United States Culture

"America is not just a country, it's an idea."

Bono, Irish singer-songwriter
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This free ESL lesson plan on American culture 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.

American culture has been influencing the rest of the world for the best part of a century and even before. The world’s most popular styles of music originated in the United States, everyone around the world rushes to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters, and every day, people eat American food. The United States is a fascinating country with a rich and diverse culture influenced by its various regions and the different people that have made the country their home. In this ESL lesson plan on United States culture, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as how American culture has influenced the world.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for American Independence Day, which takes place in July. 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):

The Travel | 25 Things That Only Happen In America (That Seriously Confuse Outsiders)

The article lists a number of things that (supposedly) only happen in US culture, including tipping, huge portion sizes for food, and medical adverts. 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 “The Most Iconic Food In Every State” by Food Insider which lists the most iconic food from each US state, including famous dishes like New York pizza, the Philly cheesesteak, and Texas BBQ.

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 travelling in the US, what the US has given the world and the holidays and festivals that take place in the US.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with American culture such as pledge allegiance, the American Dream and patriotism. 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 United States culture. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as why people think America doesn’t have good food, popular American TV shows, movies and music, and the apparent obsession with guns.

HOMEWORK

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