What I’ve learned about approaches to teaching Business English

I’ve enrolled on a course called ‘Breaking into Business English’ at iTDi.pro where wonderful Vicki Hollett shares her expertise in teaching Business English.

In this post I would like to tell you what I have learned and already tried out with my students and what my impressions are. Continue reading


Teaching business not Business English

I must say that the idea of this experiment was inspired by Michael Griffin and his wonderful post.

I thought about my Business English students who actually are far from being interested in business. I teach them Business English because their company thinks it’s more useful for them than a general course. So I’ve decided to try teaching business not Business English instead of teaching Business English adapting it to more familiar situations.

Firstly, it is really difficult to get rid of the usual CELTA-way templates as they seem to be not completely suitable for my aims.

What are my aims?

I want to inspire and make my students interested in Business and teach them/ elicit/ help to find out/encourage to look for… business ideas/phenomena/ laws. I want them to understand business world better and be able to talk about it in English.

Isn’t it something natural what we really need Business English for?

Till the moment I read the post I used to think that my goal was to teach students some business language and they will find an opportunity in their business life to really use this language. I mean, not in classroom conditions. But having reflected about it I understood that my students hardly ever use Business English at work, they just need General English to talk to their German colleagues. That is the reason why they are not interested in the situations offered by the authors of the book. Moreover, Business English coursebooks try to provide varied topics so that students from totally different departments could discuss something together, but, actually, they can’t, because they hardly have an idea even in their mother tongue what the hell this outsourcing (or anything else) is necessary for and why they need to know it.

Another thought is that if we imagine some native speakers discussing something at their workplace or in any business situation we will get the right picture of what we want our students to be able to speak about or understand. So we might try to aim at creating such conditions in our classrooms which are similar to it not only in case studies and activities.

I am not saying that Business English coursebooks are useless. Far from that! The authors usually do their best to make the tasks as close to real life as possible and they succeed in it. I like the tasks, but I would just shift the accent from teaching language to trying to understand concepts using the language (they need the language to be able to express themselves correctly).

That’s how I came to the idea that I can provide my students with some information on different topics including necessary language to enable them to speak about that. Am I not too unexperienced in business to ‘teach’ them business? I think it doesn’t matter. I think authors of many course books are not considerably much experienced in running a business. What’s more, I doubt it that they write all the articles themselves. I have the Internet with unmeasurable amount of relevant and just thought-provoking information to find necessary material. I came to an idea that even material given in a coursebook may be used differently so that it teaches Business, not only Business language.

As you can see, I don’t have a clear idea of what everything should look like, but I feel that the way it goes isn’t the best way for my students. Or maybe they just don’t need this Business English and people who choose such a course themselves (not their HR) are more motivated to learn Business vocab and don’t get bored with it? Am I just making a mess because my students didn’t have a choice?

I just feel that for this very group something could be changed to make them interested, motivated and more knowledgeable in Business English. It’s kind of strange that I have to fit business language in everyday situations to practice it because my students don’t know what to say in a business situation and brainstorming sounds like silence.

As you can see I haven’t devised a win-plan yet. I actually don’t even have a clear idea what it all should look like. I just want to try going the way of trial and error to see what outcomes I may get. I’ll write a kind of report with my observations and conclusions in some time.

My attempt to do reflective practice challenge

Inspired by Zhenya Polosatova and John Pfordresher I’ve decided to challenge myself to improve my teaching by doing ELC (Experiential Learning Cycle) and I plan to do it the following way.

I will take into consideration one aspect of teaching which I’m concerned about and during some period of time (let’s say one month) I will describe, analyse and work on it in order to make my teaching more effective and also to create a habit of conscious teaching.

Starting from this week I’m going to work on setting tasks which is one of my weakest points in teaching.

Yesterday I had a grammar focused lesson on countability and expressing quantity in my Business English Upper-Intermediate group. There were only 2 students yesterday.

I am going to analyse a freer practice task setting.

Continue reading

Lesson Plan: vocabulary on investment and finance (Market Leader Int 3rd eddition)

Hi there! I wanted to post here two lesson plans which go together on financial vocabulary.

We have Market Leader 3rd edition and, frankly speaking, I dislike the book and the way material is organized there, so I have to create and find a lot of activities to make it more interesting and effective.

Lesson 1.i

Aim: at the end of the lesson the students will be able to use the target vocabulary to speak about financial situation in different companies.

1. To introduce the topic in a simple and relaxed way I decided to play hangman with the word INVESTMENT. Then we discussed several questions on the topic like the following:

a) Would you like to invest money if you had enough?

b) What would you invest in?

c) What do you need to know to invest successfully?

d) What qualities should an investor have?

2. I chose the vocab book which is called “Words at work”. Unit 14 is dedicated to the investment and finance.  We did exercises  1a (individually and as a whole class), 1b (in pairs and as a whole class) and 2a (individually, then in pairs, then as a whole class).

After that I asked students in pairs to give each other definitions and words for the definitions to memorize the vocab.

3. Unfortunately, I can’t possibly find the story I created for “fill in the gaps” task. It was a success story of a company with most of the words and phrases. We did it in pairs and then checked as a whole class.

4. For the final task I wanted them to change the partners so I wrote some phrases on cards with the beginning on one card and the ending on another, so that they could find a new partner by matching them. As I had only three students that day I was somebody’s partner.

The task was to make up a news report on financial situation in a company after some events. I offered some ideas to the students but they were free to invent their own. The ideas were: “Nokia after the merger with Microsoft” and “Apple after launching of iPhone 5”. One of the students in one pair was a news anchor and another was an expert, in my pair I just helped a student to create the text and he performed as a news anchor alone.

5. We performed the reports and gave each other feedback.

Lesson 2.

Aim: to revise previously taught vocabulary and get acquainted with new phrases in order to use them to describe financial events.

1. To revise the previously taught vocab I created a word cloud with all the words plus some extra words on finance already familiar to the students. You can do it here http://worditout.com/word-cloud/make-a-new-one.


I read the definitions of the words and they numbered the words. After that I gave them the definitions and they checked the answers in pairs. Then we checked it as a whole class (usual checking stuff, you know)

2. Market Leader p 53. We did the vocab tasks as they are given, checked in pairs and together.

3. The next task can be described as a dictation of a graph. It can be modified depending on the number of students. If you have an even number of them they can dictate to each other, if the number of students is odd, as I had three students you can give a graph to one of the students sitting their face to the board and one student would draw on the board and one more student would sit with their back to the board and draw the same on a sheet of paper.

As you put your students in the necessary positions do your best to explain the task as easy as possible.

a) the person who has a graph dictates everything to their partner

b) he/she has to replace the underlined words with definitions

c) the person drawing the graph on the board or on the sheet of paper should guess the words from definitions and write original words

When everything is dictated the both graphs should look the same.

Here are the examples of the graphs:

Doc - 10.10.13, 22-53 - p1 Doc - 10.10.13, 22-53 - p4

4. The last task is taken from the book “Words at work”, exercise 9. It is a game where when getting on a cell with a situation you should decide whether it’s good or bad for your company and move 2 cells forward or back accordingly. It’s relaxing after such a challenging activity as the previous one.

After these two lessons I was sure that the students learnt the vocab quite well as they could freely use it without looking at their notes.

I would appreciate it if you leave your comments or ideas on the lessons I described.


Follow me as I am learning teaching


The idea of the blog is sharing my experience in getting maturity as a teacher with my friends, colleagues and English teachers around the world. I hope it will be beneficial for everybody. You might find some ideas or read about something in the teaching world that I find helpful or just to laugh at me describing my struggling with teaching)

I’ve decided to start the blog being on the verge of an important event in an English teacher’s life. Actually I’m thrilled to bits waiting for Monday to come due to… ta-daaam CELTA interview. Yeah, I have recently submitted my application form and agreed with a tutor about the time. If I fail I will get under the bed and spend there some … minutes crying. Wanted to write ‘hours’ but remembered my tough timetable)

I still hope that I will enroll on the CELTA course successfully and will be able to fill you in with interesting experience.

Some background info about me. I have graduated from a teacher training university in Omsk, Russia, had a 1,5-year experience of working at schools, then followed about 2 years of working in language centres and here I am teaching General and Business English to corporate clients in Moscow. I have come to the thought of taking this CELTA course because I lack some practical lessons under control of trainers and I have some weak points as a teacher which I want to improve and develop my strengths as well.

I will be happy to see your comments, pieces of advice, stories from your teaching experience… Everybody is highly welcomed.