First of all, many many thanks to Anne Hodgson, for suggesting I write for the Blog Carnival and helping me find my inspiration after my three-month hiatus! Thank you so much, Anne!
This year, I am teaching at a new school and its students are late teens and adults. During the week, I teach professionals either on the school premises or I visit the respective company or bank of the students.
I start the first lesson in a way that I have found breaks the ice, gets them talking and combines Business English and cultural elements. I use the book Cambridge Business English Activities for this reason. In the introductory lesson, questions arise such as:
– If you were at a reception and there was a last piece of cake on the table, would you take it?
– How would you feel if a colleague took the job you wanted the most?
– When you are given a new project to attempt, how do you approach it – by instinct or by analysis?
– Would it be unusual for you to lose your office or house keys?
It is so interesting to see how all these people, who have different personalities and who come from different cultures, tackle the questions and their answers are very interesting. In this way, we can understand what is acceptable or not in each culture, in business interactions and in daily life. It can become really humorous too, so learning becomes more of a carefree process for them and they enjoy it after a hard day’s work.
What we also do a lot is role-playing and situations, or what we call conflict situations (I give them a situation that involves disagreement or clarifying a misunderstanding). I give them a situation, which usually involves a problem. For instance:
– You have a deadline on a project this Monday but you need more time to complete it, due to obstacles that were not your responsibility (bureaucracy, an unco-operative colleague and so on). What do you tell your manager?
– You would like to work on a project with the partner you have chosen, but think it will be good to work together over the weekend as well, in order to complete it. How do you convince him or her?
– You are very upset with a mistake a colleague of yours has made on a shared project. How do you tell him/her? Are you diplomatic and let it pass and you correct it, or do you confront this person and inform them of the mistake and the severity of it?
They are all great in this. We learn how it is acceptable to say something in English, how to be tactful in the language and we always benefit from learning new vocabulary, which I am sure to write on the board and leave there throughout the lesson if possible, for the reason that the visual factor plays an important role.
Another thing we do is that they prepare small presentations of projects and we go through their slides and powerpoints and they present to me they way they would on the day. This additionally helps them get rid if some of the stress they feel for the actual presentation!
Sometimes we do e-mail writing. They bring in one of the e-mails they have composed so we can look for mistakes, or I let them think for a minute or two and then they “compose” it orally. We can then write expressions they can use and if they would like to and have the time, they do this at home as practice and that they have understood and then they bring it to class next time and we look at it. Sometimes, they come up with really good ideas of their own that they have added and the whole group benefits from this!
There are countless ideas to use in the Business English classroom. Sometimes books, websites like YouTube or the Financial Times can help; sometimes it is the students themselves who come up with great ideas – then you can use them with all your other groups!