What it means to be British: free, downloadable lesson materials

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sheltering from the rain British sunbather

As it’s the end of term at the school where I teach, Wimbledon is on the TV and the summer seems to have finally arrived, a more light-hearted blog post seems to be in order.  This one aims to provide teachers with possible ideas for approaching cultural stereotypes in class and for exploring the rather hot topic of human rights in Britain.

Although the following ideas can be approached in a fun way, and so should appeal to those students suffering from ‘end-of-term-itus’, they also go some way to fulfilling the government’s advice (published November 2014) for all British secondary schools to ‘promote British values’.  All lesson ideas would be suitable for an Intermediate or Upper Intermediate class.



1 Students brainstorm symbols of Britain


2 Students watch the short film made for the Olympics called Isles of Wonder and make a list of the symbols they spot.  Feedback can then be carried out using the powerpoint slides from the link below.

British society for blog

3 Teacher introduces the idea of stereotypes.  One way of doing this is to give them sentence stems such as ‘All British drink ….’  ‘All British eat …’ ‘British weather is …’ etc.  They soon get the idea.

4 Teacher introduces language which can be used to make generalisations.  For example: On the whole…, It’s not normalGenerally speakingI think people tend to …  This can be followed up with the True or False questions on the powerpoint.  Once students have decided whether ‘Everyone in Britain talks like the Queen’, they can be shown a video that gives a tour of some of the British accents.  My students enjoyed watching this video.

Preparing for reading: predicting

5 To explore the idea of British stereotypes further, students can be asked to predict which of the stereotypes on the worksheets below are true or false.

British stereotypes easier, with glossary British stereotypes more difficult quiz

Reading for the main points

6 Students can then check their predictions against this great infographic from Brilliantly British.

Extension: jigsaw reading and discussion

7 Students are divided into groups and asked to think of questions that an information sheet on a particular topic is likely to answer.   Each group is then given one of the following information sheets.  They read to check their predictions.  They are then put into different groups in order to exchange information.  A follow-up could be that students create an information sheet for their country if appropriate.

The truth about British food intermediate The truth about British culture The truth about British houses intermediate The truth about British politics intermediate The truth about British pop music intermediate

Alternative extension: table analysis for higher levels / IELTS students

7 Students can be asked to analyse this table from The Economist that shows the result of a new survey on public opinion in Europe.  Health warning: This could be contentious, depending on the nationality of your students and on your treatment of the topic.

8 Depending on the extension task you chose, students could either prepare a presentation on stereotypes in their country or carry out a survey.

The Monarchy, the Magna Carta and Human Rights


1For a ‘fun’ take on the British monarchy, students could listen to this ‘Horrible Histories’ song and complete the ranking exercise on the worksheet: History of the British Monarchy


2 As the Magna Carta has very recently been in the news, articles such as this one are still available and make the topic seem relevant.  An element of mystery could be injected by asking students the connection between a photograph of the Queen on 15th June 2015 at Runnymede and an illustration of King John being forced to seal the Magna Carta.

Reading (suggested skill: scanning for detail) and vocabulary input

3 Teachers could grade an article such as the one above before the lesson.  I chose to do this and to focus on developing scanning skills.  Students scanned an article full of dates, times and other facts and answered ‘single word’ questions.  For copyright reasons, I’m afraid I can’t share the worksheet here.  Alternatively, there is an excellent set of ready-made resources on the British Council’s teaching English website. (I designed the syllabus so I’m slightly biased!)

4 Students could then be encouraged to guess the meaning of some of the key words from the article from the context.  (I provided a vocabulary and definition matching activity)  The vocabulary could also focus on the language of promises (i.e. those that King John was forced to make)


4 In advance of the lesson, the teacher could print the facsimile of the Magna Carta out from the UK Parliament’s website.  On the reverse side, students have the opportunity to compile a Magna Carta for our age.  They may need some support with this.  There are some great resources available at the aforementioned British Council Teaching English website which give a summary of the bill of Human Rights as it stands now.


5 Depending on the level of your students, (and your evaluation of whether the topic is a suitable one for your students) a debate on whether Britain should have its own set of human rights could be prepared and  carried out.


  1. Thanks for sharing this brilliant resource! I used it with my adult ESOL learners and they loved it.

    • It’s a pleasure Genevieve. Really enjoyed reading your ‘Day in the Life’ blog yesterday. Glad I’m not the only one who feels the need for a walk to distance myself from my desk!

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