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INTERMEDIATE Medical Myths ESL Lesson Plan: Warm-up (Pair Work)

1) How is your health? What things do you do to stay healthy?

2) What unhealthy habits do people have nowadays?
3) How do you cure a cold or a hangover?

Medical Myths ESL Lesson Plan: Old Wives Tales (Pair Work)
Old wives tales are pieces of advice, usually about nutrition or parenting that are
passed down from an older mother to a younger one. Such tales are often based on
superstition instead of fact. What old wives tales are shared in your country? Make a
list with a partner.

Medical Myths ESL Lesson Plan: The table below contains some commonly held health ideas. First,
match the beginning of each sentence to its end. Then decide which you believe and which you do not.

1. People should drink a. it to grow back faster, darker, or thicker.

2. Reading in dim light harms b. 10% of our brains.
3. Eating turkey makes c. 7 years to pass through your system
4. Men think of sex d. hiccups.
5. Cold, wet weather causes e. your hair gray.
6. Chocolate causes f. at least eight glasses of water a day.
7. Standing on your head cures g. people drowsy.
8. Worry and stress can turn h. your eyesight.
9. We use only i. reduces your performance
10. Hair and fingernails continue j. to grow after death.
11. Shaving hair causes k. become hyperactive
12. Children who eat a lot of sugar l. colds and flu.
13. Chewing gum takes m. every seven seconds.
14. Having sex before playing n. acne.

Medical Myths ESL Lesson Plan: Some Answers

Re: Water. Eight glasses or two to three litres of water a day are not needed to
maintain health. The amount of water needed varies by person (weight), activity level,

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clothing, and environment (heat and humidity). Moreover, juice, tea, milk, fruits, and
vegetables also contain water, and can supply more than half of the needed water.

Re: Sugar & children. Studies have shown no differences between children given
sugar-full or sugar-free diets, even in studies specifically looking at children with
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or those considered sensitive to sugar.

Re: Chewing gum. Chewing gum is mostly indigestible. But it passes through the
digestive system at the same rate as other matter.

Re: 10% brain usage. While it is true that a small minority of neurons in the brain is
actively firing at any one time, inactive neurons are important too. This false belief
has been around since the start of the 20th century and was attributed to William
James, who apparently used the expression metaphorically.

Re: Every 7 seconds. In reality, this has not been measured, and as far as researchers
can tell, this statistic greatly exaggerates the frequency of sexual thoughts.

Re: Sex before sports. There is no physiological basis for this belief. Additionally, it
has been proven that sex during the 24 hours prior to sports activity can raise the
levels of testosterone in males, which potentially could enhance performance.

Re: Shaving hair. Shaving does not cause hair to grow back thicker or darker. This
belief is due to hair which has never been cut having a tapered end, whereas after
cutting there is no taper; the cut hair appears to be thicker, and feels thicker due to
the sharper, unworn edges. The shorter hairs being "harder" (less flexible) than longer
hairs also contribute to this effect.

Re: Hair and nails after death. Hair and fingernails do not grow after a person dies.
Rather, the skin dries and shrinks from the bases of hairs and nails, giving the
appearance of growth.

Medical Myths ESL Lesson Plan: Match the words with their meaning as used in the

1. superstition a. too active and only able to keep quiet for short
2. dim periods

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3. the hiccups b. sleepy
4. drowsy c. a skin condition that produces pimples
5. hyperactive d. stretch the truth; make sth seem bigger/better/worse
6. acne than it really is
7. metaphor e. become smaller; move away or back from sth
8. exaggerate (verb) f. the belief that events happen for supernatural reasons
9. enhance (verb) g. gradually become narrower
10. taper (verb) h. a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of
11. shrink (verb) something else
i. increase the value or quality of something
j. sounds made in the throat caused by movement of the
k. not bright

Master the language: Connect the below ideas to make a sentence. (good for

government / crush / uprising e.g. The government plans to crush the uprising.
superstition / hiccups
dim / drowsy
hyperactive / sugar
acne / cause
metaphor / life
exaggerate / effect
enhance / performance
hair / taper
shrink / skin
Medical Myths ESL Lesson Plan: Discussion Questions

1) Whats your opinion of Eastern medicine?

2) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Is this a real condition?
3) What non-medical myths do you know (e.g. about physics, or history)?

Lesson plan created by Matthew Barton of

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