What Tom Whitwell Learned in 2023 (Advanced Lesson Plan)

ESL/EFL Level: Advanced (C1/C2)
Lesson Topics: homelessness, body image, misc. facts
Skill Focus: Speaking, Reading, Vocabulary
Approximate Class Time: 1.75 hours
Lesson Plan Download: whitwell-learned-2023-advanced-lesson-012024.docx
Lesson Overview:

  • After warm-up questions, students read a passage that summarizes ideas from Tom Whitwell's "52 Things I Learned in 2023" post. The post contains 11 interesting tidbits on several different topics including homelessness, slot machines, belly button stickers, and instant noodles. Each of the 11 topics contains a conversation question.
  • After reading, students do a vocabulary-matching exercise and an activity where they make questions using the target vocabulary.
  • The first roleplay is essentially a debate on whether giving homeless people money is a good way to solve homelessness. The second is between a parent and daughter about body image, and specifically, the use of belly-button stickers. The final activity is a budgeting activity where students must pick which social issues mentioned in the passage deserve government funding.
  • The lesson also includes famous quotations related to the themes of the lesson and an idiom review activity on phrases that can quell or spark altercations.
  • The lesson ends with a final vocabulary review, final discussion questions, and a review of collocations.

An image depicting slot machines, consumption, and a man sitting in a closet

ADVANCED (C1/C2) What Tom Learned in 2023 Lesson Plan


  1. Do you make a habit of trying to learn something new every day or every week?
  2. What was the last thing you learned? Consider topics such as health, technology, history, politics, and science.

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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. For questions, contact the author.

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

Collocation Answers: 1-b, 2-h, 3-f, 4-g, 5-a, 6-e, 7-d, 8-c

Idiom Bonus

  • These idioms could be used to solve an altercation: my bad, let’s agree to disagree, it’s time to bury the hatchet (meaning: it’s time to make peace).
  • These idioms would likely cause one: Take a hike (meaning: Get lost), Do you want a piece of me? (meaning: Do you want to fight?), You and what army? (Meaning: You are going to need an army to beat me.)


  • [1] https://news.northeastern.edu/2023/04/21/parrots-talking-video-calls/
  • [2] https://www.npr.org/2022/07/31/1110882487/dod-slot-machines-overseas-bases
  • [3] https://blog.jim-nielsen.com/2023/practical-accessibility/
  • [4] https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/podcast/knowledge-at-wharton-podcast/curbing-clutter-why-do-we-keep-things-we-never-use/
  • [5] https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/21528569/homeless-poverty-cash-transfer-canada-new-leaf-project
  • [6] https://restofworld.org/2023/mexico-police-accused-taking-bribes-payment-apps/
  • [7] https://news.uchicago.edu/confronting-gun-violence-data-jens-ludwig
  • [8] https://www.scmp.com/news/people-culture/gender-diversity/article/3230438/fake-belly-buttons-all-rage-china-women-seek-freedom-dress-and-boost-confidence-some-raise-body
  • [9] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305417923000050
  • [10] https://www.insider.com/cheap-michelin-jay-fai-auntie-gaik-lean-tai-hwa-review-2023-3
  • [11] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4502329

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