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August 09, 2008

Q & A - Teaching small Business English classes

Hello Readers,

If you've ever taught small classes, Business English or otherwise, you might have encountered a similar problem as this one:

Dear ESL Lesson Plan,

I have a small Business English class that is particularly difficult to plan for (two young women & their older boss who is one of the CEO's of their company). There is one young woman who comes regularly but the other two students are inconsistent. There are activities that I want to do with the students, but...

...either only the one woman attends or only one other shows & isn't familiar with the material we've been covering. We have a book & we us it, but it is rather dull for them because it only provides vocabulary for their particular area (finance), therefore it takes up only a small portion of the lesson. These people are highly advanced & need creative things to keep them motivated & energetic. I cannot play games with them every time as it is inappropriate for their level in their company, though I have found that they enjoy them once in a while.

These are good students (though homework is out of the question), fun, intelligent, etc. They crave structure but I am unsure how to give it to them & often feel that the class is floundering. If you have any suggestions, I'd be more than ecstatic to try them out (as appropriate).


Hi Laura,

Teaching small groups of students - whether it's Business English or general English - is often a challenging task. Whatever type of class you are teaching, it's good to do some kind of needs analysis with the class before you start, so that you can focus on particular areas of Business English. I often found that what my Business Students actually wanted and needed to learn, in addition to special terminology, was simply conversational skills. Once that need was identified, it was much easier to plan lessons.

For more information about needs analysis, follow this link: http://www.esl-lesson-plan.com/archives/2007/03/teacher_development_needs_analysis.php#more.

Once you have identified different areas to work on with each student individually and with the class collectively, then you might want to consider expanding your resources. One single coursebook is seldom enough for a Business English class.

Here are a few ideas for your lesson plans:

* news of the day (The Financial Times and The Economist are two magazines you might want to consider using): choose an article or an excerpt of one to discuss in the class.
* short presentations: have students report on an interesting new article related to their area of Business at the beginning of each class; encourage the other students to take notes on the presentation and to ask questions about the articles at the end of the presentation
* learner diaries: if students do not have time for homework, give students five minutes at the end of each class to write in their diary; things to write about might include: what I learned today, new words, questions to ask the teacher; things to review, etc.
* e-mails: have students bring an authentic business e-mail that was written in English (if relevant) that was difficult for them to understand and/or respond to. Have students identify new words, useful phrases, and the structure of the e-mail; then have students write a response to the e-mail
* dictations: dictate a set of ten sentences to your students to write down at the beginning of each class; the source of the dictation could be an article that you want to use in the class, your coursebook, or a podcast/videocast (see www.ft.com for business-related interviews)

Here are a few books that use authentic news articles in each lesson:
1. Market Leader (uses articles from The Financial Times): http://www.market-leader.net/
2. Intelligent Business (uses articles from the Economist): http://www.pearsonlongman.com/intelligent_business/

Check out this link for more useful Business English materials: http://www.esl-lesson-plan.com/archives/2007/04/q_and_a_business_english_textbook_recommendations.php#more

If you have any more tips for Laura, feel free to write your comments below.

Hope that helps!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

*To read more ESL Questions and Answers, please click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker hailing from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked at universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, and did private tutoring as well. Besides teaching, she also worked as a Head teacher, an Education Manager, and a Material Development Manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she also writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing, authors ESL textbooks for publishing houses in China, and is an Editor for Garnet Publishing in Reading, England. Carol holds a BA in Communications from the College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University, and a CELTA, and has just finished her MA TESOL course at Oxford Brookes University. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at August 9, 2008 10:40 AM

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