Tess of the d’Urbervilles ESL Lesson Plan [Free PDF]


The Tess of the d’Urbervilles ESL Lesson Plan is designed to introduce students to an iconic piece of English literature while improving their language skills. This classic novel provides a rich and engaging backdrop for language learning, allowing students to explore vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension in a context that is both culturally and historically significant. Through this lesson plan, students will not only enhance their English language abilities but also gain insight into important themes and ideas presented in the novel, fostering critical thinking and analytical skills.

Vocabulary Building


(noun) a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two different things.
(noun) an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress; a serious accident or crime.
Social Class
(noun) a division of a society based on social and economic status.
(noun) a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
(noun) the development of events beyond a person’s control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.

Contextual Usage

1. The protagonist faced the dilemma of choosing between her love for Angel and keeping her past hidden.
2. The novel is considered a tragedy due to the devastating events that unfold in Tess’s life.
3. The theme of social class is evident throughout the story as Tess navigates through different strata of society.
4. Tess’s ambition for independence and happiness drives her actions throughout the novel.
5. The notion of fate plays a significant role in shaping the characters’ destinies in the story.

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ESL Warm-up Activity

To kick off the Tess of the d’Urbervilles ESL Lesson Plan, begin with a captivating activity that will transport students into the world of Thomas Hardy’s novel. Start by displaying images or short descriptions of rural landscapes and historical settings relevant to the story. Prompt students to discuss in pairs or small groups what they infer from these visuals, encouraging them to use descriptive language to express their interpretations. This activity not only sets the tone for the lesson but also primes students for engaging with the themes and vocabulary present in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Main ESL Lesson Activities

Vocabulary Activity: Character Analysis

Guide students to select a character from the novel and brainstorm adjectives to describe their personality, actions, and motivations. Then, have them discuss their chosen character’s traits with a partner or in small groups. This activity encourages the use of descriptive vocabulary and provides an opportunity for engaging group discussions centered around character analysis.

Reading and Writing: Journaling Exercise

Assign students the task of writing a journal entry from the perspective of one of the characters. Encourage them to delve into the emotions, experiences, and dilemmas faced by that character. This activity fosters reading comprehension while also honing writing skills as students embody the voice of a key figure in the novel.

Roleplay: Moral Dilemma Scenarios

Present students with moral dilemmas similar to those encountered by Tess in the story. Divide them into pairs or small groups to discuss and roleplay how they would handle these challenging situations. This interactive exercise allows students to connect emotionally with characters’ experiences while developing empathy and critical thinking skills.

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Listening Comprehension: Podcast Discussion

Select an audio excerpt related to a crucial event or theme from Tess of the d’Urbervilles. After listening, facilitate a class discussion on its significance, encouraging students to share their interpretations while honing their listening comprehension abilities.

ESL Homework Assignment

For homework, instruct students to write a short essay reflecting on the choices and consequences faced by Tess in the novel. Encourage them to draw parallels between Tess’s experiences and broader ethical or social issues. This task not only reinforces the lesson content but also challenges students to think critically and express their insights coherently.



Throughout the Tess of the d’Urbervilles ESL Lesson Plan, students delved into the rich language, characters, and themes present in Thomas Hardy’s classic novel. They explored vocabulary related to moral dilemmas, social class, fate, and ambitions while engaging in dynamic activities that enhanced their comprehension and language skills.


Students are encouraged to reflect on how analyzing complex literature such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles contributes to their language development. They have gained insight into nuanced vocabulary usage, literary concepts, and have honed their critical thinking abilities through exploring moral dilemmas portrayed in the novel. Encouraging them to consider how these skills can be transferred to other aspects of language learning can cement their understanding and application of these newfound linguistic competencies.

Why this topic is great for ESL learning

Engaging and Culturally Relevant

The topic of Tess of the d’Urbervilles in ESL learning is a great choice as it introduces students to a literary masterpiece that holds cultural significance in the English-speaking world. Through exploring this classic novel, students are exposed to themes, values, and historical contexts that broaden their cultural understanding while improving their language skills.

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Rich Vocabulary and Language Skills

Tess of the d’Urbervilles offers an abundance of rich vocabulary and language structures for ESL learners to explore. From descriptive adjectives to nuanced expressions, students have the opportunity to expand their vocabulary range while understanding how these words are used within a narrative context.

Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills

By analyzing the complexities of Tess’s character and her moral dilemmas, students develop critical thinking skills through interpreting motives, consequences, and authorial intent. This encourages deep reflection on ethical issues while enhancing analytical abilities.

Connection between Literature and Language Development

Studying literature such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles not only strengthens language skills but also fosters an appreciation for storytelling and narrative techniques. This connection between literature and language development promotes a well-rounded approach to ESL learning, allowing students to engage with English texts beyond simple comprehension exercises.

Overall, incorporating Tess of the d’Urbervilles into ESL lessons provides an immersive experience that enhances language proficiency while introducing cultural insights essential for effective communication in English-speaking contexts.