Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher

Posts tagged ‘business English’

Crisis at Clifton – Richmond Mazes

Richmond have recently released a series of readers with a difference, called ‘Richmond Mazes’, written by Alastair Lane and James Styring. They are:

  • based on the idea of choose your own adventure, where you make choices that determine what happens next in the story.
  • available as a book or an app. If you choose the book, you can download the audio to accompany it.
  • aimed at young adults and adults learning English, with the first four titles set in work situations.
  • currently available at elementary and intermediate levels. There are two books at the moment:
    Escape from Pizza Palace (Elementary) – book / app
    Crisis at Clifton (Intermediate) – book / app

I was given a code to try the app version of ‘Crisis at Clifton‘ out, thanks to Ela Wassell. This is how Richmond describe the story:

You have just started a new job at a fashionable advertising agency in Sydney. From the first day you learn that the company is in crisis. If your client doesn’t sign a new contract, the company will go bankrupt. You must create a successful new advertising campaign, keep your client happy, deal with your colleagues… and save the Clifton Creative Agency! You will find lots of useful business vocabulary presented in a natural context in this maze. As well as improving your English, you will learn lots of interesting things about the advertising industry. Good luck finding your way through the maze!

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It took me about an hour to go through the whole story, and I found a lot of things I liked about the format, not least the fact that even though it was quite late, I kept reading because I wanted to know what would happen next. I used to love choose-your-own-adventure books as a child for exactly this reason!

The story is illustrated throughout, with characters looking straight out at the reader, so it seems like they’re talking to you. This is the first page, which sets the scene for the story. It’s one of the longest texts in the version of the maze I went through, with never more than a single iPad screen’s worth of text before you make a decision or click on ‘continue’.

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At the end of most sections, there is a box offering you a variety of choices about what should happen next. This means students have to think about what they’ve read to be able to make the right choice, instead of just reading passively. They have to pay attention to key language to help them understand. You click to go to the next section, and you can click ‘back’ at any point.

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If you make a different decision after clicking ‘back’, the app notifies you and asks if you’re sure. You can see all the decisions you’ve made in a handy summary by clicking on ‘My route’ at the bottom of the screen. You can go back to any of these decisions by clicking on it.

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The stars show bonus points, which are available in every chapter for making the best decisions. In the book there are special pages where you can record any information you need to, including your bonus points and extra information that will help you later.

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If you make a bad decision which will cause problems for the company, you see a message which tells you the problem, and takes you back to the start of the chapter.

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I only got 5 bonus points through the whole story (out of a possible 16), so when I got to the end I was told “To improve the ending you have to win more bonus points”. This takes you back to the start, so you can try the story again.

I like the fact that you can try the story again and again and it will give you a different outcome each time. I think it would be quite a challenge to find all of the bonus points, and could be motivating for students.

Words which could cause problems are all clickable, with simple definitions appearing. They are underlined throughout the story, not just the first time they appear.

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All communication which is referred to is presented in the relevant format. For example, an email looks like an email:

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There are also newspaper articles, memos, and other text types business English students might expect to encounter. Voice messages are recorded, not written out as text. There is also the option to show a tapescript if students need extra support.

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The voices are a mixture of Australian and other accents, including German. It’s refreshing to hear voices which aren’t just standard British or standard American pronunciation.

The story is written in the second person (‘you’), but I didn’t notice until I was on chapter 4, meaning it was very natural.

My only reservation is that the title and style of the story may not seem serious enough for some professionals. I think it would be particularly suitable for business English students who are still training, for example at university.

Overall, I enjoyed using the app, and I think it would be a motivating way for students to practise without realising that they’re working and learning at the same time. I’d really like to see something similar for general English students in the future.

Update (in response to a question): the app is £4.99 from the Apple store. I’m not sure if it’s available on Android.

Business: a lesson plan

On Monday I had a cover class with an upper intermediate business group I had not met before. I decided to start with a word and see how the lesson developed. This was the result:

business

We started with just the word ‘business’ on the board. The class discussed what this word meant to them, then added the results to a brainstorm on the board. We talked about any problem vocab and added a few extra words. One student wrote ‘Dow Jones’ so we added the names of other financial indexes and talked about how they worked. Using as much of the vocabulary on the board, students then worked in pairs to create a definition of business.

business?

I then added a question mark, and the students talked about what business should be. They came up with five categories in which businesses should bear responsibility:

  • strategy
  • sustainability
  • people
  • fair trade and money (they felt both were smaller categories)
  • society

Each pair took responsibility for one category and brainstormed specific areas of responsibility within their category. We then set up an onion ring system. [One person from each pair stands in an inner ring facing out, and the other stands in an outer ring facing in. To start with everyone faces their original partner (from the previous activity). One ring then moves round to face the next person in the circle. They share ideas and try to add to them for a specific time, before the whole ring moves round to the next people. By the end of the activity, one person in the inner ring should have spoken to every person in the outer ring and vice versa.] After speaking to five people and hearing about all of the other categories, the pairs sat together again and fed back on what they head and anything which they added to their own category.

The final step in the lesson was to create a short mission statement based on the ideas. We had a quick look at Ben & Jerry’s mission statement and chose some useful sentence stems to put on the board. The pairs then turned their notes into sentences for the mission statement. I typed them up after class, and the resulting statement is now on the board, and below for you to see (click to enlarge):

MIssion Statement of B2 business class

MIssion Statement of B2 business class 2

You can also download a copy.

If I had continued to teach the class for longer, I might have used this mission statement as the first in a series of lessons in which we set up a class company. The mission statement would form the foundation of any ‘decisions’ we made during the project.

I did feel that although there was a lot of speaking and a little writing in this class it wasn’t as challenging as it could have been for an upper intermediate class. I would be grateful for any suggestions to improve it.

Online resources for Business English teaching

One of my colleagues, Katy Simpson-Davies, is moving to Dubai, where she will be teaching business English. She asked me for some links to give her some ideas about how to improve her teaching for business, and we decided it would make a good blog post too.

The list is by no means exhaustive, just what I could find in my bookmarks and on Twitter when I was emailing Katy. She added more links once she’d had time to investigate, so this post is a joint effort. It is not intended to be a list of materials (although some of the sites include them), but rather ways to find out how to teach business English. Feel free to add other ideas in the comments!

Methodology and Resources

For learners

  • Christine Burgmer’s blog for business learners is a great resource, full of short and sweet posts to keep students interested.
  • Business Spotlight is a German-based magazine which also has an online arm. The website includes a number of blogs for business learners.

All of these links and more are on my diigo (social bookmarking) list for business English. It’s worth checking the tag too as I’m not sure if I remembered to include everything on the list!

I found out about all of these links through Twitter, where there is a huge community of teachers from all over the world. They are supportive and always happy to help other teachers out. To find out how to join this community, click here.

So now, grab a drink and something to eat, and get surfing!

Coffee, a snack and the internet

Photo taken from eltpics by @aClilToClimb

P.S. Good luck Katy!

How to give presentations in English

I created this set of resources for an Intermediate-level group. We used them over a series of five 1-hour lessons, with opportunities during the lessons for students to personalise the phrases. After each lesson I used Edmodo to share the part of the presentation we had done so that students could go over it again at home.

Notes:

  • Although it looks like it says “an Internet”, when you download the presentation you will find “an Internet connection”
  • The video links should all take you to youtube.
  • The ‘structure’ slide is also clickable and takes you to the relevant section of the presentation.
  • The slides with the phrases look messy here, but when you download it you should see that they work as a series of elicitation prompts. To see the phrases without downloading and clicking through the entire presentation, you can look at the ‘Did you remember?’ slides. These are also the best ones for the students to print as they should contain all of the most useful information. I know that having completely gapped sentences is difficult for students that first time they see the presentation, but in the lesson I skipped past them to the ones with the first letters and told students they would be more useful when they looked at the slides again.

We finished the unit yesterday, and next week they will do their own presentations for assessment. I will record them and give feedback based on language and technique.

Feel free to download the materials and adapt them as you see fit (crediting the source please). They are designed to be a cross between teaching materials and a presentation that could present to your group, demonstrating the techniques.

I would be grateful for any feedback you can give me so that I can improve them for future groups.

Enjoy!

Describing graphs

Here is a set of worksheets I made last year. I used them over a series of lessons with various groups at Intermediate and Upper Intermediate level. (They may take a while to load on this page)
Some of the activities are taken from other sources, in which case they should always be credited. If you believe I have used something which is uncredited, please let me know.
Feel free to use and adapt the worksheets however you see fit. They can be used in whatever order you see fit. I have tried to arrange them here with the more specific items at the beginning and the general summaries at the end. If you think any of the answers are missing or any of the information is incorrect, please let me know too.
Enjoy!











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