The first class with a new group of students can be tough – especially when they’re busy business people and you are dragging them away from their desks. You need to build rapport with them, find out their needs, and test them with relevant and engaging materials. As business English teachers you must also adapt your lessons to suit the different roles your students have and the industries they work in.
Business English courses come with a range of resources, but you can supplement these with your own to help further personalize the course and add more variety to your lessons. So, here are four free online resources that can help you deliver more targeted and meaningful business English classes.
One of our favorite online resources, TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design), boasts a large collection of talks from experts, artists, business leaders and other fascinating people. The nonprofit organization has a mission to share ideas all over the world – and it can spark interesting discussions, debates and ideas in class.
The majority of the videos TED provides are less than 18 minutes long. They also offer subtitles in English and a selection of other languages – plus transcripts are freely available on the website.
With so many talks to choose from, you are sure to find dozens of suitable videos for your students.
Here are our tips for using TED in your classes:
- Find a video topic that relates to your students’ jobs, industry, or interests
- Use shorter videos where possible (five minutes or less)
- Download the video transcript and highlight useful language structures or vocabulary
- Grade the activities you use to your students’ level
- Begin by asking your students basic questions where they listen for key ideas
- Watch again and ask more detailed questions
- Give the transcript to students so they can check their answers and look for vocabulary items they are unsure of
- Expand with a class discussion or debate, or ask them to research further and produce a presentation on the same or similar topic
Twitter is a public social network that allows people to share ideas, news stories and photos in short messages called tweets. While it seems chaotic and hard to follow, Twitter is actually well organized; it allows users to follow ideas and topics with hashtags (#). If you click on a hashtag, you can find all the public tweets, news stories and videos connected to that topic.
Many companies and individuals use Twitter for professional purposes – making it an excellent resource to find relevant material online. You can often learn more about the companies you are working in by following their Twitter accounts, and you can also use the service to source good class material to use with your students in class. Some popular hashtags include:
If you decide to use Twitter in the classroom, we recommend that students using Twitter set their accounts to private and engage the safe search settings so that they do not see inappropriate material when browsing.
Here’s how to use Twitter as a business resource in class:
- Have students search for business articles and content they are interested in. They can write a summary of the contents and share it with the class
- Use articles you find as a basis for reading material. Write gist, detail and opinion questions for comprehension and discussion activities
- Ask students to write their own tweets and share stories that interest them; they will practice writing and sharing their opinions with other people online in a concise way
3. Business podcasts
It can be difficult to find well targeted and authentic business listening resources. Thankfully the internet is full of podcasts for you to download and listen to. Simply type in ‘business podcast’ or ‘business English podcast’ in your favorite search engine or use an application on your phone such as CastBox, Google Play Music or Apple Podcasts.
Podcasts are online radio shows that you can download and listen to any time. With topics as diverse as marketing, sales, finance and IT, there will certainly be something that relates to your students’ job roles or interests. Note that although most podcasts are free, some come with a small price tag.
Encourage your higher-level students to subscribe to podcasts that they are interested in. They can listen to them while commuting, in their free time, or even while they work. You can also use podcasts in the classroom as listening activities.
Here’s how to use podcasts in class:
- Choose a podcast that’s relevant to your students’ job roles or industry
- Select a short section of the podcast (up to five minutes long, depending on the level of your group)
- Note down key vocabulary and language structures to pre-teach
- Write predict, gist and detail questions for students to answer during the activity
- Start a discussion on the topic in class and encourage your students to listen to the full podcast at home for homework.
Not sure where to begin? Here are five business podcasts to help you on your way:
- Business English Pod
- BBC Business Daily
- TedTalks Business
- The New Business Podcast
- The Tim Ferris Show
4. Business news websites
There are lots of business news websites online. These can be excellent for generating topical discussions. You can decide to read entire articles together or simply discuss the headlines in class.
While it’s usually a good idea to avoid sensitive topics such as religion and politics, many business-related subjects will be fine to use in class. You could even select one student a week to go online and choose an article they want to share with their classmates.
Here are some of our favorite business news websites:
- BBC Business News
- CNN Business and Finance News
- Guardian Business (UK)
- Reuters Business News Headlines
- The Next Web
- The Financial Times
Do you have any favorite online business resources? Share them in the comments below and tell us how you use them with your students.