Misconceptions – An ESL Lesson

I was looking for an interest but useful lesson to fill an unexpected class, and I put together something that went really well, which I shall share here. My intention was to get the students thinking about things we know to be true… but which actually aren’t. In other words, I wanted them thinking about myths/misconceptions. You know, like Columbus discovering the Americas.

This actually brings up some interesting language. By the end of the lesson, my students were able to talk (and write) quite freely about common misconceptions. This lesson lasted about 90 minutes for me, with a group of students around the IELTS band 6.0 mark.

Introduction

First up, have the students discuss these questions for a few minutes. Ask them for their answers, and hopefully they get some of them wrong. That’s the point! Tell them that the expected answers are all incorrect. This is called a misconception.

  1. Which colour makes a bull angry?
  2. How long is a goldfish’s memory?
  3. Can watching too much TV make your eyes bad?
  4. Does drinking cold water make you sick?
  5. Who invented the lightbulb?

I then show this on the overhead projector and give them some time to write their own version.

These are all misconceptions. That means many people think something, but it is not true. For example,

  • Many people think you can wash your hands with just cold water; however, unless you use hot water and soap, your hands will not become clean.

  • Although some books teach that Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover North America, the Vikings had been there about 500 years earlier.

What other misconceptions do you know?

We’re going to watch a video soon, so pre-teach this vocab. I use this table for students to match up the correct answers.

Vocabulary

Confined space Slightly wet
Arteries A word made of two other words, like flowerpot
Moist Mouth (slang)
Syringe A small place like an elevator
Compound words Rude, unpleasant
Gob The blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body
Obnoxious A medical device for taking blood or giving vaccinations

Before watching the video, have the students predict the content.

Prediction

What are some misconceptions about these ten things?

  1. Great Wall of China
  2. Cracking your knuckles
  3. Human Brains
  4. Eskimos and Snow
  5. 8 glasses of water
  6. Tap water vs bottled water
  7. Swallowing chewing gum
  8. The colour of blood
  9. Eating spiders
  10. Electric fans

Watch the video and then they can check their answers.

 

Then teach more language. Use some of the above to made full sentences from the structures below:

Talking about Misconceptions

Here are some other ways to talk about misconceptions:

  • Despite what some people think…
  • Although it is commonly believed…
  • Contrary to popular belief…
  • While it may seem surprising to some…
  • While many people think that…, in fact, the opposite is true.

Then a little practice:

Look at the following ideas. Decide whether they are true or false, and restate them using the language above.

  1. Drinking cold water can make you ill.
  2. You shouldn’t cover your mouth while coughing.
  3. Staying up late at night is bad for you.
  4. Running is good for your legs.
  5. Everyone needs eight hours’ sleep every night.
  6. Face masks are useless at stopping you from breathing pollution.
  7. You should stay in bed if you have a sore back.
  8. People should go to hospital if they have a cold.

Finally, we’ll do another listening exercise. I had my students come up with their own animal misconceptions prior to this section. They said things like “Cats have nine lives…” and “Centipedes have one hundred legs…” 

Listening

You will listen to a video explaining the relationship between misconceptions and pets. State whether the following are true or false:

  1. Some cats and dogs do not cause allergic reactions in people.
  2. Dogs can see all colours.
  3. Milk is safe for cats to drink.
  4. Fish is good for cats to eat.
  5. Goldfish will stay small when living in a small bowl.
  6. Dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans’.
  7. A cat once fell 80 feet unharmed.
  8. Older dogs are bad at learning new tricks.
  9. Dogs are good at finding their own exercise.
  10. Rabbits usually live about three years.

Downloadable Worksheet

You can download and print this file.

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I'm the founder and editor of Beatdom Literary Journal, author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. I'm also a teacher and operate the popular website, TED-IELTS.

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