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Some problems with functions and speech acts
and some solutions through pragmatics to help
upper intermediate learners
by Greg Gobel
- lesson plan 1

Time: 60 minutes

Level: Upper-Int

Main Aim:
Learners will be better able to use functional chunk expressions to give instructions and ask about how things work in the context of giving and receiving instruction to operate a device. (stage 4,5) [Expressions: First of all…, Can you see a ___ that says ____ ? , The next thing is to…, What you need to do is…, Have you got that?, Got it? You should be able to see a…, Look out!, Hang on a minute., This one/thing here?, If you want to _______ then you have to _______, What if I want to..?

Subsidiary Aims:
To sensitize learners to prominence and tonal movement. For learners to make attempts at identifying these. (stage 3)

For learners to be able to classify chunk expressions into specific pragmatic categories: telling how to do something, checking instructions, warning or correcting what someone is doing, saying that you understand, asking for help or asking for more time. (stage 3)

If time allows and learners are not overwhelmed with the expressions and subsidiary aims above another subsidiary phonological aim will be to raise learners’ awareness of linking in the expressions, e.g., final consonant linking with initial vowel, some assimilation, some intrusion, some elision. (stage 3)

For learners to practice extensive listening while putting pictures in order. (stage 2)

For learners to practice intensive listening by identifying expressions in the listening text. (stage 3)

Timetable fit:
We are currently progressing through module 4 in the coursebook, Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate. The lesson previous to this one was a review lesson for the upcoming internal upper-intermediate exam, after which we will have three days left before the winter break to go over problematic bits on the exam and finish module 4.

From 4:05 until 4:15, the learners will do some vocabulary matching sheets focusing on language that is particular to the devices that will be used in the lesson. This pre-teaching will hopefully help them feel more comfortable and more successful in giving instructions to each other through the lesson. The lexis will include (washing powder, liquid, drawer, knob, power button, mouse, mouse pad, icon, screen, viewfinder, handle, lens cap, record button). Additionally, learners will get the instructions chart and think of a few expressions for each functional category to see what they know and prepare for the mini-test in stage 1. The last 15 minutes of this particular class will be spent either continuing to practice giving instructions if learners are still interested or with a quick question/answer session to review for the internal end of term exam that is coming up. In a future lesson we will look at written instruction.

Learners have given instructions to peers at lower levels.
Giving instructions is a function that learners are familiar with in their L1 (Spanish).
Although an ‘upper intermediate’ class, the learners struggle to keep up with the complexity in the coursebook.

Anticipated Problems and Possible Solutions:

  • Learners will speak more Spanish than necessary. After attempting to train them out of this habit, they still believe that speaking Spanish helps their English. They also see class as more of a social club than a place to learn English. This is an on-going process of training them out of bad habits from previous years. Solutions: Continue to ask learners to speak in English. Ask learners, ‘Can I help?’ to get them to revert back to English. Use gestures and eye contact to help prevent and stop Spanish.


  • Learners may get caught up on vocabulary related to the devices; this may cause frustration or lack of task success. Solutions: I will try to teach some of the particular device lexis before the start of the lesson. Also, I will make myself available for the learners’ questions about words they do not know.


  • Learners may struggle with the listening. Listening has been consistently their most challenged skill. The Cutting Edge listenings seem geared more toward an ESL class than an EFL class, consistently ‘above’ these learner’s level. Solutions: Tell learners how they should listen before the activities so that they feel more comfortable going into the tasks. Willingness to play the tape as much as it takes. Pausing the tape to help or give learners clues. Reading the dialogue myself if they still cannot work out the tape. Last resort: use the tapescript, although that does seem to make it more of a reading activity than listening.

Classroom aids-related:

  • The room is quite small, even for the seven learners on the roster. With an extra person in the room, the learners may be lacking comfort space. Solutions: First, I will try to change rooms with another teacher before the lesson begins to get a room that has more space. If that does not work, we will have to make do. Perhaps at times I can open the door to create an impression of roominess.
  • Someone else takes the OHP. Solutions: I have reserved it for today, but sometimes that is not a guarantee. If there is no OHP, I will have to gather learners round closely with a blank piece of paper under the OHT.
  • The tape recorder has recently been acting up a bit in this class’s room. Solutions: I will check the tape recorder before the lesson and change it if need be. If it acts up during class, I will have to read the tapescript myself.
  • A plan was made to ask learners to bring in a device that they knew quite well for stage 1, but no learners came to class on the preceeding lesson, 7 th December. Solution: Learners will talk about video camera as that is the focus of the listening text.


  • Sometimes this class takes a long time to get through material in this upper-intermediate book. They find it very difficult, sometimes even when I grade down the tasks, or even the material. Solution: Be patient and not force the learners through just to get to the end. I would rather they did some of the lesson successfully than all of it knowing they were not very successful.
  • Learners complete activities faster than expected. Solution: Several back up activities are planned to fill time in a relevant if this happens.

Number of learners:

  • If there are either 5 or 7 learners, there will not be even pairs for some of the tasks. Solution: Use group of three. Although not ideal, I would rather not pair myself up with a learner because then I would not be able to monitor everyone as effectively.

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