The Universe

“We are the Cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the Universe understands itself.”

Brian Cox, British physicist
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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on the Universe 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.

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered where it all came from and why we are here? People throughout history have asked those same questions and their answers have allowed humanity to progress to where it is today. In this ESL lesson plan on the Universe, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the importance of finding out about the Universe, the origins of the Universe and philosophical questions about reality.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for World Space Week, which takes place in October. 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):

Lifehack | “20 Extraordinary And Inspiring Facts About The Universe”

The article lists 20 amazing facts about the Universe. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. Did they know about any of these facts before reading the article? Which facts were they most fascinated by? How do they feel about being made of stardust?

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 “Three Ways to Destroy the Universe” by Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell which looks at three theories about how to Universe will end.

Courtesy of kurzgesagt.org

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 their interest in the Universe and how space exploration has helped human progress.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with the Universe such as asteroid, shooting star and black hole. 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 Universe. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how the Universe began, how it may end and whether there is only one universe.

HOMEWORK

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