The Black Cloud — a Talking Points lesson plan for English reading and speaking

the black cloud blog pic

This is an English lesson plan on the subject of DEPRESSION.

This is of course a very delicate subject to deal with in the classroom, but if approached the right way, could make for a highly engaging lesson.

The lesson plan comes complete with:

  • introductory questions
  • a 500-word article for reading
  • reading comprehension questions
  • essential vocabulary
  • discussion questions
  • a role play

You can download the full lesson plan below!



What does mental health mean?

Can you name any conditions of mental health?

Do you know anyone who has mental health issues?


The Black Cloud

Read Marlon’s account below.

I was walking by my home a few weeks back when it occurred to me.

I have depression.

Suddenly, all the feelings I had had in the past made sense. The times when I felt I could not get out of bed or motivate myself to do the most simple things.

When I got home, I told my wife. She nodded her head and said: I’ve been trying to tell you this for years.

And she had. She didn’t say it directly. She didn’t say: You have depression.

But she did hint at it very heavily. I just never picked up on it.

I asked her what I should do, and she said I should talk to someone. I made an appointment to see the doctor, and he said that they have registered counsellors who can help me.

Then I went to see one of them.

I was kind of nervous at first. I thought I would not be able to speak at all at the meeting. But I found that as soon as I started talking about all the bottled up feelings I had, I could not stop.

I went right back to my teenage years. Times when I felt like I had fallen into a huge hole in the ground and there seemed no way out of it.

Other times at college when I wanted to isolate myself and be alone. I would shut myself in my tiny little room and not talk to anyone for days on end.

It was such a confusing time. I didn’t know what was happening to me.

All my college friends were enjoying life — going to parties and being typical students.

But I thought the whole world was coming to an end.

I also told the counsellor about times when I had used alcohol as a crutch. I went through a period of drinking far too much.

I managed to stop, but I realise now why I was doing it. It was because of the depression.

Finally, the counsellor advised me to use things like journaling and exercise. She also advised meditation.

And I threw myself into it. I thought I have to give this my all.

I wrote a couple of pages every morning. Like I was writing a letter to myself. And I started doing exercise. At first, just walking for an hour in the morning. But now I go to the gym and lift weights.

And meditation. I had never done that before. I’ve been doing it for about six months now and I know it’s working. It is having a positive effect.

Admitting to myself that there is a problem and having the awareness to see it was the best thing I have ever done.

Things are not perfect — life never is — but I feel more in control. I feel like I can see things more clearly and I can deal with it much better.

It’s good to talk about these things with people.

Reading Comprehension Questions

How and when did Marlon know he has depression?

Had he had feelings of depression before?

What were the symptoms of his depression before?

Did he tell his wife about it?

How did his wife respond?

What advice did she give him?

Did Marlon act on her advice?

How did he think he would feel when talking to a counsellor?

How did he feel when he went to see a counsellor?

How far in the past in his life did he recount stories to the counsellor?

What happened during Marlon’s college days?

How did Marlon treat his depression before?

What three things did the counsellor tell Marlon to do?

How does Marlon feel about doing these things?

Is his life perfect?

How does Marlon feel about life now?

Essential Vocabulary

it occurred to me


motivate myself




picked up on it





bottled up

teenage years







I threw myself into it

to give this my all

lift weights

a positive effect



in control



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:

Depression a mental condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency and dejection.

I have suffered from depression for years, but finally made the decision to talk to someone about it.”

Discussion Questions

What do you think of Marlon’s story?

What is depression?

Do you know anyone that has depression?

If someone has depression, what can they do? Is there a cure for it?

What are the signs or symptoms of depression?

Is depression a mental illness?

How is depression regarded in your country?

If someone has depression in your country, what help can they get?

Do you ever get ‘the blues’?

Or do you ever feel down about something?

What things make you feel down in your life?

How can you improve these things?

In the article, Marlon mentions three things that he used to help him with his depression:

  • Journaling

  • Exercise

  • Meditation

Do you think there is any value in using these things to help beat depression?

How can they help with depression?

Have you ever done any of these things?

What other activities, exercises or practices can people do to help beat depression?

Is happiness overrated?

Do we put too much importance on being happy every day?

Is happiness a right? Or a privilege?

What things make you happy?

What other things do you need in your life to be happy?

Role Play

This is a role play activity.


There are two people in the role play:

Marlon — from the story above

Marlon’s doctor


The Situation

Marlon goes to visit his doctor. He says that he thinks he might have depression.

He gives some reasons why he thinks he has depression — sleeplessness, loss of appetite, no motivation — and says how long it has been going on.

The doctor listens, and then offers advice. He says that Marlon can try the following things to help overcome his depression:

  • Regular exercise

  • Meditation

  • Writing a journal

Marlon wants the doctor to give him some medication to help ease the symptoms of depression. But the doctor is very reluctant to do this.

The doctor must be patient and very sympathetic in this role play. He is trying to help someone with a very serious mental health issue.


Take some time to prepare your role play, then show the class.

You must treat this activity with seriousness and great sympathy. You are dealing with a very sensitive issue.

You can download the full lesson plan by clicking the link below!

You can also join my mailing list by clicking the link below. I will send you new guides, articles and lesson plans when I publish them.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top