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Fear of Flying

Posted on November 4, 2013 by kierandonaghy


This EFL lesson plan is designed around a beautiful short film by Conor Finnegan and the theme of fears. Students write sentences, dictate sentences, speak, and watch a short film. I first saw the grammar dictation activity in a presentation by Scott Thornbury titled My Favourite Grammar Activities at  a TESOL-Spain conference in 2007.



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Language level: Intermediate (B1) – Upper Intermediate (B2)

Learner type: Teens and adults

Time: 90 minutes

Activity: Dictation, speaking, writing and watching a short film

Topic: Fears

Language: Adjective + prepositions

Materials: Short film

Downloadable materials: fear of flying lesson instructions

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Step 1

Prepare eight sentences about yourself using adjective plus preposition combinations. Four of the sentences should be true and four false. These are the sentences I wrote:

1. I’m terrified of flying.

2. I’m fond of ironing.

3. I’m frightened of being alone at night.

4. I’m worried about not having enough money.

5. I’m accustomed to living abroad.

6. I’m proud of having written a book.

7. I’m famous for being a great cook.

8. I’m addicted to watching films.


Step 2

Tell your students that you are going to dictate 8 sentences about yourself to them. Repeat each sentence. Pair students and ask them to compare their sentences. When they are ready elicit the correct sentences and write them on the board.


Step 3

Ask students what the sentences have in common. They should be able to tell you that the sentences all share the same construction:

to be + adjective + preposition + gerund


Step 4

Tell students that four of the sentences are true and four false. Ask them to discuss which sentences they think are true and give reasons why.


Step 5

Go through each sentence and ask students why they think it is true or false, tell them the truth and explain something about each sentence.


Step 6

Tell students you would like them to write eight sentences about themselves four of which should be true and four false. They should use the same construction you used in your sentences:

to be + adjective + preposition + gerund


Ask them if they know any other adjective + preposition combinations. Elicit combinations and write them on the board. If they can’t come up with many combinations you might like to give them some examples such as:


anxious about; bored of; capable of; committed to; concerned about; content with; dedicated to; disappointed with; excited about; frightened of; guilty of; happy about; interested in; known for; responsible for; scared of and tired of.


Give them ten minutes to write their sentences.


Step 7

When students are ready ask Student A to dictate his/her sentences to Student B who then has to say whether they think they are true or false. Student A must explain something about each sentence. When they have finished they should change roles.


Step 8

Ask students to explain two things they didn’t know about their partner to the rest of the class.


Step 9

Write afraid on the board and ask students which preposition goes with it. Ask them what they are afraid of.


Step 10

Ask students if they are frightened. If you have a student who is afraid of flying ask them what they do to overcome their fear. Ask students what advice they would give to a person who is afraid of flying to overcome this fear.


Step 11

Ask students to imagine they are a bird called Dougal who is afraid of flying. Put them in small groups and ask them to discuss the following questions:

How do you think Dougal feels?

What do you think Dougal’s life is like?

How could Dougal overcome his fear?


When students are ready get feedback from the whole class.


Step 12

Tell students that they are going to watch a short film in which they see Dougal. As they watch the film they should compare their answers in the previous step to what they see and hear in the film. Show the film and pause at 05:24.


FEAR OF FLYING from conorfinnegan on Vimeo.


Step 13

Ask students how Dougal feels and what his life is like. Ask them how they think Dougal is going to migrate south.


Step 14

Now show the rest of the film. Ask students the following questions:

How did the film make you feel?

Does the film have a message?


Step 15

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

What are the most common fears?

What were you afraid of when you were a child?

What’s the best way to overcome a fear?


I hope you enjoy this EFL lesson plan.

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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40 thoughts on “Fear of Flying

  1. Congratulations you on your themes,as well as your lecture plans.As soon as I get them,I immediately listen to them.They are interesting and really useful.
    Thank you,

  2. Thanks for sharing! I have been looking for something to finish a few classes focusing on gerunds V infinitives and this is a beautiful way to reinforce what we’ve learnt. And seasonal to boot! I’m trying to overcome my technophobia and use youTube regularly in class but don’t know how to use Vimeo in the same way – ie being able to save it to a memory stick. I wonder if any others teachers may be able to advise??? Many thanks Kieran (and the EFL community)

  3. I have used this lovely short film and associated lesson ideas with a number of different groups in different age ranges and it has gone down very well with all.

    Some other approaches which worked well:
    – creating a narrative (group exercise using a laptop and projector) to go along with the film – joining sentences, descriptive language, emotion and tension – then reading the newly created “story” aloud to the group while watching the film;
    – capturing the plot of the film in the present tense then transposing into the past;
    – mix and match exercise with adjectives and prepositions then use the combinations as sentence starters to practice using the gerund.

    I only discovered this site recently but am a great fan of using media in my lessons. I have also successfully used the Coca Cola ad with different groups. Many thanks for the inspiration and I will be back!


    • Hi Aileen,
      I also like your take on the material. Could you tell me a bit more about what it was exactly that you had the pupils do while creating a narrative?

      • Hi Vincent,
        I took different approaches, depending on the group. In most cases I firstly brainstormed with the group the key elements and techniques of descriptive writing, then took control of the keyboard and prompted them to tell me the story line by line with more or less guidance and input from me depending on the level of the group. At the end of the workshop I turned down the sound and read them the story they had written while they watched the film.

        With a group of younger students we first wrote the basic story on the board in the present tense then I had them first transpose it into the past tense on the laptop, then work as a group to ensure correct spelling and grammar and to make it descriptive. In this case I let them take turns at the keyboard.

  4. My B1 students (45 – 71 years old)absolutely loved this lesson. Thanks Kieran, once again, for sharing an excellent lesson with us. Standing ovation from Switzerland!!

  5. Dear Kieran,
    Thank you for the films. I have used ” Fear of Flying ” with my students . It was a great help. I was looking for something that would encourage the students to speak about fear of flying ( that was the topic in one of the textbooks) The stdents watched it with pleasure and discussed the problems connected with the topic.

  6. This is the first time I am watching this video. I loved it and the ideas you suggested for the activities are really good. I am going to use the video and some of the activities with 9th graders in a private school in Brazil.I would like to have more material like that to show the youngest pupils. I will send my activity as soon as I use it with my students. Elizabeth

  7. Hi
    Thanks for the great lessons. I’m a beginner.
    I was just wondering about the password which seems to appear on the video for this lesson. It is not accessible to me, it seems. ANy help?

  8. I love your site and often use your resources. Thank you so much for all your hard work and creativity. It seems like the video of Fear of Flying has been removed- is there any other place we can access it? I wanted to use this lesson! Thanks, Fran

  9. Thank you so much – The discussion questuon about the message of the film really brought out some fierce opinions – will donate for sure! Please note that the full length video is no longer on youtube but is on vimeo

  10. This is a fantastic lesson plan, and has stirred up some great conversation in my ESL class. However, youtube has cut the cord on the video clip :-/.

  11. This one looks good, going to give this to my kids today and see how it goes.
    Just one point, in your lesson plan, step 2, after reading it a few times its clear that its a listening and writing task, however, you seem to have forgotten to add that in the instruction.

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  13. I used this lesson plan for an adult conversation class. After I dictated my fears/abilities using the formula I showed a list of different to be + adjective + gerunds for the students to have a look and explore some new combinations to make their own sentences. This allowed for the Ss to learn some new combinations as well as reuse some of the ones they already knew.
    Great lesson!