ESL Bucket List Lesson Plan

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

This ESL lesson plan examines the cultural phenomenon of bucket lists and teaches vocabulary used to discuss goals and plans. The lesson plan includes group work, conversation starters, and a writing project.

Lesson Objectives

Students will:

  • learn vocabulary that they can use to discuss their goals and ambitions
  • discuss goals and ambitions with their peers


  • Approximately one hour

Curriculum Standards


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.


Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.


  • bucket list
  • goal
  • plan
  • adventure
  • travel
  • dream
  • accomplish


  • Opening scene from the movie Up
  • Magazines, calendars, travel brochures, and catalogs
  • Paper, glue, scissors, and markers

Instruction and Activities

Movie Intro

  • View the opening scene from the movie Up, beginning with Ellie making Carl promise to take her to Paradise Falls and going through scenes from their life together. You might also choose to skip ahead and show the scene where Carl lifts off with his balloons and/or the scene where he lands at Paradise Falls.
  • Ask:
    • What did Carl and Ellie want to do?
    • Did Carl or Ellie accomplish their goal? How?

Vocabulary Brainstorm

  • Write these vocabulary words on the board: bucket list, goal, plan, adventure, travel, dream, accomplish
  • Ask students: What do these words make you think of?
  • Each student finishes this sentence on a piece of paper: ''I want to _____.''
  • Have each student share their response with the class.
  • After everyone has shared, observe that some students want things they can have soon (''I want to eat lunch.''), while some students want things they cannot have until later (''I want to go to Paris.''). Ask each student to reread their sentence and tell if their goal is something they can have soon or something they will have to wait for.
  • Talk about the meanings of each of the vocabulary words.

Bucket List Conversation

  • When people make bucket lists, they list things they want to do before a specific time.
  • Put students in groups of two to four for this activity. Give groups the following conversation starters one at a time, allowing a few minutes for each question before giving the next question. Circulate among the groups to make sure conversations are on-topic.
    • What is one goal you have this school year?
    • What do you want to do this summer?
    • What would you like to try before you graduate from high school?
    • What would you like to accomplish before you turn 30?

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