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 ask, “what don’t the students know?!” like when I 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 look at some advanced ESL lesson plans and activities you can incorporate into your lessons to engage and challenge your students.
ESL Advanced Lesson Plans
Your class can enjoy ESL conversation, news, vocabulary lessons, and more.
1. British Council
The British Council provides access to a few free advanced ESL lesson plans on general topics for secondary school students and adults. The lesson plans are designed around engaging themes, and it will take one or two classes to complete each one. They also have some free Business English lesson plans. Feel free to check these out for your advanced-level students.
Unfortunately, they don’t have many lesson plans available, but it’s great for finding something if you are stuck. Here are some to check out:
While Linguahouse is a paid membership site, they also have exclusive free lesson plans you hear about when you subscribe to their emails.
Linguahouse has got you covered with unique, 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:
- Pandemic Millionaires
- Snow Leopards
- Mastering Conversation
- Spider Home Invasion
- Shakespeares Insults
- Changing Careers
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 equivalent to C1 and C2 student levels on the CEFR scale.
Here is an example of some free lesson plans you can find at Breaking News English:
- Extreme Heat Lesson Plan
- Record Breaking 96-year old DJ Dies
- Herald of Wild Elephants on the March in China
- Job Offers $30 an Hour for Eating Candy
- London’s Thinnest House sells for $1.3 million
Ello is a website with thousands of free listening exercises. If you want 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:
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5. TED Talks
TED Talks are very interesting and engaging, providing good discussion points.
We can form entire lesson plans around TED Talks, which 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 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 TED Talk lesson plans at Free English Plans. These are perfect for advanced-level C1 students. Also, check out TED-Ed, which has some comprehension and discussion questions mapped out for you with each video.
6. ESL Pals
ESL Pals has some great ready-made lesson plans that are easy to download and print off with just a few clicks. Currently, they have business English, general English, and grammar lessons at the C1 level.
This is a paid resource, starting at $49 for six months of access, although some free resources are available.
Examples of free lessons you can find at ESL Pals:
If you are considering teaching online, Off2Class has many lessons you can share with an advanced-level student.
Off2Class has a huge curriculum that can be adapted to a variety of needs, and its advanced-level lessons are plentiful. If you are interested in using Off2Class, you must pay a monthly or annual subscription fee, starting at $8 per month.
Examples of free lessons you can find at Off2Class;
- Five ESL Lesson Plans to Teach Idioms
- Five ESL Lesson Plans to Get Your Students Speaking
- Consumerism and Consumption
- The Business of Philanthropy
8. 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 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 how sentences are structured.
You may also be interested in Top ESL Websites for Online Teachers
Check The Readability Level of Any Lesson Material
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. A game-changer for ESL teachers! Find the text analyzer here.
This book really gets students talking!
Compelling Conversations is a good book 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, sayings, further conversation, and the sharing of views.
Practice Makes Perfect
Students often don’t understand how to have a relaxed everyday conversation in real-life scenarios.
Students might struggle to understand the slang and conversational phrases and expressions 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 idiomatic 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 we use daily. It suits students that have a high-intermediate level of English and above.
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.
1. 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 for advanced learners. This game can also be adapted to lower-level learners if the teacher chooses the words carefully.
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.
3. 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.
4. Board Games
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.
Board games are fun but may take a lot of time to make. I created a prepositions board game, but you can find board games that practice various grammar or vocabulary points.
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 an opposing team member argues the point.
Examples of debates:
- Marriage is not necessary in the 21st century.
- Workers should be given a four-day workweek.
- Formal dress codes are beneficial
- Vaccines should be a legal requirement
- Everyone should be vegetarian
- The drinking age should be 21
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 online: “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 advanced, but these topics allow students to think deeply and speak spontaneously about a subject 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
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.
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?
When students see the vocabulary term used in different contexts, it reinforces what they have learned and sticks in their minds.
- The vocabulary should be based on the lesson plan
- 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
Learning English as a second language can be fun, even for advanced learners!
When planning lessons for advanced EFL classes, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Keep the lessons fun and engaging with some new vocabulary and exciting topics to discuss!
What lesson ideas have you found to be helpful? Let me know in the comments!
- Best ESL Worksheets for Beginners
- Best Icebreaker Questions and Activities
- Best Free Worksheets for Adults
- Best Free Worksheets for Young Learners
- Best Free Business English Lesson Plans
- Best ESL Grammar Lesson Websites
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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.