Comfortable in your own skin: a conversation lesson about tattoos.

So last week I had come across a very personal article where a man explains why he has got dinosaur tattoos. I thought it was interesting and save it for a future lesson. As luck would have it, I saw a YouTube video on my timeline last night that talks about tattoos in a very similar way. And thus a conversation/vocabulary lesson was born.

I don’t think talking about tattoos is as controversial as, say, curse words, but you may want to think about your students’ profiles before using this lesson.

You can begin by asking students some initial questions on the topic:

  • Do you have any tattoos? If not, would you like to? Why or why not?
  • Do you think people who have tattoos look good? Why or why not?
  • What kinds of prejudice can a person with tattoos suffer from?

After getting feedback from students, tell them they are going to watch a video about a girl named Maggie and that they need to answer the following questions.

  • Who do Maggie’s parents think get tattoos?
  • How many tattoos does she have?
  • Why does Maggie have tattoos?
  • What does she want from her parents?

Play the video up to 3:10 and pause it so that students can answer the questions in pairs. Collect answers from the whole group and then ask what they think Maggie’s parents’ reaction to the video will be. Then, watch the rest of the video to find out.

After watching the video for the second time, put students in new pairs and show them this picture and the two questions.

  • What does this man do for a living, in your opinion?
  • Why do you think he has this tattoo?


Tell students they are going to read and article from The Guardian (be careful with the pronunciation of guardian, by the way). It was written by Bruce Switek, who is the man in the photo. Get students to read the article quickly and find the answers for those first two questions.

Afterwards ask them to read the article again and discuss the answers to these questions in pairs.

  • According to Brian, what kinds of people get tattoos?
  • Do people who have tattoos suffer prejudice?
  • What do the tattoos mean to him?
  • Who are Brian’s tattoos for?

The original article can be found here and my adapted version is below.

Comfortable in my own skin (The Guardian)

If, following the reading activity, you decide to work with the language from the text, these are my suggestions:

be meek and mild
a knee-jerk (objection/reaction/decision)
to stem from
to set out to
take its toll on
to wear your heart on your sleeve

After clarifying the meaning, you could get students to come up with their own discussion questions, or use mine, which were prepared with adolescent students in mind.

  • Did vestibular take its toll on you?
  • Where does your interest in English stem from?
  • Is there anyone in your family who is meek and mild?
  • Can you think of a time when you made a knee-jerk decision?
  • Do you usually wear your heart on your sleeve or are you able to hide your feelings?
  • Did you set out to do anything special this year?

Rather than working with language, you could have a follow-up conversation about rash decisions and ask students if it’s important to think things through before having a tattoo done. In what other situations is it important to think things through? Why?

Here is a short list of topics for your students to discuss. Adding a couple more ideas that are relevant for your own students could help.

• choosing which university to go to
• moving to a new city
• having plastic surgery
• changing jobs

Thanks for reading

One thought on “Comfortable in your own skin: a conversation lesson about tattoos.

  1. Pingback: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish | ricardo barros elt

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