Diversity and Inclusion at Work (CAE Word Formation)

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Word formation

CAE word formation

Exercise #1

Exercise #2


Diversity and inclusion are buzzwords in today’s (corporate) world. We can see that there are a lot of efforts to ensure that people don’t feel excluded in global organizations and diverse societies. Diversity is all about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different.

We decided to develop a lesson plan about diversity after Audrey, one of our subscribers, showed us a beautiful Pixar video on the topic. We asked our other subscribers whether they think that the video is okay for a lesson plan and as a result we bring you this ESL lesson plan.

B2 / Upper Intermediate60 minStandard LessonUnlimited Plan


This time we start the lesson with a video. It’s a short animated story called Purl about fitting in at the workplace. The main character is a ball of yarn so pre-teach such words like “yarn“, “weave” and “crochet” (it will help understand the jokes in the video).  Afterwards, let your class discuss what the video was about and what kind of topics it was focused on. The second video is a short interview with the writer/director of Purl so students can confront her idea with their own.


Next, there is a text about diversity which is also here to practise word formation skills. It’s built just as Part 3 of the CAE Exam Reading and Use of English paper, that is students are given a ‘prompt’ word which they need to transform to fill in the gaps. After that, students move to one more vocabulary task where they learn new adjectives by grouping them into synonyms and antonyms.


We created two speaking tasks for this lesson plan. The first one is a pair discussion about diversity and inclusion. Students should find the words they learnt throughout the lesson useful for the questions they need to discuss. The second task is group debates. In the Teacher’s Version you will find two debate topics for your students (print out enough copies before the lesson!). Both of them are connected to the topic of diversity and should be controversial enough to spark nice and long debates in your classroom.


We developed an extra worksheet to this lesson plan to teach some inclusive language. In this one-page handout, students will learn what inclusive language is and discover some examples of both inclusive and exclusive language. Students need to choose expressions which are inappropriate (examples of exclusive language) in the workplace. They also have to explain their choice. After that, there is a short discussion activity on their attitudes towards inclusive language and whether their colleagues try to use it.



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  1. Matt

    Normally, I am an avid supporter and promoter of the ESL Brains website and content. However as an English teacher, who is active in numerous companies, this video is not even close to the reality I am confronted with when I am there. This is a one-sided attempt at addressing workplace “issues” in the western world which are so marginal that it begs the question as to why they have so gained so much attention in recent times. This lesson is more of a political indoctrination than something which is actually useful. In fact, I would even suggest that this content would put my clients under the impression that I think the diverse workplace in which they are active is sexist, misogynistic, dumb white male dominated, etc. Bad marketing for my business. Won’t be using this lesson or anything like it. Thanks, but no thanks.

    1. Stan

      Matt, first of all thanks for your feedback and for appreciating our lesson plans. Of course, I want to refer to what you wrote here. We hoped to build the lesson plan that is objective and doesn’t promote any idea but rather pose some questions: is the issue of diversity important? Is it something people relate to? Is tackling the issue with quota a good idea? (see the debate topics). The Pixar video shows one side of it and relates to personal experience of the director – obviously, it might be exaggerated for the sake of plot/fiction/format. Nevertheless, she felt like that and there might be other people having the same experience. Probably, we could have shown the other side of the coin. But in the lesson plan we never promote D&I just present what it means. Whether the topic of diversity and inclusion should be of such importance is an open question but I see that in multinational companies it’s a hot topic being addressed now (I work for a multinational corporation with British roots (100k employees) and the D&I agenda is one that they focus on very much)
      Having said that, we respect that you feel like this lesson is not good for your students and that’s totally understandable. But maybe you want to give it a chance to see their arguments against it and teach them some new vocabulary?

    2. Richard Fairfield

      I was really disappointed when I saw this video and I agree with Matt. I teach business english in Spain. None of the companies that I teach are anything like the office in this video. For me, the video is unusable although the lesson plan is great. The video seems to be a throwback to the Mad Men 1960s era.

  2. Viktoriya


    I do like the video and the materials of this lesson. Even though it shows only one side of the coin, it does emphasize on the importance of inclusiveness in workplace, especially the one that happens to be multicultural .

    Thank you for the lesson,



  3. Masculino

    Situations like that happens all the time in many countries, not only with women, but with anyone who feels so different from the most of the people in the company. The person feels like he/she has to change the own personality to fit in that enviroment. It happens all the time. The reality depends on the point of view. For the guys from pixar in the video everything seemed fine before Purl comes.
    This video has empathy as a cross theme,we could not expect everyone to have it.

    1. Stan

      Exactly! Before I watched the director’s commentary, I didn’t feel that Purl is about women. I thought it shows how people might feel when they are different than the majority and how they sometimes adapt – often at the cost of their identity.

  4. Betty

    I’m teaching young women in Saudi. This lesson is 100% on-target for them. Not only does it address the very real issues they have to face in a workplace that has only recently opened up to them, the video is framed in a non-threatening abstracted way with the balls of yarn representing team members that don’t fit in to the present office culture. This is vital in a country where people have only recently (and not yet completely) felt comfortable to talk about such issues. The animation couches these issues enough to allow my students to discuss the fate of “Purl” without directly discussing women’s issues. Also, I agree with others that Purl can be generalized to other marginalized individuals, and that is how I frame it when I use this lesson.

    1. Stan

      Betty, that’s truly awesome on so many levels! Great to hear that!

  5. Nike

    I disagree with the critisim above. I think this lesson is excellent, as is Purl. I think it’s encouraging that those of you who critisize this video teach in such diverse and inclusive places of work, but this is not my experience. My students are bank employees (multinational) in Spain and all of them found this lesson to be both useful and thought provoking. I really don’t understand the critisism above. Thank you for this class ESL Brains.

  6. Lizoid

    I loved the video. Although it presented an extreme example of what some of us went through in the 1980’s the video resonated with my young females students. Why is that? Because diversity and representation are important but sensitive topics that are difficult to avoid. It is difficult for some people to visualise something that they have never experienced. Well done ESL Brains – keep up the good work!

  7. shirleyj

    I think this is a fantastic video – but you’d definitely need to pick your audience! I would imagine some people could have quite an adverse reaction, but the interview with the director makes the context perfectly clear. I have in mind the students this would be a hit with! Thank you for this diverse, thought-provoking content.

    1. Arancha

      not really usable for my students. Since we live in Spain the case of Purl is completely unrealistic. We cannot give our students the wrong idea of what the world is like even though global politics is trying to impose this agenda as if we are all terrible citizens. We do not live in Arabia or in one of those countries where people are not respected.
      I see a lot of the content in this page very biased towards left wing politics and I do not like it since education should be very far away from ideologies and politic ideas.Educational contents should be neutral. I will unsubscribe.

      1. Stan

        First of all, in the lesson plan, we don’t impose any viewpoints on the audience/students. We present a Pixar animated video and a comment by the author and her explanation of the story origins. The text in the lesson plan is also not really advocating anything – it just explains the term diversity. Actually, we invite students to debate on the topic, so that anyone can express their opinions on such topics as mandatory quotas or the impact (or lack of it) of cultural diversity on a company.
        We don’t assume that everyone should or will have the same opinions or the same experiences as the author of Purl. As you can see in the comments, some teachers used this lesson with their students with success as the video resonated with them. But I believe this lesson would be even a bigger success with someone who doesn’t see diversity and inclusion as an issue but something created artificially – that’s something interesting to discuss!

  8. Branislava Lalin

    Wow, the reaction to this lesson plan is really disconcerting. As someone who teaches in a business setting I will say that my students (especially female students) in Japan and China respond incredibly well to this lesson and it is a great starting point for discussion!

    1. Justa

      Thanks for sharing your feedback with us! We appreciate that and we’re happy the lesson is interesting and fosters discussion among your students.

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