Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

22 Lesson Ideas

22 Private/Small Group Lesson Ideas…all you need is a laptop and a dream. And you don’t really need the laptop.

  1. Look at pictures of places and discuss.
  2. Read “The Road Not Taken” and discuss.
  3. Read “The Lottery” and discuss.
  4. Discuss trips you’ve taken. Start by thinking of all the adjectives you can.
  5. Think of a business situation and role play it (interviews, etc.).
  6. Summarize a movie.
  7. Summarize a book
  8. Summarize a trip.
  9. Summarize a past project.
  10. Summarize a future project.
  11. Visit the Centers for Disease Control website and discuss.
  12. Read an article from The Economist and discuss.
  13. videos (watch, discuss, comment).
  14. Learn speaking techniques at
  15. BusinessEnglishPod has 20 minute listenings you can expand into lessons.
  16. Pretend you’re making a hotel reservation online.
  17. Go shopping online and buy presents for the people you love.
  18. Or, buy stuff for yourselves online.
  19. Go to and try and sell something online.
  20. Order a pizza for a charity. Practice, then make a real phone call.
  21. Comment on YouTube videos. Like this one.
  22. Comment on Blogs. Like these.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Lesson Plans, Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Phone Calls

Making phone calls in English is really hard. Speaking is hard enough. Taking away expressions and gestures just makes it harder. The speech is a little unclear. Everything together stops many students from even trying to use the phone.

And that’s a pity because the phone makes life easier. Students who are afraid to use the phone can’t call to see if a store has something—they have to go the store. They can’t call to check up on a client—they have to hope things are fine. And perhaps the ultimate tragedy, they can’t order a pizza—they have to go out.

Teachers know this, but what’s a teacher to do? Here are some ideas:

Call Each Other Students practice speaking together all the time, but never on the phone. Send half the class to another room. Have a normal discussion, but have them talking on the phone.

Order Food for a Charity As a class, choose a charity you like. Find out where their office is. Then, call them and tell them your class is going to support them by buying them a pizza. Ask them what kind they’d like. Call a pizza restaurant and order one for the charity. One student will actually make each call. The cost for the pizza and the phone calls shouldn’t be more than $30.

Go Slow Of course you don’t need to jump right to using real telephones. Before making any calls, write practice dialogues to imagine how things will go.

Back-to-Back Ask the students to memorize dialogues (or get close) and do them with their backs to each other and their eyes closed. They’ll have a harder time hearing each other and won’t be able to rely on gestures, etc.

Lights Out! Turn off all the lights and do your discussion that way. This will also help them practice speaking without relying on images.

Analyze the Problems Sometimes just knowing why something is hard can make it easier. Ask the students to write down all the possible problems they might have making a phone call. Then brainstorm solutions to each problem.

What?! One of the big problems on the phone is not understanding. Review ways to ask someone to repeat things.

Plan a Holiday Hotels and airlines often have toll free numbers you can call. Ask your students to put together a holiday package. Give them a budget. Then ask them to call different hotels and airlines to get information on prices and amenities. Just don’t all call the same hotel…

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Teaching Strategies | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Website Review:

In short: Lots and lots of games for your class. They’re organized by Level, Aims, Grammar, Time, and Materials. Not sure where to begin? This game, this game, and this game are all great.

For students: You can play these games with your friends. Also, check out this article. It’s about learning Japanese, but there is lots of good advice for learning any language.

For teachers: The authors of these games make them fun to read about and easy to understand. You’ll enjoy games that start like this: “Have the students remove their shoes to prevent bloodshed…”

Note: This is the main site, but most of it isn’t interesting for teaching and studying English.


January 24, 2011 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment