By Kevin Fabris

August 4, 2015

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ESL Games Adult Resource #012 – US Dentist Regrets Killing Famous Lion, Cecil.

Level: Upper Intermediate               

Suitable ages: 15+                

Time: 120 mins

Target Language: Third Conditional

Teacher’s Notes    Student Materials

This ESL lesson plan has been designed for students who already have been introduced to the third conditional, adaptions will need to be made if you use it for introducing the clause.

Warmer – Famous Animals

In the Student Materials PDF print out the Famous Animals images and their name cards – you will need to cut up the name cards.

Put the students into groups of three or four and hand each group the image sheet and the animal names.

Instruct the students to match the name with the correct animal – some are easy, others more difficult. Let the students guess if they don’t know. You can add the correct answers up at the end to see which group got the most right.

Once they have finished; go through the answers – award the winning team the first option in the ‘I’m Sorry!’ activity which will follow later in this ESL lesson plan.


  • Mickey Mouse           (mouse)

  • Jaws                            (great white shark)

  • Babe                           (pig)

  • Cecil                            (lion)

  • Ham                            (chimpanzee)

  • Lassie                         (dog)

  • Free Willy *real name ‘Keiko’ (killer whale)

  • Jonathan                    (tortoise)

  • Cher Ami                    (pigeon)

  • (Unsinkable) Sam     (cat)


Using the information from the Famous Animals activity, instruct the groups to write down the names of animals into two separate lists:

Famous for TV/movies  |  Famous for something else

Famous For TV/movies – Mickey Mouse, Jaws, Lassie, Free Willy, Babe

Famous for something else – Cecil, Ham, Jonathan, Cher Ami, Sam

Next, instruct the groups to discuss what the animals ‘famous for something else’ might have done to become famous. Give them 5 minutes to discuss this and write down their answers.

Once all the groups have finished, elicit the groups’ answers – one animal at a time.


  • Ham the chimpanzee was the first hominid to be launched into space on the 31st January 1961.

  • Cher Ami the homing pigeon helped save the Lost Battalion of the 77th Division in the Battle of the Argonne during the 1st World War.

  • Jonathan the tortoise is thought to be the world’s oldest living animal. Although the exact date is not known, it is believed he is around 180 years old.

  • Sam, nicknamed ‘Unsinkable Sam’ whose real name was Oskar was a cat on the German warship, the Bismarck. When that was sunk, killing 2,000 German soldiers, Sam was spotted and rescued by the British vessel, HMS Cossack. Unfortunately, HMS Cossack was hit by a German torpedo submarine and ultimately that sunk as well. Rescued again, Sam next went to work on HMS Ark Royal which was also torpedoed and sunk but Sam survived once again – earning him the title ‘Unsinkable Sam’.

  • Cecil was a 13 year old male Southwest African lion who lived in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, where he was a major attraction.

Each of the stories above have some great discussion points. It is up to the teacher to decide how far to discuss each famous animal.

When the teacher arrives at Cecil, elicit any information which they know about the recent tragic incident which happened.

If the students are aware of Cecil’s story, then a few discussion questions about hunting and poaching would be great for a pre-reading exercise.

If the class is unaware, then move straight on to the reading.

ESL Lesson Plan – Reading – US dentist Walter Palmer ‘regrets’ killing Zimbabwe lion Cecil

Print the copy of the reading passage from the Student Materials PDF – make enough copies for all students to work in pairs.

Put the students in to pairs and hand out a copy of the passage. Inform the students that each line in the passage has one error (not including the title). In pairs, read through it carefully and correct the errors – there are 16 in total.

Below is a copy of the passage – the words in brackets in blue are the errors, the previous word is correct. The students can only see the errors in their copies.

US dentist Walter Palmer ‘regrets’ killing Zimbabwe lion Cecil

A US dentist who killed (kill) a lion in Zimbabwe says he regrets shooting the well-known animal and he insists he would not have shot Cecil if (of) he had known that it was an illegal hunt.

Police in Zimbabwe have arrested two (too) people over the death of Cecil, the country’s most famous lion, and say Mr Palmer may also face poaching charges (charging).

But Mr Palmer, from Minnesota, said he relied on professional (professionally) guides to find a lion and obtain the necessary permits, he (she) went on to add, ‘If I had had more local knowledge, I might have discovered (discovering) that the permit was illegal.

He also said he only found out the lion’s identity (identities) at the end of the hunt and if he had known beforehand, he wouldn’t have fired his (her) rifle.

Two Zimbabwean men (man) – a professional hunter and a farm owner – have been charged with poaching offences because the group did not have (had) a hunting permit.

Mr Palmer, who is thought to be back in (at) the US, insisted that his guides had secured “all proper permits” but he also said that if he had seen one (won) previously, he might have been able to tell it was a (an) fake permit.

He continued by saying, ‘If the hunters had been honest (honesty), I would not have gone with them.’ And If I could turn back the clock, I would not make such a silly (silliest) mistake again.

Check answers as a whole class activity at the end by asking individual pairs to take it in turns reading a section of the passage a loud, emphasizing the word which they have corrected/changed.

If a pair reads out their sentence and their answer is incorrect, move on to the next group for them to try. Only give the correct answer yourself if none of the students answer correctly.

Post Reading – ‘Regrets’ – Class Discussion

Elicit some answers to the following questions about the passage from the students.

  • Do they think hunting lions is okay?

  • What, if any, animals is it okay to hunt?

  • Do you think Mr Palmer should be prosecuted for what he did?

  • What punishment do you think is acceptable for this crime?

  • Is Mr Palmer saying sorry, enough? What else can he do?

Bring the students attention back to the reading passage.

Instruct them to read through the passage again and underline the sections in which Mr Palmer expressed regret.

This will draw their attention to the 3rd conditional clauses in the passage.

Elicit these and put them up on the board and review the 3rd conditional structure if required.

Explain that the 3rd conditional is often used when someone is talking about regrets.

Write on the board:

My regret – If I hadn’t had played football last month, I wouldn’t have broken my leg.

That is my regret – playing football because now I have a broken leg.

Instruct the students to think of a personal regret they have and form it into the 3rd conditional structure.

Elicit the answers verbally from the students.

Activate – ‘I’m Sorry’ Press Conference

This activity will have the students create their own press conference in which they apologize for their actions (using the 3rd conditional where possible).

However, the aim is to keep this light and fun. The regrets must be funny, perhaps silly. Encourage wild use of imagination.

Write the words: I’m Sorry – press conference on the board and explain what is about to follow.

Write this headline up on the board:

‘Rock star regrets hotel incident’

Brain storm as a class some of the things that might have happened – but remember, nothing too serious!

  • went in the wrong room and saw ….

  • moved the TV near the bath and ……

  • threw the pillows over the balcony and ….

  • etc

Let the students take over, collectively, their imaginations are much more powerful than the teacher’s.

In the Student Materials PDF, print and cut out the ‘I’m Sorry – Press Conference Headline Cards’.

Put the students into the same groups of 4 as at the beginning of the class.

Remember, the group which one the first activity has the right to choose first.

Once the headline cards have been handed out, the students must then write a press conference speech apologizing for what happened.

Each speech must contain four 3rd conditional sentences – the students can refer to the reading passage for extra guidance.

Note: the headlines are very open which gives the students a lot of room for them to use their imaginations – as always, monitor and assist where needed.

Once all groups have completed writing their speeches, invite them to give their ‘press conference’ to the class. The other students have to decide whether or not the apology was acceptable.

Fun Speaking Activity – Regrets courtesy of

  • This ESL game can work in almost size of class.
  • Regrets should take around 10 – 15 minutes to play.
  • The only material you’ll need is a timer.
  • This ESL game is played by combining two classic games (Hot Potato and A Word Chain) and then adding the third conditional language target.

How to Play:

  1. Divide you class into groups of between 2 and 5 students.
  2. Set a timer to a random time between 1.5 – 3 minutes.
  3. Students have to use the third conditional in a sentence. E.g.  “If I hadn’t gone to Africa, I wouldn’t have killed the lion.“
  4. The next student sitting beside the speaker then has to link to second half of the prior speakers sentence while adding their own clause. E.g. “If I hadn’t killed the lion, I wouldn’t be hiding from the police.”  If I hadn’t hidden from the police, I wouldn’t have had to close my business.”
  5. The game continues until the timer goes off.  The student that is speaking when the timer goes off is eliminated.
  6. The game continues by repeating steps 2-5 (with increasingly shorter amounts of time provided) until only one member remains in each group.

To see the extended explanation of this game please click here.

Have fun and happy teaching – see you all next week!

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