Good ESL link- 10 Fun Activities for Business English classes

This week- I was looking for some fresh ideas for the classroom as warmup and came across this useful selection of ideas. I personally am going to try the ‘selling lemons’ activity tomorrow!

10 Fun Activities for Business English classes.

I hope someone else finds it useful!


The elevator pitch- for Business ESL

Years back when I was working in an office back home, at a meeting our boss had tasked us all with the idea of thinking out what our

Elevator pitch would be. This was a new concept to me and at the time I didn’t think it very relevant to me as I was simply working in a customer support role; most of the people I dealt with already knew what the product was (and often weren’t very happy with it, but that is another story).

Years later I have been teaching at business classes mainly for a number of years now and my mind often comes to what sort of practical speaking exercises I can use in my class. Finally the whole spirit behind the Elevator Pitch makes sense to me and is a great no prep activity you can walk into class and get your students to prepare and do without taking up too much time.

1. Setup

First the students need to know what an elevator pitch is.

I would start by loading up an image of two people talking in an elevator on my iPad and asking the students what you imagine they are talking about (of course you could print one out or find one in a magazine if you don’t have a tablet). Talk as a group or get them to brainstorm in pairs and then tell the class.

After that has run it’s course- tell them that they are,in fact,  talking about one man’s company. In fact he is giving an elevator pitch.

What is an elevator pitch you ask? Well the basic idea is- a presentation that explains what your company is and does in the time it takes to ride an elevator (my boss many years ago said “imagine that someone asks you about your company at the beginning of an elevator ride- you have until that person gets off on the 7th floor to explain in detail to them”). If that wasn’t descriptive enough- you can derive your own explanation from the wikipedia page here.

2. Help to fill out their ideas. Brainstorm.

Take a few minutes to brainstorm together what they think are the key points that you should talk about. There is really no perfect answer and it may depend on what industry they are in or what company they work for as to what is important for them to talk about. Fill out with some ideas of your own. This article may give you some ideas to add to the list or other ways you may want to coach them.

3. Plan.

Have them write out what they want to say. Set a time limit to this, the speech doesn’t need to be very long, so they shouldn’t require too long to plan. If you have a student who is struggling, focus on them to get them moving along- but for the most part circulate and tighten their grammar and provoke ideas.

4. Do.

Depending on how important speech making is for your curriculum, you may want to add a feedback session where the students say something positive about each person’s speech, write out some comments anonymously or just a Q and A session.

Oh, if you are wondering how long is an elevator ride, according to this article an average elevator ride in New York is 118 seconds.

If you have any similar class ideas I would love to hear them or read about them in your blogs! Let me know!

Good blog post- A lesson on Business Negotiation

I was trying to find some resource to help me to teach negotiations in a non-threatening manner. A lot of the materials I have at my disposal are a little heavy or not focused enough.

I came across this well laid out plan that draws on a few different resources and used Market Leader Intermediate a little bit, though it could be taught without ML- and focus on brainstorming that part on the White board.

I really liked this one and I hope that she will post more class breakdowns like this!


Idiom site and my idiom – Put your foot in your mouth

Recently I have reflected that I haven’t been using idioms enough in the classroom. As I remember from when I studied how to teach English, they had said that higher level students are mostly learning phrasal verbs and idioms to improve their communicative ability. I would take this one step further and start to introduce them to students as early as possible- in the beginning I would pick easy to imagine idioms (ones where the meaning isn’t totally far from the literal translation) and start to branch out when they are ready.

Sometimes the web provides inspiration for what phrases to teach and how to do so. I came across this great site;

She has very simply laid out a bunch of idioms and explains things in an easy to understand manner. Great to glean ideas from.

Of course at times we have to come up with our own ideas, so I will try one out now;

To put one’s foot in their mouth.

Meaning: When someone talks to much or sometimes says something that they shouldn’t have, we say that they put their foot in their mouth.

Imagery: It’s easy to imagine someone saying something that they shouldn’t have and in their embarrassment, feel the need to plug their mouth as soon as possible. A foot is large enough and very convenient to find , so fits the role easily as a plug.

Example: John really put his foot in his mouth when he told called Mr. Anderson stupid at the meeting.


1. Have you ever put your foot in your mouth (said something you shouldn’t have?)

2. Is there a similar saying in your language?

Into the fire- that first class

English: A black and white icon of a teacher i...

English: A black and white icon of a teacher in front of a class, with dialogue bubbles indicating class discussion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the students;

– into the fire– is to be placed into a high pressure situation relatively under-prepared.

– thrown to the wolves- is to be placed in a hostile situation.

I remember my first job teaching English. It was about 10 years ago in Tokyo and I was hired within about a month by an English school with a few locations around the town.

I had no concept of what to do in a class. The only training they offered was a little bit of guidance, I could watch about 3-4 classes, then I got thrown into the fire. They said they would later offer ‘little tweaks’ they would like me to follow.

Soon after I sat in on a couple of classes- a teacher called in sick and they called me to duty way before I was prepared. I guess every mother bird has to try to push their little babies out of their nests at one time or another. But I was not ready. They threw me to the wolves- the class was a vicious pack of 8 year-old kids.  I froze mid class- couldn’t control or communicate with them. The head teacher had to come in and take over the class. It was an utter failure.

What went wrong? I would suppose that some people excel at taking over just with a little guidance what to do. People probably enjoy that freedom and trust and can conceptualize and engage with minimal instruction. They can eat up the nudges and criticism and adapt quickly- it just killed my confidence every time they called me into the office. I still feel that the teacher training was insufficient. This sort of business practice is reckless and  threatens the success of any business owner who thinks that is a good way to run a company in an industry that really relies on human to human contact. I guess turnover is high in these schools so actually having a proper training regimen would be a waste of time but you need to arm the teacher with the right skills and communication style to help them get by.

In looking at my TESOL course we started by looking at different ways people learn and study and I realized that their system catered to a certain type of person but I wasn’t in that group. This site has some interesting information about the different learning styles there are;

In preparing the training of new teachers you need a more broad and informative training system and as an employer you need to start your new staff out with the understanding of how you expect to conduct the class with no room for uncertainty.

useful phrases for opinions

I have been trying to shift my focus in recent days to work on getting a TESOL certificate. I checked a few sites and settled on a Canadian based site called ONTESOL. A search of reviews turned up many positive reviews and they are a Canadian based school- so it seemed like a no-brainer. As I may get busy again and I am more looking to sharpen my skills and show some sort of credentials I stuck with the shorter 100 hour course. It looks like it will be able to provide exactly what I want and may be the launch pad for me to undertake more online studying (thinking about my lack of Bachelor Degree…)

Today I wanted to put together a brief quiz to use as a time filler at the end of class if we end up having some to spare on Friday. The whole course is based on Presentation skills. I have talked every time about some points related to making the presentation and have had them giving speeches with some discussion each week. Now I want to focus on the language and skills associated with giving opinions.

As time was short I wanted to find a reference list  of some key phrases and came up with this useful blog post;

After I developed the phrases into 4 groups of 3 sentences each and I would ask them which is the strongest opinion and which is lightest- each group would be a springboard for discussion about why we chose our answers. If anyone is interested I can send you the questions I came up with (just personal message me with your contact details). Though as the main ideas came from someone else’s brainstorming I didn’t want to post them in my blog.

Great visuals for lesson

I love using visuals in classes but actually find I don’t end up using them as much as I  would like to.

Today, I came across this great slideshow of pictures that ‘made our week’ according to Time magazine:

Most of the pictures have some great detail or interesting points. There are many ways to use these in a class:

—  assign one picture each to a student and get them to either describe the picture or try to tell the back story of the picture- depending on the needs and level of the students.

—  look at each picture together and talk about how the picture makes them feel, the emotions that are expressed in the picture or as a launchpad for discussion.

— a variant on a commercially sold game called Stare- you can allow one student to look at a picture for a minute to memorize as much detail as possible. After the minute give the picture to the other students and have them ask questions in turn to test the first student’s memory- a great communicative game.

Or you can just enjoy the pictures, some of them really left an impression on me.