Time Travel

"If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?"

Stephen Hawking (1942 – 2018), British theoretical physicist
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This free ESL lesson plan on time travel 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.

If you could travel back in time, you would have to be careful not to change anything as to affect the future. One or two winning lottery tickets is enough; winning the lottery every single week, and people would surely start to suspect that something was off. But perhaps changing the past doesn’t change your future but create a new one. Or maybe history always included your future self travelling back in time to make the changes that would create the present, and there was no way to avoid this. Another possibility is that you go back in time, and any changes you make are automatically corrected by the Universe to preserve a future that already exists. Do these outcomes mean that future, fate, and destiny are predetermined? In this ESL lesson plan on time travel, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as which periods from history they would like to see, the science of time travel, and whether the future is predetermined.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Pretend To Be A Time Traveller Day, which takes place in December. 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):

CBR | 10 Sci-Fi Movies Where Time Travel Actually Makes Sense

The article contains a list of time travel movies that portray time travel logically, including 12 Monkeys, Planet of the Apes, and Back to the Future. 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 called “Is Time Travel Possible?” by Science Time which looks at some of the physics theories that could allow for time travel to happen.

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 which historical figures the students would like to meet, which past events should be changed, and what they would tell their past selves.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with time travel such as time machine, alternate timeline and time loop. 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 time travel. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as what they would like to see in the future, whether they would like to know their own future, and how people predict the future today.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about what they would do if they had a time machine. 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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