7 Advanced ESL Lessons Your Students will Love

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Congrats on the new teaching gig! You’ve got the first day of school jitters, have your outfit planned out, alarm is set, and you’ve memorized your bus directions. But now what? Just open the book and start speaking? It can be a little scary thinking about your first day of school as an ESL teacher. 

Girl writing on board during advanced esl lessons

Change lives—and language capabilities—with creative and fun advanced ESL activities!

Fear not, we’ve got you covered for planning some advanced ESL lessons that will make your students coming back for more. 

Tips for building advanced ESL lesson plans

First off, you need to know your audience. Are you teaching adults in Asia? They likely aren’t going to be too keen on hearing pop culture based on Justin Bieber’s new hit. Are you teaching kindergarten kids overseas who are interested in Business English? No, you’re not. Keep it fun and keep it relevant! You have to know who your students are and then can start making some stellar advanced ESL lessons plans. 

  • Follow ESL teaching models. Remember what you learned in your TEFL class a while back? You know, that part about slacking on your advanced ESL lesson plans, making sure to increase your teacher talk time, and to give multiple pop quizzes to the students…. Of course not! Make sure to follow the methods you learned or the ones that your school director gives you. If you’re not quite sure where to start, at least think of the the three “Ps”: Presentation, Practice, Production. 
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Being creative is excellent, but no need to reformat the entire way that past teachers have taught. Keep it simple while also throwing in a dash of your own unique twist to the advanced ESL lessons. Find that smooth balance between creative and practical. If in doubt, you can scour the internet to find advanced ESL worksheets and tips to use for your lessons.
  • Keep it active. Nothing is worse than having students who are either dozing off, have that deer in headlights look, or are downright bored. There’s a fix for that. Move around. Get up. Mingle. Role play. Advanced ESL lessons that are student centered will be much more successful. It’s not about you, the teacher, it’s about the students being fully engaged and learning to teach themselves and their peers. Even just having them write on the whiteboard or move around a bit will keep the advanced ESL lessons much more engaging.  
  • Even advanced ESL students love playing games. Who could disagree that games are the best? Teaching English needs to be fun. Even if you’re in a room full of business English adults, you can find ways to throw in some games. No one is too cool for games. NO ONE. 

7 advanced ESL lesson plans that are ready-to-go

Adult with paint brushes

Put your paint brushes down—it’s time for advanced ESL lessons and conversations!

Just for fun, many of the following sample advanced ESL lessons and activities are based on—drumroll please—travel! We here at GoAbroad figure you can chat up a storm about that, correct? Regardless of your lesson aims of the day, you can always tweak them to fit the topic that you plan to teach. 

Keep in mind that the topic of the advanced ESL lessons will depend on your audience, meaning the students’ ages and their backgrounds. Be culturally sensitive if working with refugees or students living in poverty. An ESL lesson about traveling is not interesting to everyone. You’ll also have to check if the school you work for has required topics and materials for you to cover. In any case, whether you are building advanced ESL grammar lessons or just browsing for advanced ESL worksheets, you can be confident that you will have a kick-ass class. 

1. Tell us about your dream vacation. 

Skill focus: Speaking

Advanced ESL speaking activities can be really fun for students if you know what they like to talk about. In this case, project a map of the world on the board and ask students to think about where they would like to go on a dream vacation. Give them some time to answer prep questions that they can fill out before they discuss their ideas with other classmates. Easy ways to prep for this would be considering the who, what, where, when, and why? Once they have taken some time to prep and think about what they would like to discuss, have them chat with their classmates about their dream trip! Make sure they mingle, move around, and speak to multiple people. 

  • Systems aims: Phonetics, vocab (new lexis—if you’re fancyyy)
  • Materials needed: Map of the world, prep questions, sample questions for discussion, pencil, paper
  • Make it even harder: Have some backup questions for these advanced ESL lessons. Conversations that go further in depth will be a bigger challenge. “What’s your budget?” “What activities will you do each day?” “What kind of food will you eat?” “What’s the most exciting thing you will do?” Additionally you can quiz them after their conversations with their peers to ask what they retained from their classmates. “Who wants to travel the furthest?” “Who wants to bring their family?” The list could go on! 

2. Get published in magazine. 

Skill focus: Writing

English learners love a good competition; why practice writing without a reason behind it? Before handing out the writing task, let students know how much time they have to prep, how much time they have to write, and WHY they are writing. If you tell the students that they are competing to get published in a famous online magazine, let’s say, GoAbroad.com ;-), it will get them more motivated. 

Woman carrying backpack to esl lessons

Coming up with advanced ESL lesson plans for adults is different than how you’d approach it for teens or children.

In advanced ESL lessons for writing, students should take 10-15 minutes to write about their dream vacation. You can prompt them with a few questions, but this topic should allow them the freedom to write creatively. After the time is up, hang the writing pieces around the room. Give the students time to read each other’s pieces and then vote on which one should be published. It’ll be a confidence booster for the winner and provide that “student centered” activity that they need while learning. 

Pro tip: Advanced ESL speaking activities and writing tasks can actually be planned almost EXACTLY the same. The only difference is if the end result is either a dialogue or a text. 

  • Systems aims: Grammar, vocab (new lexis—if you’re fancyyy)
  • Materials needed: Sample prompt or sample questions, pencil, paper
  • Make it even harder: Before hanging up the students’ writings about their dream vacations, have them swap with their partners to correct any errors. This will give them the opportunity for peer revision and give them a chance to then correct their mistakes. Best of all, it keeps the lesson student centered! 

3. Plan a holiday. 

Skill focus: Listening

Have the students listen to a clip of two people discussing their upcoming vacation plans. Prepare some key questions for them to answer to check on their comprehension. To make it more fun, leave out the ending part of the audio conversation. The students then can come up with their own ending and share their ideas with the class. 

Listening tasks are fun because you can use TV show clips, song lyrics, Ted talks, podcasts, and more!

  • Systems aims: Vocab (new lexis—if you’re fancyyy), listening comprehension
  • Materials needed: Audio clip based on a vacation or any topic your students enjoy, prepared questions, pencil, paper 
  • Make it even harder: Once the students complete their “make and ending to the story” task, have them create questions that they would ask those who were speaking in the conversation. This gives them freedom and room for creativity. They can then share those questions with other classmates. 

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4. Read a travel guide.

Skill focus: Reading

Hello GoAbroad travel article archives. Pick an article for the students to read. Only give them the middle section and leave out the introduction and conclusion. Create handouts of a few options for intros and conclusions and have the students decide on which one is the best. If they are even more advanced, leave out your handouts and have them create their own intros and conclusions. To check on detailed comprehension, create questions about the article based on some of its key highlights. 

Pro tip: Reading lessons are the easiest to plan and facilitate!

  • Systems aims: Vocab (new lexis—if you’re fancyyy), reading comprehension
  • Materials needed: Travel article, prepared intro and conclusion options, additional questions, pencil, paper 
  • Make it even harder: Give the students a travel guide that is based in the country you are teaching in. Ask them what is correct, incorrect, what can be altered, what they like, and what they don’t like. This is a great way to get them interested because it’s about their own home!
Beautiful vaca spot

Describing your dream vacation is one of our fave conversation topics for advanced ESL students.

5. Answer "If I had a million dollars, I'd..."

Skill focus: Grammar 

Advanced ESL grammar lessons don’t have to be dull! What’s more fun than making up stories about different scenarios? Let’s think about conditionals as that is a more advanced ESL grammar technique. A fun activity would be to have the students sit in a circle. The teacher leads and says: “If I had a million dollars, I’d go to Paris.” The next student says, “If I went to Paris, I’d eat lots of crepes.” “If I ate lots of crepes, I’d…….” You get the picture. The students go around in the circle and create a story based off of conditional phrases that the student before them said. 

  • Systems aims: Grammar, vocab (new lexis—if you’re fancyyy)
  • Materials needed: Flashcards or pictures with different situations for samples, prepared materials with different conditionals, pencil, paper 
  • Make it even harder: Switch it up. Mix up the activity with all of the different conditionals—zero, first, second, third, mixed—to make that the students think about different situations with different types of grammar. 

6. Guess the word.

Skill focus: Vocab 

Let’s say your vocab keywords are based on items to pack in a suitcase for a vacation. One game is to have the target vocabulary all on different pieces of paper. One student draws a word and describes it without saying the word. The other students compete to guess the word. Continue playing until all of the words are finished. Whoever guesses the most words wins! 

Another way of doing a similar activity is to have two students sitting in chairs with their backs facing the board. The teacher writes the target vocabulary word on the board. The rest of the class then has to describe the word to the two students. Whoever guesses the word wins!

Vocabulary lessons may seem easier to teach, but make sure to use lots of visuals, be very interactive, and keep the lesson student centered so that it sparks their interest. Vocab lessons are perfect for games. 

  • Systems aims: Vocab (new lexis—if you’re fancyyy), phonetics
  • Materials needed: Planned vocab material cut out on different pieces of paper
  • Make it even harder: If the target word is suitcase, create a challenge for the students by making the target vocab be “small black and flowery suitcase.” You can tweak the vocab on a case by case basis. 

7. Ask for advice. 

Skill focus: Functional language

Advanced students love love love learning how to ACTUALLY speak the language. This is more than the robotic: “Hello, how are you? I’m fine, and you.” English language learners want to speak as the natives do! This is where functional language is key so that they can sound more natural and have real life conversations. A fun activity would be asking for recommendations at a tourist office. The students could prepare scripts in groups of two or three. One of the students is the tourist office manager while the other one is the traveler. The students plan a role play for five to ten minutes and then perform for the class. 

Man and woman having an ESL

You can create an ESL advanced lesson for one-on-one students, too.

To prepare the students for this activity, the teacher could give context and background. There could be sample phrases and sentences taught before the role play. In the case of seeking advice from a tourist office, some keywords could be: activities, events, tours, programs, times, prices, budget, etc. This will, of course, depend on your key aims of the lesson. 

  • Systems aims: Function, vocab (new lexis—if you’re fancyyy), phonetics. 
  • Materials needed: Keywords written down and defined, scripts or sample role play, pencil, paper
  • Make it even harder: Add modals! On top of basic recommendations, see if students can use the nine basic modals in their role play scripts. “You MIGHT want to see Angkor Wat or you MUST see Angkor Wat?” This makes for a whole new meaning behind the role play for those advanced ESL lessons. 

Put it all together & you have killer advanced ESL lessons 

Now time to go on and make those advanced ESL lesson plans! Whatever your lesson aims are, don’t get too wrapped up in overthinking your to do list. Just remember that for the students to be fully engaged you need to have clear goals and know what they really want to learn. Once you get to know your students and see what their interests are, it’ll be a piece of cake. Most important of all: have fun! 

For more info on being the best ESL teacher possible, check out some more of GoAbroad.com’s ESL resources for teachers abroad

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