EFL lessons

Emily Harris



tell about howjsay

- Speed dating

- Speed debating

- Taboo

- Pictionary

- Idiom themes: food (piece of cake, icing on the cake)

- Commonly confused words (affect, effect)

General key parts

- Grammar

- Translation or sentence correction

- Idioms, collocations, phrasal verbs, false friends

- Listening exercise or video

- Pronunciation, stressed syllable

First Lesson and ice breakers

  • Who Has...

Write down several questions on sheets of paper that begin with “Who has” such as “Who has the farthest commute to work?” Give one question to each student and have them locate the student who matches the question. After every student has found their respondent, have each student read their question, announce the respondent they found and offer any additional information they learned. For example, the student may say, “Sarah has the longest commute to work; she drives 35 miles both ways to her job.”

  • What Am I?

What Am I? is best for intermediate to advanced students. Find some blank adhesive tags, and write random nouns on them. Place the tags on the students' foreheads, making sure they don't see what it says. Have the students mingle, with each student asking “yes” or “no” questions about what they are. You can also use the names of famous people.

Warm up exercises


Speaking and conversation

  • What Happened?

Find pictures of people expressing emotions ranging from ecstatic to anxious to use as props. Divide the class into little groups and ask them to discuss what had just happened in each picture. Help the groups along if they are struggling. This works well with creative students or those with a quirky sense of humor. If your students enjoy this conversation starter, the variations are almost endless; all you need is a picture of practically anything  — people, an empty room, a broken window, a street at night and so on.

Discussion topics

  • Family

With older students, you can explore this topic by asking them about birth order and whether they think birth order affects personality and career. You can discuss sibling rivalry, the best age to marry and their opinions about the divorce rate in society. With more advanced students, the key is to make sure they continually use new vocabulary words and that they explain their opinions.

  • Travel

At an advanced level, you can ask students to share stories about the worst or best travel experience they've ever had, or have them share what their ideal vacation would be and why. Alternatively, you could ask them to talk about their native country and its national cuisine, fashion, art, sports and entertainment.


  • "The Internet Needs to Be More Strongly Regulated."

This topic is likely to work well in most classes and with most language levels as it is relevant to most students, and even those with limited language skills are likely to be familiar with much of the vocabulary.

Before the debate begins, review or teach key language such as, “websites,” “search engines,” “browsers,” “pornography,” violent images,” “blocked,” “inappropriate,” “Google,” “international terrorism,” “freedom,” “malware,” “regulated,” “viruses,” and “spam.”

  • "Smoking Should Be Banned in Public Places."

This debate topic is useful during any course where you have been teaching vocabulary and structures related to health.

Before the debate revise key vocabulary such as, “lungs,” “cancer,” “cost to the public,” “nicotine,” “addictive,” “healthy,” “passive smoking,” “chain smoker,” “smoking-related illnesses,” “second-hand smoke” and so on. This is likely to be an emotive topic and lively debate so be prepared to remind students of the debate rules.

  • "The Death Penalty Should Be Abolished in all Countries."

This topic works especially well with more advanced classes from intermediate level upwards who have the language to express abstract ideas.

Before the debate begins review or teach key language such as, “electric chair,” “lethal injection,” “innocent,” “guilty,” “jury,” “inhuman,” “legal,” “law,” “rights,” “crime,” “murder,” “abolished” and “court.”

  • “Aliens live on Earth.”

Conversation games

  • What Would You Do? (CONNECTED TO 2nd CONDITIONAL)

Students practice using the second conditional in this activity. It is suitable for students at an intermediate level and higher. Ask the students to write down five things they would change about their countries if they were the leader--for example, "I'd cut taxes by 20 percent" or "I'd ban smoking in the street." After five minutes or when everyone has finished, arrange the class into groups of three. Each student takes it in turn to read out his sentences. The other students respond by saying whether they think it would be a good idea or a bad idea and why. For example, one response might be, "I think banning smoking in the street would be a bad idea as it would take away people's personal freedom."


In this activity, students practice using modal verbs, which include such words as "can," "must," "may," "might," will," "would" and "should." It is suitable for students at a lower intermediate level and higher. Divide the class into groups of three or four students and tell them they have been chosen to build a colony on Mars. Ask them to discuss, and decide on, ten rules for their new colony. For example, "We need to be careful of water, so I think the first rule should be 'You have to limit your daily shower to two minutes." After twenty minutes, stop the activity and ask each group to read its rules to the class.

  • Lifeboat

"Lifeboat" gives students practice using assorted tenses and language forms. It is suitable for students at a lower intermediate level and higher. Divide the class into groups of four or five. Explain to the students that they are the only survivors from a shipwreck and are adrift in a lifeboat in the open sea. Unfortunately, they are getting very hungry and must decide which one of the group they will eat. Students take it in turns to explain why they shouldn't be the one eaten and why another member of the group is more suitable. For example, "I'm very skinny, so you wouldn't get much meat off me. Besides, I'm training to be a doctor so I will be saving lives in the future. Rodrigo looks far more tasty, don't you think?" Stop the activity after twenty minutes and ask the students to vote on who should be eaten.


A spoken English class relies on games and conversation to practice grammar, instead of the worksheets that would be more common in a general ESL class. Because spoken English goes by so quickly, though, catching grammatical errors without derailing the conversation can be tricky. To get around this, use a game like a circular story: In groups of three to six, the students tell a communal story, taking turns adding sentences. One person in the group writes down each sentence verbatim. At the end of the story, the students go through the transcript and correct the grammar together.



Reason of writing (Introduction)

  • The aim/objective/purpose of this report is to compare/examine/evaluate/describe/outline (some suggestions)/analyse (some suggestions)/expose/present/give information on/regarding the/recommend/consider/suggest
  • This report aims to... etc.
  • Nouns: information (remember: not informations), ideas, suggestions, situations, conditions, comments
  • in order to improve/decide
  • In case of suvey/discussion: It is based on a survey conducted among/It is the result of a discussion which took place among

Body (2 paragraphs maximum)

  • Headings from the task
  • It should be considered, it is worth considering
  • The first observation to make is (concerns)
  • First of all/Firstly
  • Secondly/ Furthermore/Moreover
  • Lastly/Finally
  • In fact
  • According to (the majority of respondents)
  • However, although, alternatively
  • In spite of (the fact [that])/Despite (the fact [that]) + Noun, Pronoun or ...ing
  • Predicting the future: The outlook for ... is (far from [+ing]) bright/optimistic/depressing/daunting
  • The future looks bleak/remains uncertain/is promising
  • This seems unlikely in the near/foreseable future
  • It has been stressed that

Making/giving recommendations

  • I would strongly recommend that ... should + bare infinitive
  • In the light of the results of the survey I would advise against...
  • I feel it would be to our advantage if...
  • The best solution is/would be to...
  • This will have an impact on + noun


  • As long as/provided that these recommendations are taken into consideration
  • In conclusion...
  • The research shows/demonstrates
  • From the research/the evidence we conclude that



Say it right

  • ESL students constantly strive for correct pronunciation. Prepare a set of flashcards with words on each side that sound similar, such as "fork" and "pork." Split students into two teams. Call two students from the first team to the board. Choose a card, write both words on the board, then show one of the students one side of the card, blocking it from view of the other student. The first student reads that word aloud, and the second student circles the word he hears on the board. If he circles the correct word, his team wins a point. Alternate between teams, being sure each student has a chance to both read and circle.

Teaching idioms

The English language is full of idioms (over 15,000). Native speakers of English use idioms all the time, often without realising that they are doing so. Non-native speakers must learn at least the most common ones in order to understand conversational English.

English idioms are an important component of natural English. Idioms are expressions that can not be taken literally, as the words used by themselves will convey a different meaning than when grouped together. Phrases such as "saved by the bell," "it's raining cats and dogs" and countless others are a common part of the English vernacular.


Watch television and read books. Everybody speaks differently, and simply collecting idioms won't show you how to use them naturally. Contemporary books, movies and television will show you how native English speakers use idioms. Pay attention to the speaker and the situation, as using idioms is very contextual.

Topic 1: Globalisation

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