American Slang Lesson Plan for ESL Students

Instructor: Kandi Young

Kandi has degrees in Communications, Human Services, Education and Computer Science. She is a Business, Marketing, and Technology instructor with a Master's degree in Education.

Learning a new language is hard; not understanding slang can make it impossible! This lesson focuses on providing ESL students with common slang words they may encounter on a daily basis. Activities to reinforce proper use of the terms are included.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to do the following:

  • Recognize slang words or phrases
  • Understand the meaning of slang terms
  • Use slang in appropriate context when speaking

Length of Lesson

30 minutes to 1 hour



Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.


Review the key ideas expressed and demonstrate understanding of multiple perspectives through reflection and paraphrasing.


  • Copies of a list of slang words and definitions (you may use the Vocabulary list or come up with a list of your own)
  • Paper
  • Drawing utensils such as markers, pencils, crayons
  • Research and download stories or worksheets with context clues that are appropriate for your class level
  • Index cards
  • Video/audio recording software (optional for Activity 2)


  • cram: to study feverishly before an exam typically done after neglecting to study consistently
  • crash: to abruptly fall asleep, or to show up without invitation
  • for real: a proclamation of honesty
  • hang out: to casually gather together or spend time with someone in a social manner
  • knock: to speak negatively, to disparage, to badmouth
  • lighten up: to relax and take things less seriously. Typically stated as an appeal to someone who is acting uptight
  • tight: an adjective that describes closeness between competitors or friend; for example, a tight competition
  • wrap (something) up: to finish or complete something


  • Discuss with your students what slang words are
  • Ask your ESL students what slang words they use in their native language. Have them discuss what they think someone who didn't know it was slang would think the words meant.
  • Pass out several index cards to students.
  • Explain that you will be saying a word or phrase that you would like them to write on the front of the card.
  • Go through the list of vocabulary words (without going over the definitions) and have students write each word.
  • Explain that you are now going to use each word/phrase in a sentence.
  • Using the context of the sentence, ask students to write what they think the word means on the back of the appropriate card.
  • Have students share their responses with the class and discuss.
  • Continue with activities to reinforce correct usage of terms.

Activity 1 - Draw a Picture

  • Provide students a list of the slang words and their definitions (either from the Vocabulary list or a list that you compile)
  • Give students paper and drawing utensils.
  • Ask students to draw a picture that represents the meaning of each word. For example, they could draw two stick figures hugging to represent ''tight''.
  • Ask students to share their images with the class and explain why it represents the slang word.

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