Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (Upper-Intermediate ESL/EFL)

Note to Teachers: This lesson plan might be considered cruel by some students. Please pre-read and use your best judgement to determine if it’s suitable for your class.
Download the Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL) here: Darwin-Awards-Lesson-ESL-UppIntermediate-16102012.doc

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL): Upper-Intermediate

A lesson plan on the Darwin Awards

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL): Warm-up (Pair Work)

1) What are some of the stupidest things you have ever done?
2) How important is it to you (or your parents) that you pass on your genes, i.e. have children?
3) Have you ever had a near-death experience? (note: please avoid telling extremely sad stories)
4) What are potentially deadly things that you encounter every day?

Best of the Darwin Awards: Reading

According to DarwinAwards.com, the Darwin Awards celebrate “individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.” Accidental self-sterilization also qualifies; however, the award is always given after the recipient has died.
Selected Stories
  1. South Carolina: An armed robber used gold spray paint to disguise his face and then raided a convenience store. The paint released toxic fumes and the man collapsed and died shortly after the robbery. To add insult to injury, the disguise didn’t work — witnesses easily identified the 23-year-old.
  2. Florida: A man was stuck in a traffic jam when nature called. He got out of his car and jumped over a concrete wall to find a more private spot. Little did he know he was parked on top of a bridge. He fell 65 feet to his death.
  3. South Africa: Two muggers were sprinting away from a crowd after stealing a cellphone and purse. One mugger, apparently out of shape, could run no further. He climbed a high fence and survived the high drop to the other side. His escape plan worked, however, he had forgotten that he was at the Bloemfontein Zoo. He was now inside the tiger exhibit. The remains of his body were found the next afternoon.
  4. South Korea: A handicapped man, irritated that an elevator closed and departed without him, rammed his wheelchair into the doors not once, not twice, but three times in all — only to plunge down the now-empty elevator shaft to his death.
  5. England: The police found the body of a 33-year old man in the hallway of his house. He had bled to death from a stab wound to the chest. Investigators later pieced together the events that likely caused his death. A lock-knife the man had purchased in Spain was found near the body. His wife, who was away on holiday at the time of the incident, later revealed that her husband had been wondering if the jacket was ‘stab-proof.’ Apparently, it was not.
  6. Los Angeles – Larry’s dream was to fly but poor eyesight disqualified him from being a pilot. Sitting in his backyard, he made a plan. He attached 45 weather balloons to his lawn chair (named”Inspiration I”). He filled the four-foot diameter balloons with helium. Then, armed with beer, sandwiches, and a pellet gun to shoot the balloons when it was time to descend, he cut the cord that anchored him to his jeep. He took off. He had planned to float lazily 30 feet above his backyard, but instead he shot into the sky, climbing to 16,000 feet. Frozen and frightened, he floated there for more than 14 hours with his beer and sandwiches. He crossed an airplane approach corridor to LAX airport, where some pilots reported a strange sight. Eventually he gathered the nerve to shoot a few balloons and he descended. His balloons caught in a power line, causing a neighborhood blackout for 20 minutes. Larry did not die in the incident, and therefore was designated a Darwin Awards “At-Risk Survivor.” When asked why he did it, he responded, “A man can’t just sit around.”
[Sources: http://www.asylum.com/2010/01/05/our-favorite-winners-of-the-2009-darwin-awards/, http://darwinawards.com/]

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL): Comprehension & Follow-Up Questions

1)     What are the requirements to receive a Darwin Award?
2)     Idiom: “The man left his car because nature called.” — What does this idiom mean?
3)     Idiom: “Little did he know, he was on top of a bridge.” — What does this idiom mean?
4)     After reading the stories, can you think of ways to make our society safer?
5)     Do you know any similar stories?

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL): Vocabulary Matching

Match the words with their meaning as used in the news lesson.
disguise (noun)
raid (verb)
ram (verb)
plunge (down) (verb)
piece sth together (phr. verb)
stab (noun)
anchor (noun)
blackout (noun)
designate (verb)
  • disguise – sth worn to change your appearance so you aren’t recognized
  • raid – enter a place, using force, to steal from it
  • mugger – a person who attacks sb in order to steal sth, especially in public
  • irritated – annoyed; angry
  • ram – drive into another vehicle or object with force
  • plunge (down) – fall sharply
  • piece sth together – understand a story by putting the details together
  • stab – push a sharp, pointed object into sb
  • nerve – the courage to do sth difficult or dangerous
  • blackout – a period of darkness caused by electrical power failure
  • designate – choose or name sb for a particular position

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL): Connect the below idea(s) to make a sentence.

government / uprising
raid / disguise
mugger / stab
irritated / plunge down
piece / answer / together
nerve / ram
sailor / anchor
designate / captain
blackout / diamonds
little did he know
inconvenient / nature calls

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL): Role-Play (Pair Work)

(Note: each student reads his/her role only.)
Student A: You are young, single, and looking forward to a great life ahead of you. Yesterday, you took a free IQ test at the mall. The test organizers said they would contact you today about the results. You are at your house now, having a sandwich and enjoying a beer.
Student B: You are a government agent. The government has started a program to sterilize people with low IQs. Yesterday, you received the IQ test scores of Student A. They were too low. You have driven to his/her house. Please knock on his/her door, and explain that he/she must be sterilized because his/her genes are not useful to society.

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL): Discussion Questions

1)     Do you really believe in evolution? Is it still happening?
2)     What is the purpose of life according to a biologist? What is it according to you?
3)     Are the Darwin Awards cruel?
4)     Survival of the Fittest: Do you think society would benefit if we let loose a handful of wild and dangerous animals (e.g. grizzly bears, hippos) into urban areas, e.g. the downtown of your city?
5)     What would life be like if we succeeded in improving the gene pool by 30%?
6)     Should people be allowed to know what their IQ is?
7)     Is there really no such thing as a stupid question?

Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (ESL) copyright Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com

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5 comments on “Darwin Awards Lesson Plan (Upper-Intermediate ESL/EFL)

  1. Andrew (Posted on 7-26-2014 at 14:05) Reply

    I have never seen a role play like this! Dare I use it?

    1. J (Posted on 2-2-2015 at 11:17) Reply

      I’m debating that myself! Good grief :P

      1. mb Post author (Posted on 11-22-2015 at 22:50) Reply

        Haha. When I wrote this lesson, I was living in the Czech Republic. Czechs have a great sense of humour so they enjoyed it! Of course, use your own discretion :)

  2. Dave (Posted on 9-28-2016 at 21:07) Reply

    Absolutely love it! Student B in the role-play really made me howl!
    I love the phrase ‘little did he know’. I’m imagining a follow up task – Write a short story with a twist

  3. Sorcha (Posted on 11-2-2016 at 14:24) Reply

    I have used this lesson countless times and the role play has always been hilarious. This is an excellent lesson in my humble opinion. Thanks!!!

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