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ESL Lessons About Language to Describe Health and Illness

written by: KellenKautzman • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 8/2/2012

This ESL/ELL lesson about having the flu teaches the typical conversation that revolves around health and sickness. This important lesson will help your ESL students learn the vocabulary needed to express their health when they have the flu.

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    Cough Cough, Sniffle Sniffle

    Clearly the vocabulary in this esl ell lesson about having the flu lesson involves the words: sneeze, flu, sick, ill, cough, cold, and temperature. As the students enter the room, have a thermometer out and look kind of sickly. The more sick you look, the better. Let your students start class by asking you questions about how you are. This is a two-fold start to class.

    First, you will get to see what words your students use to ask if someone is okay. Are they asking correctly? Do your students know how to ask if someone is feeling okay? Second, you will see which students are willing to initiate a conversation with you and which aren’t.

    By the end of class, you will be certain that everyone can appropriately use flu vocabulary both in questions and responses. Some of the ways in which you can practice this vocabulary include acting out the words and having students say the name of the word, having other students act out the words and having the rest of the class guess, and asking students to spell the words when you say them aloud.

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    Asking If Someone Is OK

    • Are you okay?
    • Are you sick?
    • Do you have the flu?
    • Are you feeling well?
    • Do you need to take the day off?

    All of these questions are typical phrases used when someone isn’t feeling well. To practice these skills have your students divide into two groups, one sick and one healthy. See how they respond naturally before brainstorming responses to these questions.

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    The Forehead and Temperature

    For this ESL/ELL lesson about having the flu, it is important to mention that in American culture it is typical to put your hand on the sick person's forehead to see if they have a fever or feel clammy. This is a nice gesture and it is fairly common. This placing of the hand on someone’s forehead and using a thermometer often go hand-in-hand.

    First, a parent will usually put his or her hand on the child’s forehead and then proceed to check the temperature of the child with a thermometer. Ask your students if they know the normal temperature of the human body. Remember, many of your students may be accustomed to Celsius, which can make Fahrenheit very confusing. Teach them that 100 degrees Fahrenheit is high and 93 degrees Fahrenheit is low. Either of these temperatures is a sign that something is most likely wrong.

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    Wrapping up

    esl ell lesson about having the flu Finish class by having your students take a mock-quiz. This will not be graded, but it will be very similar to the test you will give them the following day. Ask them the following questions:

    • What is a typical temperature, in Fahrenheit, for a person?
    • What do many Americans do to see if their kids are sick?
    • What is a cold?
    • What is the flu?

    Then have them be able to say and spell each of the vocabulary words. If your class is running short, feel free to check out more ideas on teaching longer ESL classes.

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    Image Credits

    Wikimedia Commons -Flu -

    Wikimedia Commons -sneeze-