10 Fun Activities for Business English classes

Summer is on its way here in Southern Spain but the 10 teachers on the TEFL in Spain Introduction to Teaching Business English course  managed to stay focused and upbeat last Saturday in Malaga. For the final seminar, or workshop as we will call it next time, they had to present a game or activity that they might use with a group of Business English students.

For information about the course: http://www.tefl-in-spain.com/courses/teaching-business-english/

They came up with some great ideas:

1. Answerphone Dictation– Put the students in pairs and ask them to sit back-to-back. Give each student a short answerphone text with numbers, fractions, percentages, dates etc.For instance: Sales increased by 24% in the last quarter of 2012 peaking at 21,003 in December. Student A reads out their answerphone message to their partner who has to note down the key data. Simple and adaptable. This could also be used to practise talking about trends and the students could represent the data in chart or graph form.

2. Sentence Swap Needs’ Analysis – A quick icebreaker in which you’ll get to know what your students need and want from  the course.Ask them to write down their needs for the course on post-its. Collect them in then redistribute them, making sure that no student receives the post-it they wrote on. Ask them to read out what’s on the post-its they picked up and everybody guessing who wrote what. This could then lead into a discussion about needs and expectations for the course as a whole and could be compiled as a document that could be referred to throughout the course.


3. Hotel Negotiations – Two of the trainees chose to present a hotel role-play in which the two parties had to negotiate over room rates. In the first role-play, the students had to divide into 2 groups: the clients and the hoteliers. The clients have been reserving rooms in the hotel for a number of years as they attend a yearly conference in this particular city. They feel they are due a special price as they have been loyal customers. The hoteliers are in the tricky position of wanting to keep these valued clients but need to ensure profits are still made.

4. Hotel Holidays – The second hotel role-play was based on a negotiation between a Human Resources Manager and a Company Director. The company has recorded strong yearly profits and the CEO has offered to pay for a weekend break for all the staff. The conflict arises because the Human Resources Manager knows the staff are expecting a luxury hotel in some exotic location but the management want to offer a cheap city break in a cheap and cheerful resort town like Blackpool.

5. Battleships, Bingo, Blockbusters – One trainee drew up a grid on the board and demonstrated how competitive games can be used in the classroom to practise all sorts of Business vocabulary. These games are commonly used in TEFL classes but can be easily adapted for Business English students.


6. The Hands of Hans – The most bizarre moment of the whole 2-day course happened when one of the trainees, a qualified Physical Education teacher, presented one of his favourite team-building exercises. We were all required to form a circle and join hands. Then, we had to twist around so we become a tangled web of interlinked arms. Our task was to reform the circle without letting go off anybody’s hands. Perhaps not the greatest activity for recycling financial terminology but a great energizer.

Buying a lemon
Buying a lemon

7.  Selling  lemons – In British English, we can talk about buying a lemon,, which means we have purchased something broken or worthless. For this activity, we were shown pictures of ridiculous gadgets and asked to prepare a sales pitch to impress potential investors. We had to do a lot of lateral thinking to work out what the products could be used for, which was great for developing our creative muscles. A challenging and fun activity for viewers of The Dragon’s Den.

8. Rumours of Cutbacks – The next activity was based on an all-too-real scenario. We were split into two groups and given role cards as employers or employees. The staff had heard rumours of staffing cutbacks and were afraid they were about to lose their job. An emergency meeting had been called to find out the truth. For the employers, this was an exercise in putting a positive spin on an unfortunate situation. For the employees, it was an exercise in weeding out the truth. Not sure I would do this activity with a group of students from the same company though!

9. Spot the Lies – There is an old BBC TV show named Call my Bluff which is played in many TEFL classrooms around the world. This game works extremely well with Business English students who know or need to learn some specific job-related vocabulary. Students are given an unusual word with three definitions: one true and two false. They read out these definitions to the rest of the class who try to identify the correct one. Great for practising how to keep a poker face and it can be made more challenging if you ask the students to choose their own words and create their own false definitions.

boss's wife
Mrs Smith, your husband is the worst boss I’ve ever had! More wine, please.

10. Small Talk Circles – The final activity got us all out of our chairs again. We were asked to form an inner and an outer circle with the inner circle people facing outwards and the outer circle facing inwards so we had to look another person straight in the eye. The trainer then asked us to imagine we were sitting or standing next to the person we were facing. Then, we were presented with a scenario, such as The person facing you in the inner circle is the boss’s wife, make small talk with her, and asked to improvise a conversation.  We only had 30 seconds to interact before the teacher clapped her hands and the inner circle revolved, meaning we were facing a new partner.The teacher then gave us a different scenario in which we had to quickly strike up a conversation. An excellent activity for developing fluency in social interactions.

Hope you get the chance to try some of these activities with your General English or Business English students. Maybe you have some other ideas you’d like to share.

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