12 Best ESL Advanced Lesson Plans and Simple Games

Teaching advanced learners can be a wonderfully conversational yet daunting experience, especially if you are a new teacher.

If you are teaching advanced students, you may be asking the question, “what don’t the students know?!” like me when I first started out teaching C1 level.

There are a couple of things I have since discovered that have proven to work well among higher-level students.

Let’s take a look at some ESL advanced lesson plans and activities you can incorporate into your lessons to engage and challenge your students.

ESL Advanced Lesson Plans

ESL conversation, news, vocabulary lessons and more for your class to enjoy.

1. Use Authentic Materials

Authentic materials are produced for native speakers, like newspapers, menus, brochures, movies or magazines. It is not designed with language learners in mind but can be used to create an ESL lesson plan for advanced learners.

While authentic material is useful for advanced learners, you must choose your materials carefully. Then you can ask the students questions about the material and follow with a roleplay or a written exercise.

You can look at the grammar, vocabulary and discourse analysis. This focuses on how language is used to create meaning. For example, how a tabloid newspaper aims to communicate in relation to its genre or the way sentences are structured.

If you aren’t sure about the readability level of a certain text, I’ve found a text analyzer online specifically for ESL teachers. It rates the difficulty of a text according to the Common European Framework (CEFR).

I added my text and the analyzer took the main vocabulary to study from the text. It also gave me the definitions of the suggested vocabulary compiled as a list when I clicked the “definitions” button.

Definitely a gamechanger for ESL teachers! Find the text analyzer here.

You can find a lot of news articles online from sites like BBC and The Daily Mail.

2. Linguahouse

While Linguahouse is a paid membership site, they also have some free lesson plans that you hear about when you subscribe to their emails.

Linguahouse has got you covered with some amazing, high-quality content if you don’t have much time to prepare your lessons.

Here are some of the free resources for high-intermediate to advanced ESL students:

3. Breaking News English

Breaking News has a plethora of amazing advanced ESL lessons.

Their worksheets can quickly be downloaded and used in the ESL classroom. They have short and long lesson plans to cover all situations!

Level six graded on Breaking News English is the equivalent to C1 and C2 student level on the CEFR scale.

Here is an example of some free lesson plans you can find at Breaking News English:

4. Compelling Conversations

This book really gets students talking!

Compelling Conversations is a good book to have for groups of advanced English language learners.

This book helps ESL learners develop conversation skills and improve their fluency by reflecting on their experiences and sharing stories about their lives.

A typical chapter includes questions, key vocabulary, proverbs, further conversation and the sharing of views.

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Often what students don’t understand is how to have a relaxed everyday conversation in real-life scenarios.

Students might struggle to understand the slang and the conversational phrases and expressions that we use that you might not find in the textbook.

Practice Makes Perfect gives examples of everyday conversations made by people without filtering out the oohs and ahhs of everyday conversation. This means that students get some fairly raw conversations with everyday, American English expressions that they may not be familiar with when learning English in an academic setting.

Practice Makes Perfect teaches conversational skills with expressions and phrases that we use on a daily basis. It suits students that have a high-intermediate level of English and above.

6. Ello

Ello is a website with thousands of free listening exercises. If you are looking to switch things up from the reading lessons, Ello has great topic choices for advanced learners.

Examples of audio lessons you can find on Ello:

7. Ted Talks

Ted Talks are very interesting and highly engaging that provide good talking points to discuss.

We can form entire lesson plans around TED Talks, and they are suitable for advanced learners.

You may want to ask some comprehension questions after you’ve watched the short video, followed by some discussion questions that ask for opinions, experiences and any ethical or moral issues that relate to the video and the society in which we live.

We can also look at some of the language that was used in the TED Talk. Were there words that the student might have had trouble understanding? What do the phrases mean?

See some ready-made lesson plans at Free English Plans. These are perfect for advanced-level C1 students.

Advanced Level Activities

Activities can add a nice change of pace to the lessons while still improving students’ English skills. Here are some entertaining EFL game ideas for adults and teens.

8. Taboo Cards

Taboo is a word guessing game and a great hit with ESL learners. Nobody is too old for games!

A person has to choose a card and make his partner guess the word without mentioning any of the “taboo” words.

For example, the word that the partner has to guess is “thrifty.” The person has to try to communicate this word without saying the taboo words “cheap,” “spend,” and “money.”

Here are some taboo cards on this site for advanced learners. This game can also be adapted to lower-level learners if the teacher knows how to choose the words carefully.

9. Categories

“Categories” is a great way to include activities that don’t take much preparation.

This is an activity suitable for all levels of learners in which a teacher picks a category, for example, “positive adjectives to describe people.”

Students sit in a circle and have to say something relevant to the category when it is their turn. The person who can’t think of something is out of the game.

10. How Long Can You Talk About…

Speeches can be a great way to access students’ prior knowledge on a topic.

Pick a topic of conversation, for example, “how to be more productive.”

The student has to talk about the topic for as long as possible until they run out of things to say. The teacher can note the time with a timer.

This activity can also be played in small groups to increase student talk time.

11. Preposition Boardgame

I love prepositions because they are second nature to me as an English teacher but not to ESL students.

Examples of prepositions:

We are tired of waiting for Lucy.

I think he’s jealous of you.

It depends on your decisions.

Prepositions board games are a nice activity to play with ESL students that students really enjoy.

You can find pages of prepositions and readymade preposition games on Islcollective.

You may also be able to find suitable idioms and phrasal verbs to teach advanced learners.

12. Mini-Debates

Students can have an impromptu mini-debate if the teacher can bring some controversial statements to the table!

Divide the students into two teams. The student gets 2-3 minutes to discuss their point of view before a member of the opposing team argues the point.

Examples of debates could be:

  • Marriage is not necessary for the 21st century.
  • Workers should be given a four-day work week.
  • Formal dress codes are beneficial
  • Vaccines should be a legal requirement
  • Everyone should be vegetarians
  • The drinking age should be 21

There are many useful expressions and phrases for discussions and debates. Run over these expressions before the debate so students can implement them in their speech.

Make sure to informally evaluate the debate and give students feedback at the end.

Useful Links

Advanced ESL Conversation Topics

Topics and conversation questions to ask advanced learners:

  • Natural disasters: “what are the consequences of natural disasters?”
  • Inequality: “what kind of aid should we provide to poor countries?”
  • Fake news: “how can you tell if a story is fake?”
  • Pet peeves: “do you have any pet peeves?”
  • Diseases: “what dangerous diseases are people scared of?”
  • Shopping on the internet: “have you ever had a disappointing shopping experience?”
  • Environmental problems: “how will the world be affected by climate change?”
  • Job interviews: “what kind of questions shouldn’t be asked in an interview?”
  • Success and failure: “how do you treat failure?”
  • Current events: “what is happening in the world today?”
  • History and culture: “how did people live long ago?”
  • Lifestyle habits: “have you made any recent lifestyle changes?”
  • Inventions: “do some countries encourage entrepreneurship more than others?”
  • Medical and scientific progress: “what is your opinion on plastic surgery?”
  • Politics: “is too much attention paid to a politician’s life?”

Any topic can be made advanced, but these topics allow students to think deeply and speak spontaneously about a subject that they are interested in or know something about.

Tips for building advanced lesson plans for ESL students:

  • Be relevant
  • Keep your lessons simple, don’t try to reinvent the wheel
  • Find the balance between creative and practical
  • Keep it interactive
  • Play games, even with adults

What Should I Teach Advanced Level Learners?

  • Authentic lesson material such as podcasts, Youtube and the newspaper
  • Conversational expressions, phrases and idioms
  • New writing styles
  • Pronunciation and intonation
  • Cultural differences
  • Slang

At this point, ESL learners want to know more about how to speak English naturally and fluently with native English speakers. You should teach advanced-level learners idioms, phrasal verbs and conversational or slang phrases they can use based on their needs.

Students may be unfamiliar with writing styles, such as academic, legal, analytical and creative writing. Students often forget the -s and -ed ending in words when writing.

Authentic newspaper articles that are not structured like the typical textbook will provide a challenge to students. Use them to your advantage!

How Do I Teach Advanced Vocabulary to ESL Students?

  • Tailor vocabulary to the students’ interests or career
  • Allow the student to say the new vocabulary term
  • Explain what it means
  • Put the new term in a sentence
  • Ask the student a question that encourages them to use the new vocabulary
  • Use the new vocabulary term in reading, writing or speaking exercises

For example, say the new vocabulary word is “conspiracy theory.” Explain to the student that a conspiracy theory is a belief that a secret but influential organization is responsible for an explained event. For example, some people believe that there are many aliens, but the government is keeping it a secret from us. Then you can ask the student, “Do you believe in any conspiracy theories?”

When students can see the vocabulary term used in different contexts, it further reinforces what they have learned and sticks in their minds.

In Conclusion

Learning English as a second language can be fun, even for advanced learners!

There is no need to reinvent the wheel when planning lessons for advanced EFL classes. Keep the lessons fun and engaging with some new vocabulary and interesting topics to discuss!

There are many free lesson plans and useful resources mentioned in this article to get you started.

What lesson ideas have you found to be helpful? Let me know in the comments!

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I am a 24-year old online ESL teacher from rural Ireland. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK and Europe. This blog aims to help educate you on the existing possibilities of becoming an online teacher. Please show some love and support by sharing this article with others. Thank you!

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