Fashion and Appearance ESL Lesson Plans

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Fashion and appearance ESL lesson plans help English language learners put words to a pervasive aspect of everyday life.

Reason to Teach Fashion and Appearance

In many ESL classrooms, some of the first lessons students encounter deal with personal descriptions. They learn how to say where they're from and to describe themselves and others as handsome, blond, studious, etc. Fashion and appearance is a logical progression from these descriptive words.

These lessons can also help students progress in their sentence construction and verb conjugation skills. Describing physical characteristics, nationality, personality traits, and emotions usually only requires use of the verb to be:

  • I am happy
  • She is short
  • They are from Mexico

In addition to requiring a larger vocabulary of verbs, discussing clothing opens the door to the present progressive tense, with "He is wearing…" and similar descriptive sentences.

Fashion and appearance ESL lesson plans also work well with lessons on shopping. Once students have learned how to describe skirts, jeans, and shirts, one place they would logically use that knowledge is inside a clothing store. It gives the vocabulary a practical grounding. Expressing likes and dislikes is another lesson that flows naturally from descriptions of clothing.


Lesson Plan Ideas

Visuals are vital for fashion and appearance ESL lesson plans.

  • Fashion and women's magazines are a good source for clothing photo spreads. However, some of these looks can be too dissimilar from the fashions students encounter on a daily basis.
  • The advertising in general interest magazines can be a good source for more "average" articles of clothing. An ad for Levi's is likely more relevant than an ad for Prada.

However, be careful when using advertisements. You want your students to describe a skirt, not feel compelled to visit the Gap and buy it. It may be useful to cut out individual articles of clothing from ads and paste them on another sheet of paper for classroom use.

  • If an award show is in the news, use the inevitable best and worst-dressed lists to spark written and verbal descriptions. This can also lead to a discussion of celebrity culture and the influence of the rich and famous on fashion trends.

These visuals and real-life examples can then be put to use by students practicing their verbal and written English skills.

  • Beginning students can focus on creating single sentences describing the fashion and appearance of a person in a photograph.
  • Intermediate students can write entire paragraphs and engage in more extensive question and answer sessions with others about the content of an image.
  • The most advanced students can create entire narratives about the steps involved in getting ready in the morning or work together to create a mock fashion magazine with extensive descriptions of clothing and styles.

Another potential classroom activity is to hold a fashion show, with students in charge of creating a new outfit and then describing it to the rest of the class. If students are self-conscious about appearing in front of everyone as a "fashion model," use dolls, paper cutouts, or other stand-ins to model different types of clothing. Students can bring their own personal style to the project while learning similar fashion-related vocabulary with their classmates.


Online Resources for Fashion and Appearance

  • A personal site from a Japanese English instructor offers an extensive list of fashion and appearance questions. Some queries are specific to Japanese culture, such as those referring to kimonos. However, they are a great source for beginning the clothing conversation.
  • Conversation Questions Clothes & Fashion includes a long list of fashion and clothing-related questions. English language learners are encouraged to ask each other about their shopping habits, whether they wear specific articles of clothing, traditional clothing in their countries of origin and much more. The majority of the questions are intended for older students.