming will accelerate. But rainforests don’t just produce oxygen and capture carbon; they also provide a habitat for millions of species, supply humans with food and medicine, and protect against floods and soil erosion. Yet every day, human activities continue to threaten and destroy these ecologically important places. In this ESL lesson plan on the rainforest, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as whether they would like to visit a rainforest, why rainforests are important, and what problems the world’s rainforests are facing.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for International Day of Forests, which takes place in March, Earth Day, which takes place in April, World Environment Day, which takes place in June, or World Nature Conservation 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):

Rainforest Alliance | 9 Rainforest Facts Everyone Should Know

The article outlines nine facts about rainforests including their importance in the fight against climate change, providing life-saving medicine, and that 25% of the world’s population relies on them for their livelihood. 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. 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 “Is the Amazon rainforest beyond saving?” by BBC Newsnight which looks at how the Amazon can help mitigate the effects of global warming, and the human activities that are hindering this.


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 to plan for a trip to the rainforest, how the students could survive if they got lost in the jungle, and which people live in the rainforest.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with the rainforest such as rainforest vs jungle, logging and deforestation. 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 the environmental importance of the rainforest. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the reasons for deforestation, what governments should do to protect rainforests, and how trees can help combat climate change.


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