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Lesson Plan: Using pain scales

Using pain scales
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In this lesson, students learn how to discuss pain effectively with a patient, focusing on using a pain scale. It includes, speaking, listening and role play activities.

B2 level

Teacher Notes

●    Topic: pain scales

●    Timing: 30–50 minutes

●    Lesson Type/Focus: speaking and listening


●      Speaking: discuss pain and pain scales, practise a doctor-patient conversation

●      Listening: listen for gist and detail


The focus of the lesson is using pain scales. The speaking activity introduces the topic and gives students the opportunity to share their ideas and experience. The listening activities practise listening for gist and specific vocabulary. The final speaking activity practises a doctor-patient conversation about pain.

Note: This lesson supports the language introduced in the following:

●       Course: English for Doctors

●       Unit: Talking about Pain

●       Module: ‘Using pain scales’ page 5

Teaching Guide & Answer Key

Part 1: speaking

Put students into pairs or small groups and ask them to discuss questions 1–3 on the student worksheet.

Encourage them to share examples from their own experience.

Do whole class feedback to discuss and share answers.

Suggested answers

  1. What do you think affects a patient’s perception of their pain level?
    Pain perception can be affected by culture (some cultures express their feelings about pain more easily than others), the permission they give themselves to feel pain (some patients do not feel that they should complain about pain), their fear of treatment if patients admit to pain, and their fear of what pain may indicate, e.g. may indicate a serious illness.


  1. What are some ways a patient might describe the pain they are feeling?
    Students’ own answers may include:
    Pain may be described as ‘like something’, e.g. like a knife in my side
    Pain may be described in reference to restrictions on daily life, e.g. It’s so painful that I can’t concentrate o
    n my work

  2. How can using a pain scale help both patients and doctors?

It provides patients with a structure to help them label and categorise their pain for something that is very subjective. It helps doctors provide the appropriate pain relief and see how the pain is impacting their ability to function in their daily lives.
Some pain scales also use facial expressions which give non-verbal cues about pain level

Download the complete lesson plan and student worksheet:


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