Introductions | A first lesson for adult beginners

Getting started | 60 - 90 minutes

This free ESL lesson plan is the first in our course aimed at adult beginners with little to no experience of the English language. Students will learn a few simple expressions that they can use to introduce themselves in English. Don't forget, if you use an iOS or Android device, you can get offline access to this lesson plan through the TEFL Handbook app.

Use of the board

Start by adding the target language for this lesson to the board. If you don't have a translator in the classroom, learn the expressions in the students' native language beforehand, along with the command 'repeat after me'. Step through each line and have the class repeat it back to you. Add the L1 translations as you go to make sure that students are following the lesson.

Next, complete the dialogue on the right-hand side of the board with the help of your students. Add the speech bubbles first, then use gestures to indicate that you want them to suggest the correct phrase for each bubble.

EFL - ESL Lead-in activity for adult beginners | First lesson

ESL activities

Dialogue chain

For this activity, everyone will get a chance to introduce themselves to the class using the target language for the lesson.

If you have worked through the board work for this lesson, you can now do this follow-on speaking activity. The class will take turns, acting out the rehearsed dialogue contained in the board work.

As the teacher, you will kick things off with a student positioned close to you. That student will then take your role when they practise with another student. Repeat this until the entire class has had a chance to practise both scenarios.

An introduction to the alphabet

For this activity, the students will have to listen to and repeat the English alphabet.

There may be students who are already familiar with the alphabet, so it may be possible to elicit the majority of this. You might even be able to move through this quickly. For example, by stepping through the entire alphabet initially, and having the students repeat each letter after you. The following instructions will suit a group with little to no knowledge of the alphabet.

Before we begin, we might want to add the phrases below along with translations in the students' first language (their L1):

1. Repeat after me.
2. Repeat with me.

Make sure the students know the difference before moving on.

Now we can start by adding the first three letters of the alphabet to the board. After that, attempt to elicit the next four (D-G) and add these on the same line. Say to the students "Repeat after me" and recite the first seven letters of the alphabet. Do this as many times as you feel is necessary for the level of the class. Don't forget to move your finger along the board as they say the letters.

Add the next four letters (H-K) on a new line and have the students repeat those back to you in a similar fashion. When you are happy with the pronunciation, ask the class to repeat A through K along with you. Say "Repeat with me" and lead the class through the letters pointing to each on the board as you go.

You can repeat this process for the entire alphabet. There is a suggestion of how to break this up in the board work for this lesson.

Spelling bee

The students will learn to spell some simple vocabulary related to things they see in the classroom.

Start by adding the phrase "How do you spell desk?" to the top of the board. If you don't have a translator in the class, look up the L1 translation and add it to the board underneath.

Next, draw a picture of a desk in the top left corner of the board and mark four blank spaces underneath, one for each letter. Elicit the correct spelling by gesturing to the question above. After you have added the correct spelling to the board, have the students repeat the spelling and the word after you.

Teacher: Repeat after me. D-E-S-K, desk. Students: D-E-S-K, desk.

Repeat this as many times as you feel is necessary before moving on to a new word. You can repeat this process for the following vocabulary.

1. chair
2. pencil
3. pen
4. notebook
5. bag
6. board/whiteboard
7. teacher

Suggested homework

Give the class a video suggestion to practice the alphabet and spelling.

If you have a way to share videos with the group digitally, share the following video with the students to they can practise at home.

Alphabet and spelling

If possible, demo the video with the students, pausing where necessary to repeat the letters. You could even do this on your phone or tablet.

Classroom games

Pictionary: Classroom objects

Players have to draw images of the newly learned vocabulary on the board while their teammates guess what they are.

This modified version of Pictionary can be played with absolute beginners. However, if you don't have a translator available and have no knowledge of the students' L1, it may be tricky to organise. Therefore we recommend having a good look at the instructions beforehand and decide if it will work for your group.

Start by splitting the class into two teams and dividing the whiteboard into three even sections. In the top corner of each section, add three short vertical lines to represent three lives. These will be the number of guesses each team has per item.

On each turn, give a list of three classroom objects to one of the students. They must then represent each on the board using only images and symbols. Their teammates earn 5 points when they guess it correctly.

Notebooks should be closed for this and teams have only three guesses per item. When a player makes an incorrect guess, mark it as a lost life. If they use all of their lives, they must move on to the next item. Set a time limit of one minute for each round.

Count up the scores at the end and remove a point for each incorrect guess. The team with the most points in the end wins.

Use the vocabulary from the Spelling bee activity:

1. desk
2. chair
3. pencil
4. pen
5. notebook
6. bag
7. board/whiteboard
8. teacher

Printable versions of all resources are available to members. View a sample
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