Specialist Language Courses

Lesson Plan: Describing respiratory symptoms and conditions

This lesson plan develops students’ ability to understand and use vocabulary to describe the respiratory system, its associated conditions and their symptoms.

Topic: describing the respiratory system, associated conditions and their symptoms
Timing: 30-45 minutes
Lesson Type/Focus: vocabulary development

Aim: To consolidate and extend a student's understanding and use of vocabulary associated with the respiratory system, associated conditions, and their symptoms


The focus of this lesson is developing the vocabulary used to describe the respiratory system, associated conditions and their symptoms. The first vocabulary task introduces the topic and familiarises students with common terms related to the respiratory system and breathing terms. The following vocabulary exercise focuses on common respiratory conditions and their definitions. The final activity asks students to make notes on symptoms and their possible causes.

Note: this lesson supports the language introduced in the following:
• Course: English for Doctors: Advanced Communication Skills
• Unit: Interviewing a Patient
• Module: Describing respiratory symptoms and conditions


Teaching Guide & Answer Key

Part 1: respiratory terms – categorisation

• Put students into pairs.
• Ask them to categorise the terms from the box into the correct category in the table.
• Whole class feedback.


The respiratory system: alveoli, bronchus, bronchiole, diaphragm, trachea
Breathing terms: breathing, breaths, respirations, breathe in, breathe out
Abnormal breathing terms: chesty cough, shortness of breath, shallow breathing, laboured breathing, difficulty breathing

Part 2: respiratory conditions – matching

• Students continue to work with their partner and match the conditions 1-6 with their definitions a-f.
• Whole class feedback.


Part 3: respiratory symptoms and causes – writing notes

• Check students know the terms stridor, wheeze, crackles, pleural rub. If they don't, request them to look the terms up.
• In their pairs, ask students to complete the table of common respiratory symptoms and their possible causes by pooling their existing knowledge.
• Play the video. Students watch it and compare the information given with their answers. They can then make any necessary additions or edits to their writing.

Extension work

• Ask students to take their notes and, in their pairs, expand them to form a simple and clear explanation of the respiratory symptoms.
• Elicit examples from the class.


Download the complete lesson plan and student worksheet:

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