The Lessons of History (Advanced EFL Lesson Plan)

ESL/EFL Level: Advanced
Lesson Topic: Themes from the history of human civilization 
Skill Focus
: Speaking, Reading, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 2 hours
Lesson Plan Download: lessons-of-history-durant-advanced-102022.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • The reading passage summarizes key concepts from Will & Ariel Durant's "Lessons from History" book. Topics include the relationship between freedom and inequality, the role of race, moral relativism, and democracy.
  • Post-reading activities include three debates (the latter two could be considered role-plays), an activity that asks students to choose people to rebuild civilization, a history quiz activity, and famous quotations about history.
  • All lessons come with warm-up questions, comprehension questions, a vocabulary section, and discussion questions.

The Parthenon in Greece

Note to teachers:

  • This lesson is large (four pages). You'll probably want to skip/delete a few activities.
  • This looks like a great civilization-related lesson: Restart Civilization on an Alien World. It's a creative role-play scenario that would take up at least two hours.
  • Please let me know in the comments what worked and didn't work for your class.

ADVANCED EFL Lesson on Lessons of History: Warm-up (Pair Work)

  1. How would you rate your knowledge of local, national, or world history?
  2. Does your family have an interesting history?
  3. Are you happy to have been born when you were?

Pre-Reading Activity: Brainstorming (Group Work)

You are going to read a list of lessons and truths about the history of human civilization. What ideas might appear in the reading? Write down some of your own ideas regarding the below topics.

  • War: e.g. Human civilization has seen much more war than times of peace.
  • Morality:
  • Production/Economics:
  • Government:
  • Other:

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-- Lesson plan on the Lessons of History written by Matthew Barton of (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. . For questions, contact the author.

Answers to Comprehension Questions

  1. They are inversely related. In other words, as one increases, the other decreases. The passage suggests that making people equal requires limiting the freedom of, assumingly, people of above average economic ability.
  2. It shows that advanced societies have existed among varying racial and cultural backgrounds. This shows that race is not a factor determining a civilization’s success.
  3. The industrial age encouraged individualism, so such an idea is compatible.
  4. It suggests that rebels become poor leaders as well.
  5. They believe that it fails to motivate workers to produce.
  6. They may forget to educate themselves (and likely, in turn, become poor rulers).

Vocabulary Answers: 1-c, 2-L, 3-a, 4-k, 5-g, 6-d, 7-m, 8-i, 9-f, 10-n, 11-e, 12-j, 13-b, 14h

Quiz Answer:  Myanmar


  1. [i]
  2. [ii]
  3. [iii]
  4. [iv]
  5. [v]
  6. [vi]
  7. [vii]
  8. [viii]
  9. [ix]
  10. [x]

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