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Real Beauty

Posted on May 6, 2013 by kierandonaghy

real-beauty-largeThis EFL lesson plan is designed around a short film by John X. Carey which was commissioned by Dove and the theme of beauty. Students describe portraits, talk about beauty, watch a short film and write a detailed self-portrait.



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Language level: Upper Intermediate (B2) – Advanced C1

Learner type: Teens and adults

Time: 90 minutes

Activity: Describing portraits, talking about beauty, watching a short film and writing a detailed self-portrait

Topic: Beauty

Language: Vocabulary related to physical descriptions and beauty

Materials: Portraits, article and short film

Downloadable materials: real beauty lesson instructions     portraits A     portraits B      real beauty criticism


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Step 1

Put your students into pairs and ask them to discuss the following question:

What makes a person beautiful?

Give them 5 minutes to discuss the question and then get feedback from the whole class.


Step 2

Keep students in the same pairs and give half of the pairs portraits A and the other pairs portraits B. They should look at their portraits and talk about which one is more beautiful and what makes it more beautiful. They should also compare hair, eyes, skin and expression.




Step 3

Now students who have looked at portraits A should work with a student who has looked at portraits B. They should describe their portraits to their new partner who should try to visualise the 2 portraits. When student A has finished they should show their portraits to student B who has to say if the portraits are similar to their visualisations. Next B describes their portraits to B who has to visualise the portraits.


Step 4

Get feedback about the portraits from the whole class. Tell students that the portraits were drawn by the same artist. Ask them how it is that the 2 portraits are so different.


Step 5

Tell students they are going to watch a short film in which the story of how the portraits came to drawn is told.

Real Beauty Sketches from John X. Carey on Vimeo.


Step 6

After watching the film, ask students the following questions:

How does the film make you feel?

How do the women in the film feel when they see their portraits?

What’s the message of the film?


Step 7

Pause at the end of the film when you see the caption:

“You are more beautiful than you think.”

Tell students that this is the publicity slogan of Dove the product which commissioned the short film. Ask students if they agree with this slogan and why they think it was chosen.


Step 8

Tell your students that the short film went viral and has been viewed by millions of people online. However, there has also been a lot of criticism of the short film. Give students the hand out with the 5 main criticisms. Give them 5 minutes to discuss the article and then ask them to discuss each point in small groups.


Step 9

Ask the learners to imagine a situation in which men were the protagonists of the film. Do they think the drawings would be very different.


Step 10

Tell them that the film has also been with men as the protagonists. Show the film and ask them in what ways the two films and the drawing are different.


The film is clearly a parody and students normally find it very funny.



Ask students to imagine that they have to describe their face in great detail to a forensic artist. They should write down the description and give you to you in the next class.


I hope you enjoy this English language lesson.

Support Film English

Film English remains ad-free and takes many hours a month to research and write, and hundreds of dollars to sustain. If you find any joy or value in it, please consider supporting Film English with a monthly subscription, or by contributing a one-off payment.

Monthly subscription

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53 thoughts on “Real Beauty

  1. I like the lesson! I’m thinking of doing it tomorrow for my high school students. Thank you very much for the ideas and the film lessons. My students find them interesting and so do I.

  2. Im not sure how you find these videos..but every one of them is so amazing. I love the way you’ve managed to build a lesson around these videos. I come to this site almost every other day waiting somewhat impatiently for a new update. And with each new update, I am more taken with your amazing work. Thank you so much for making your lesson plans so readily available. God Bless.

  3. Pingback: Real Beauty | Film English | David's ESOL Blog

  4. I am really grateful for the beautiful lessons taht you share. Perfect work that you’re doning. Thanx a lot.

  5. Hi Kieran,

    What an emotionally powerful film! I’m definitely going to use this lesson with my stronger students, but I also have some weaker students who maybe aren’t up to the full lesson, but will certainly enjoy the film. I’m sure we can have a great conversation lesson based around step 6 – which I’m going to try today!

    Thanks very much for another great lesson based on another superb film!

  6. Great Job! I’m an ESL teacher. I really love your lessons…quite difficult for my students but so fantastic for me! Thank you for sharing your ideas.

  7. My students loved the lesson and the topic, they reflected deeply into the concept of perception.
    Thanks so much…

  8. Thanks for the ideas. Short films can make the lesson much more interesting and create a kind of relaxed atmosphere.I used it even with A2+/B1 level and it worked very well. The discussion started spontaneously when the kids discovered that they were describing the same person and were curious why I had given them two different pictures of the same person – one younger and one older. The film was a ‘wow’. I also used the parody Sonia had suggested. Super!

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  11. woowww,that was really amazing.I enjoyed it so much.these short films are really something & i’m so glad to visit such a great website,ThanQ

  12. I simply adore your website. The lessons are inspiring both for me and my students. Thank you so much for taking the time do to this…

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thanks very much for the kind words. I’m really happy you like the lesson so much. Thanks for the video, I’ve already seen it and had considered doing a lesson based on it.
      All the best,

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  17. Hi, Kieran. It was nice seeing you again. I’ve seen this lesson many times and never found the moment to put it into practice. I’ve felt inspired by the video, your activities and other users’ comments. I’m going to add something at the end of the activity, I’m going to ask them to write a short description of themselves and of their partner in the activity and then compare what they’ve got. I’m going to ask them to choose the person they feel more comfortable with in class so they can express themselves freely and don’t feel ashamed about what the other classmate can write about them. Thank you once again. 🙂

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