Engineering an Experience! Want fries with that?

English lesson at Starbucks with two managers from McDonald's logistics company

Many teachers don’t know how to keep their lessons interesting when there is only a handful of students or maybe the class is one-on-one. Sometimes you notice the students’ eyes getting blurry from the book. But I have found that these tiny groups are so mobile there is no reason to keep them in the classroom.

As I mentioned before, I will take them on an English safari through Ikea. I also like to take them through a shopping mall or even an English bookstore. The bookstore is a universe of ideas and it is interesting to tour those ideas. Business people love hearing what you know about Jack Welch or the “long tail”. Even the “Economic Hit Man” provides an interesting business topic to discuss with your students.

My lessons are not always a tour of a shop, though. Sometimes we have a sit down lesson but why do it in a classroom? What kind of experience is that?

I met my students at Subway, the sandwich restaurant, and using a CNN article called “How China Eats A Sandwich” we learned about the crazy guy who started the franchise in China.[1]

Sitting in a McDonald’s we learned about their new makeover from a red and yellow kindergarten style into a cool jazzy décor from an article in FastCompany.[2]

KFC is not to be ignored. Munching on wings we learned about Warren Liu’s book on KFC’s secret recipe of success in China.[3]

Starbucks is a really teacher-friendly place. For the price of a coffee you can have a comfortable place for a two-hour lesson. My students and I were fascinated with an article about Starbucks called “One Cup of Coffee, 20 Experiences”.[4]

I reformat these articles by pasting them into a Word document, add a photo or two, put some of the new words along the side of the article and print out two or three copies. You can also simplify the vocabulary if it is much too difficult for your students. It is pretty fast. If you want copies let me know. These particular lessons are suitable for upper-intermediate level and advanced business English students.

The students get so absorbed into the experience, the ambience, the discussion of business concepts, they really forget that this is an English “lesson” yet they are using their English to communicate their ideas. Upper-intermediate and especially advanced level students need help in the nuances of expressing concepts, ideas, arguing and debating conflicting viewpoints.

Let’s think outside the box and even teach outside the book…way outside!







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