"If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem."

J. Paul Getty (1892 – 1976), British-American petroleum industrialist
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This free ESL lesson plan on banks has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

When we deposit our money in banks, we expect them to keep it safe for us. What they actually do is give it away to other people or businesses in order to charge them interest to make their profits. But what happens when these people or businesses don’t repay their debts? That’s what happened in the global banking crisis of 2008 when millions lost their homes, jobs and savings. In the modern world, unless we keep our money in shoeboxes under our beds, everybody needs to use banking services. This could simply be somewhere to receive your wages and save your money, or as a means of buying a house or starting a business. In this ESL lesson plan on banking, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as different banking services, whether banks can be trusted to keep our money safe, and how to 2008 banking crisis happened.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for the International Day of Banks, which takes place in December. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

CNBC | Bank branches will be ‘as common as a Blockbuster’ store, ex-Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins says

The article predicts that banks will shut down most of their physical branches as more and more services go online. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “Banking Explained – Money and Credit” by Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell which looks at the history of banking, what services are offered by banks, and alternative methods of accessing credit.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the students’ experience using banks, jobs you can do in a bank, and how banks make money.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with banking services such as borrow, lend and offshore. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about banks. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as the pros and cons of credit cards, online banking, and the influence banks have over society.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of banks and banking. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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