ESL Activity and Lesson Plan for Discussion About Gap Year for Upper-Intermediate Students

Updated on March 2, 2020

An ESL Discussion Activity About Gap Year

This ESL lesson activity is based around the concept of Gap Year which is common practice in some areas where a student takes a year off in between high school and college. If you are interested you can learn more about the idea of Gap Year in an article that I wrote on the subject. The lesson plan is designed to last for an hour long class. The main activity should last about thirty minutes.

An Activity for Upper-Intermediate Students

The subject of this article is using the idea of Gap Year as a topic of debate in an ESL activity. This ESL activity should only be used with students who are upper-intermediate and above. If you are working with students who are at a lower level or at mixed levels this activity will not work out as planned. For upper-intermediate students however this subject will offer them something interesting to talk about.

The lesson gives each student a role to play. They should speak as if they believe the idea behind their role. If they believe something different this is fine. Tell them you can discuss differences between their roles and their beliefs after the role play. Since Gap Year is the central theme of the conversation you wish to generate, don't be surprised if they tell you that this wont work in their country.

Preparation Before the Class

Before class copy and paste the Gap Year Discussion Handout to a word document. Save and print the handout. You may have to play with the spacing between the roles to get them to print correctly. Cut the printed pages into individual slips. These are the roles that will be given to the students. You'll notice that there are ten roles. If your class has fewer students this is fine. One or two of the roles can be left out. However make sure you include role number 7 since this one is the one role that is absolutely against the idea of a Gap Year.

ESL Lesson Plan for Gap Year Discusion

  1. Begin the class by explaining the idea of a Gap Year. You can also talk about other related subjects such as sabbaticals. This should take about ten minutes.

  2. Next explain that the class is going to have a role play in which they will discuss the different possibilities of a Gap Year. Tell them that each person will have a different role with a different opinion. Each person will explain their opinion and then they can discuss the different opinions as a group. By the end of the discussion they should reach a decision as a group about whether students should take a gap year. Pass out the role play slips and give the students ten minutes to read over their role and to make sure they understand what they are doing. Depending on the level of your students you should be prepared to modify the class in case they don't understand. Again, this will work best with students who are all upper-intermediate and above.

  3. Begin the role play. Each student should explain the opinion of their role as if it were their own. Make sure the students understand that they are pretending. After every student has had the chance to explain their position they should openly discuss the different positions. You may have to make a few clarifications and help them define a few words. The role play should take about thirty minutes. If it takes longer this is fine.

  4. If everything goes according to plan (though it rarely does) you should have about ten minutes left at the end of class. During this time you can ask the students to give you their honest opinions. If your class is anything like mine, most of the students (or at least the most vocal students) will tell you that gap year is a bad idea and that it would never happen in their country. This would not surprise me at all. The rest of the class can be devoted to them explaining to you why it is a bad idea or why it wouldn't work.

Gap Year Discussion Handout

  1. You believe that students have too much pressure and stress from studying. You believe that a year off between high school and college would be beneficial. You think that students should rest and use the this year to think about what they want out of life and the kind of person they want to be. If a student has a year to relax they will be better prepared mentally for their four years of university. This will be the last chance they will have to have fun and just relax before they have to become an adult. With a year off they will feel less stress, and pressure and they will be better able to focus once they return to their studies.
  2. You believe that a gap year between high school and college is an excellent opportunity for a student to travel and see other parts of the world. After students graduate from university they have other responsibilities. They will need to find a job and get married. Once a person has started a family their focus needs to be on their employment and they'll have no time for travel. Traveling will give the students insights into other cultures, how other people in the world live and think.
  3. You believe that a gap year offers students the opportunity to be part of something greater than themselves. Gap year offers the chance to join a volunteer organization. There are many programs that students can be a part of. They can help feed the hungry in third world countries. They can participate in programs that build schools and hospitals in countries where these things are needed. In the long run this will help the students in many ways they will see other cultures that are different from their own. They will also get the experience of helping to improve a community. In addition, experience as a volunteer is something that will look good on their resume.
  4. You believe that gap year does offer a great opportunity for students to be part of a volunteer organization. You also agree that volunteering looks good on a resume and that the experience of helping to improve a community is one that the student will be proud of the rest of their life. However you believe that charity is something that starts at home. You think that there are many places in this country where students can do volunteer work during their gap year. This will not only be beneficial to the student but the student will be helping to improve the living conditions of many within their own country.
  5. You like the idea of a gap year but you think that there should be more to gain from it than just traveling and living abroad. There are many universities overseas that offer educational opportunities for foreign students. Many of these programs last between six months to one year Students who enroll in these programs have the opportunity to study in a foreign country alongside students from many other countries. They get to experience first hand living in another culture but they are also exposed to many other cultures through the other students. In many cases they will gain college credit that can be applied to universities back home. In other instances the study program may grant them a certification within a field of study. Certifications like this may also look good on a resume.
  6. You like the idea of a gap year but you believe that the year should be put to some kind of purpose other than traveling and having fun. There are work study programs in many countries that offer students a chance to work for a year in a foreign country. For example they can work on a vineyard in Italy, growing grapes and learning about how grapes are turned into wine. Or they could work as an intern in a law firm in America or a publishing company in England. They could even work as a teacher or teaching assistant for a year public school. An opportunity like this would give the student the experience of working before they return to school. It would look good on a resume as well and it would also give them references from their overseas employers.
  7. You believe that gap year is a bad idea. Students should finish high school and go straight to university without any interruption or delay. Once they have completed university they need to find a good job as quickly as possible. Then they need to get married and start a family. The purpose of education is to be able to get a good job, provide for your family and have a better life. By delaying their education the student puts all these things at risk. Employers will wonder why they didn't complete their studies sooner. If they can't find a job they wont be able to get married. Something may even happen to keep them from going to university. Without a university degree they will never be able to have a good life.
  8. You don't like the idea of anything that does not directly improve the student's education. You especially don't like anything that will take the student out of the country. Education is the most important thing because without a degree it will be hard for the student to find a job. If the student is involved in anything it needs to be something that helps to improve their education. It must be something that they can show to an employer that helps to make them a better candidate for a job.
  9. You find the concept of a gap year interesting. You like the idea of having an opportunity to experience something different before starting a new career. You feel that there is much to be learned from other cultures and living abroad. You feel that even volunteering has it's merits. However you also believe that students completing their education is the most important thing, not having fun or seeing the world. You feel that students should go to university immediately after high school so that they can complete their education. If a student wants to have a year off before they look for their first job, you are fine with this. They should complete their university education first and then they should travel abroad for a year before coming home to find a job.
  10. You think that a gap year could be beneficial depending on the type of company the student wants to work for. You have a cousin who started working in a company the year he finished high school. He was able to work for this company for a year before he started going to university. The company he worked for supported his decision to go back to school. They helped him by allowing him to continue working for them as a part time employee. They even helped him pay for college through tuition reimbursement. At the end of each semester he gave copies of his grades and tuition receipts to his manager. As long as his grades were above passing the company reimbursed him for 10% of the cost of his tuition. After completing his degree he was promoted within the company. Having worked there before he began his studies helped him by giving him first hand knowledge of many of the concepts that he studied in university. This helped him understand how to apply these concepts in the real world. His university also gave him college credits based on his work history. This allowed him to complete his university degree more quickly.


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    • iheartkafka profile image


      7 years ago

      An interesting hub. Like others have commented...I hadn't heard the term "gap year" before, so thank you for teaching me something new.

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      8 years ago from Wuhan, China

      Thanks Brett.

      The lesson I've written here are ones that I was asked to write. Some of them were "one time" things that were used for special events. Others I've recycled and used in more than one class. Since I had to write them down anyway and since they didn't belong to my school like most of the lesson plans I use I decided to publish them on Hubpages.

      There is another aspect to this as well. I've used a lot of stuff in my classes that I've found on the internet written by other people. With most of the activities I've written I've searched first online and couldn't find anything. I kind of think of this as a way to give back.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett C 

      8 years ago from Asia

      Great idea for discussion. I too teach TEFL (as if my name didn't already give that away lol). Teaching is very rewarding! However, I never thought to write my lesson plans and activities on Hubpages ... might have to think about that.

      You have a new follower! Shared, up and awesome!

    • diamond1mo profile image

      KE Morgan 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Good lesson plan but cut down on starting everythink with "you". Voted up and useful. Keep doing useful hubs!

    • Wesley Meacham profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesley Meacham 

      8 years ago from Wuhan, China

      It is new to most people in the states. I had never heard of it before six weeks ago. Apparently it is popular in the UK, Australia and a few other places.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      8 years ago from Dubai

      Gap year concept is new to me. I guess this will help students to have a break and explore what they want to do.


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