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Homeopathy and Medicine
@The Wednesday English Conversation Club
Bethesda Library, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA

Preliminary information

Time: >> 90-120 minutes

Level: Upper intermediate

To extend the students' store of vocabulary connected to health
To review language from the text
To give freer speaking practice
To give listening practice

That the students will be willing and interested in homeopathy and medicine
That the students will be willing and interested to talk to one another
That the language in the text will not be too difficult

Anticipated Problems and Solutions
Some of the vocabulary may be challenging – rely on other students to help with this.

A photocopy for each student or overhead of the text for the Talk Time Topic
Seating adaptable to face-to-face and small group conversation



Stage One: Warm-Up
Students introduce themselves and fill out nametags or tent cards with their name and home country. If making tent cards, make sure the information is on both sides so all can see and use the correct name.

The tutor leads, introducing themself to the first student at the table,

Stage Two: Pre-reading prediction activities
Tutor and students look at the Talk Time handout and use the pictures and title to elicit possible vocabulary. Tutor introduces the talk-time topic with the Let's Get Started section.


Let’s get started…
There has been scientific and technical progress in health in the past hundred years. Are there any drawbacks to all the new therapies? Do you prefer to use traditional remedies for illness? Do you use any folk preparations for health or beauty? Have a great discussion!

Stage Three: Reading aloud
The students should read the Background sentences round robin around the table. Do not take comprehension of what was read aloud from the handout for granted. All uncommon words and phrases are in bold face or at the end under "idioms" to help the tutor elicit responses. Encourage other students to explain/digress.


Since the 1940s, penicillin has been the most widely used antibiotic. It is still prescribed for many bacterial infections. 1952 was a milestone when vaccines were first tested to combat polio. Breakthrough combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy mean many people live for years after a cancer diagnosis. These amazing drugs and therapies are called conventional medicine.

Nevertheless, millions of people still use complementary medicine or alternative medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. An example is aromatherapy: a therapy in which the scent of essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees is inhaled to promote health and well-being to lessen a patient's discomfort following surgery under the advice of a physician. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine and can be dangerous. An example is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing the surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy recommended by a licensed physician.

Visit the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s website at the National Institute of Health for current guidelines on:

¨ Homeopathy, Naturopathy, and Traditional Chinese medicine practices such as herbs, meditation, massage, and acupuncture
¨ Ayurveda including herbs, massage, and yoga
¨ Mind-Body Medicine: support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy, meditation, prayer, mental healing, and art/music/dance
¨ Biologically Based Practices: herbs, foods, & vitamins
¨ Manipulative and body-based practices combined with physical therapy, proper posture, and massage
¨ Biofield therapies to affect energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body by placing the hands in, or through, these fields
¨ Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies involve the unconventional use of electromagnetic fields

Stage Four: Pair Work for Intensive Speaking, Listening
Each partner in the pair must listen and share the other’s answers with the table group.
The student has to ASK, LISTEN, CLARIFY, and REPHRASE another student's responses. You may find it revealing of the student questioner's level of egotism as the student must restating aloud in their own words the gist of what their partner has said!

Over to you:
Think about your experience with complementary or alternative medicine in your home country…in this country…

In pairs for 5 minutes, ask, listen, and answer these questions:

¨ What is the first thing you do when you feel like you are about to catch a cold?
¨ What do you do if you cannot get to sleep at night?
¨ What helps you best when you have a headache?
¨ Where were you when you had the worst case of the flu you ever had?
¨ Americans speak in English OR in German and Yiddish when somebody sneezes. You will hear Bless you! [English] or Gesundheit! [German and Yiddish for Good Health!] when you sneeze in the United States. Do you do or say anything in your home country when somebody sneezes?

Share your partner’s answers with the group


Stage Five: Group Work for Intensive Speaking, Listening, and Reading for specific information or 'scanning'
The students should read aloud the questions for discussion and eliciting answers round robin around the table. The tutor must abdicate and allow the students to puzzle their way around the topic. This is the Silent Way as suggested by Caleb Gattegno in his Common Sense of Teaching Foreign Languages (1976).

Group Discussion Questions:

Homeopathy is popular in the UK, France, and Germany, and is on the rise in the U.S.A. Do you think complementary or alternative medicines are dubious? Harmless? Do you know of any examples, personally, where complementary or alternative medicine has worked?

Think about vitamins, minerals, herbs, drinks, and drugs. What over-the-counter medications and supplements are popular in your home country? Are any of these vitamins, minerals, herbs, drinks, and drugs available in the USA only by prescription?

Is there a region of your home country that is considered particularly healthy? Is there a region that is considered unhealthy? Who is the oldest person you have ever known personally? How old did they live to be? Did he or she use complementary or alternative medicine?

In America, people often retire at 65. This time of life is called the golden age. At what age to people usually retire in your home country? Are elderly treated with dignity and respect?

How old do people live to be in your home country? Who lives longer there, men or women? Is there a secret to long life? What do people in your home country do to ensure longevity?

People get sick from disease but also get sick from work that is dangerous, dirty, and difficult. Americans who build bridges, log trees, farm or fish, drive taxis, and collect refuse are the most likely to die on the job. What has been your most hazardous job? Most stressful?

Is diet important for health? Do you eat the food from your home country or American-style food? Do you follow a preventative diet or special diet? Why or why not? Do you practice any complementary or alternative medicine? Do your friends or family have any unique cure for illness? Any sayings, customs, or charms for health?

Many people are concerned about the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers. What ones are used in your home country? Do you know of any other synthetic chemicals that we are exposed to? Should we be concerned?

GM refers to genetically modified food. BGH stands for genetically modified bovine growth hormone. Are you concerned about biotechnology? Why or why not? Some people think that eating organic food is therapeutic. What do you think? Do you eat organic food? If so, what do you eat? Where do you find organic food in the U.S.?

Do you think aromas improve your health? Are there any scents, odors, or perfumes that relax you? What are they? Do any smells stink or repel you? What is the worst smell? Are there any colors or shapes that please you? Do you believe that the color and shape of objects or of rooms affects your mental or physical health? What affects your emotions?

In 1613, the English poet Sir Thomas Overbury wrote that beauty is only skin-deep. Do you agree with Sir Thomas? Do you think that appearance is linked to vitality and health? Do you use any conventional medicine, complementary, or alternative medicine to preserve your appearance? Is a youthful appearance part of your sense of well-being?

Which do you think is the best predictor of long life: a person’s age and gender, their past medical history, their work environment, or their diet?

Lastly, are Americans preoccupied with their health and mortality? Are people concerned about health and mortality in your home country? In 1755, Benjamin Franklin wrote:
A long life may not be good enough, but a good life is long enough.

Stage Six: Follow-Up
Encourage students to explore the listed websites and to exchange emails among themselves. Next class: ask for results.

Visit for the NIH Health Information Page for the National Center for Health Statistics for more English Learner information

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