On this page you’ll find a few pieces of advice on how to use the ESL lesson plans posted on this site. The lesson plans can be used as a stand-alone course, as a supplement to any coursebooks you might use, or as part of an exam preparation course. There are two types of lesson plans: General English and Business English.
► CEFR Levels
The lesson plans are aimed at adult English learners who are at an intermediate or more advanced level whose main focus is on improving their fluency and confidence when speaking English.
In addition to improving fluency, each lesson plan is designed to give students an opportunity to practise their listening, reading and writing skills, as well as having their grammar assessed by their English teacher. Each lesson is centred around a specific topic which also allows the students to build up their vocabulary.
The focus of the time spent in the class is on speaking and improving fluency (giving the students the best value for their money). The reading task is done before the class and the writing task is done for homework after the class. To save time in the class, the listening activity can also be completed before the class.
Each lesson lasts 45 to 60 minutes on average for one student if the listening task is completed at home before the class. This time depends on a number of factors such as the level the students are at, how much they are willing to talk about a given topic or how much they know about it, and the number of students in the class.
Depending on the length of your classes and the structure of the courses you teach, you may decide to choose two topics per class, or simply move onto the next topic whenever the previous one finishes, whether that is during a class or in the next class. The focus of the lessons are on speaking, so regardless of when you move on, the students will spend the same amount of time speaking in the class.
Some of the topics may be considered controversial depending on the particular student or the culture they are from. Always use your own judgement on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not a particular topic would be suitable for your students.
The lesson plans have not been categorised by CEFR level. The reasons for doing so are explained in this article. Very briefly, to categorise conversation topics according to the CEFR would require knowledge of which topics your students are familiar with, and which topics they are not. I recommend sending a list of the lesson plans to your students and let them decide which topics they want to talk about. Presumably, they choose topics they are interested in or familiar with. As they progress, you can add more unfamiliar topics for them to discuss to help improve their level of speaking.
At the end of each ESL lesson plan page, you will see the links to download your copy of the lesson plan and a copy for the students (this version does not contain the answer sheet). All documents are in PDF format and are on A4 size paper. Please think about the environment before printing, but if you do need to print, remember to use the correct printer settings if you print on a different size paper (e.g. letter size).
On each ESL lesson plan page, you will find a link to an article related to the topic of the class. Send this article to the student when you send them their copy of the lesson plan. Ask the student to read the article before the class, ready for a short discussion about it at the start of the lesson.
The article is also to help the students develop their vocabulary. Tell the students to make a list of any new vocabulary words or phrases that they find. Students should try to find the meaning of these words or phrases but if they are unsure of anything, they should ask their teacher for a further explanation or for examples.
In every class, there is a video related to the topic of the class. Here, the lesson plans are slightly different for General English and Business English. In the General English lessons, the videos tend to last between 4 and 6 minutes. For the Business English lessons, the videos usually take the form of a 15 minute TED Talk.
For General English videos, there are a number of different question types intended to resemble questions students might encounter in an English exam like the IELTS, including multiple choice, sentence completion, and short answer. Whether students are at an intermediate or more advanced level, they can try to attempt answering all of the questions (as they would in the IELTS or TOEFL). If you do intend to use these lessons as exam preparation, you could tell students who want to take the IELTS to answer as they listen; otherwise, I recommend instructing the students to listen once all the way through to get the gist, again all the way through listening for the answers, then a final time pausing and repeating if necessary. After you have given the students the answers, the students might find it useful to listen again to see where the missing/incorrect answers are.
Students can do these activities at home to save time in the class to concentrate on the speaking and conversation activities. However, the problem here is that a number of students will be tempted to use the subtitles on the video. Explain to the students that subtitles should only be used as a last resort and that they should attempt to answer the questions only by listening to the video. If they find that the speakers in the video talk too fast, they can change the playback speed of the videos by selecting ‘settings’ > ‘playback speed’ > ‘0.75’. This will slow the video down to 75% of its original speed.
If the students have done these activities at home, the answers can be checked at the relevant point in the class. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video to check their overall understanding and ask them to share any thoughts or opinions they had on the video content.
As the business topics are intended for more advanced students, the video activity in these lessons focuses more on an overall understanding of the ideas presented in the video so the students can have a conversation about them after. Here, students will watch the video before the class (or during if this considered appropriate) and in the class, they will be asked questions relating directly or indirectly to the ideas and themes raised in the video. This allows students more time in the class to improve their conversation skills and fluency.
Each class introduces 6 words or phrases related to the theme of the class. Although not always possible, and depending on the particular student and their level, ‘less common’ words and phrases have been chosen which will hopefully boost their vocabulary and could help the students achieve a higher vocabulary score if they intend to take an international exam such as IELTS or TOEFL.
Briefly explain the vocabulary to the students in the class then ask them to complete the cloze activity to test their comprehension. Make sure to explain that they will need to use the correct form of the verb (conjugation, tense, passive, gerund or to-infinitive) and decide whether any nouns should be singular or plural.
After this, there is a set of conversation questions to further test the students’ comprehension of these words and phrases. In the writing task for homework, the students should also try and use these words and phrases if possible.
In addition to the conversation questions in the vocabulary section (and in the video section for Business English), there are two speaking activities that form the main focus of each lesson.
The discussion questions at the beginning of the class allow students to give their initial thoughts on the topic of the class. These questions are usually of a lower-intermediate to intermediate level and based on the students’ own experiences or on issues they are more familiar with (although this can change depending on the topic). This section is designed to mimic the type of questions students may find in Part 1 of the IELTS speaking task.
The final in-class activity is a more in-depth conversation on the theme of the class. These questions are usually of an intermediate to more advanced level (using lots of conditional questions, for example). This section is designed to resemble Part 3 of the IELTS speaking task and focuses more on issues affecting society as a whole or on more abstract ideas.
Each question is designed to be a mini conversation starter, so you don’t need to just stick to the questions that are written. Encourage students to develop their ideas by asking related questions (or have the other students ask these questions) to keep the conversation flowing.
Students should be encouraged (either by the teacher or by the other students) to explain their answers (where relevant) as this is an important skill to develop for English exams, persuading people at work, or just in general when expressing opinions.
For General English, there are two options for the writing homework that students will complete after the lesson. These tasks allow the students to practise their writing skills and improve their grammar. They are also encouraged to try and use some of the vocabulary they learned earlier in the class to further internalise these words and phrases.
The first option is simply to write about their opinion of the topic (the lesson plan gives students a few ideas about what to write about, but this is just a suggestion in case they don’t have any ideas of their own). The second option is to answer an essay-style question about the class topic for students who want to practise their essay-writing skills for one of the English exams.
For Business English, students will complete a business-style writing activity. This could be an email to their boss, a report to their board of directors or a letter to customers. This would be a good opportunity to explain these styles to the students if they’re not already familiar with them.
Some students are not interested in improving their writing skills or perhaps they don’t have time for a lot of homework after a busy day at work and that’s fine, but make sure the student is aware that they have this opportunity and that it will help to improve their overall level of English. Explain that the writing homework can just be a short paragraph if that’s all they have time for – anything is better than nothing.
There are no specific activities dedicated to grammar topics in the lesson plans. ESL teachers should make an individual assessment of each student to determine what extra activities their students might need in this respect.
Students at a lower-intermediate or intermediate level may need to be allocated time in some of the classes to follow a grammar program to help them raise their level of English. Those at a higher level may only need to be reminded of their grammatical errors in the class.
The writing tasks are a good source for teachers to highlight and explain any grammatical errors students make. If these errors are repeated, it might be an idea to spend part of the lesson explaining their errors and setting activities for the students to practise this grammar for homework.