Valentine's Day Discussion Lesson

Valentine’s Day is one of the few times when it is OK to break the rule about avoiding talking about love and dating in the classroom. Since our students generally are intensely curious about those things and highly opinionated, Valentine’s Day is a great topic for endless authentic conversation. I first did this lesson in Kazakhstan, a fairly conservative culture, years ago and was astounded when at the end of our 90 minute session, I couldn’t get the students to leave.


Warm Up #1: The story of a relationship in phrasal verbs

  1. Put up the following list of phrasal verbs/idioms:
    • get to know someone
    • hang out
    • ask out
    • go out
    • be together
    • get engaged
    • get married
    • move in together
    • have children
    • break up
    • get divorced
  2. Have students look it over and see if they can guess what these words have in common. Hold off on defining any of the terms at first to let students practice getting the main idea of a “text” without knowing every word.
  3. When students have had a few guesses, reveal that it is describing a relationship from meeting to divorce! Ask students if they feel this is typical or not. You can also ask students which steps they feel are necessary to a good relationship and which are not.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?
  2. What do we celebrate on Valentine’s Day?
  3. How do we celebrate Valentine’s Day?
  4. Is Valentine’s Day celebrated differently in your country or culture?

  1. Who should pay on a date?
  2. Is love only for young people?
  3. Women: What advice would you give men who want to have a girlfriend?
  4. Men: What advice would you give women who want to have a boyfriend?
  5. What is the difference between being friends and being a couple?

  1. Is it possible to be friends with an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend?

Extension Ideas
1. Have students interview their parents about how they met and fell in love.

3. Have students make Valentine’s Day cards. You can also have fun with this by having them make the worst ever Valentine’s Day card. Or give them a target audience such as teachers, farmers, doctors, the elderly, supermodels, or anything else you can think of.

hearts-37308_1280The full lesson includes:

        • 4 different warm up activities. You can choose one to use or chain them together to make a whole unit on Valentine’s Day.
        • 36 Discussion Questions that scaffold from basic factual questions to open-ended questions about opinions on love, marriage, and relationships.
        • The questions are formatted to be handed out to students and organized by topic. However, you may want to keep the list of questions yourself and ask them one by one.
        • 5 extension activities for homework or a group project. You may also want to use all of these or pick just one.

Download it at TpT

You can purchase and download the Valentine’s Day Discussion Lesson Plan at my Teachers Pay Teachers store along with many of my other high quality, high interest lesson plans, activities, and classroom resources.

City Maps

I have spent ridiculous amounts of time searching for city or town maps lately for my ESL activities. I’ve been doing a lot of activities that practice directions in English, and a lot of city or town vocabulary. So I decided to sit down this morning and make a series of maps. And I also thought I would share them for other teachers or writers to use. I do ask that you give me full credit with a link if you are using them online. Do not try to pass these off as your own please. I also ask that you not add these to another resource bank–use them for activities or games or tests, but if people want to download the raw maps, I prefer they be directed to my site. But do feel free to add to or adapt these maps in any way you see fit, commercial or non-commercial.

The first one is a basic grid. The second one adds some apartments or stores giving you four times the locations and vocab like the second door or the first door or around the corner.

The last one is a little more complex and beautiful. This might evoke a nice neighborhood, but it also allows for more complex directions!

Basic City Map

City Map with Divisions

Complex City Map
Creative Commons License
These works by Walton Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Future Tenses and New Year's Resolutions

This is just an idea I had to use New Year’s resolutions to teach the future tense. That in and of itself is probably nothing new. However one major issue that many students have with talking about the future in English is distinguishing between when we use “going to do”, when we use “will do” and when we use present continuous, “I am doing”. So here’s a way to help them understand the difference. Of course, we should be careful not to present these distinctions as hard and fast rules. In actual practice, the three modes are interchangeable or come down to subjective differences. Often comprehension is the most important point. They need to understand that when someone says, “Italy is going to win the World Cup,” it means the speaker has some reason to believe this is so. When someone says, “Italy will win,” it more likely means the speaker wants Italy to win.

Warm Up: Presentation

Explain briefly, if necessary, the idea of New Year’s resolutions–plans that we make to improve ourselves in the upcoming year. Then write three New Year’s resolutions on the board. These may or may not be your real resolutions. Do make sure that at least one of them uses “will” and at least one uses “am going to”.

For example:

  1. I will quit smoking.
  2. I am going to be a better teacher.
  3. I will be a kinder person.

Point out that the second resolution has a different grammar form. Ask why that might be. If you don’t elicit it, then explain that you used “am going to be” because you have already taken steps toward this goal and you feel that it is achievable. You got some teaching books for Christmas, and you have been evaluating your old lessons. So there is some reason to believe that you are going to be a better teacher next year.

Explain that quitting smoking is very difficult. So while you want to achieve that goal, you don’t necessarily believe it will happen. And you haven’t really prepared for it at all. So there’s no reason now to believe that you will quit smoking, but you really want to, and you are going to try.

This lesson has now moved to my Teacher’s Pay Teacher store. You can preview, purchase, and download New Year’s Resolutions and the Future Tense Lesson Plan there. It includes controlled practice, a verb tense worksheet, and a fun worksheet for students to write their own resolutions on with complete Teacher’s Notes and Extension Ideas. So check it out!


Christmas Tree Ornament

A Christmas lesson plan that discusses the American Santa Claus and his counterparts in other parts of the world. Since I teach in the post-Soviet Union, where Ded Moroz, or Grandfather Frost, brings presents on New Year’s Day and has some other differences, I thought a comparison of Kazakhstan’s holiday traditions and American traditions was a good introduction to Christmas. But of course, you could compare American Santa Claus and Sinterklass or other variations in your students’ cultures.


  • To discuss New Year’s and Christmas and other winter holidays
  • To promote fluency
  • To activate, elicit and teach Christmas vocabulary
  • To discuss the culture and traditions of Christmas in the West in a comparative context


Warm Up

Santa ClausShow them a picture of Santa Claus and ask them who it is. Then ask them what they know about Santa Claus. Don’t correct them at this point, let them discuss among themselves everything they know about Santa Claus and Christmas.


Now put a table up on the board with 3 columns. In the first column, write questions like:
When does he come?
What does he bring?
How does he get in the house?
How does he travel?
Where does he live?
Does he have family?
Who helps him?
How does he know what you want?
What does he wear?

On top of column one, write Santa Claus and on top of column two, write Ded Moroz or Sinterklass or whatever. Now discuss the answers to the questions as a class. Alternatively have students read the text, About Santa, and find the answers themselves. You could write up similar texts for Ded Moroz or other variations of Santa Claus and do a jigsaw reading where students in small groups read one text and then tell the other students about it.

Vocabulary Review

To reinforce vocabulary, hand out the Christmas flashcards. I recommend using only the flashcards that relate to Santa, and the words that came up in the lesson (North Pole, reindeer, presents, sleigh, chimney, fireplace/stockings, elves and so on). Call out a word and ask students to show you the picture of that word. Alternatively, use the word in a sentence or for higher level classes, give a definition or description of the word (How does Santa get into the house?). Get students to cycle through all the words.

Filler Questions

As part of the warm-up or as a closing, you can ask students what they want for Christmas or New Years, if they believe in Santa Claus, how old they were when they stopped believing, the best gift they ever got from Santa, the worst gift they ever got. You can also ask about family traditions, and what they are looking forward to doing for the holidays.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Is there any better place to turn to start a discussion of a holiday than the Charlie Brown special about it? This comprehension and discussion lesson plan has students watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, discuss the true meaning of Christmas, and also be introduced to traditions like the Christmas pageant and snowball throwing!

Note: This video does quote the Bible and while it does not preach, the religious meaning of Christmas is referenced as are parts of the birth of Christ. Some students might not be comfortable discussing such things so do be sensitive.


  • Students will learn about traditions surrounding Christmas in America.
  • Students will be able to discuss different meanings of Christmas.
  • Students will be able to discuss the commercialization of Christmas
  • Students will have fun watching a fun cartoon.

This lesson plan has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. You can purchase and download the complete A Charlie Brown Christmas Lesson Plan there, including a guide to the video, key vocabulary, comprehension and discussion activities and ideas for extension.

Culture Shock

This is a discussion lesson that focuses on cultural differences in terms of polite and impolite actions. While the materials were designed with Kazakhstan in mind, they are easily adapted to any nation or culture. This is far and away the most popular lesson plan on this site and I am proud of that fact. I love to get feedback positive or negative in the comments!


  • To develop fluency
  • To discuss culture and cultural differences. To encourage students to deconstruct their culture and learn about other cultures.

This discussion lesson on culture has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. You can purchase it there and download it. Thanks!

Food and Holidays

Food and Holidays is a popular topic that almost all your students will have something to say about!
Food and Holidays Lesson Plan

This is a pretty simple discussion lesson plan to get students talking about food from different perspectives. It can be used as part of a lesson, or supplemented with activities, games, and so on. I found this was a good lesson to do when I was still getting to know students because it is a pretty universal topic and as a foreigner in a foreign country, students love telling me about their traditional food. I talk about US foods and holidays here because I am American but obviously it could be used to talk about your own native cuisine instead. If you are American, it’s a great way to introduce Thanksgiving or other traditional holidays that revolve around food!


  • To promote fluency and discussion
  • To practice vocabulary related to food, tastes and ingredients
  • To encourage students to describe in detail
  • To talk about holidays and traditions and customs related to food


  • Discussion Questions
  • Food Adjective Cloze or Brainstorm Worksheet
  • Pictures of typical American food (or food from your culture)

To prepare, put pictures of some typical American food on the board. For example:

but without the captions. Ask students to guess what these typical foods are. Then explain that in the US we also eat a lot of international foods. See if they can guess where these typical “American” foods come from.

Now ask students to name some of their national foods. Prompt them to describe the food in detail: what it is made out of, how it is made, how it is eaten, what it looks like, what it tastes like, etc. If you are familiar with their national cuisine you can prompt them. If you are not familiar, you can use your ignorance to elicit details. You can also get into what international foods have been absorbed into their culture and are now typical foods.

This activity has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. If you like this sample, you can purchase and download the full Food and Holidays Lesson Plan there.

And check out all my Thanksgiving lesson plans and activities here.