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The Man Who Planted Trees

Posted on February 11, 2013 by kierandonaghy

This EFL lesson is designed around an Oscar-winning short film called The Man Who Planted Trees and the subjects of short stories and the meaning of life. Students read a short story, watch short video about writing a short story, write a short story, watch a short film, and speak about the meaning of life. The lesson should be done over 2 90 minute classes.

Language level: Upper Intermediate (B2.1) – Advanced (C1)

Learner type: Teens and adults

Time: 2 90 minute classes

Activity: Reading a short story, watching short video about writing a short story, writing a short story, watching a short film, and speaking

Topic: Short stories and the meaning of life

Language: Language related to elements of a short story

Materials: Short story, video and short film

Downloadable materials: the man who planted trees lesson instructions     the 5 elements of a short story     how to write a great short story     the man who planted trees short story     the man who planted trees discussion questions

Lesson 1

Step 1

Ask your students the following question:

Have you ever read any short stories?

Can you remember the plot of any short stories?

What makes a good short story?


Step 2

Write the following words on the board:






Tell your students that these are generally considered the 5 essential elements of a short story. Put your students in pairs and ask them to discuss what each of the 5 elements means. Give them 5 minutes to discuss the 5 elements and then get feedback.


Step 3

Give students the 5 Elements of a Short Story handout and ask them to read it and then compare their answers with the information in the article.



Step 4

Ask your students the following question:


How can you write a great short story?


Put them into small groups and give them 5 minutes to come up with advice for writing a great short story.


Step 5

Tell your students they are going to watch a short video in which the writer Kurt Vonnegut gives 8 tips on how to write a short story. Ask students to watch the film and then try to discuss the advice he gives.



Step 6

Give students the transcript of the video and ask them to read it and then discuss it.




Tell your students that you would like them to do 2 things:

1. Read the short story The Man Who Planted Trees. Tell them they will need to use a dictionary as there is a lot of difficult vocabulary.



2. Write their own short story following the advice they in the lesson. They should choose their own title.


Lesson 2

Step 1

Give your students the discussion questions about The Man Who Planted Trees. Put them into small groups and ask them to discuss the questions for 10 minutes.



Step 2

Get feedback from the whole class on what they thought about the short story.


Step 3

Tell your students they are going to watch a short film adaptation of The Man Who Planted Trees. Show the film until 13.35 and then ask them the following questions.

Why is Elzéard Bouffier a shepherd in the mountains?

Why does he plant trees?



Step 4

Show the rest of the film and then ask the following questions:

How did the film make you feel?

Do you prefer the short story or the short film?


Step 5

Tell students that “planting trees” is used metaphorically in the short story. Ask them for examples of how people can “plant trees” in their lives and what outcomes this can have on other people.


I hope you enjoy this English language lesson.

Film English is a labour of love, it takes hundreds of hours and thousands of euros a year to sustain and provide free English language lesson plans. Keeping it a free, clean, ad-free experience — which is important to me and, I hope, to you — means it’s subsidised by the generous support of readers like you through donations. So if you find any inspiration, joy and stimulation in these English language lessons or if they help you teaching English, please consider a modest donation — however much you can afford.



15 thoughts on “The Man Who Planted Trees

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  2. Great activity! Congratulations ! I’ll be using this activity with my Headway students, book 4 – unit 9. The lesson is exactly about this text: ” the man who planted trees” ! Thanks indeed.

    • Hi Lucila,
      Thanks a lot for your kind words. I didn’t know the short story was in headway (I haven’t used it for years). I’ll have to check it out. I hope your students enjoy the lesson.
      All the best,

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  5. Nice job! This helped me so much with my class, thank you so much. The lesson brings tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for such a beautiful lesson.

  6. I have this book and the video and have often thought of planning a lesson around them but it hadn’t yet happened… It was nice to see that someone else thought the same thing. Thanks for your inspiring website.

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