Blood is Thicker than Water — a Talking Points lesson plan for reading, speaking & vocabulary

Should we put family first? Should we help the members of our family no matter what?

This is a lesson plan about family and the things they expect of us.

It is bound to cause a lot of discussion in your class as the topic may cause a great divide between people.

Ideal for any English class. You can download the full and complete lesson plan in easy to use PDF format today. Just click the link down below.





Would you do anything for your family? Why/why not?

Are the ties that hold families together stronger than other relationships? Why/why not?

Why do some families have so much conflict?




They say that families stay together through thick and thin but that is not the case with the Carlton family.

The Carltons are a family of five.

“When we were all kids, we got on really well,” says Emily Carlton. She is the only girl in the family and the youngest. “I get on reasonably well with my older brother but me and my younger brother have had some terrible arguments.”

Mrs Carlton is the mother of the family and she just wants everyone to get along with each other. “This has gone on long enough,” she said. “I am tired of the petty squabbling and the nastiness. I want it to all stop right now.”

It all started at Terry’s wedding.

“Yes, weddings are a great place to start family fights and feuds,” said Emily. “But there was no excuse for this at all.”

Terry had planned the wedding for a long time. He had met his wife two years before and introduced her to the whole family. Everyone got on very well.

Daniel, the oldest brother, had invited everyone to his house for dinner on many occasions and it seemed like Terry’s new wife was going to be a great addition to the family.

“We were all good friends,” said Daniel. “My wife and Terry’s girlfriend became good friends and went out shopping together and had lunch. I thought Emily was on good terms with her too. But apparently not.”

“Basically, Terry has always had money problems,” said Emily. “And we all kind of knew why that was. Gambling.”

Emily said it reached a crisis point about one week before the big day.

“Terry called me and asked me to come over to his place,” she said. “I went over and it was just me, Terry and his girlfriend. They knew that I was saving up to buy a house and that I had quite a big lump sum in the bank. I told his girlfriend about it over coffee one day.”

Then Terry dropped the bombshell.

“He said he was in debt to the tune of ten grand,” said Emily. “He said what with the wedding and everything else things had just slipped out of control. That’s when he asked me to borrow some money.”

Emily was totally dumbstruck.

“I knew that he didn’t want to ask Daniel, because he knew what he would say. So he asked me instead.”

Things got more heated when Terry’s girlfriend demanded that Emily help her brother.

“I couldn’t believe what she said to me,” said Emily. “She got angry almost immediately. Kept on saying to me I had to help Terry. She said; he’s your brother. Family are supposed to help each other.”

In the end, Emily stormed out of the house. She told Daniel and her parents about what had happened. Emily’s mum wanted to just give the money to Terry but her husband refused.

“He’s old enough to stand on his own two feet now,” he said.

The wedding went on as planned. Everyone was civil to each other, and no one said anything about it. But since then Emily and Terry have not spoken.

“It’s caused a big rift between us,” said Emily. “I am just as angry with her as him.”


Reading Comprehension Questions


How many brothers and sisters does Emily have?

Who gets on well in the family? Who does not?

What does the mother of the family think about it?

When did the argument start?

Did people like Terry’s girlfriend before?

What was Terry’s problem?

Who all met at Terry’s house?

What was Emily saving for?

What did Terry ask Emily?

Why didn’t he ask Daniel?

Who demanded that Emily help?

What did Emily do in response?

Who did she tell?

Who wanted to give Terry the money?

Who said they would not?

What happened at the wedding?

Which people do not talk to each other?


Essential Vocabulary


thick and thin

not the case

get on really well

bad argument

to get along

gone on long enough





no excuse

a great addition

on good terms



crisis point

the big day

saving up

a lump sum

dropped the bombshell

in debt

to the tune of

ten grand

slip out of control





storm out

stand on his own two feet


a big rift



Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary

and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebooka small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when


I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”


Blood is Thicker than Water


Look at the following situations and make suggestions to solve any problems.


Jack is a writer and works at home. His sister often comes round with her young daughter and asks Jack to look after her for the afternoon while she goes shopping. This means Jack cannot work, and it disturbs him. He has told his sister about this and she now doesn’t visit at all. Jack thinks this is childish.


Robert is angry with his younger brother, Simon. Simon has been made executor of the family will and Robert felt he should have the responsibility. But their parents have argued that they made Simon the executor as he is closer to the family home than Robert. Robert often has to travel for work and they think he would be too busy to take on the responsibility of a large will.


Carla is fed up with her brother Tom. He always takes her for granted and just assumes she can help him with practically anything. Tom says that he helps her too but Carla says that Tom is constantly asking her for favours. On top of that he never really shows any gratitude. He barely says thank you and often just grunts in reply.


Nigel is staying at his older sister’s house until he finds a new place to live. He likes to go to the pub three or four times a week and when he comes home, he is a little noisy. This upsets his brother-in-law who has to get up for work early in the morning. It causes a lot of arguments and Nigel says he is sorry but he continues to do it.


Steve borrowed a large sum of money from his brother, Mike. He said he would pay it back but so far he has not. Each time, Mike brings it up, Steve gets angry and there is an argument. Mike is considering legal action against his own brother.


Role Play


Choose one of the situations above and imagine that the two people involved have met to discuss the problem.

One of you wants to bring a satisfactory end to the situation. But the other person doesn’t want to take any responsibility and keeps saying that families should help each other above anything else.

Prepare your role play and show the class when you are ready.




Have you ever had a serious argument with a family member? What was it about? How was it resolved?

Do you think the phrase ‘Blood is thicker than water’ is true? Should we always consider our family above anyone else? Why/why not?

Ask your teacher what ‘the black sheep in the family’ means. Do you have a black sheep in your family? Why does this person behave in such a way? What can be done about this person?

Do you think some cultures have stronger family values than other cultures? What about your culture? Does family come first every time? Do you agree with this idea or not? Why/why not?

If you are single when you get married who will become your main family? You and the person you are married to? Or your parents and siblings? What is the difference between these two groups of people?

Some people truly love their families. Some people say — I would do anything for my family. Would you do anything for your family? What kind of things would you not do? Where is the boundary?

Do you get on better or worse with your family compared to when you were younger? What happened? Why did these changes occur?

If you could choose your ideal family, how would you like them to be?

Do you ever tell your parents or siblings that you love them? Why/why not?

Do you envy other people’s families? What is it exactly that you envy about their family?

Who is more important — family or friends? Why?




Write an imaginary letter to one of your loved ones in your family and tell them everything in your heart.

Be honest and say everything you feel.

You might not wish to share this with the rest of your class but if you do share it with others, why can’t you share it with the person in the letter?


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2 thoughts on “Blood is Thicker than Water — a Talking Points lesson plan for reading, speaking & vocabulary”

  1. This lesson is universal. We all have families and we don’t get to choose them like we do our friends. We may criticize them bitterly, but get defensive if someone else criticized them. Families build character. You have to work with what you have. The topic is excellent for EFL students who are often from collectivist cultures and closely bonded with their family. I love the improvisations for students who might not admit they have family disagreements in their own families!

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