Social Status

"The best way to rise in society is to use all possible means of persuading people that one has already risen in society."

Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680), French moralist and writer
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This free ESL lesson plan on social status 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.

We all adhere to the notion that all people are equal. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether by accident of birth or for lifetime achievements, we categorise people based on their status. People with high social status, those with the flashy cars and draped in designer labels, are respected and given importance. Those considered to have low social status are judged and mocked. Ask anybody if they are guilty of this and you’ll be met with denials, but subconsciously in our minds, we judge every person we see based on our perception of status. In this ESL lesson plan on social status, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as what social status is, how it can be useful, and why people are so obsessed with it.

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):

The Ladders | These traits automatically boost your social status no matter where you live

The article refers to a survey conducted in various countries to see if there were any common factors that would increase a person’s social standing. Intelligence, bravery and leadership are traits that would raise a person’s social status, while thievery, being dirty and being mean would decrease social status. 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 “Status Anxiety” by The School of Life which looks at the social situations when people are judged due to their status, and how this can affect our mental health.


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 the status symbols of the students’ cultures, how to increase social status, and who decides what is considered high or low status.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with social status such as to lose face, snob and to look down your nose at someone. 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 social status. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the link between social status and university, health and self-esteem, which groups of people and professions have the highest status, and whether it is natural for humans to organise themselves into hierarchies.


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