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The atom | ESL/EFL Lesson Plan

Level: Upper-intermediate
Topic: The atom
Aim of the lesson: to teach chemistry/physics related vocabulary and practice writing using it
Length of the lesson: 45 minutes


This is an interesting informative lesson that can be use in a teenager/adult class. For Asian learners of English the vocabulary used in this lesson might be difficult so the lesson is aimed at upper-intermediate to advanced learners.

Lead-in (5 minutes)

Do you study chemistry at school? Have you studied chemistry at school?
Did you like it? Was it difficult? Did you enjoy the chemistry lessons?

Reading (14 minutes)

The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The nucleus contains protons and neutrons (except in the case of hydrogen, which is the only element with no neutrons).
The electrons of an atom are bound to the nucleus by the electromagnetic force. A group of atoms, bound to each other by the electromagnetic force, form a molecule. An atom containing an equal number of protons and electrons is electrically neutral; otherwise it is positively or negatively charged and is known as an ion.
Atoms have diameters of a few tenths of a nano-meter and tiny masses proportional to the volume implied by these dimensions. Atoms can only be observed individually using special instruments such as a microscope.
Over 99.9% of an atom’s mass is concentrated in the nucleus, with protons and neutrons having roughly equal mass. There are 98 kinds of elements that occur naturally (so, 98 kinds of atoms), but the periodic table has 114 confirmed elements, with 16 elements occurring only when synthesized in laboratory.
  1. Ask students to read the text and underline the unknown vocabulary.
  2. Read the paragraph again and answer the questions by marking the correct answer with “C”.

What is the paragraph talking about?
Atom (C)

What is an atom?
Basic component of chemistry
Basic unit of matter (C)
Small part of chemistry

What is the electromagnetic force?
The force that keeps the electrons bound to the nucleus (C)
A force created artificially in laboratory
Invisible force of the universe

What is an atom formed of?
Protons, neutrons, electrons (C)
Ions, nucleus, electrons
Ions, bonds, molecules

What is a molecule?
Many kinds of atoms bound together
Electrons bound to the nucleus
Same kind of atoms bound together (C)

What is an ion?
An atom with no neutrons
An atom with no protons
An atom with more or fewer electrons than protons (C)

Are atoms big?
No (C)
Doesn’t say

What is heavier, the nucleus or all the electrons of an atom?
Nucleus (C)

How many kinds of atoms are known by men?
114 (C)

Writing (23 minutes)

Re-write the paragraph using your own words using for help the above answered questions.



Spend 5 minutes to introduce to learners the topic of the lesson by asking a few chemistry related questions.

Everybody studies chemistry at school, so questions related to their experience from school may work very well.


Ask students to read the paragraph and underline the words they don’t know then ask them to write the words on the board. Possible words on the board: atom, electron, proton, neutron, ion, bound, matter, hydrogen, electromagnetic force, molecule, diameter, nano-meter, microscope, and periodic table (flash cards can be used since all words are nouns).
Ask students to read the paragraph again and answer the question (pair/group work). The questions are multiple-choice format. Tell students that only one answer is true.


Allow students to have access to only the questions and the vocabulary, then ask them to rewrite the paragraph using their own words. The mistakes that will be highlighted in the feedback are: word order in sentence (marked as WO), wrong word choice (marked as WWC), wrong preposition (marked as WP), and wrong tense (marked as (WT).

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