We Are All Criminals Now — a Talking Points lesson plan for reading & speaking

Do we all commit crimes on a daily basis?

Are we all criminals now?

This lesson plan is about petty crimes that people commit regularly — and then punished for these crimes.

This is a highly engaging topic that your students will love. Use the lesson plan today in your English class.

You can download the full and complete lesson plan by clicking the link below.

Many thanks!





Have you ever broken the law? Can you tell the class about it?

Is it common to break the law do you think?




What crimes have you committed recently? Think carefully because most people like to think they never break the law. But in fact, many of us commit a crime, even though only a minor misdemeanour, almost every day.

Such crimes could be any of the following:

  • Taking a pen from the office and using it at home
  • Jaywalking across the street
  • Finding money on the sidewalk and keeping it
  • Throwing a small candy wrapper in the gutter

These are real crimes. Crimes that, if you were caught by a policeman, you could receive a fine or some other punishment.

Top legal experts argue that it is almost impossible to not break the law. As soon as you leave the house, you are committing a petty crime.

Take, for example, the case of the man who found a lost wallet on the street. He picked it up, checked the inside and found the owner’s name inside. He then put it in his pocket intending to take it to the police station.

Unfortunately, he did not get that far. Another person witnessed him picking it up and immediately called the police. The police arrived and promptly arrested the man.

He pleaded innocence but a nearby security camera saw everything.

The man had to go to court and was advised to plead guilty. He did so and had to go to prison for two weeks.

Then there is the case of the couple taking photographs of each other in the city. The man took a picture of his wife in front of a beautiful building. However, no photography was permitted in front of this building. A policeman arrived on the scene and took the couple to the police station for questioning.

They were both badly shaken up but were allowed to leave after deleting all the pictures they took on that day.

Finally, there is the story of a young woman who crossed the road at a pedestrian crossing. But was still arrested.

Why? Because when she crossed the road her foot momentarily left the black and white stripes of the pedestrian crossing. This is regarded as jaywalking and the woman had to pay a hefty fine.

A tough lesson to learn over something so trivial but the law is the law.

Many people argue that the law is so complex that it is impossible to know of every single law of the land. But the courts often say that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

So people go about their lives believing they are law-abiding citizens when in fact they are criminals.

There is also the notion of when we travel abroad. How can we possibly know the law in a foreign land? Many people are arrested because they did something without knowing there could be serious repercussions afterwards.


Essential Vocabulary



break the law

minor misdemeanour



candy wrapper




legal experts

petty crime





pleaded innocence

security camera



plead guilty


on the scene

shaken up


pedestrian crossing





hefty fine

tough lesson


the law is the law




no excuse







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 studying.

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




  1. Have you ever broken the law? What laws have you broken? Tell the class.
  1. Try to think of a list of petty crimes that people commit on a daily basis. Things like jaywalking and littering. Brainstorm and come up with 8 more items.
  1. What is the thinking behind breaking these laws? Do people just not care? Why not?
  1. What do you think of the man who found the wallet? Was it fair that he was arrested and sent to prison?
  1. Do you think the man was telling the truth? Maybe he was a thief anyway and just stealing the wallet. What do you think?
  1. Is taking photographs legal in your city? What can people take pictures of? What can they not take pictures of?
  1. Did the couple who took a picture of the building break the law? Should there be a sign to tell them not to take pictures?
  1. What are the laws about crossing the road in your country? Tell the class.
  1. Did the young woman crossing the road in the article really break the law? Or was the policeman being petty?
  1. What new laws would you like to see in your country? Tell the class your ideas.


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2 thoughts on “We Are All Criminals Now — a Talking Points lesson plan for reading & speaking”

  1. With 2020 and now 2021 I’m more certain than ever that there are too many stupid laws/rules that don’t allow a person to be creative or think ‘outside’ of the box. Are we sheep, just following every little rule? Is there no merit to logic anymore? I personally prefer countries and rural areas with few rules. Many laws are outgrowths of bureaucracy which is a horrible anti-human control mechanism. The golden rule and a few important rules for our safety are all we need.

    1. Yes, I completely agree, Leona! Too many rules and regulations. Food for thought in an ESL class and room for lots of discussion.

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