Fun Lesson Plans:
Using natural English to communicate and have fun

The ideas below are some of the most enjoyable lesson plans that I have done. These activities tend to work well with a variety of student ages, backgrounds, and levels, and they can be easily modified to suit the needs of your students. Rather than following a specific "accepted" prototype for a lesson plan, all of these lessons are simply aimed at engaging students, making them laugh, evoking natural and interesting conversation, and increasing their vocabulary.

Would you rather ...

First, teach the expression “Would you rather...” as being similar to “Would you prefer....” Give a few examples: Would you rather have coffee or tea? Would you rather have a dog or a cat? Would you rather watch a movie or read a book? Get the students' opinions. Then explain that we have a game called Would You Rather which has two choices, but they are usually both bad options. You have to decide which one you would rather do. Give another example – I usually say “Would you rather drink a cup of melted sheep fat … OR a cup of your own blood?” Tell them that the rules say they must choose! (Most of my students choose blood.) Then hand out little cards, each with a question on them. You can give two or three to each student, and keep some for yourself. You start by naming a student and reading one of your questions. The chosen student has to answer and explain why. The class can also give their opinions. Then that student chooses a new student to answer and reads her question. Some questions allow for considerable discussion and you can get everyone to contribute. This game works well because everyone has a distinct opinion about these topics which is easy to share because the topics are not very controversial. Give your opinion as well. At the end, you can have students write their own “Would you rather” questions and share them with the class.

Questions: Would you rather ...

Have 100 mosquito bites OR have one bee sting?
Eat a spider OR eat a worm?
Be one meter tall OR be three meters tall?
Be blind OR be deaf?
Be in a sandstorm OR be in a snowstorm?
Eat only sweet foods OR eat only salty foods?
Be hairy all over OR be completely bald?
Become richer OR become prettier?
Live in the center of town OR live on the edge of town?
Have a beautiful body with an ugly face OR have a beautiful face with an ugly body?
Eat a raw egg OR eat raw fish?
Have a two-week cruise in the Caribbean OR have a two-week safari in Kenya?
Live alone in a castle OR live with a big family in a small apartment?
Become uglier OR become stupider?
Be a tree OR live in a tree?
Never watch TV again OR never eat junk food again?
Have a cavity filled at the dentist OR get an injection at the doctor?
Never talk on the phone again OR never use the internet again?
Be all alone on an island OR be stuck an island with someone you hate?
Lose an arm or a leg?
Have 5 tarantulas walking around in your room OR have 5 mice running around in your room?
Be able to fly OR be able to breathe underwater?
Be able to only whisper OR be able to only shout?
Have a dirty hotel room on the beach OR have a clean hotel room on a dirty street?
Never die but live alone OR live two more days with everyone you love?


First, review parts of speech and get examples from the class for each category. Write them on the board. I usually only teach nouns (feather, banana, firetruck, etc.), adjectives (slippery, ugly, yellow, hairy, cold), verbs (scream, dance, yawn, etc.), and adverbs (slowly, angrily, beautifully, etc.). Review that adjectives describe nouns (a slippery feather, an ugly banana) and that adverbs describe verbs (to scream slowly, to dance angrily, to yawn beautifully). Then explain that Madlibs is a popular game in which you write down random words and later put them into a story. I find that it works best to write my own mini stories with words missing. Choose one story, but don't show it to the students yet. First have the students write the words that you command in their notebooks. When everyone has finished, ask who would like to read one of the stories aloud. Give the volunteer a copy of the story to read, but of course they must insert the words from their own list to complete the story. Other students can read their version also, or you can choose to move on to the next story. The results are quite funny and it gets the whole class laughing. Here are the mini-stories I have written:

Fun in the Snow

It snowed ______(number) inches last night! I ran outside to ____ (verb) in the snow. I decided to build a huge _____ (body part) in the front yard. I worked _____ (adv). Soon my neighbor walked by. She screamed, “I can't believe it! That looks ______ (adj)!” Then she ______ (verb).

I finished my statue and then went inside to ______ (verb). In the afternoon, the sun came out, and my statue started to melt. Now it looks like a _________ (noun)!

- - - -

Sick Day

I woke up today feeling terrible. My mom said, “Honey! Your _____ (body part) is _______ (color) and your temperature is _____ (number). You can't go to school today.”

Mom said I had to stay in bed and _______ (verb). Later, she took me to the doctor. “You are very sick,” said the doctor. “You need to eat ______ (vegetable) soup _____ (number) times a day, and take a bath in _______ (beverage) every night.” I followed the doctor's orders. Three days later, I looked in the mirror and _______ (verb). I looked exactly like a ________ (animal)!

- - - -

Biggest Fan

One day I was eating at _______ (restaurant) with my friend _______ (friend) when I saw my favorite singer from _______ (music group). I ran up to him/her and screamed, “Oh my god! You are so _______ (adj)! Can I have your _______ (clothing)?”

“Uh … I guess so,” said the singer. “But are you sure you want it? It's kind of ______ (adj).”

“That's ok!” I said. “It's for my ________ (relative). I know she will _______ (verb) it forever.”

- - - -


One night I heard _______ (adj) noises coming from the ________ (room in house). I felt ________ (emotion), so I decided to see what it was. When I opened the door, I saw something white as tall as a _______ (noun). It had red eyes! I was too scared to ________ (verb). Suddenly the white thing asked, “_____________ (question)?”

I screamed, “I have no idea!” I ________ (verb) out of the room as fast as I could, but I tripped on a _________ (food). When I looked back, the thing was gone. All I saw was my pet ________ (animal) on the floor. My heart started to _______ (verb), because my pet was looking at me with red, red eyes.

- - - -

Body Art

For my _____th (number) birthday, my mom said I could get a tattoo. I was so excited. I couldn't decide what to get. I thought about getting a _________ (noun) on my ________ (body part). But then I thought that would be too _________ (adj). My grandma said I should get a dancing __________ (animal) on my _________ (body part). In the end, I told the tattoo artist to give me a huge ________ (something in nature) on my back.

It hurt so much I _________ (verb) for an hour. Then, I went home to show my mom. When she saw my back, she screamed.

“That's not what you asked for!” she told me. “You really have a naked __________ (cartoon character) on your back!”

“Oh no!” I yelled. “I paid $_______ (number) for that tattoo!”

“I have never ...” (any level)

Tell the students to write down on piece of paper seven things they have NEVER done. These can be things they want to do or things they don't want to do. They can be places they've never gone, foods they've never eaten, normal things, funny things, creative things. (You can remind them of the present perfect grammar if you wish.) Give them a few minutes to complete their sentences. During this time, you write seven sentences of your own on the board. I usually try to include examples of things I haven't done in their country that I would like to do.

Then tell them that we will share our sentences, starting with yourself. Read your first sentence, and explain that anyone who HAS done that thing will get a point. If your sentence was “I have never milked a cow,” then any student who HAS milked a cow marks one point on their paper. If the topic is interesting, ask follow-up questions to the students who have done it. Where did they do it? When? Why? Was it fun? Then move around the room having each student read one sentence. Make sure you keep track of your points as well. Students often come up with very good sentences that spark lots of discussion, and it works well with any level. At the end, see who has the most points!

Oral Storytelling: Rumplestiltskin

I love to tell the story of Rumplestiltskin, because most of my students were not familiar with that story. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the girls hung on my every word, cringing in all the right places, gasping in horror when the little man demanded the first-born child, and laughing in surprise at the ending. (After that, they often requested, “Tell us a story!” and our affectionately nicknamed “Rumple” became a class joke.) To start the story out, I show or draw an image of a spinning wheel and a bale of hay. As I tell the story, I draw it out, adding descriptions and dialogue, but using language at their level. I can tell this story to almost any level. When I use a word that I suspect they don't know, I write it on the board and give examples. It is important that you tell the story aloud, as opposed to reading it from a page. The students will be much more engaged if you tell the story conversationally while looking at their faces. (You are welcome to read my version here to familiarize yourself with the story.)

When I finish the story, I pull out a stuffed animal from my bag (my son's fluffy penguin, for example), which causes some laughter. I tell them that we are going to tell the story again, but simply, and that they are going to help me. I will start, saying one sentence or part of a sentence. When I stop speaking, I toss the toy to another student, who will continue the story and throw the toy to another speaker. This method makes everyone pay attention. The story is easy to retell, especially because the plot line is full of things that happen in threes. Some students really enjoy the chance to retell the story.

Now that everyone is familiar with the story, I write a big list of adjectives on the board. I tell them that some of the words will be new, and others will be familiar. I also write down the list of characters that were in the story: the farmer's daughter, the farmer, the king, Rumplestiltskin, the servant, and the baby. I go around the room, asking one student at a time to choose a word and tell me which character it describes - and why (or when in the story it applies to that character). For example, they can say, “Rumple is helpful when he turns the straw to gold.” I then ask the class, is anyone else in the story helpful? As the students assign descriptions to characters, write corresponding letters (K for king, etc.) next to the adjectives that have been used, so that you will know that every word has been covered. For words that no one knows the meaning of, I provide lots of examples using that word. I also ask them questions about themselves using the word. (Selfish means you think mostly about yourself and not about other people. Do you know anyone who is selfish? Are you ever selfish? When?)

After all the words have been assigned to characters, ask them to make connections between the words. Which words are synonyms? Which are antonyms? Point out prefixes and suffixes such as “un-,” “-full,” and “-less.” Tell what they mean and give examples of other word pairs that use those affixes. Point out roots within words that they can use to grasp the meaning, for example, “joy” inside the word “overjoyed.”

The vocab list idea for the story I found in a book about oral stories for teaching ESL, and I have adapted it, adding and changing words to create two lists – one for lower-level students, and one for higher.

Complete list of adjectives: (for higher-levels)
[ innocent - helpful - cross - boastful - poor - astonished - greedy - childless - stupid - scared - surprised - worried - kind - ridiculous - cruel - beautiful - terrified - desperate - strange - amazed - little - rich - regal - polite - badly-dressed - sleepless - angry - hard-working - motherly - unusual - pregnant - ambitious - empty-handed - odd - enigmatic - furious - tearful - exhausted - delighted ]

Simplified list: (for lower-levels)
[ kind - pregnant - rich - scared - unusual - badly-dressed - strange - terrified - hard-working - surprised - angry - helpful - exhausted - childless - poor - sad - overjoyed - sleepless - polite - shocked - motherly - furious - greedy - stupid - worried - bragging - mean - selfish - beautiful - hopeless - little - tearful ]

Over the next few days, we review the new vocabulary by matching word cards with synonyms or antonyms on them. I also put the students in small groups of 2 or 3 and give them a copy of the version I wrote that I have cut into pieces. They then read the pieces and put it back in the correct order. There is also a worksheet or test you can use to check their understanding of the new words. I also wrote another version as a play, which you might find useful to give to lower students to read aloud or to take home to read by themselves. You can find all of these extra things here.


I found several friendship proverbs in a teaching book dedicated to conversation. Students had to match the beginnings of the proverbs with their appropriate endings. I have discovered that this theme can be made into an entire activity that students of any level can enjoy talking about.

First, I write a list of vocabulary on the board. I tell them the theme of the discussion is friendship, and ask one student to choose one word and explain it to the class, by definition or simply by giving examples or telling a personal experience about it. Go around the class having the students take turns choosing and describing words. (You can also identify parts of speech of the words, and how to change them to verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc.) For each word, ask questions that come up naturally. (For example, “Do you like to give advice? Do you give good advice or bad advice? Who do you usually ask for advice?” Or, “Do you gossip? Who gossips more, boys or girls? Old people or young people? Do you gossip? Do people gossip about you?” Or, “Are you always honest with your friends?”) You may be surprised at their answers.

Word list:

keep in touch
lie, tell a lie
patient (adj.)

Other words that may come up as you discuss: superficial, support, death, loss, stubborn

Then I tell them that I have several proverbs relating to this theme. Write an example proverb on the board: “The road to a friend's house is never long.” Ask them what they think it means. Do they agree with this proverb? Then ask them what proverbs about friendship they have in their language.

Pass out the slips of paper where you have written proverb beginnings and endings. Tell them they can work in partners to put the sentences back together. Often, the two halves have opposites in them – for example, new and old.

Proverb Beginnings:

1. When the character of a man is not clear to you ...

2. An old friend is much better ...

3. The death of a friend ...

4. It is better to be in chains with friends ...

5. Never pass a town ...

6. A friend to all ...

7. Rich people never know ...

8. If you live in the river, you should ...

9. Better one true friend ...

10. The winner has many friends ...

Proverb Endings:

a. make friends with the crocodile.

b. the loser has good friends.

c. is a friend to no one.

d. than a hundred relatives.

e. who their friends are.

f. is the same as the loss of a limb.

g. where a friend lives.

h. look at his friends.

I. than to be in a garden with strangers.

j. than two new ones.

Answers: 1. h, 2. j, 3. f, 4. I, 5. g, 6. c, 7. e, 8. a, 9. d, 10. b

When everyone has finished, tell them you will check the answers together. Have the first pair choose one proverb and read it aloud, telling what they think it means and whether or not they agree with this proverb. Also ask the rest of the class for their input. Do they agree? Then move onto the next group, continuing until all the proverbs have been discussed.

If there is time at the end, ask more questions. How many close friends do you have? How many years have you had your closest friend? Do you keep in touch with old friends? Is it easier to make friends when you're younger or older? Who is more important, family or friends, or both? Would you lie to a friend? Would you lie for a friend? Would you give your honest opinion to a friend if you knew it would hurt their feelings? (If your friend/girlfriend comes out wearing a dress that you think is completely ugly, do you tell her? What would you want your friend to say the truth to you if your positions were reversed?)

Stranded on an Island

There are many variations of this game. I usually start with a picture on the board of the beautiful sparkling ocean with a tiny desert island in the distance. I tell the class that today we're going on a cruise, and describe what that means. Then we all get on the cruise boat, but soon - oh no! The wind starts to blow, the waves crash, lightning strikes, thunder booms, and yes, the boat sinks. But look - do you see that island in the distance? Swim! You do know how to swim, don't you? (Ask who can swim and who can't.) When everyone had made it to shore, tell them that there are some items that washed ashore from the boat. Show a picture of various items - you can make one or you can use mine. Go around the room asking students in turn to identify one item and tell as many ideas as they can about how that item may help them survive on the island. (They will often come up with very good ideas. For example, the mirror can be used to reflect the sun to create a signal, or it can be broken to create a sharp tool for cutting.)

When all items have been identified by name and for usefulness, put the students in groups of 3 or 4. Their group must choose five items that they think would be the most useful to them on the island. When the groups finish discussing and choosing their items, have one person from each group write their list on the board. Groups can present their lists and explain why they chose those items. Then compare the lists. Are there some items that everyone used?

Then come the "problems." Tell them that while they are on the island, they will face a series of problems that they have to solve. They can use the items on their list, or they can think about what might be available to them on the island itself to overcome their issues. Give each group one "problem," let them discuss for a few minutes, and then have each group take turns reading their problem to the rest of the class and explaining their solution. Other groups can approve or disapprove of their ideas and add their own suggestions. Their solutions are often creative and funny. Then, go onto the next round by giving each group another problem. Continue until all the problems are solved! At the end, tell them a passing ship happened to see their signals and rescued them. They are safe!

Problems on the island

One person went to pick fruit in the forest, but she hasn't come back yet.

One girl was climbing a tree to get coconuts, and she fell and broke her leg!

A wild animal bit one of the girls. The wound looks bad today.

One boy cut his leg on a piece of the boat. You think he will need stitches to stop the bleeding.

One person went to explore inside a cave, but rocks started falling. She is trapped inside!

One person finds a sick wolf in the forest. What should you do with it?

One girl is angry at the group and she says she is moving to the other side of the island.

One person took all of the supplies for himself and hid them.

It's very hard to catch any fish. You need to think of a way.

Everyone is getting hungry. They want meat.

Everyone on the island is starting to argue.

People are scared to sleep out in the open because of wild animals.

You need to make a large trap to catch animals!

You ran out of matches - but you need to make a fire.

One girl needs asthma medicine but it ran out.

One boy was building a house but the logs fell on him and crushed his arm.

One person has a terrible cough and fever and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.

People need fresh water, but the stream is far away from the beach.

There is a huge rainstorm and everyone is getting cold and wet.

One person got poison ivy and has a terrible rash that itches.

One person is sick from eating poisonous berries.

A boat is sailing very far in the distance. How can you send them a signal?

Easy-going Discussions

Class discussions are great for getting students engaged if they are truly part of the conversation and interested in the topic. The best way to do this is to start the discussions naturally and to be curious about the students themselves, letting their answers prompt your next questions. Discuss for as long as everyone is happily participating. The students are gaining great listening comprehension skills and they will find themselves eager to contribute not for the sake of practicing English, but for the sake of sharing information. They probably don't even realize how valuable this interaction is for their English acquisition.

Certain topics I have found make for interesting and natural discussions, in particular:

Accidents and Health

All you have to do is ask a simple question like, “Have you ever broken a bone?” - and you're off and running. Those who have will love to tell the story of how they broke their bone. Also try: Have you ever had to stay in the hospital? (How many days? Was it scary? Were you bored?) Have you ever had surgery? Do you have any scars? (Soon you'll have everyone comparing their scars and telling their stories!) Add your own stories, too, of course! Students love to hear your adventures, the more painful the better. If you're teaching adults, parents always have a handful of gripping stories about a time their own children got hurt.

This leads naturally into the theme of home remedies, a topic I find particularly interesting from the perspective of different cultures. Ask what they typically do for a sore throat, for a cough, for a stomachache, for an earache, for a headache, etc. What do they do, drink, eat, etc? (Vodka and pepper? Sheep fat chest rub?) Do they trust the doctors? The things they take for granted are often astonishing for someone from another culture.

You ate what?

Food is always an easy and funny topic, particularly when you are in a new country. Ask students what their favorite foods are. Then ask them what is the strangest thing they have ever eaten, and tell them yours. Discuss the answers, adding to their responses famous foods in other countries that are normal for them but strange for us. For example, snake and insects in China, snails and frogs in France, dog in Korea, live little fish in soup in Japan, squirrel stew in South Carolina. Ask them if they would want to try these things. Also, talk about what organs of an animal they have eaten. Stomach? Heart? Intestines? Lungs? Brain? Tongue? Liver? Eyeballs? Many of these are normal to eat so as not to waste meat. Ask them what their least favorite foods are. When they were young, did their mother force them to eat foods they didn't like? If you are a guest at someone's home, do you make yourself eat food that you do not like out of politeness? Be sure to ask about popular beverages in their country, as well as various dairy products. There is fascinating variety in dairy products around the world.

The Tooth Fairy and Santa

Americans have quite an obsession with having perfect teeth, so I often find myself talking about teeth with students. I talk about wearing braces and having wisdom teeth removed for the sake of having perfectly straight teeth. Then, when my son started losing his baby teeth, I asked my students what they usually did with their teeth when they fell out. (Often they did nothing, sometimes they put it in a slice of bread and fed it to a dog.) Some of them had not heard of our Tooth Fairy tradition, so I explained it in great detail - from my son's cute inquiries about the existence of the Tooth Fairy (“I know! Maybe the Tooth Fairy is Santa's wife!”) to his middle-of-the-night delight when he discovered his money. Understandably, they find our tradition amusing. (It is rather odd, isn't it?)

Then we move on to talk of Santa. I ask them, Did you believe in Santa when you were younger? When did you stop believing, or (with a smile) do you still believe? Why did you stop believing? How did you know? When you have children, what will you tell them? Will you say that Santa is real? What should parents do? Do you want your children to believe in the wonder of magic, that childlike innocence that anything is possible? Are we just setting them up for disappointment? Have you or your relatives ever dressed up as Santa? Do your younger siblings believe in Santa? You can also discuss holiday traditions.

Ghosts and Superstitions

Do you believe in ghosts? This question seems simple, but it opens a lot of possibilities for discussion. I have had one student snort scornfully at ghosts while adamantly defending his belief in 'jin,' evidenced by someone from his town who was possessed to visit the cemetery every night. In some classes, all of my students have appealed to logic and denied believing in ghosts. In other classes, they all believe in, at the very least, the possibility. Most of the time, you get both. Often, I teach a ghost story before I bring up this topic. (See The Shawl, below.) After the story, I ask, do you think this could have been a real story? From there, I ask, Have you ever seen a ghost? Many students like to tell their stories of ghosts – either seen, felt, dreamed about, seen after the fact in a photograph, or seen as a shadow on the wall. My students in Kyrgyzstan have told me about one evil spirit who tries to strangle you in your dreams. Other experiences are positive - some students will tell stories of receiving signs from dead relatives. Even if they themselves do not believe in ghosts, you can ask them if their relatives do, if there are any “haunted” places in their town, or if their country has any famous ghost stories. I also like to ask: If there was a house for sale that you really liked, wonderful and cheap, but you knew that someone had died inside, would you still buy it? Why or why not?

You can segue this discussion into superstitions. Usually if you ask, “What superstitions exist in your country?” the answer will be, “We don't have any superstitions!” because they are accepted as so normal that they don't even consider them to be a superstition. First, try to define what a supersition is. Talk about superstitions in your own country first, or about famous traditional ones such as the number 13, ladders, black cats, umbrellas, pennies, lucky T-shirts, etc. Ask what things bring good luck or bad luck. Ask if they have any rituals that they do to ensure a good grade on a test or a good outcome for an event. Many countries have a belief in the “evil eye,” by which an ill-intentioned person can cause someone else to be sick. There are many interesting traditions surrounding babies as well, involving how to make them beautiful and strong with nice hair.

Personality and Zodiac Signs

Though I personally don't care much for zodiac signs, this topic can make a great discussion about personality in general. To introduce the theme, I often do a silly “internet personality test,” such as asking the students to put in order from 1 to 5 these five animals: cow, tiger, sheep, horse, and pig. They can put them in any order they choose based on any criteria they choose. When they have finished, explain that according to this “experiment,” cow represents career, tiger – pride, sheep – love, horse – family, and pig – money. Based on that, have them read out their answers of what is most to least important in their lives. Then ask, do they agree with the results? If not, how would they change their list to reflect what is most important to them? Teach the words “accurate” and “nonsense.” Is this test accurate or nonsense? Then ask if they ever read their horoscope. Most likely you will get a mix of answers, from people who never do to people who always do. Then, I pull up a summary of character traits associated with each zodiac sign. This sheet has three positive personality traits and three negative for each sign. Ask one student when their birthday is, and look at the descriptions that would correspond to that student. Explain any words that the class doesn't know. Ask, is this an accurate description of you? Are you really like this, a little bit, or not at all? What words would describe you better? Are the negative descriptions accurate? What flaws do you have? If you have a small class, you can do this for each student, allowing for discussions of lots of words for personalities!

How do you feel today?

I like this famous poster of emotions. Sometimes, I simply show the class the poster and ask them to choose the image that describes them today. Go around the room and say why. You can go first. If their answers yield interesting results, ask follow-up questions. Alternatively, you can choose one emotion and ask, when is a time that you felt this way?

On-the-spot Discussion Questions:

Write your own interesting discussion questions OR have the students each write down 3 of their own questions. They can be funny or serious. (What color are your socks today? If you could be any animal, what would you be? If you are depressed, what do you usually do to feel better? What is your favorite movie?) Hand out a few questions per student and some for yourself. You start by reading one of your questions and choosing one student to answer it. (Other students can give their opinions too.) The student who answered now reads a question and chooses a different student to answer. That student then chooses the next one.

Alternatively, you can keep a box of questions on your desk, and whenever you have a few minutes to kill at the end of class, you can pull out a question and have everyone give an answer.

See examples of questions.


Music offers a wonderful way to teach English. Often students enjoy listening to American music simply because they like it, not because they want to practice. This means that they have natural interest in learning what the words mean, and this desire to understand makes them learn quickly. Songs also have a tendency to get “stuck” in our heads, feeding students correct, natural English phrases that will make their English that much better.

I choose a song that I find appropriate, interesting, and at a good level. Before playing it for them, I pre-teach any words or phrases that I suspect they are unfamiliar with. I put the text up for them to see as they listen to the song, often with several words missing. If your students need an “activity” to do while they listen, the missing words inside the text is a good idea. If, however, your students can pay attention without having a specific task to work on, you don't have to omit words. The students can focus on the meaning of the song. If you choose to blank out words, take out only about 10 easily understandable words or short phrases per song. Ask students their opinion of the songs, what they think it means. Start a discussion about that theme. Find out what their favorite songs and groups are. What kind of music do they like? In what language do they prefer to listen to music? I found it surprising how most students listened to more English music than music in their own language.

You have infinite possibilities for songs, though the students tend to request modern pop songs. These are some songs that have worked well for our students:


“Don't Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
“The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson
“Escape” by Enrique Iglesias
“Last Christmas” by Ashley Tisdale
“If I Had a Million Dollars” by Barenaked Ladies
“This Time for Africa” by Shakira
“The Picture” by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock
“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
“Wild World” by Cat Stevens
“Father and Son” by Cat Stevens


“Mean” by Taylor Swift
“You Don't Know Me” by Ben Folds
“Ironic” by Alanis Morisette
“What Doesn't Kill You” by Kelly Clarkson
“Where is the Love?” by Black-Eyed Peas
“It Never Woulda Worked Out Anyway” by Brad Paisley
“I Just Haven't Met You Yet” by Michael Buble
“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash
“Just Give Me a Reason” by Pink


Good-quality comics are a huge hit with students. Our all-time personal favorite is Calvin and Hobbes, featuring the mischievous 6-year-old Calvin with his huge imagination that turns his toy tiger into his real-life best friend. His outlandish behavior, his hatred of school and rules, the frustration of his parents, and the artist's perspective on American culture make this comic funny for just about every audience. The only challenge is that the vocabulary in this comic is very rich. If you have access to the book collections, it is possible to find some story-lines that are good for lower-level students. Higher-level students can really enjoy just about everything that Calvin and Hobbes has to offer. I pre-teach difficult vocabulary before starting, then pass out copies of the comics or project them large on the board. Students love it.

It is also easy to find simple one-frame comics, such as The Far Side or short strips from Garfield, Blondie, etc. It can be a nice way to start out a lesson with a little humor and some conversational vocabulary.


For most students, it takes a lot of concentration to watch an entire movie in English, but they will almost never refuse when given the chance. The trick is to choose a movie that they will understand enough of to make it worth their time. One of the best movies for this is Groundhog Day, because of the natural way in which scenes are repeated. The vocab is naturally reiterated as the scenes are modified - and it is all done with a great sense of humor. By the end, students almost always love this movie.

Alternatively, you could opt to show a sit-com, since they are much shorter. However, sit-coms are full of extremely conversational language, slang, and witty cultural references, so they are difficult even for higher-level students.

Facebook Twitter email

Starting Off

Fun Extras

More Info

Teachers' Lounge

"You live a new life for every new language you speak."

- Czech Proverb

Do you want to help translate these stories into other languages? Visit our Story Translation Project