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:
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.
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:
- fair trade and money (they felt both were smaller categories)
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):
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.
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
- ELTchat summary: how to teach business English with minimal experience of being in the business world
- The IATEFL BESIG (Business English special interest group) have a very active website. They also have a series of webinars, many of which are recorded, as well as a blog. There is also a #BESIG hashtag on Twitter, which is often added to posts about business English.
- International House provide an online Business English Training course. I did this face-to-face during my first year of teaching and found it really useful. I have done other IH courses online, and they are just as useful!
- Paul Emmerson has a very comprehensive website, including a professional development section. You can also watch a webinar he did for Macmillan called ‘Ten Top Tips for Business English‘
- Karenne Sylvester has a wide-ranging blog, with quite a large business section. She often posts things about using TED talks, which I think would be great for higher level business students.
- Tony Myers’ blog is business English specific and you can raid the blog roll (on the right) to find some more useful links.
- Evan Frendo has a blog called English for the Workplace with reflections and advice for business English teachers
- Mike Riley has a management blog for teachers, but some of the tools he shares could be useful for you. For example, I downloaded this app designed to help you improve your management skills.
- Dale Coulter is a dogme teacher who I met at the TESOL France conference. His blog is full of useful ‘lesson skeletons’ which can be adapted to all kinds of teaching.
- John Hughes has business English lessons and training tips buried in his teacher training blog. Here are three examples: one, two, three.
- Although it has no specific Business English tag or category, the Pete Sharma Associates blog has a number of posts which could be useful to business English teachers interested in technology.
- Oxford University Press have a section of their blog entitled ‘Business and English for Specific Purposes‘ with many useful posts
- The English for Specific Purposes section of One Stop English includes posts relevant to business English
- Global English is an interesting mix of articles discussing how English is viewed within businesses and economies around the world.
- IH Barcelona have their own list of useful websites for teaching business English
- 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!
Photo taken from eltpics by @aClilToClimb
P.S. Good luck Katy!
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.
- 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.
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.