Teacher Training: Making Business English Textbooks Interesting

Introductions + where are you teaching? Who are you teaching?

Last week I had a lovely time working with a group of English language teachers who came to the VHS in Ludwigsburg for a workshop entitled

Pepping Up Your Business English Course Book!

Our objectives included looking at different ways to increase student-centered learning in our EFL and ESP classrooms and on making lessons exciting even when the teacher is required to use a published material in their curriculum.

The slides from my presentation are at the bottom of this posting. If you were there, you can use these to refresh your memory of some of the points we went through during our workshop and if you weren't, as you’re an EFL teacher too, you’re welcome to have a look and learn with us.

Do feel free to ask or answer questions!

We Asked the Question: Why Do Textbooks Need Supplementing?

You suggested things like they aren’t timely, they aren’t topical, sometimes they’re years and years out-of-date.

The books are sometimes very dull. Too much reading or too little reading. The role plays aren’t authentic or interesting.

The subjects don’t have anything to do with our students actual lives, professions or responsibilities. They’re generic – one size fits all. Sometimes a bit patronizing.

Vocabulary presented often isn’t the vocabulary our students are looking for. There’s very little review of vocabulary from unit to unit.

Not enough speaking activities.

What do you think?

Do you agree with our conclusions?

Then We Did a Study Of Multiple Intelligence:

Who is intelligent?  How are they intelligent?

And looked at images of

  • JK Rowlings
  • Stephen Hawking
  • Columbus
  • David Beckham
  • Ray Charles
  • Prince Charles
  • Barack Obama
  • Goethe
  • Dalai Lama.

In what ways are they all intelligent people?

We marveled at David Beckham’s enormous ability to not only get a ball to curve but that he is able to understand his body so well to make it move where he needs it to, his intelligence understanding the size and distance of a football field: intelligences none of us in the room could say we possess!

Have a look at the names on the list, who is intrapersonally intelligent?

Which ones are interpersonally, spiritually, musically, spatially, mathematically, verbally, naturalistically intelligent?

Do you think that intelligences overlap? Is there a 10th intelligence? What might that might be?

Hint: All 9 of the above examples probably have it – Prince Charles might be the debatable one…although given his recent talks on climate change – hmm, he fits too!* answer at the bottom.

What about the learning styles?

What role might this play in our classrooms?

We discussed what we would have to do if we were the English teachers of Beethoven, Miles Davies or Louis Armstrong and had to teach them Business English!

Next We Reviewed the Practices Of Teaching Business People Business Skills In English:

What business skills do your students need to learn?

What are we teaching our students? Don’t they know more about Business than we do? Shouldn’t we be focusing in on their knowledge, simply giving them the language to perform as well as they normally do?

What is it that they want to learn? How are we teaching this to them?

Are we paying enough attention to who our learners really are?

After That We Analyzed Supplementary Materials:

Analyzing materials1

Analyzing materials 2

What is available from the Publishers, from ELT websites – which would we use, why these?

What are the intrinsic strengths in each exercise, what weaknesses lie therein; any opportunities? Are there any changes you’d make to the material, why?

Are they all feasible - with which kind of groups – what learners are they aimed at?

Analyzing materials 3 Analyzing materials 4

Who wouldn’t they work with?

How do supplementary materials support Business English textbooks?

Do the activities support the course book?

Karenne recommends these books, here

plus these websites:

Later On We Discussed Using Authentic Materials and Internet “Realia” in the English Language Classroom

Why? So we watched this video:

We Then Looked Into Creating Materials and Using Authentic Materials from the Internet with English Language Students:

For lesson tips using new media & technology, see here.

Recommended blogs/sites by teachers who provide excellent tips and know-how (click to go to their pages):

We Were Also In Awe Of Ronaldo Lima’s Very Impressive Class (who are blogging):

Ronaldo Lima Finally Five B

What happens when students choose to write articles and then see themselves published for the world to see?

Pop over there for a visit, http://finally5b.blogspot.com/ ask or get your students to ask his students how they do it & do let them know what you think!

Then I Showed Everyone The Products I Make Myself:

SimplyConversationsTM and SimplyQuestsTM:

Reviewing SimplyConversations and SimplyQuests - activities to get students talking

What is the target group of SimplyConversations? What type of learners, what kind of intelligence?

Why are they fun to use? What sorts of skills do they activate?

How do students feel about doing 1.5hrs of strictly conversation?

What effect does choosing their own tasks in the SimplyQuests have when they’re doing their post-task activity (a.k.a homework)?

And Finally We Made An Action Plan For Future Lessons

Sharing our action plans

What will you be doing to pep up your Business English courses?

Don’t hesitate to continue the communication with me by clicking on comments (at end of posting).

Thank you for coming Sibylle, Christine, Birgit, Wilfriede, Irmgard, Sandra, Jim, Stormy, Ines, Eva, Elizabeth, Veronique, Helmut and Maulina! Thanks VHS Ludwigsburg for organizing the event and hosting us. Am looking forward to continuing learning, growing and sharing with you.


Recommended Reading:

Tech stuff:

*The 10th intelligence proposed above is visionary: the person who is not only able to 'see' into the future but knows what to do with the way things are changing. Of course, this intelligence is hotly debated as to whether it is an intelligence, as is spiritual and naturalistic intelligence.

There are others too, of course. Read more about multiple intelligences here (lots of links).

The Presentation Slides:

1 Response to “Teacher Training: Making Business English Textbooks Interesting”

  • Ronaldo Lima Jr. says:
    April 13, 2009

    Hi Karenne!

    Wow, this seems to have been a great event. These people were lucky to have such an enriching session.

    Thanks for talking about my finally5b blogging project. I was also glad to see my colleague Claudio Azevedo's blog there (Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals).

    Warmest regards from Brazil!



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