Ethical Living: a conversation lesson.

Living ethically is something I have been thinking about recently, particularly how difficult it can be to do good things when you are aware of the consequences of your actions.

I found an article that reflected my opinions on the topic and a new lesson came out of it. This is better suited for adults and young adults, although I imagine some adolescent students who are mature for their age or who are interested in environmentalism will appreciate it too.

Start the lesson by showing students the image below and asking these two questions.

Ethical living

  • Have you ever heard the term ‘ethical living’?
  • If not, what do you think it means?

(In short, ethical living is the philosophy of making decisions for daily life which take into account ethics and moral values, particularly with regard to consumerism, sustainability, environmentalism, wildlife and animal welfare. Read more about it here.)

Now tell students they are going to watch a video on the topic of ethical living when it comes to food. Ask students to brainstorm some ideas that might appear in the video. Board these ideas and use them as a gist task (do any of your ideas appear in the video?)

You may want to pre-teach the word produce /ˈprɑː.duːs/ as it is used in the video and the follow-up activity.

As a specific information task, get students to answer these questions:

  • According to the video, is it easy to buy food ethically? Why or why not?
  • Although this is a comedy video do you think its message is true?

Let students compare their answers in pairs and then elicit some ideas from the whole group. As a follow-up, ask students to discuss where they buy their produce and if they ever buy organic food.

Students are now going to read an article on the same topic from the Guardian. You can find the original here and my adapted version below.

The dilemmas of trying to live ethically (The Guardian)

Show students the questions they need to focus on while reading the text.

  • Did the author finish the book she was reading? Why (not)?
  • Is it easy to live ethically? Why (not)?
  • Why does the author think she’s a terrible person?
  • How does the author strike a balance between doing good and bad things?
  • What helped the author accept her limitations?

Get students to compare their answers and then check them with the whole group.

As a follow-up, show students the book mentioned in the article ask them to discuss these questions.

  • Is this a book you’d like to read? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree with the author when she says living ethically is impossible?


You could also go back to the text and explore the vocabulary that appears in bold.

to spoil

to brush off

be dreadful

regardless of

to undermine

a budget

Either give students definitions for them to match or ask them to guess the meaning of the words/expressions in pairs (which works better with higher levels). Either way, concept check the expressions before moving on to practice exercises. It’s probably a good idea to contrast ‘apart from’ and ‘regardless of’ as students foten confuse the two. You could also focus on different collocations for spoiled (spoiled food/spoiled children/a spoiler) or the catenation in ‘brush off’, or ‘regardless of’.

For some contextualized practice, you could get students to discuss the questions below.

  • Have you had any dreadful professors at university?
  • Is it easy for you to brush off criticism or do you take things to heart?
  • Have you thought of a daily budget for your trip?
  • Regardless of age, do you think anybody can learn a foreign language?
  • Do you know anyone who tries to undermine other people’s confidence?
  • Do you think your parents spoiled you?

Thanks for reading

5 thoughts on “Ethical Living: a conversation lesson.

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

  2. Hi Ricardo, you’ve inspired me! 🙂 I’m now preparing my first conversation lesson. Can you please tell me what font you use for the articles? I really like it, it makes the reading pages look neat. Thank you!


  3. Hello Ricardo. Thanks for the wonderful class on ethical living. It’s really a nice piece of useful work.
    As a teacher, writer, and editor, I was just wondering, though, how much you considered the ethical aspects regarding having other people’s work embedded on your site to use as the core of your activity suggestion. I mean, did you contact the copyright owners of the CH video, for instance, or reached The Guardian’s clearance department about fees for reusing (and, more seriously) adapting their work and publishing it on your blog? I understand you’re not directly making a profit out of them, but surely there are ethical aspects to be considered here. After all, you are branding. I know this is controversial and I’m not a copyright specialist, lawyer, or judge, so please, don’t take this as criticism, but as a genuine question from someone concerned about elt blogging, publishing, and ethical/legal issues.


    • Hi, Paulo. I think these are great questions. Many people have asked me to create a booklet with my activities or to charge for them and that’s where I have drawn the line so far. My opinion (which may be convenient/naive) is exactly that if I’m not charging for it, then it’s OK. But I haven’t asked lawyers or contacted the newspapers I use either.


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