Damon Galgut, The Good Doctor (Lesson Plan 1)

How to introduce students to Damon Galgut’s novel “The Good Doctor”, which is set in post-apartheid South Africa? The following teaching ideas are suitable for groups on a B2 level (CEFR) and do not require any prior knowledge of the text.

Introductory Session (Adult Education, B2)

Time: 120 min.


  • Getting to know each other by discussing the importance of first impressions
  • Vocabulary (outward appearance)
  • Introducing EFL students to Damon Galgut’s The Good Doctor (page 1-3)

You never get a second chance to make a first impression

Students exchange views about what they notice when they meet a person for the very first time.

In pairs or groups they work through a list of discussion questions about the importance of first impressions. You may want to start with www.eslconversationquestions.com/first-impressionsMake sure to draw students’ attention to useful collocations which refer to appealing or unappealing characteristics (like a firm/limp/hearty handshake or a warm/forced/fake smile).


First impressions in “The Good Doctor”

Students read page 1 – 3 and answer the following questions.

1 What is Frank’s first impression of Laurence Waters, the new doctor?

Laurence is a tall, slim, boyish, casually dressed, pale (“biscuit-coloured”) young man with an unexpectedly deep voice. When he arrives, he is not sure whether he is in the right place (Is this the hospital?”). He seems bewildered, confused and at a loss. He does not let go of his bag as if he might leave again soon. Frank believes that Laurence is not cut out to be a doctor in this part of the country: “he won’t last”.

2 What is the reader’s first impression of Frank Eloff, the experienced doctor?

At first, Frank does not like the idea of getting a roommate, but then he begins to look forward to it. It is astonishing that there are no personal items in his room like family pictures, books or souvenirs from holidays. Is he lonely?

Frank feels for Laurence; he was “shocked and depressed” himself when he first arrived at the hospital. However, he cannot take the newcomer seriously, because Frank has far more life (and work) experience.

3 What is our first impression of the hospital where Frank and Laurence work?

The hospital is deserted. There are no patients, visitors or nurses around when Frank and Laurence meet for the first time. The office is dusty, the plants are wilting. The doctors’ bedroom is “ugly and bare” and reminds one of a “bleak hotel”. The walls are cracked and mouldy, the windows broken. Outside, weeds grow in the joints of the pavement, the fountain has long been out of order. It is like walking through “A ghost town”.

First impressions given by the book cover

If time allows, students may finally take a closer look at the cover photo of the Cornelsen edition and compare it to the description of the hospital. The predominant colours are a shabby white and a cold green. The rusty metal bed frames, the crumpled bed sheets and the rough floor certainly do not give the impression as if patients were professionally cared for. Who would want to ask for medical treatment in a hospital today which looks like a museum or a remnant of the 19th century? 


Image Citation:

Damon Galgut, The Good Doctor. Berlin, Cornelsen, 2015


Student Nurse- Life at St Helier Hospital, Carshalton, Surrey, 1943. This  photograph D 12828 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums is in the public domain.

Multiple Thoughts Man Line Art. Adapted. URL: https://openclipart.org/detail/223115/multiple-thoughts-man-line-art (Public Domain)

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