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ESL Lesson Idea: Describing Symptoms


Your students need to be able to talk about symptoms when they are occurring so that they can describe them to a health worker.

  • Using the Describing Symptoms handout, ask students the following questions:
    “What’s the matter?”
    “Has this ever happened to you?”
    “What did you do?”
    “What other words do you know when you are not feeling well?”
  • Write the sample conversation below on the board. Students will practice the conversation in pairs. Use the pictures of symptoms to practice each one.
    A: “What’s the matter?"
    B: “I have a headache.”
    A: “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you feel better soon.”
    B: “Thanks.”
  • For more practice, have students practice dialogues that might occur in the doctor’s office or emergency room, asking and answering questions such as:
    "Where does it hurt?"
    "How long have you felt like this?"
    "Are you taking any medication?"
    "What kind of medical insurance do you have?"
  • With more advanced students, have students practice writing down the symptoms and/or questions in a letter to take to the doctors’ office. Explain that this will help them to remember everything important and to be better understood.
  • Related lessons: Calling in Sick, Late, or Absent and Reporting Emergencies
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