15 most fun Business English lessons

Although Business English students can be more willing to do boring but useful topics than most students if they need English for their job, just as often Business students need the same kind of games as other classes get to help them relax around their colleagues who are also their classmates, get their energy levels […]

Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net

Although Business English students can be more willing to do boring but useful topics than most students if they need English for their job, just as often Business students need the same kind of games as other classes get to help them relax around their colleagues who are also their classmates, get their energy levels up after a long working day etc. Below are descriptions of 15 easy to use lessons that are guaranteed to be both fun and useful for Business English classes.

  1. Emailing appointments race
    Students send short “emails” written on scraps of paper to each other to try to make new arrangements, e.g. going for a drink after work or having a meeting. The person who has made the most new arrangements in 20 minutes is the winner of the game.
  2. Politeness board game
    Students are given a board game with typical business situations on each square, like “Ask your boss for some more photocopy paper”. When one person lands on that square, everyone takes turns trying to make a more polite sentence than the last person, e.g. “Could I possibly have some more photocopy paper?” trumps “Can I have some photocopy paper please?” The person who produces the most polite sentence can move forward a number squares equal to the number of the other students’ sentences they trumped. The winner is the first person to the end of the board. If one person always wins, you can make the rule that the person who has just moved cannot take part in the next round. You can also play the game without a board, just by keeping track of how many points each person has.
  3. Flip A Coin Ask and Tell
    Students make a personal question about business, e.g. “Do you really like your boss?”, and then flip a coin to see if they should answer the question themselves (”tell”, equals tails), or if they can ask anyone else in their group (”ask”, equals heads). This game works best if you give them a list of possibly controvertial business topics to make questions about, e.g. “office romance” or “bankrupt”.
  4. Definitions race
    One student tries to explain a business word or expression without saying it, any part of it, or any variations on it. For example, if they are trying to explain “marketing executive”, they can say “The first word is like sales and the second word is like director”, but they can’t say “market” or “execute”. When someone guesses what they are trying to define, give points either by how quickly they explained it or just one point to the person who explained and the person who guessed.
  5. Taboo
    This is similar to Definitions Race, but it is more difficult because students are given 3 extra words they cannot say when trying to define the word so that their partner can guess, e.g. for “Marketing executive” they can be told not to say the words “director”, “sales” and “advertising”. As an additional stage to make sure the students learn the vocabulary well, you can get them to write the 3 taboo words for each word or expression for another team or group to try and define.
  6. Taboo topics challenge
    Students are given a list of topics that range from 5 points (very difficult/ taboo) down to 1 point (easy safe topics for small talk). The points for how difficult each topic is can either be decided by the teacher or by the students. Each student decides how difficult a topic they want to try and talk about, and the other students choose one of the topics of that level and ask them a question. They then get a percentage of the total points available depending on how well they answered it, e.g. 4 points for a 5 point topic talked about quite well. This leads on well to discussions about differences in businesses in different cultures, business entertaining etc.
  7. Moral dilemmas questionnaires
    Give the students the beginning of a 2nd conditional question involving a difficult business moral dilemma, e.g. “If you knew your son had lied on his CV when he got a job at your friend’s company, would you…?” Students write the end of the questions with two or more options, predict which option someone else in the class will choose, and ask them the question to check. Some classes may be able to do this just as a speaking activity without writing the options down.
  8. Stock and commodities trading
    Give groups of students a suitably large amount of money, e.g. a million dollars, as toy money or just as a total written on the board. Ask them to invest some of that money in stocks and commodities you offer them. Give them the starting prices and then tell them how much the prices change in the first day, so that they have the beginning of a graph for each one. Then allow them to buy and sell. Continue for at least 7 “days”, allowing them to buy and sell after each “day”. The prices you tell them can be based on real ones in the past, or can be made up. To practice the language of trends, you can also give them hints on what will happen in the next “day”, e.g. “One of the prices will bottom out”.
  9. Describing personal graphs
    Another fun way to make the language of trends and describing graphs fun is to get students to describe some real data about themselves, e.g. the number of CDs in their collection. Their partner listens, draws the graph and tries to guess what it represents. Other fun graph topics are height, English level, amount of hair on head, number of hours sleep etc.
  10. Real ansaphone messages
    Give students something to record their voices on and get them to leave ansaphone messages for each other that need a response, e.g. ideas for when to meet up or an offer as part of a negotiation. Another group then listens to that message and leaves a response on the same machine. Repeat until there are at least 4 messages on each machine. When time is up, give points for having reached a successful conclusion, e.g. having made the arrangement for a meeting. This activity is easier if you have 2 or more rooms available.
  11. Guess the job 15 questions
    One student thinks of any job, and the other students ask them yes/ no questions (e.g. “Do you have to work outside?”) and try to guess which job they have chosen. After the game is finished, students can then ask the same questions to each other about their real jobs and use that to introduce their partner to the rest of the class.
  12. Job interviews problem roleplays
    Another good way of practising questions and talking about job roles is to get students to interview each other for their real jobs. This can be made more fun by giving each student a roleplay card that has one (imaginary) negative thing on their CV that the interviewer needs to find out by asking the right questions, e.g. “You have never used a computer”. When the interviews are finished, ask the interviewers if they would give the job to their partner and whether they have guessed what the problem is.
  13. Negotiating with points
    Although negotiations is always a fairly interesting topic, the end of the activity can be a let down if the students don’t know how well they have done. This problem can be solved by giving each side of the negotiation a roleplay sheet with how many points they will get by obtaining particular concessions from the other side, e.g. 20 points if the other side gives them a 5% discount. At the end of the negotiation the students add up their points they get for negotiating that order size, price, payment arrangements etc, and a clear winner can be proclaimed.
  14. Inventions presentations
    Presentations is another Business English activity that is motivating but can finish without any clear conclusion. The best general tactic is to get students to vote at the end of all the presentations on which of the ideas from the other teams (they cannot vote for themselves) they preferred. This activity works best when students are presenting their own ideas with a little help from the teacher, e.g. being given the photo of a real or imaginary invention and being asked to imagine what it can be used for and present their ideas.
  15. Number trivia up and down
    Number practice can be very boring but very useful. By adding a real reason to listen and some personal interaction, you can boost the interest in the topic and aid memory of the numbers vocabulary. One way is to give students some interesting trivia including numbers and make them turn them into questions to get their partner to guess the numbers, e.g. “How much did the Oedo underground line in Tokyo cost in dollars?”. After each guess, they tell their partner if the real answer is (much/ a little/ very slightly) higher or lower, until they finally get to exactly the right amount.
Written by Alex Case for TEFL.net
February 2008 | Filed under Business English
There are links to more than 400 articles and 1000 worksheets plus 1500 blog posts by Alex Case on TEFLtastic blog.

Browse Classroom Ideas by category
Activities
Business English
Cultural
Email
Exams
Fillers And Warmers
Functional Language
Games
Grammar
Listening
Music
Pronunciation
Quizzes
Reading
Speaking
Teaching
Telephone
Vocabulary
Writing
Young Learners