“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), theoretical physicist
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This free ESL lesson plan on time 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 dictionary defines time as progress from the past to the present into the future regarded as a whole. But what, exactly, is time? Is it something that physically exists, or does it just exist as a concept in our minds? Certainly, for many people, time is considered one of the most important commodities in life. In this ESL lesson plan on time, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as attitudes towards time, how important time is and how to manage time.

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):

V Comply | “Time Vs. Culture – A Perspective”

The article outlines some of the different cultural attitudes towards time to explain why some people have different perspectives on time, as well as some of the proverbs relating to time that these different cultures have. 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 written? Which of the three cultures best describes the students’ own culture?

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 “Does time exist?” by TED Ed which explains some of the scientific theories of what time is.


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 whether people are usually on time in the students’ countries, whether they like to plan their time or go with the flow and whether they feel like they have enough time.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with time such as waste time, race against the clock and kill time. 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. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as why time flies when you are having fun, why people say ‘time is money’ and whether or not good things come to those who wait.


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