Paralympics: a conversation lesson

I had wanted to have a lesson about the Paralympics for a couple of weeks now, but hadn’t been able to find an article or video to do it. Then Cecilia Nobre shared a video on Facebook entitled ‘it’s time to stop calling disabled people inspirational’ and I thought that was an interesting way to approach it.

This lesson could be used with adults or adolescents who are B2+ but with some support this lesson could also be adapted to B1 students.

Start by showing students the photo below and asking the following questions.

  • Do you recognize the people in the photo?
  • What is this campaign about?
  • Why has it become so controversial?

You can find out more information about the photo here (in Brazilian Portuguese).


After collecting some feedback from students, ask them if they have seen a video from England’s Channel 4 advertising the Paralympics.

Ask students to pay attention to the following. Remember to clarify motto before continuing.

  • What is the motto of the video? Is it inspiring?
  • Is it a better to present the Paralympics than the Brazilian ad? Why?

Allow students to compare answers and then collect some feedback from the whole group. They are likely to say this is a better ad because it includes athletes themselves or because video is a medium that allows for more exciting things to be shown.

Now ask students if they would be surprised to hear that this video was also criticized in England. Show students the title of the next video they are going to watch (below) and get them to discuss this question.

Why do you think Dr. Frances Ryan dislikes the words inspirational and superhuman?


Play the video for students to check their guesses and then ask them to discuss whether they agree with it or not. You can find the video here.

Now tell students they are going to read a text about the Paralympics. Show them the title of the text and ask them to guess if the content is going to be positive or negative. Give them a short time to read the text and ask for their impressions.

For this lesson, I mixed two texts from the same author. You can find the originals here and here and my adapted version below.


Now let students finish reading the text and get them to answer these questions. You may want to clarify overshadow at this stage.

  1. Which Paralympics mentioned had very low attendance?
  2. How much do the cheapest tickets cost?
  3. What kinds of entertainment are available at the Olympic park?
  4. Which country isn’t present at the Paralympics? Why?
  5. Are Rio’s problems going to overshadow the Paralympics?

Let students compare answers and then check with the whole group.

Afterwards, get students into small groups to discuss this follow-up question.

  • The Paralympics are only being broadcast by one channel in Brazil. Is it the media’s fault for not making the games available or the audience’s fault for not being interested? Why?
  • Have you watched any sports in the Paralympics? If so, how did you like it? If not, why?

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

to hail /heɪl/

a fortnight

be paltry /ˈpɔːl.tri/

be flippant /ˈflɪp.ənt/

could not be further from the truth

be fierce /fɪərs/

to overshadow

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 a good idea to double check ‘could not be further from the truth‘ as some students might think this means something is true. It’s also a good idea to point out that ‘a fortnight‘ is used mainly in British English.

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

  1. Do you have any coworkers who like to make flippant comments? Does that bother you?
  2. Is there anything you are looking forward to doing in the next fortnight?
  3. During election periods, education is hailed as being very important. Is that true in Brazil or do you think it couldn’t be further from the truth?
  4. Did you use to have fierce competitions with your siblings when you were a child?
  5. Some people said Willian Bonner announced his divorce to try to overshadow the impeachment. Do you think that’s true?

Thanks for reading.

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