Social Class

"The middle class were invented to give the poor hope; the poor, to make the rich feel special; the rich, to humble the middle class."

Mokokoma Mokhonoana, South African author and social critic
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This free ESL lesson plan on social class 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.

Every society is divided into hierarchies. At the top are the elite minority. This class sucks up the most wealth and is therefore the most influential. Below this, there is disagreement on how to classify the rest of the population. A traditional way is to categorise people into middle class (affluent professionals with fairly comfortable lives) and the working class (those who have less money and struggle to make ends meet). Other methods simply involve categorising everyone outside the upper class into the “99%”. While the latter clearly doesn’t take into account the different lives the 99% leave, what is clear, generation after generation, is that the social class you are born into is one of the greatest factors that determines your future prospects and opportunities. In this ESL lesson plan on social class, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the different social classes that exist and how these determine a person’s future.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for the World Day of Social Justice, which takes place in February. 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.

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):

BBC | Huge survey reveals seven social classes in UK

The article summarises the results of the Great British Class Survey which was conducted to see if the traditional classes of working, middle and upper were still applicable in the modern day. The results showed that only 39% of people fit into these classes, and instead suggested seven new classes of people. 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 the upper middle class keeps everyone else out” by PBS NewsHour which says while everybody is concentrating on the top 1%, we should instead be looking at the power and influence of the 9.9% below the elite.

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 university education affects class, how class affects values, and whether social classes are necessary for the functioning of society.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with social class such as classless society, social mobility and gentrification. 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 political ideologies. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as class discrimination, the prospects of social mobility, and whether class actually exists.

HOMEWORK

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