Death & Dying Lesson Plan

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

This lesson plan helps students understand different types of death. It also allows students to create a guide to explain their final wishes to loved ones.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson plan, students will be able to:

  • Identify and describe several types of death according to medical and philosophical definitions
  • Provide a plan for their own death, to include how they hope to address each of the types


2 hours

Curriculum Standards


Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.


Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.


  • Brain death
  • Cortical death
  • Clinical death
  • Psychic death
  • Social death



Introduce the Topic

  • Distribute the materials to the class and set up the video for the lesson.
  • To introduce the topic, follow along as a class while watching the video section called What is Death?'.
    • Stop the video at 1:00 and ask the class for a show of hands if they have ever had a discussion about death in their family.
    • Take a moment to discuss that different families might respond to death based on culture or religious belief.
  • Now pause at the following sections for discussion:
    • Brain and Cortical Death: 3:36
      • What are the criteria for each?
      • What do they have in common?
    • Clinical Death: 4:48
      • What are the criteria for clinical death?
      • How is it different from brain and cortical death?
    • Psychic Death: 5:32
      • What do we mean by psychic death?
      • How is it different from clinical death?
    • Social Death: 6:21
      • What are some examples of social death?
      • How is it different from psychic death?
  • Play the remainder of the lesson.
  • Review the terms with students and answer any questions.
  • Once students have had the opportunity to ask any questions, distribute the lesson's printable worksheet to assess understanding.


For this activity, students will create a plan for how they want things to be in the event of each of the above forms of death. They will answer the following questions and cover the planning details specific to each type of death. Use copies of the standard questions on a living will to complete the details as needed. Encourage students to consider their family's beliefs and culture when planning their death.

Brain and Cortical Death

  • Would they want to be kept alive on machines until clinical death?
  • Would they want to stay at home under medical care or hospitalized?
  • What is covered under their health/life insurance policies? (This may require assistance from parents.)

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