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In a Heartbeat

Posted on August 6, 2017 by kierandonaghy

This ELT lesson plan is designed around a short film by Beth David and Esteban Bravo and the theme of love. Students learn and practice expressions using the word “heart”, watch a short film trailer, predict and write a story, watch and discuss a short film, and watch and discuss a video in which elderly people give their reactions to the short film.



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

Learner type: Teens and adults

Time: 90 minutes

Activity: Practicing expressions using the word “heart”, watching a short film trailer, predicting and writing a story, watching and discussing a short film, and watch and discussing a reaction video

Topic: Love

Language: Vocabulary related to love

Materials: Trailer, short film and reaction video

Downloadable materials: in a heartbeat lesson instructions

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Step 1

Write the following sentences on the board:

  • My sister is so good-hearted – she’s always volunteering at food banks and trying to help the less fortunate.
  • I feel terrible for Anna – she’s been broken hearted since she broke up with Alex.
  • I was going to take the job in Australia, but after thinking how much I’d miss my family and friends, I had a change of heart.
  • My girlfriend and I had a real heart-to-heart and we’re getting on much better now.
  • The President ignored the requests to accept more refugees, causing many to accuse him of having a heart of stone.
  • Laura was studying economics, but her heart wasn’t in it and she gave up after a year.
  • His parents wanted him to marry the daughter of their rich friends, but he followed his heart and married his childhood sweetheart.
  • When John broke up with his girlfriend, he poured his heart out to his mother.
  • My mother’s 87, but she’s young at heart.


Step 2

Pair your students. Ask them to work out the meaning of each expression using the word “heart”.


Step 3

Elicit the meaning of each expression.


Step 4

Ask your students to write 5 true sentences for them using the expressions they’ve just looked at.


Step 5

Ask your students to read their sentences to a partner.


Step 6

Write the following sentence on the board:

“I’d go and live in a small house in the country in a heartbeat.”

Elicit or explain that “in a heartbeat”, means to do something quickly, instantly, without thinking.


Step 7

Ask your students if there’s anything they’d do in a heartbeat.


Step 8

Tell your students they are going to watch a trailer for a short film titled “In a Heartbeat”. As they watch the trailer, they should imagine what story the whole film tells. Show the trailer twice.


In a Heartbeat – Official Trailer from In a Heartbeat on Vimeo.


Step 9

Put your students into small groups. Ask them to write the story the film tells using narrative tenses. Help them with vocabulary and expressions as necessary. Set a time limit of 10 minutes.


Step 10

Get a spokesperson from each group to read out their story. Ask for comments from the other groups.


Step 11

Tell your students they are now going to watch the film. As they watch they should compare the story the film tells with their own narratives. Show the film twice.



Step 12

Ask your students how the film’s narrative was similar and difference to their stories.


Step 13

Dictate the following questions:

  • How is the red-haired boy feeling at the strat of the film? Why?
  • What is his heart telling him to do? Why is he afraid to do this?
  • What is the dark-haired boy feeling at the beginning of the film?
  • What happens in the school?
  • How is the red-haired boy feeling when he only has half of his heart?
  • What happens when the dark-haired boy gives the red-haired boy the other half of his heart back?

Tell your students they should answer these questions as they watch the film again.


Step 14

Hold a plenary discussion based on your students’ answers.


Step 15

Ask your students the following questions:

  • How does the film make you feel?
  • Does the film have a message? If so, what?


Step 16

Ask your students how they think a group of seniors (over 65) would react to the film. Ask them what adjectives they might use to describe it.


Step 17

Tell your students they are going to watch a video in which they will see the reactions of a group of American seniors to the film. As they watch they should note down any adjectives the people (Johnny, Norman, Robert, Libby, Jennifer, Catherine, Cheryl, and Vera) use to describe the film. Show the video twice until 04:25


Step 18

Get feedback on the elders’ reaction to the film



Ask students to record their own video with their reaction to the film. They should send you a link to the video. Give them feedback on content and pronunciation.

I hope you enjoy this ESL 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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28 thoughts on “In a Heartbeat

  1. Thank you so much!!!
    I just shared the lesson plan on FB with my friends. The very first minute I watched this video I thought of building a lesson plan around it, but you´re always faster!!!
    Anyway, thank you very much I’ll definitely test it this week!

  2. Don’t you think you are outright promoting gay relations to CHILDREN?!!! That’s a shame. We, as teachers, have no right to influence kids by disseminating this type of “knowledge”.

    • Dear Evgenia,
      First of all, I would say that if you don’t like the lesson or the theme of the lesson, don’t use it. Why not just say “This lesson isn’t for me”, and move on? Secondly, I don’t think I am “promoting gay relations to children”. I am simply using a short film which illustrates reality for thousands of young people throughout the world (including Russia, I believe) who are attracted to people of their own sex. Would you deny this reality? There is discrimination and even persecution of homosexual people throughout the world- homosexuality is illegal in 74 countries, and homosexuals even face the death penalty in at least 10 countries – Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Somalia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Northern Nigeria where certain states apply Sharia law. Do you deny this reality? Do you agree with this discrimination and persecution of someone’s sexual orientation? Do you think it is a “sin” for someone to love a person of the same sex? Thirdly, you say “We, as teachers, have no right to influence kids by disseminating this type of “knowledge””. What knowledge am I disseminating here? If it is the reality that young people fall in love with and are attracted to members of their own sex, then, yes, I am disseminating this self-evident “knowledge”. I think that one of roles as teachers is to teach our students to be open-minded, tolerant and empathetic.
      I wish you well,

    • What’s being promoted? Love. Teachers have every right to influence everyone to believe in it.

      Kieran, this is a fabulous lesson.

  3. This is a fabulous lesson plan, you must have spent hours trawling through video looking for suitable material! However, the link to the old peoples’ reaction is not included. Is it possible to send it again? Thank you first the wonderful work you do!

    • Hi Patricia,
      Thank you for commenting; I’m very happy you like it. The video for the elders’ reaction is embedded in the lesson and you only have to copy the YouTube link; the link is also in the PDF file.
      All the best,

  4. Wonderful lesson! The topic is Love, just love! Believe me, I didn’t even notice the kids were the same sex, Mah! We are teachers and we must support always tolerance!

  5. So glad to see this. Need resources for teachers who may be willing, but don’t know how to, promote love, as Tyson said.

    I have lost track of the number of times I’ve used Film English as a place to introduce or build on a topic in all my classes.

    Thank you.

  6. When I saw that this video was going viral, I wondered (perhaps even figured) if/that you would make an accompanying lesson plan.

    As usual, you’ve come up with something lovely: some language that students can take home as “something I learned today” along with engaging activities inspired by the film, with a nice follow-up based on a reaction video.

    Thank you!


  7. Dear Kieran,

    This is a quick congratulations message on your website.
    After your talk in Montevideo this morning, I browsed through the lesson plans, especially this one: it’s fantastic! Very good taste and choice of materials!

    Wishing you all the best,

    • Dear Adriana,
      Thanks very much for commenting and for the kind words about the website; I’lm very happy you like the lessons so much. It was great to meet you in Montevideo – I really enjoyed myself there 🙂
      All the best,

  8. I am totally against that type of love but this is my personal feeling. The lesson, by the way, would let the students to express their feelings on the topic and discuss it deeper. Teachers shouldn’t avoid that type of topics – that is natural life. Students are individuals and it is up to them their future choices. We should guide them through life by letting them know the things that happen in it… Thank you for the perfect material.

    • Hi Vita,
      Thanks very much for commenting and your kind words. I completely agree that teachers shouldn’t avoid these types of topics. Just one question: would you still use this lesson with your students even though you don’t agree with this type of love?
      All the best,

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