Topic: Whistle-blowing (Upper-Intermediate ESL Lesson Plan)

ESL/EFL Level: Upper-Intermediate (B2/C1)
Lesson Topic: whistleblowing, tobacco, business ethics
Skill Focus
: Speaking, Reading, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 1.75 hours
Lesson Plan Download: whistleblowing-tobacco-upper-intermediate-032023.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • The reading passage tells the riveting story of Jeffrey Wigand, the whistleblower who exposed the tobacco industry in the 1990s, resulting in a major victory for public health. The passage (closer to C1 than B2) is full of idiomatic language and phrasal verbs.
  • Post-reading activities include a question-making activity using vocabulary from the reading, a debate about adopting a whistleblowing policy at a fictional company, a list of factors to consider before whistleblowing, and finally a list of unethical workplace scenarios for discussion.
  • All lessons come with warm-up questions, comprehension questions, a vocabulary section, and discussion questions.

Blow the whistle!

(Revised March 23, 2023)

UPPER-INTERMEDIATE (B2/C1) Lesson on Whistleblowing

Warm-up Questions (Pair Work)

  1. What was the worst thing you did as a child? Did you get caught?
  2. What does it mean if someone is a rat in your language?
  3. Have you ever taken a complaint to your boss or the police?
  4. What does it mean to blow the whistle?

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-- Lesson plan on whistleblowing 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.

Note that a rat in American English is someone who tells an authority (e.g. a teacher, a parent, the police) about bad things you have done.

Follow-up question answers

  1. His boss didn’t want the public to know that cigarettes contain dangerous chemicals or ingredients, so he stopped the project.
  2. (There’s no indication that he was talking to the media at the time he was fired.)
  3. He claims he received a telephone call. The speaker threatened to harm his children.
  4. A smear campaign is an attempt to dirty (sully) someone’s reputation by spreading rumors about him/her. The passage claims that his former employer launched one against him for revealing disturbing facts about their products.
  5. The tobacco industry was forced to pay a large sum to the U.S. health care system.

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


4 comments on “Topic: Whistle-blowing (Upper-Intermediate ESL Lesson Plan)

  1. Susy (Posted on 9-6-2011 at 15:37) Reply

    I’m quite pleased with the ifnrmoatoin in this one. TY!

  2. Patricia... (Posted on 9-28-2020 at 11:33) Reply

    Loved, love this topic. Created lots of talking points and my students all had something to contribute during our “conversational” lesson. The on-line version was equally as great and FAB as the printable version.
    Many thanks. I know it was an older lesson but thoroughly enjoyable.
    WELL DONE for putting this together and most appreciated with only a couple of hours to spare before my lesson. No adaption needed. BRILLIANT.

  3. Stratvat (Posted on 3-9-2021 at 10:25) Reply

    Vera good. O like a lot

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