Teaching functional exponents for making, rejecting & accepting suggestions
by Esther Ratcliff

Preliminary Information


Main aims;

  • To present through the context of a listening, a basic range of exponents for making, rejecting and accepting suggestions for free time activities.
  • To provide students with a chance to practice using functional language in making, rejecting and accepting suggestions for free time activities with other students.

Subsidiary aims;

  • To give practice at recycling and using some new lexical sets for free time activities.
  • To raise awareness of tonal movements of functional language for making suggestions.

The level is elementary which corresponds to A1 on the CEFR. They normally use New English File Elementary. Although these students level tested as beginners in October, most of the students are false beginners in the group and have an awareness of some basic grammatical forms from previous study. Their awareness of lexis is weaker than their grammar. I would say that 7 out of the ten students are average-strong for the level; 2-3 students are much weaker and need a lot longer for receptive and productive tasks.

Class Profile
There are 10 students in the class. The attendance is usually quite irregular so there are usually 6-7 students. They are studying an extensive general English course. (1.5 hrs 2 days a week) They come to class after work, and it is the last class of the day. Their ages range from 22 to 56. The older members of the class tend to slip into Spanish quite often. I have been trying to remedy this by feeding in additional classroom language according to the activity, and they record this language on coloured book marks. Many of the students use some English in their jobs and so have some technical vocabulary. Most of the students have some English knowledge outside the context of the classroom, either from their jobs or from wider society.

Timetable fit
This group have been studying on a general English course now for about six months. They have seen a lot of grammar recently especially the past simple with a focus on irregular verbs. Due to coursebook restraints and pacing issues for exams, I feel we don’t get a lot of time to do the practical English sections in the course book. This class will be an opportunity to use some of the vocabulary for free time activities the students have seen recently, and also present useful language for making plans. This lesson places functional language as a main aim, and sets up possibilities for subsequent lessons to explore the theme of further situational/functional language aims.

Monday 2 nd March
SS listen to an interview with to people talking about their favourite time of day
SS learn how to talk about thing they like/don’t like doing in their free time. (verb + ing) verb pattern.
SS tell each other about favourite time of day, month, season etc and why using verb+ing

Wednesday 4 th March
Day in the life of…
SS learn about verb-noun collocations with go, have and get.
SS ask each other about when they normally do things using a range of lexical items.

Monday 9 th March
Students read about two people’s experiences of a memorable night.
This introduces the language analysis of irregular past tense verbs. SS learn irregular past tense verbs
SS prepare some information about a memorable night they had and share experiences.

Wednesday 11 th March (Observed lesson)
Listening about friends talking about what they want to do together which presents the target language.
SS learn how to make and accept/reject suggestions when making plans with friends using a basic range of new and previously seen lexical items.
SS make plans with other students on plans for the rest of the week.

Monday 16 th March
Murder mystery night in a house which presents the target language.
Regular and irregular past tense revision comparing the forms.
SS use the target language review to ask and answer personal questions.

Wednesday 18 th March
(End of the unit)
Function Practical English video lesson on Asking the way
SS learn how to use the irregular past form of can (could) for asking for directions politely.
Revision of grammar and vocabulary from the unit.

Monday 23 rd March
Overveiw of Functions
Learner training session different situations we use functional language. Learners see a table of different sentences and contexts (similar to the example in the appendix)
Learners decide from a list which situations they would like to work on next.
SS review and learn more lexical sets for talking about food and food groups.

Wednesday 25 th March
SS read about different restaurants around the world which introduces the analysis of the grammar
Countable and uncountable nouns
Role play
SS a scene from a restaurant where they have to order from a menu, and ask about alternative dishes using some, any


In this lesson, students are presented with a basic range of exponents for making, rejecting and accepting suggestions.

Making suggestions

Rejecting suggestions

Accepting suggestions

Lexical set of 'free time'

Assumed knowledge

The students will be have some knowledge of lexical sets for talking about free-time activities such as cinema, film, restaurant. They will also be able to assimilate the new lexis in the listening.

The students will be familiar with verb+noun patterns such as go+shopping; go to+the, a concert, art gallery, theatre, local zoo; play+computer games, cook+something.

They will be familiar with stress patterns, but not in functional language.

They will be familiar with some of the meta-language in the lesson such as infinitive and –ing.

I have been encouraging a lot of classroom language and they should be able to work together and use a range of classroom phrases together, i.e, you start, your go etc. I have also been encouraging language for sequencing and talking about preferences which they will need at the beginning of the lesson.

They will be familiar with the set-up of the speaking activity as they are used to speaking to different members of the class and get a lot of enjoyment from these activities.

Anticipated problems and solutions  

Problems with the Tasks

Problem: Students might not understand the ranking activity in stage 1 and that they have to say which are their favourite ways to spend time with friends.
Solution: If this happens, I will set up the activity again, and ask them to say which I like the best and least. I will remind students that they have to think of most favourite to least favourite for them. I will remind students of the language for sequencing we have already done in class.

 Problem: Students might find the listening for gist task in stage one challenging. They are used to doing listening whilst reading the tapescript.
Solution: If this is a problem, students can follow the tapescript and answer the listening for gist question.

 Problem: Students might not understand the concept of the flowchart activity and I expect the students to need a lot of help with the speaking activity.
Solution: I will model the activity with a strong student. I will check instructions by asking ‘Are you going to read?’ ‘Are you going to listen’? ‘Are you going to write?’.

 Problem: I think some students will have difficult grasping the concept of the diary writing activity in that they don’t realise what they actually have to write in the spaces.
Solution: I will model an example with a strong student. I will remind the students that they must write the activities that the person agrees to do, not the ones they don’t want to do, and that the objective is to write as many as possible.

Problems with the language

Problem: Students might struggle for some of the lexis in stage one.
Solution: Try and get the students to explain the vocabulary in English to me or other students and write the vocabulary on the board.

Problem: Students might struggle with the verb-noun phrase ‘do some internet shopping’
Solution: Tell students that some is used with uncountable nouns, and it is an alternative to go shopping.

Problem: Students might get confused by the language in the exponents, especially ‘about’ in ‘how about’ and ‘what about’ because students might only have come across ‘about’ as meaning ‘approximately’ i.e. about 8 O’clock, or as ‘relating to’ i.e. ‘it’s about a love story’
Solution: I will reassure students that there are various possibilities, but that here the exponent carries the functional meaning of suggestions.

Problem: Students might struggle with some of the vocabulary in the listening. This is likely to be more problematic in stage 5 rather than stage 2.
Solution: I will have already pre-taught/checked some items in stage 2 in order to do the tasks, and if they become confused by any language in stage 5, I will tell them to underline any new vocabulary but not to worry about it at this stage.

Problem: Students might have a problem with the pronunciation of ‘how’ in ‘how about’, as they often get this confused with ‘who’
Solution: I will prompt the students to self-correct if this happens.

Problem: In stage 4 students are likely to find the activity about tonal movement difficult as they find hearing the differences in pronunciation very subtle.They are also likely to find it difficult to produce the correct tonal movement with the responses such as ‘sounds lovely!’
Solution: I will mark on the tonal movement with a board marker which will help them as they will be able to see and hear the movement at the same time.With the responses, I will mark on the stressed words in the responses, i.e Sounds lovely!

Problem: Students might struggle with the disappearing dialogue activity in stage 6. Some of the students struggle with memory games and tasks that we have done before.
Solution: I can skip back a few slides to remind the students of the form of the phrases before continuing.

Problem: Students might forget to use the gerund form of the verb after ‘how about’ and ‘what about’ because students often take a while to fully internalise verb patterns with the gerund and say ‘how about go/see a film’.
Solution: I will help them to self-correct, or by skipping back a few slides to remind them of the form.

Problem: These students are beginners and are likely to slip into Spanish during the communicative stages in the lesson.
Solution: I will try to remind students of the target language where possible, and also help them to reformulate any emerging language in English where possible.However some L1 is inevitable.

Problems with classroom management

Problem: There is student (Conchi) who will often over-translate things into L1 for her classmates.
Solution: I will help her to reformulate the answer in English and encourage her to explain things in English rather than translate into Spanish, but this might not be possible all of the time.

Problem: I think the strong students are likely to finish the activities more quickly than some of the weaker students.
Solution: I will try and pair strong and weak students, however the point of the communicative activity is that all the students speak to each other. If this problem arises I will encourage the strong students to recall the target language from memory to see how much they can remember.

Problems with technology

Problem: There is a problem with the audio.
Solution: I will check the audio before class, and if necessary read the tapescript.

Problem: The PC, projector or the USB fails to work.
Solution: I will use the white board.

Lesson Rationale
The idea behind adopting a functional approach to this class was due the wider reading I had done, namely, Wilkins’ work on Notional Syllabuses. It is fair to say that most course books nowadays can be classes as ‘multi-syllabus’ in that they incorporate various types of functional language, but in my experience, I would say teachers and coursebooks to some extent, still pay more attention to grammar and vocabulary rather than more communicative language.

These students study English for three hours a week. Some of them use it in their jobs, but others will only speak English in class. I was aware that a lot of the syllabus so far had presented grammar and vocabulary very systematically, and I thought that functional language would be a good opportunity to give the students some useful language that has immediate use in the classroom environment. I find with beginners, a lot of the coursebook material presents language and expects students to personalise the language to be able to talk or write about themselves. If there are activities which require information exchange, this is to practice a grammar point. I find the information exchange which uses functional exponents has less prominence in beginner syllabuses, but in reality this is the type of language students will have to use in real situations, rather than being able to talk about things they do in the past simple for example. We had also been doing a lot of work on the past, past simple regular and irregular verbs for example. The idea of suggestions seemed appealing because even though students haven’t studied the future yet, making suggestions is a way of talking about the future, as it looks forward, and hence makes a nice change to the regular content of the classes.

The overall shape of the lesson takes the form of a PPP approach. I would not always take this approach for this system, but in the case of a beginners group, I thought that it was the most appropriate way to stage this lesson because as beginners they need a lot of scaffolding and support. It is also because as beginners, the PPP approach is a familiar and manageable approach. Presenting the target language through a listening, students see the language in an authentic context. The decision to let the students read and listen to the tapescript at the same time is because this is something that they are used to, and it is also a valuable tool for beginners. I find that it creates a calming sense in the classroom, and students’ language doubts or confusions become clearer when they see the written word. Besides, this is crucial for developing receptive skills in beginners. However I also decided to add an alternative stage to this, in case I am pushed for time. This would mean that the students don’t hear the listening again, but see the phrases in isolation. I decided this because I don’t want to compromise the final stages of practice by listening to the recording again. The students can take the tapescript away with them, should they want to look at the phrases in context.

Also having a beginner group of students of mixed age, means that there is a wide range of learning styles in the group, some of the older members of the group feel more comfortable doing grammar activities while perhaps some of the younger students are more keen to tackle more pieces of language. This is what one learner said: ‘Grammar rules aren’t enough, I need to know what to say’. (Parsons 2011:19) I feel that as my students approach the end of their first year of formal studying, that they share this sentiment and this lesson allows them to develop more fluency. By adopting a functional approach teachers adhere to the real needs of the students. As Hedge says, ‘the advantage of this reprioritisation is that it makes the language dimension subservient to, rather than dominant over, the needs of the learners’ (2000:171).

Hedge, T (2000) Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom Oxford
Eales, F (2011) Speakout Elementary Student’s book Pearson Longman
Parsons, J (2011) Speakout Elementary Teacher’s book Pearson Longman
Scrivener, J (2005) Learning Teaching MacMillan


Stage 1 Lead in Brainstorm
Aims: Set context.
To introduce stds to the topic of the lesson.
To activate vocabulary that they will need in the lesson.
To allow students to personalise the vocabulary.
To pre-teach/check lexis they will need in the next activity.

Stds-stds, stds-T(10m)

Project the title onto the board ‘Things we can do with friends’

  • Give students an A4 piece of paper to write their ideas down. In pairs they think of activities that we can do with friends.
  • Elicit some ideas to the board.
  • Students tell each other which activities they like to do from favourite, to least favourite from the ideas on the board.
  • Students look at the pictures of people doing things in their free time, (check any vocabulary here) to check if they wrote anything similar.

Stage 2 Listening for gist

Aims: To provide listening for gist practice.
To provide authentic listening practice before presenting the target language.

Ind stds (10m)

  • Students look at the handout of activities. Check/pre-teach vocabulary (junk food (picture),movie marathon (point to picture on slide), recipe (picture))
  • Tell stds they’ll hear the first conversation. Students listen and tick which activities in the table the friends decide to do. Check together.
  • Listen again. Elicit the answer and put the answer on the board by ticking the activity.
  • Check/pre-teach vocabulary (play (elicit what Shakespeare writes), bike ride (point to picture on slide), busy (explain that it is when you have little time to do lots of things) )
  • Students listen to the next conversation and tick which activity the friends decide to do. Check together.
  • Listen again and elicit the answer and put the answer on the board by ticking the activity.

FLEXI-STAGE Listening for gist (with tapescript) Ind stds (5m)

If stds find the previous stage too difficult, stds can do the activity/check their answers by listening and reading the tapescript at the same time.

To make the task more achievable by giving additional support.

Stage 3 Focus on form (making suggestions) (5)

Aims: To check the students understand the concept of ‘suggestions’.
To present the target language.
To draw students’ attention to the form of the exponents.
To provide controlled practice of the target
To provide controlled practice of the target language.
To check students’ understanding of the form.

  • Focus the student’s attention on the sentences. Concept Check what they phrases are used for. ‘Are the phrases for giving opinion, for asking for information?’ Establish that they are used for making suggestions.
  • Stds look at their handout (Ex 2) and underline the phrases for making suggestions. Reveal the answers on the powerpoint.
  • (Ex 3) Stds complete the gap with the appropriate word.
  • Focus stds’ attention on the next slide. Elicit the verb form for each phrase. Reveal the answer on the powerpoint
  • Stds look at their handout (Ex 2) and underline the phrases for making suggestions. Reveal the answers on the powerpoint.
  • (Ex 3) Stds complete the gap with the appropriate word.
  • Focus stds’ attention on the next slide. Elicit the verb form for each phrase. Reveal the answer on the powerpoint.

Stage 4 Tonal movement

Aims: To allow students to hear the tonal movement in exponents.
To give stds practice producing the tonal movement.

T-ss (5m)

  • Focus stds attention on the complete sentences. Play the REC and stds say if the speakers sound positive or negative.
  • Establish that they voice starts high and the speakers sound positive. Mark the stress on the board.
  • Drill the sentences with the whole class.

Stage 5 Focus on form (responding)
Aim: To raise awareness of preferred and dispreferred adjacency pairs.


  • Tell stds to turn over and look at the responses in ex D from the recording. Tell students they will hear the conversations again.
  • Stds listen to the conversation one. Stop the REC after each suggestion and students match the suggestion with the correct response.
  • Show where the answers come on the projected tapescript.
  • Stds decide if the responses are positive or negative.
  • Drill the responses with the whole class.
  • To provide stds with an opportunity to follow the typescript as they listen letting them see the connection between written and spoken language.
  • To provide students with appropriate corresponding exponents.

FLEXI-STAGE Stage 5 Focus on form
Aims: To present corresponding exponents for the function of suggesting.
To show variations within a response
To raise awareness of tonal movement in the adjacency pairs.

T-ss (5m)

  • Project the table of responses onto the board.
  • Establish that for suggestions you can respond positively or negatively.
  • Show possible preferred adjacency pairs.
  • Show the possible dispreferred adjacency pairs, elicit/give boring (adj) as an alternative to tiring (adj)
  • Drill the responses with the whole class.


Stage 6 Disappearing dialogue

Aims: To give stds practice at using chunks of language.
To build confidence using the target language.
To reinforce the necessity to treat the language a whole part.


Project a model dialogue on the whiteboard.

  • Tell stds they have a minute to memorise as much as possible.
  • Gradually remove parts of the words and students must say the sentences from memory.

Stage 7 Semi-controlled practice
Aims: To introduce the idea of a diary and making plans.
To give stds time to personalise their answers.
To scaffold the speaking activity.
To give stds semi-controlled practice using the target language.
To give students repeated chances to use the target language reinforcing new chunks of language.

Ss-ss (10m)

  • Focus stds’ attention on the diary entry.
  • Stds complete the diaries with three activities they want to do from the list of activities from stage 2.
  • Project the flow chart onto the white board. Establish that it represents two people talking. Tell stds the objective of the next activity is to make as many plans as possible.
  • Model an example with a strong student.
  • Stds talk to the person next to them and try to make an arrangement using the exponents for suggesting.
  • Change stds by asking them to move anti-clockwise. Stds make suggestions to the new person.
  • Stds swap places again by asking them to move anti-clockwise and they make suggestions to the next person.

Stage 8 Feedback
Aims: To share experiences and answers with other students.
Provide a chance to do feedback in small groups.


  • Ask stds to move back and sit in their original places.
  • Stds tell their partner some of the answers from the activity. e.g ‘Julian wants to go to the park on Sunday’, ‘Conchi doesn’t want to go to an art gallery on Saturday’.

Stage 9 Ending the lesson review
Aims: To focus stds on the positive achievements of the class.
Encourage learner training.

ss-ss, T-ss (5m)

  • Ask stds to compare with their partner who has made the most plans.
  • Focus stds’ attention on the mini objectives on the board.

-I can talk about things I like doing in my free time
-I can make suggestions
-I can respond to suggestions.

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