Posted 24/2/10
Swine Flu has been out of fashion for a while now, but I always liked this activity and decided to keep it for the new site. In any case, it may return one day. The clip can also be used to contrast social awareness campaign videos from yesteryear with modern ones. For example, how many ways does the video about instill fear in the viewer?
  • Language level: Pre-intermediate (A2)
  • Learner type: Young learners; Teens; Adults; CLIL
  • Time: 30 minutes (longer if you dictate the text)
  • Activity: Text reconstruction
  • Topic: Science
  • Language: Past simple; Direct & indirect objects
  • Materials: Video; Worksheet

Contagious disease! pdf [downloaded 2645 times]

Lesson plan outline

  1. Tell your students that you have a puzzle for them. Put them into pairs and give out copies of the Mystery Text (see below). Ask students to read the text and guess/work out what ‘it’ refers to. Ask students to write down their answers rather than shout them out.
  2. Joe brought it home from the office. He gave it to Betty and one of his kids and to Betty’s mother. But Betty’s mother went back to California the next day. On her way to the airport, she gave it to a cab driver, a ticket agent and one of the charming stewardesses.  At school, Joe’s kid gave it to some other kids and Mrs Meryl got it and gave it to her husband. In California, Betty’s mother gave it to her best friend Dotty. But Dotty had a heart condition and she died. But before she died, Dotty gave it to her girlfriend, the mailman, the paper boy, and her vet when she went to pick up her Chihuahua.
  3. Let everyone compare their answers but don’t give them the solution yet.
  4. Hold up a copy of the large Flow Diagram (see below) for your students to see but don’t give out individual copies yet. Make sure everyone understands that the diagram is an illustration of the text. Tell students that you want them to create their own similar diagrams from the text.
  5. Note that you are using the diagram only to give students an idea of what you expect from them. You should then put the diagram out of sight so that they have to create their own using the text.

  6. Once everyone has finished their diagrams, give out individual copies of the Flow Diagram and let students check their work.
  7. Ask students if they have any more ideas about what ‘it’ refers to.
  8. Show the video: 1976 Swine Flu Propaganda from 0:30 until the end.
  9. Take all the copies of the Mystery Text from your students.
  10. Ask students to use the Flow Diagrams to reconstruct the original texts.
  11. Give back copies of the original text and let students compare them with their reconstructions. Alternatively, let them check their work by playing the clip again.


Introduce the activity by writing the following frame on the board:

Jo __________ it to his wife

Ask students (in pairs or groups) to think of as many past simple verb forms as possible that could be put in the gap. For each possibility, students have to say what it refers to. Examples:

  • Jo lent it to his wide (his motorbike)
  • Jo delivered it to his wife (the bad news)
  • Jo recommended it to his wife (the film)
  • Jo sent/emailed it to his wife (the YouTube clip)
  • Jo passed it to his wife (the salt)
  • Jo threw it to his wife (the rugby ball)
  • Jo stuck it to his wife (the chewing gum)
  • Jo sang it to his wife (the love song)
  • Jo showed it to his wife (the rash on his bottom)
  • Jo mentioned it to his wife (the fact that they needed a holiday)
  • Jo returned it to his wife (his wife’s dress)
  • Jo suggested it to his wife (a holiday to France)
  • Jo explained it to his wife (the plot)

Follow up

Tell students the story of the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak (see Wikipedia for details:

Posted 24/2/10

2 Responses to Contagious disease!

  1. Holly Perrin says:

    Thanks again for another well-planned lesson and some fun inspiration. I did adapt this to a telephone lesson where students work in the listening lab and must create the flow diagram backward. That is, I handed out slips “The vet got it from Dotty,” or “The charming stewardess got it from Betty’s mother.” All of the elements of the chain are there and each student has to share their links and record the others’ links. In the end, they compare their flow charts and then move into the text to verify that their diagrams are correct. And then, of course, that great question… What is it? Thanks again!

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Holly
    I always really liked this activity. You have great taste!
    And a great variation. Thanks for sharing.
    Jamie :)