36 Days: A Lesson on Migration (Upper-Intermediate)

ESL/EFL Level: Upper-Intermediate (B2/C1)
Lesson Topics: migration, human rights
Skill Focus: Speaking, Reading, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 2 hours
Lesson Plan Download: 36-days-migrants-upper-intermediate-012024.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • After warm-up questions, students read a 346-word summary of an APNews story of 101 African migrants who spent 36 days at sea. Note that the story describes the suffering and the death of many of the passengers.
  • Next, after a read, recall, retell activity, students match paragraph topics to the corresponding paragraphs. They then complete follow-up questions, a vocabulary-matching exercise, and an activity where they make questions using the target vocabulary. The lesson has a short focus on the concept of irony as well.
  • The first speaking activity is a debate on whether wealthy nations have an obligation to accept more refugees and migrants. Afterward, there are two roleplays. The first is an interview between a border official and a migrant. The next is between an 18-year-old who wishes to leave his country and a parent.
  • The next speaking activity is somewhat of a lifeboat ethics scenario where border officials must choose five of nine migrants. The migrants' skills, age, and other traits are provided to help in making the difficult decision. This is followed by a simpler activity in which students pick four items they would take with them if they had to flee their homeland.
  • The lesson also includes famous quotations related to the themes of the lesson. It then ends with a final vocabulary review, discussion questions, and a review of collocations.
  • Overall, I feel this is a very topic-rich lesson. Please leave your comments below if you have suggestions for improvements.

A pirogue out at sea full of migrants

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE (B2/C1) Lesson Plan on Migrants & Refugees


  1. If you had to move to another country for a better life, where would you go and why?
  2. What are some reasons people might leave their home countries?
  3. A migrant is someone who leaves their country to find a better life elsewhere. Does your country get many migrants? Where do they settle?

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This lesson plan was created by Matthew Barton of EnglishCurrent.com (copyright). Site members may photocopy and edit the file for their classes. Permission is not given to rebrand the lesson, redistribute it on another platform, or sell it as part of commercial course curriculum. ChatGPT was used to generate answer keys and some famous quotations. For questions, contact the author.

Comprehension Question Answer Key

  1. Overfishing by foreign vessels, leading to a lack of fish and economic hardship caused them to leave Senegal
  2. Strong winds made it impossible to progress, and they ran out of fuel.
  3. Answers can vary. Possible ideas include wanting to avoid the legal or logistical complications with accepting a boat full of migrants.
  4. The captain began behaving strangely, speaking gibberish, and was believed to be possessed by evil spirits. He was tied up, beaten, and thrown overboard. ….
  5. This is probably true; those who took small sips survived and likely benefitted from a little water. Those who drank a lot, however, died.
  6. Losing touch with reality or a loss of hope led them to dive into the ocean, revealing the extreme despair and dire conditions they were facing.

Paragraph matching: 1-overfishing, 2-helpness, 3-the first death, 4-suffering & loss, 5-returning empty

Vocabulary Answers: 1-c, 2-L, 3-j, 4-h, 5-a, 6-b, 7-k, 8-g, 9-I, 10-f, 11-e, 12-d

The irony: the migrants were rescued by the type of ship that is similar to the ones they blamed for the scarcity of fish and their consequent economic hardships.

Collocation Answers: 1-d, 2-c, 3-a, 4-e, 5-b

[1] https://www.africanews.com/2023/10/23/1500-african-migrants-arrived-in-the-canaries-over-the-weekend/

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