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How to Make an ESL Business Lesson For Intermediate to Advanced Students

Updated on October 6, 2017
grand old lady profile image

Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.


Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to non-native speakers is an enriching experience. First, because you get to meet people from different countries, gaining to exposure to their culture. Second, because the job is meaningful. You are personally gratified by knowing that you are helping people to meet their goals.

This is particularly true when you are teaching business ESL to professionals. A lot of the people you teach will be CEOs and other high ranking people in their respective companies. You are challenged to be respectful even as you teach, and to remember that you are teaching very intelligent students. It is likely that they are fast learners.

He could be your student
He could be your student

Your challenge is to discern the learning process of your student, and his or her level of proficiency. By so doing, you will be better able to produce a lesson that matches the student's level of competence, and can artfully add a touch of challenge, as well.

Challenge is important, because if the lesson is too easy, the student will be easily bored and may even decide that he or she can learn just as well by reading the teaching materials on his/her own. Conversely, if the lesson is too hard, the student will feel frustrated. You need to find the right match of learning plus challenge that will keep your student engaged, and this will vary from one student to the next.

Additionally, you must build your business ESL classes around familiar business scenarios such as the role of small talk before a business meeting, conducting a business meeting, how to politely say “no” to a suggestion during a business meeting, and, (in the sample lesson plan we are presenting today), how to conduct a successful team building experience.

Business ESL for a team building experience

Team building is different from other business meetings and conferences because the goal of team building is to enrich social relationships within a team for the purpose of raising its efficiency. Successful team building lays a strong foundation for an organization's growth and development. Through team building activities, you can build up the enthusiasm of your team towards established goals, and strengthen relationships among team members. This results in a better working relationship among the members of the team, by fostering greater cooperation. It also helps you to determine what role each and every team member is likely to play within the team. Team building sets a deeper foundation of trust, which is useful when you must perform conflict resolution among members within your team.

A business ESL lesson revolving around team building terms will be very helpful to your students, since team building plays such a fundamental role to setting forth a firm foundation for your team.

Below is an example of a business ESL lesson that is focused on vocabulary that is related to team building.

A sample business esl lesson on team building

In looking at the chart above, you will see that your goal to learn business English in terms of team building has largely to do with upgrading your own skill set.

In your lesson plan you have to have certain goals so that the lesson is more easily absorbed by the student. Consider the following:

Goal: To learn familiar phrases and words that are used in team building

Definition: Team building – a number of activities that are designed to make a team work well together and become stronger, so that clear goals can be met in the company's projects.

Vocabulary and phrases:

1. Zero in on

2. Challenge

3. Enhance

4. Resolve conflict

5. Effective

6. Accomplish

7. Team building

8. Interfere

9. Not at all

10. Good to know

11. Outdoor activity

INSTRUCTIONS: Read the dialogue together. The instructor will be “A” and the student will be “B”.


A. Have you prepared the list of activities for team building on Friday?

B. Yes, here is the list of games with their description. I think they are all very effective.

A. Ah, I like the first game on your list, “Created Economy”. This will challenge your team and enhance problem solving skills.

B. Thank you. I wanted to build the team to be able to resolve conflict.

A. Yes, this game will accomplish that. Oh, and I also notice that you included the game, “Use what you have”. I like that very much.

B. I do, too. I wanted something that will zero in on building creativity.

A. Good job. I think you are familiar with the conference room we rented out for the team building session?

B. Not really. I wonder if its size may interfere with the requirements of the games on the list?

A. Not at all. We also have an outdoor activity space.

B. That's good to know.

INSTRUCTIONS: Now, reread the dialogue, with the student reading A and you reading B.

Practical application

After going through the dialogue a second time, you want to test the student's comprehension. To do this, you can ask the student to fill in the blanks on the sentences below, by referring to the dialogue above.:

INSTRUCTIONS: Fill in the blanks.

1. Mr. A is asking Mr. B about the games for ____________ on Friday.

2. Mr. B chose games that he believes are _________ in skill building.

3. A team building game should not be too easy because it will not _______ the players to play well.

4. These games should _______ business skills such as being able to ____________.

5. You know a game will _______ its goal, such as creativity, when it ________ that.

6. Mr. A reserved a conference room with an _____________ space.

7. Mr. B said it's ___________ that the space reserved will not interfere with what the games require.

At this point you want to make the lesson useful to the client's practical experience. This is done through the writing exercise below.

INSTRUCTIONS: Make a sentence with each of the words/phrases below. Use the names of famous companies when making the sentences. The sentences do not need to start with the word.

  1. Zero in on. ________________________.

  2. Challenge. ______________________________________________.

  3. Enhance. _______________________________________________.

  4. Resolve conflict. _________________________________________.

  5. Effective. _______________________________________________.

  6. Accomplish. _____________________________________________.

  7. Team building. ___________________________________________.

  8. Interfere. ________________________________________________.

  9. Not at all. _______________________________________________.

  10. Outdoor activity. __________________________________________.

  11. Good to know. ____________________________________________.

CEO or child?

Do you think it is harder to teach a CEO or a nine year old child?

See results

Personal application

Now you want to close the lesson by transforming the dialogue in a way that will make it useful to the client's personal experience. You must be sure that the new words are now used in ways that are applicable to the client's own firm. This is done through the exercise below:

INSTRUCTIONS: Answer these questions by referring to your own company as an example.

  1. What team building activities have you done at your own company?

  2. What skills do you want to boost through team building activities?

  3. Where have you conducted team building activities in the past?

  4. From your own experience what are some things that have interfered with team building activities?

  5. What skills were enhanced through your experience in team building as a participant? How about as a leader?

Just do it

Now that you have seen this sample on how to make a business ESL lesson for intermediate/advanced students, you can do it yourself following this same format. Simply choose the business situation and recreate all the sections of this format accordingly. Also, remember that with each corresponding lesson, you can add a short review of the words that were covered in the previous lesson. Now, do it!


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    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      13 months ago from Philippines

      Hi Jo, glad to see you:). Teaching can truly be rewarding and I am very glad that you enjoyed being an ESL teacher:).

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      13 months ago from Tennessee

      I taught ESL classes at one point in my life and found it very rewarding.

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      13 months ago from Philippines

      Wow Eric, I guess looking back, it seems that way. But from this end it sounds scary. Being put in a cell five times, I would have left after the first time. My deepest honor and respect for you and for your aptitude to see the blessings in what to me would seem to be the darkest of times. Some sentiments are best expressed in tagalog. As we would say in the Philippines, "Bow talaga ako sayo".

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      13 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mona, it was so cool. It was communism and language was OK but thoughts of free market were scrutinized harshly. Five times called into the local Party offices. But the brass wanted to get into the internet arena. So exciting when language really means something significant. I am so blessed. (oh yes, "called in" meant a cell)

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      13 months ago from Philippines

      Hello Eric, it's quite impressive that you taught students in Vietnam, and that you were able to learn Vietnamese culture and can speak Vietnamese:). It must have been quite a challenge to discern the expectations of your buyers and to learn how to adjust positive enforcement to their culture. Bravo! You know, I love hub pages because we all see our commonalities, like so far you, Flourish Anyway and Mr. Bill have also taught English. What a delightful community we share.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      13 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting. I was there for students with great English skills. I taught the the lexicon of marketing. We flip flopped from Vietnamese to English and back again to grasp the concepts of positive reinforcement of a buyer's expectations.

    • grand old lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      13 months ago from Philippines

      Hi Flourish Anyway, I was taught to bow at the end of the lesson if it was a Japanese person. However, I read a story of two people bowing to each other and clunking their heads as they got up. Funnee:). I also got prepped on the culture and ways of the students from different nationalities. It was fun. It was during the days before the computer was invented so it was face to face rather than online. Good times:).

      Mr. Bill, thank you so much. As you know your judgment is highly valued because I know your expertise in teaching, so your comment means a lot to me. I am filled with gratitude:).

      Devika, lovely to see you here on hub pages, as always:). Yes, team building is such an important activity and it lays the foundation for good workmanship all around in a firm. At the same time it is lots of fun, and the lessons are learned subliminally.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      13 months ago from USA

      I’m so impressed that you teach these language skills to CEOs and other executives. I wonder whether they get a culture intro as well when dealing with Americans or other English speakers. I interviewed once at an American-based Japanese company and the man bowed deeply to me. I didn’t know whether to bow, curtsy, or just smile.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      13 months ago from Olympia, WA

      As an old teacher I can appreciate this lesson plan, Mona. A job well-done.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      13 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      You have informed me on an interesting and worthwhile topic.

      Team building experiences are important to learn from and to recognize in all aspects of businesses.


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