Tag Archives: telephoning

Making it authentic:Exploiting authentic materials in business English

On 7th October, I presented an online workshop on behalf of IATEFL BESIG as part of their weekend workshop programme. The workshop was called: Making it authentic: exploiting learners´ materials in business English courses and in it I wanted to share some new activities I´ve created over the last few months which make use of authentic materials. If you´re a member of IATEFL BESIG, you can watch a recording of the online workshop by visiting the weekend workshop section of the BESIG website.

During the workshop the participants and I shared ideas about how to effectively select and make use of authentic materials, focussing specifically on texts and objects.

Our discussion brought us to the conclusion that we should see authentic materials as a starting point or a springboard for communication rather than just as a text to be read or an object to be looked at and inspected: start with the text or the object and see how many different directions you can move in from there. Usually keeping things simple and fun in this journey from the text or object to communication seems to be an effective way of creating memorable learning moments. Exactly what that communication is should depend on the learners´ needs and wants.

I also hoped that during the workshop we managed to debunk a few months about using authentic materials, above all, the fact that making use of authentic materials doesn´t have to be time-consuming or taxing for the teacher and the experience of working with them doesn´t have to be a difficult or daunting one for the business English learner.

Formwork component bingo!

As a hand-out to accompany the workshop I produced an overview of a sample lesson I taught last week in which I made a lot of use of authentic materials and you can also download this lesson overview here. I wanted to show exactly how the activities I had talked about in the workshop could be put into practice in the training room.  In this lesson I introduced vocabulary for formwork components produced and used by the company where the learners work, we then consolidated this vocabulary and, finally, the learners were able to use it within a communicative task. This week, as a follow-up, I asked the learners to match the names of the components to the drawings of the components again to see how much they had remembered and we then discussed the functions of the different components and how they would be used on the construction site. We also talked about the dimensions of the components and their advantages and possible disadvantages. The learners had the knowledge about the components, but needed support from me in expressing it in English. I, as the teacher, did not have as much knowledge of the formwork components as the learners did, but I was able to support them with their English expression. This created an effective information gap between us and an excellent motivation for the learners to activate not only vocabulary for formwork components, but also all of that other useful language for talking about dimensions and describing what things are used for and how they work. All in all, a successful lesson!


Filed under From the training room

Unexpected phone calls

Here´s an idea for a lesson on telephoning that I successfully used with a group of managers in a logistics company this week.


Photo credit: http://bit.ly/KQQrKf


It seems that the majority of calls that in-work business English learners have to answer are unexpected, and what they need is, therefore, not only the language of strategies, but also strategies for dealing with these unexpected calls. The aims of this lesson are to engage learners in a dialogue about the unexpected calls they receive and how they deal with them and then for them to take part in simulations of unexpected phone call scenarios and possibly to practise how well they can spontaneously react to an unexpected phone call from their partner.


1. Write UNEXPECTED PHONE CALLS in the middle of  the board or flipchart and ask the learners what that means to them. Make it clear before they respond that you´re talking about unexpected calls at work only. What is an unexpected phone call? Which phone calls are expected and which are unexpected.


2. Draw four lines coming out from UNEXPECTED PHONE CALLS in the centre and write these headings at the end of them: 1) How often? 2) Who are they from? 3) What do they want? 4) Strategies. Ask the learners to discuss their answers to these questions in pairs and then feedback to the rest of the group. (1. How often do you get unexpected phone calls? 2. Who are they from? 3. What do the callers want? 4. Do you have any strategies for dealing with unexpected calls?)


3. Write up the learners´ responses on the board or flipchart during the feedback/ group discussion phase. Ask the learners to be a bit more specific or give some more details, if necessary.


4. Now ask the learners to choose one person (or type of people, e.g. suppliers) who they get unexpected calls from, one thing that this person could want from them when they call them unexpectedly, and one strategy they could use to deal with the call effectively and to do this in cooperation with a partner.


5. The learners then prepare for a role-play based around the scenario they have chosen in pairs.


6. The learners perform the role-plays either individually with their partner, in front of the rest of the group or both. Alternatively, the learners could create an outline of a telephone conversation within the context they´ve and then pass this on to another pair. In this case the unexpected element would really be there because the learners wouldn´t know for sure what scenario they were going to get and they could then role-play it as spontaneously as possible as a test of their ability to deal with the unexpected and stay cool under pressure!


Filed under From the training room