English as an International Language – lesson plan by Sarah Priestley

This lesson plan can be adapted to any level from Intermediate to C2, depending on the difficulty of the audio recordings you use in the listening stage 3 and the vocabulary used in stage 4.  I did it in an 80 minute lesson with a C2 adult class.  If you’re short of time you could skip stage 2 (the discussion) or shorten the number of tasks for this part. You can download the pdf handout here

1. Warmer

Don’t tell ss the topic of the lesson yet.  Instead, ask them to note down the qualities of a good language teacher. Get them to compare with a partner and have brief group feedback.  Here’s what my C2 conversation class came up with in June 2016:


Interestingly enough, I asked my group whether knowledge of the language was a quality to consider, as I noticed that nobody had mentioned it.  They all said how they simply presumed that the teacher would have this. 

After sharing ideas tell the class that you will return to this topic later in the lesson Now move onto the next stage.

2. Discussion

I used the materials from New Cutting Edge 3rd Advanced page 10 to start a class discussion on English as an international language.  To make it more interesting I covered the numbers in the infographic and got the ss to guess which number went with which fact.  After revealing the answers the ss then did question 2A and B and then discussed question 3. (Answers for Q2 = fact ‘More English words begin with ‘t’ than any other letter – about 25%.  This is wrong.  It’s actually 16%. Fact ‘Doctors speak to simplify communication between doctors.’  This is wrong.  No such thing exists.

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3. Listening & accents

** Before the lesson I recorded 4 teachers talking about their summer holiday plans.  They were a mixture of NS and NNS teachers.  Don’t tell ss about the background of the speakers yet.  Each teacher spoke for about 1 minute [in here we could only share 3 of the 4 recordings].

In class ask the ss to listen to 4 speakers talking about their holiday plans.  The first time they listen they note down the type of holiday the speaker describes ( beach holiday, city break, activity holiday, study holiday).


Then ask the class if they notice anything about the accents or pronunciation from the recordings. Ss do question 1 below.  Then do the 2nd listening task, question 2 below.


Ask ss for feedback on question 1 and 2 before revealing the background and nationality of the speakers.

The teachers I recorded came from Northern Ireland, India and Italy and my students had great fun trying to identify their backgrounds!  I told the class that they are all my colleagues and asked them if they had ever been taught by a NNS teacher.  This led us onto the final stage, 4.    

4. The advantages of NS and NNS teachers

Remind the class of the background of the 4 speakers from the recording.  Now divide the class into small groups and ask the ss to copy the empty Venn diagram below.  Then, half of the groups think of the advantages that a NS brings to the classroom and the other half think of the advantages a NNS teacher has.  After a few minutes show the class some possible ideas and ss now add them to their Venn diagram.

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Bring the class together for whole class feedback.  Link in your warmer to the Venn diagram and ask ss to identify any common points.  Link back to discussion question 3 and ask if ss are more likely to speak/use English with native speakers or other nationalities now and in the future.  Ask them what 2 advantages of having a NNS teacher they consider most important.

This part of the lesson really made my students reconsider the advantages that NNS teachers have.  The idea that a NNS teacher could be a language learning role model was a new revelation for my class.  The fact that a NNS teacher may have a different accent but that this reflects their real life interaction in English was another learning point for my class.

Finally get feedback from your ss by asking them to complete the exit ticket below in 140 characters or less and give it to you as they leave the class.

If you’d like to see a blog post I wrote about spreading the NS NNS word with my teaching colleagues and customer service staff then click here.  If you have any ideas or comments about this blog then post them below and/or tweet them to me at @Sarah_TTrainer .

sarah priestleySarah’s teaching and teacher training career over the last 20 years has taken her to Eastern Europe, the Far East and Europe, where she currently works at the British Council.  A Cambridge CELTA and Young Learner extension tutor, she has trained both teachers working in the state sector and in ELT.  She is currently Coordinator of the Bilingual Education Consultancy Service British Council Italy and teaches adults and young learners. You can follow her on Twitter @Sarah_TTrainer

11 thoughts on “English as an International Language – lesson plan by Sarah Priestley”

    1. Sarah Priestley

      Thanks Halina for your speedy reply! Do let me know how you & your students find the lesson. Am curious to hear!!

  1. Sarah Priestley

    Barbara, your comment and enthusiasm about my lesson plan is wonderful 🙂 You’ve made my day! Do you think you’ll use my audios or make your own?

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  4. Sarah, thank you so much! I’ve been meaning to make something like this for ages – now you’ve done all the work! Thank you for sharing.

  5. I really enjoyed your lesson plan without having the opportunity to work with it yet. Thanks a lot for sharing this!

  6. This is great! Thank you for sharing! Global English has been one of my main concern over my teaching experience and now I can finally use it in class! Thank you, thank you!

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