The secrets to effective learning

Lesson plan overview

This FREE intermediate ESL lesson will help students reflect on their learning strategies, discuss effective learning techniques, and introduce them to the concept of the forgetting curve and spaced repetition. Students will also learn useful expressions related to learning, as well as expressions with the word “learn”. In the teacher’s PDF, you will also find a few tips on how to use The English Flows material to combat the forgetting curve and help your students retain information. You can use this lesson in combination with the following lessons: “How to set effective language learning goals”, “English as a lingua franca”, “Phrasal verbs: learning and education”, “Idioms: learning and education”, and “Idioms: memory”.
Speaking: The lesson starts with 2 speaking activities. Students are given 4 quotes about learning and they talk about how they understand the quotes. Then they discuss 7 conversation questions, aiming to discover their experience with learning and what they have found to be effective and what they are struggling with.
Vocabulary: Students learn a few useful words related to learning (retention, feedback, assessments, engagement, cramming) by looking at 6 opinions about effective learning. They match the words to their definitions and then discuss the opinions.
To expand on that, students are given 10 learning strategies to discuss whether they think each learning strategy is effective or not.
Listening: Students watch a short video called “Spaced repetition: the most powerful study technique” and answer 5 questions in their own words. After that, students engage in post-listening discussion, talking about the concepts presented in the video (the forgetting curve and spaced repetition) as well as ways to implement this knowledge in their English learning journey.
Vocabulary extension: As an optional vocabulary extension, students learn expressions with the word “learn” by looking at 5 short dialogues (learn by heart, learn the basics, learn by doing, learn the hard way, learn your lesson) and engage in a final discussion related to their learning experiences, including the expressions given.
To reinforce the vocabulary from this lesson, you can use the printable set of conversation cards.

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:

For instance, could something as simple as a change in venue make a difference?
In the mid-1970s, a trio of psychologists performed an experiment to answer just that.
In the last phase of the experiment, researchers had the students write down as many of the study words as they could in 10 minutes.

Comprehension questions

In-class activities

Teacher’s lesson plan
Student’s worksheet

Conversation cards PDF

Student’s interactive PDF

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