Pirates from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Illusrated by Giuseppe Palumbo. ©Helbling

Who doesn’t like pirates? We have all read a story or watched a film or sung a song  featuring pirates. One of the most fun international days is International Talk Like a Pirate Day on 19th September. We invite you to dedicate a lesson to pirates and build activities on resources related to them. Talking about pirates is not only engaging and motivating, but it also offers language development opportunities for younger and older students alike.

Here are resources which can be good starting points for a pirate lesson.


Choose any of the five Pirates of the Caribbean film trailers with Johnny Depp. As you are watching it, ask your students to spot things which are typical of pirates. Write the words on the board and then use them to retell the plot previewed in the trailer.

Words might include:

  • white shirt
  • boots
  • long coat
  • baldric (a belt for a sword)
  • belt
  • bandana
  • bottle (for rum)
  • Jolly Roger (the pirate flag)
  • hook
  • leather eye patch
  • ship
  • sails
  • wooded (or peg) leg
  • parrot
  • treasure
  • coins
  • deserted island


In Something to Say, our resource book with ready-to-use speaking activities offers three sets of questions to to interview pirates. Here are some examples from the first set.

Ten questions to ask a pirate

  1. What’s the most exciting thing about being the captain of a pirate ship?
  2. And the second most exciting thing?
  3. Can you tell us when and how you first became a pirate?
  4. What are the rules that all your crew members must obey?
  5. What happens to anyone who breaks your rules?
  6. What happens to anyone who insulted you or your mother?
  7. Who gave you that terrible scar you have on your right cheek?
  8. Where is this person now?
  9. Moving on, your men  all look incredibly dangerous: Where do you find them?
  10. You seem to prefer crew members who are very young. Why is that?

You will find more questions to ask the everyday pirate, and two more sets of questions to ask a gentleman and a lady pirate.



The most famous classic pirates can be found in two stories which are also available in our Helbling Readers series. Read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. Talk about the stories, describe the pirates in the stories and talk about their roles.


An original story

We also recommend an original story written for elementary level learners. David and the Black Corsair written by Martyn Hobbs and illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini.

  • What’s the story about? 

It’s not a good day for David. It’s his mum’s birthday but she rushes out without seeing his presents. It’s raining and he falls and hurts himself on his way into school. The lessons are either impossible or boring and he leaves his lunch at home. He feels very sorry for himself. Daniel the Black Corsair is feeling sorry for himself, too. He’s lost and lonely and far from home. Can David and Daniel feel happy again?


Watch this film trailer of the 1950 adaptation of Treasure Island and ask your students how it looks or sounds different from today’s trailers. Then, listen to the actor Robert Newton and repeat some of his phrases said in an accent.

Words that pirates use.

Ask your students to form group and use an online dictionary to find out what these words mean.

  1. Aarrr!
  2. Ahoy!
  3. Avast!
  4. Aye! Aye!
  5. cutlass
  6. Davy Jones’ Locker
  7. grog
  8. keelhaul
  9. matey
  10. pieces of eight

What other pirate-inspired stories or films do you know? Do you know any games (board games or video games) which feature pirates? Ask your students for recommendations and share them with us!

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