A designer lessons ESL lesson plan developed by Myles Klynhout

This is the second contribution to the blog from SLB member and freelance ELT teacher Myles. When he’s not teaching or thinking up his next lesson idea, you’ll find him heading briskly out of Barcelona on his push bike looking for the next mountain to climb.


About the Project

CSLB-logo-web (1) (2)This is one of series of ELT resources developed by members of Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona in collaboration with Designer Lessons. We are a cooperative of language teachers and related professionals who get together to lend and share materials, equipment and training in order to better ourselves professionally and economically. We also aim to distribute and market our work collectively. You can learn a little more about us and our objectives here.


About the Lesson: 1 -1.5 hours (Adaptable for B2-C1 levels)

In this lesson students will be encouraged to notice how they naturally react to news in their own language, and highlight how they could perform the same reaction in English to maintain free-flowing conversation.

Download the Students Handout here: Would you like to hear the good news or the bad news first?

This lesson started out life as a dogme lesson which featured in ‘Teaching Unplugged’ by Thornbury & Meddings. It is an adaptation of a lesson originally called ‘Good news, bad news’. Further, it was upon reading ‘Translation and Own-Language Activities by Philip Kerr’ that I was  inspired to come up with an idea, which used translation in classroom, that could better enable students to focus on form. The following lesson was spawned.


Stage One: Pre-speaking

Pre-prepare a piece of good news and bad news to tell the class. Be sure to keep them light-hearted, the last things your students need to hear is that there has been a death in the family, e.g.

Good news: Last week, my brother told me he is flying to Barcelona in December to visit.

Bad news: I’ve just found out my roommate is moving out next month.

Ask students if they would like to hear the good news or the bad news first, then share your news with the group. Allow the students to react naturally and ask you any follow up questions. Allow the conversation to continue in open class or for a short while.

While the conversation is taking place, note down the words/phrases used by the students to react (in a notebook or on paper). Don’t board the phrases at this point.


Stage Two: Speaking

Ask students to write down in their own language one piece of good news and bad news they have received recently.

Ask students to share the news with a partner and record the conversation on their mobile phone (this should be no longer than a two minute conversation).

Ask students to have the same conversation again in English. Once again, write down the words/phrases they use to react rather than have them record this version (students often feel uncomfortable recording themselves in English and it may affect the result of the task. For this reason I suggest monitoring and taking notes for later correction).


Stage Three: Noticing

Get the students to listen to their recording. In the left column, they write down the words/phrases they used to react to their partners news. After, ask the students to think about what emotion the person was trying to express when they reacted and write it down next to the word, e.g. surprised, empathetic, not interested, concerned, etc.

Ask them to count how many different expressions they used, then tell them how many each group used on average in English (this number will be lower, trust me). The aim here is to highlight the frequency* at which they are using back-channels in English vs. Catalan/Spanish.

*note: the frequency at which Spanish/Catalan/English speakers back-channel is quite similar, therefore, this skill is transferable and your students should aim to do it at the same rate they would in their own language (for teachers outside of Barcelona you may need to do a little research here).


Stage Four: Form Focus

Now, board the phrases you noted down in step 2 & 6, along with any other phrases that could be useful (always have these up your sleeve incase the students don’t produce enough at the start of the lesson). It is essential that you board the words/phrases complete with stress and intonation patterns, remember to model the pronunciation where required.

Here is a sample of how the board could look:

Board - Goo News Bad News


Ask the students to look back at the words/phrases they wrote down in their own language and decide which of the English phrases on the board they could substitute them with (the ones that express the same or similar meaning).


Stage Five: Speaking

Now, students change partners and have the same conversation again in English starting the conversation with ‘Would you like to hear the good news or the bad news first?’ The activity continues and students change partners again with the teacher providing feedback and correction after each conversation.

Bring the class to a close by placing students into small groups. With the information they gathered from the good news & bad news conversations, each group decides who in the class has had the best/worst luck lately and why.


Stage Six: A little Extra

Set up a class discussion by having each group decide to what extent they agree with the following expressions:

  • Bad things always come in 3’s.
  • Good things come to those who wait.
  • You have to take the good with the bad.

To provide further contact with the language for the students during the week, ask students to take their original recording home, transcribe it, then translate it into English, paying close attention to the word order and words/phrases used to react.


Meddings, L. & Thornbury, S. (2009). Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English language Teaching. Delta Publishing  p. 41.

Kerr, P. (2014). Translation and Own-Language Activities. CUP

Image by Kevin Lim, Dead Sea Newspaper [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) ], via Flickr Commons. Retrieved from commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dead_sea_newspaper.jpg.