Mental load and invisible labor

Lesson plan overview

This upper-intermediate to advanced ESL lesson plan is dedicated to mental load and invisible labor, which, according to research, disproportionately affect women at home and in the workplace. The lesson is focused on speaking and listening, but it also introduced some useful vocabulary to discuss the topic. Students will discuss the topics of mental load and how it affects mental health and relationships, as well as invisible labor in the workplace, dedicating time to doing non-promotable tasks, and how it affects career advancement. You can combine this lesson with other lesson related to mental health, such as “Time to take a mental health day?”, “Self-care”, “The benefits of being in nature”, “The healing power of art”, “Returning to work after a vacation”, “Idioms: burnout”, and “Phrasal verbs: mental health”, “Phrasal verbs: psychology“, or other topics related to gender equality, such as “What is holding women back at work”, and “Idioms: gender equality”.
Speaking: The lesson starts with a discussion about tasks and responsibilities that are often taken for granted or are expected by some individuals more than others. Then, students take a look at a list of household chores and responsibilities and discuss who is responsible for them in their household.
Listening: Students watch a video called “Share the Mental Load: 5 ways to split invisible responsibilities more equally”. The video is 8 minutes long, which is why it is divided into 3 parts. For each one, students first discuss the questions given, and then watch the video to find out the answers. After that students engage in a post-listening discussion.
Vocabulary: Students look at extracts from the video, including some interesting topic-related vocabulary (e.g. take a toll, take something off your plate, the brunt of the work, to drain, to burden). They match the words and expressions to their definitions and to practice, complete 6 sentences with the correct expression. After that, they discuss 5 questions, each including an expression students have just learnt.
Speaking: The next thing students discuss is invisible labor in the workplace. They are given a list of tasks (e.g. organizing office parties) and are asked to say how often they do these tasks. After that, they discuss whether they volunteer to do these tasks or are asked to do them, how they feel about doing these tasks, as well as whether they are tasks they particularly enjoy or consider burdensome.
Finally, they are introduced with the concept of “non-promotable tasks”, and are asked to discuss a few questions related to them.
To revise the target vocabulary from this lesson, you can use the printable set of conversation cards.

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Teacher’s lesson plan

Student’s worksheet

Student’s interactive PDF

Conversation cards PDF

Pre-class activities

To send the pre-class activities to your students, copy the link below.

Vocabulary matching


The first time you watch the video, pay special attention to the correct pronunciation of the following words:

It can also cause everything from anxiety to depression, even migraines and forgetfulness.
There is no such thing as perfection, even though society has made it clear that we have to be perfect at all these things.
It’s OK to admit you’re overwhelmed and do something no matter how small to take care of yourself.

Comprehension questions

In-class activities

Teacher’s lesson plan
Student’s worksheet

Conversation cards PDF

Student’s interactive PDF

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