First Lesson: Low Level Ice-Breaker

Levels: beginner to low pre-intermediate. Teachers with higher level classes might want to use my friend Jackie’s interview lesson, which you can find here.
Ages: teens; adults
Type: conversational; “breaking the ice”
Skills: listening; speaking; pronunciation (intonation patterns and individual sounds).
Language focus: introductions; any grammar and vocab that arises.

Preparation: copy about four sheets of this worksheet per student. Then cut up some of the sheets so you have up to three rectangles (each containing one speech bubble) per student, and up to three for yourself.


  1. Distribute the cut-up paper, a maximum of three pieces per student. Keep up to three for yourself as well.
  2. Everyone must say one thing about themselves for each piece of paper they have (teacher should go first, to demo the activity).
  3. Pair the students and ask them to try to remember what everyone said, and write it down on the sheets of paper you didn’t cut up. They can write down what they said as well.
  4. Invite each student to pick ONE thing they said, which they’d like everyone in the class to remember.
  5. Each pair passes their paper to the pair on their left.
  6. Each student stands up and says the one thing they’d like to remember about another student. As they speak, the teacher writes what they said on the board, word for word (don’t worry about mistakes at this stage). Students look for this thing on the paper in front of them. If it’s written down, they write a tick on the paper. Make sure you say one of your sentences as well – many students will have forgotten to write down anything about you, which can be funny for them when they realise!
  7. After each student has said their thing, pairs add up the points and give the paper back to the pair who wrote on it.
  8. Teacher tallies up the points on the board.
  9. Still in pairs, students look at the sentences on the board. They decide what corrections (if any) they would make to each sentence.
  10. Explain that you will point to a sentence; if students want to change it, they shout “yes!” If they think it’s a good sentence, they shout “yes!” The pair who shout first say if the sentence is good, or to change it if they want. Allocate points if they’re right. If they are wrong, another pair can correct them and get the points.
  11. Play the game, giving points as appropriate and changing the board so all the sentences are correct.
  12. Invite students to write down any (corrected) sentences from the board – ones that they want to remember.
  13. If time, students could then work in new groups of 3 or 4 and write a dialogue using sentences from the board, as well as any other sentences they want to add. The teacher can monitor and help with language as they do this. Groups can then practice, and then perform their dialogues, trying to get as much energy as they can into them. Listening students can draw a mark on a piece of paper each time they hear a sentence from the board. How many boarded sentences did they hear?

Note: the inspiration for this idea came from this page at the Internet TESL Journal (see their “Toilet Paper Ice-Breaker”!).

“The World’s Strictest Parents” Youtube Lesson Plan

Levels: intermediate to advanced.
Ages: teens; adults.
Type: engaging and working with interesting TV excerpts; encouraging students to justify their opinions.
Skills: listening; speaking.
Language focus: vocab – parents & children, agreeing/disagreeing/giving opinions; grammar – imperatives, unreal conditionals.

Time needed: approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Preparation: copies of this worksheet and chopped-up copies of these questions for all students. These pictures of Stefan and Lizzie (the main protagonists) – one per six or so students should be plenty. Access to a laptop or interactive whiteboard for the video part of the lesson. Whiteboard and pens.


  1. Divide students into pairs or groups of three. Draw a bee on the whiteboard and elicit what it is; board “spelling bee” and elicit what each team of two or three students must do.
  2. Dictate the following list of adjectives and ask students to write them as they think they are spelt: obedient, fun-loving, respectful, lenient, strict, lazy, hard-working, adventurous, rebellious, loving, bossy, demanding. You can go over any unknown vocabulary with them afterwards – the test now is to use their knowledge of English spelling to write the words.
  3. Pairs have a minute or two to check each other’s spelling and agree on a team list of words. They then pass their team list to the group on their left, who will give one point for each correctly spelt word. Nominate different students to spell the words and deal with any vocabulary questions as they arise. Board the words as they are spelt and elicit any corrections. Drill pronunciation as necessary.
  4. Students give feedback to their peers. Teacher asks: did anyone get more than five points? More than ten? to find the top team.
  5. Teacher boards two columns, one headed “parents” and the other headed “teenagers.” Re-group students into fours or fives and ask them to decide together which adjectives go best with “parents” and which with “teenagers.” Elicit that they must agree on their answers and that they must justify them.
  6. Get feedback from the class – which adjective goes where, and why. Promote disagreement wherever possible, as this will encourage students to justify their choices.
  7. Divide students into new pairs or threes and give out this worksheet. Ask them to decide together on the most appropriate minimum ages to do these activities, and to give reasons for their answers.
  8. After a few minutes, and if the enthusiasm for discussion is still there, combine pairs into larger groups of fours or fives and ask them to agree on a list of ages; extend this again until you have a class decision.
  9. Get feedback and find out why students have ascribed the ages they have.
  10. Board “The World’s Strictest Parents” and explain that students will watch a British programme with this title. Show the pictures of Stefan and Lizzie (see above) and ask students what adjectives they would use to describe them.
  11. Ask students what they think will happen in this programme, then play the first 1 minute 30 seconds and check their answers as a class (useful questions to ask could be: how many British teenagers do we follow in each programme? [two]; how long do they go away for? [one week]; in this episode, which country do they go to? [Ghana]).
  12. Give each student a copy of the questions on Part One of this worksheet. Explain that they will now watch part one of the programme, and ask them to listen for the answers to each of these questions. Explain any unknown vocabulary on the question sheet.
  13. Play part one of the youtube video, get your students initial reactions, go through the answers together and ask what they think will happen next. Give out the questions for part two of the video and repeat the procedure above.
  14. After playing part two and going through the answers to the questions, ask students how they think the programme will end. Do they think the teenagers’ behaviour will improve? Do they think the teenagers will miss Ghana when they return home? Do they think the teenagers will start to love life with their host family in Ghana? etc.
  15. Play the first six minutes (exactly) of Part V of the programme above. Ask your students who they think has changed the most, and whether they think Lizzie will change. Ask them how they think the programme will end and, if you have time and your students are still in the mood to watch, play the episode Finale (below).
  16. Round off the lesson with a discussion. You could use these questions to get things going or keep the lesson on track: is it good to be strict? Do you think the teenagers have changed permanently, or is it just a temporary change? How are the British and Ghanaian families different? Which family would you prefer to live with? How would your life change if you had to live with the Ghanaian family? Is your family more like the British one or the Ghanaian one? How do you feel about that?