Number one for English language teachers

Business Spotlight

A series of self-contained lesson plans by Karen Richardson that you can use in a business English class with pre-service or in-service students, in one-to-one teaching situations or to focus on a particular topic, business skill or area of business-related language.

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Business Spotlight lesson plans are based on articles from Business Spotlight, a bi-monthly magazine for teachers and learners of English for business. Each lesson plan provides you with material for approximately 90 minutes’ teaching.

Karen Richardson has written a comprehensive introduction to the series, along with hints and tips on how best to exploit these lessons in the classroom.

The first lesson, Making a start, is available free for all onestopenglish users.

Business Spotlight lesson plans

  • Business Spotlight: Would independence help Scotland?

    Author: Karen Richardson Print material

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, focuses on whether becoming independent would be beneficial for Scotland. Students study two opposing texts about Scottish independence, summarize the main arguments of those texts, and discuss their own opinions and others’ views on Scottish independence.

  • Selling yourself

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about how to brand and sell yourself at work. Teacher’s notes include advice on setting homework tasks. Student activities include exercises on key words, expressions and question word order.

  • Invisible man

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple’s head of design, a man who could be famous, but isn’t. Teacher’s notes cover ways to encourage and kick-start creativity. Student activities include exercises on key words, two-word expressions and a discussion on devices and design.

  • Have marketers become spies?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, questions whether consumers are aware of how much they are being spied on and how their digital data is used. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for teaching verbs and nouns. Student activities include exercises on key words, awareness of words that can be both verbs or nouns, and exchanging information.

  • MOOCs: A rising tide

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about the rising popularity of MOOCs. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for looking at the pronunciation of Acronyms. Student activities include exercises on key words, metaphors and discussion questions.

  • When eBay bought Skype

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about eBay’s acquisition of Skype. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for looking at the detail of written language. Student activities include exercises on key words, capitalization and a discussion on internet-based companies.

  • Quiet, please

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about being an introvert in, what can sometimes seem like, an extrovert’s world. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for dealing with tasks that do not have clear answers. Student activities include exercises on key words, character traits and a discussion on introverts at work.

  • Low-cost air travel

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about the emergence of low-cost travel and South West Airlines. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for using online dictionaries to improve pronunciation. Student activities include exercises on key words, prepositions, discussing air travel and a webquest.

  • Should we ban fracking?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about whether hydraulic fracturing should be banned. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for getting more out of tasks. Student activities include exercises on key words, comparing arguments and making decisions.

  • Wild West of new business

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about the emergence of young, innovative companies funded by small investors through crowdfunding sites. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for working with long texts. Student activities include exercises on key words, exchanging information and multi-word expressions.

  • Whistle-blower: Karen Silkwood

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about union activist Karen Silkwood who exposed some scandalous business practices in her place of work. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for checking comprehension with question forming tasks. Student activities include exercises on key words, understanding expressions and a discussion about work-related dilemmas.

  • English as the EU language?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about whether English should be the official language for the European Union (EU). Teacher’s notes cover strategies for teaching creative writing. Student activities include exercises on key words, exchanging information and a discussion about why English should or shouldn’t be the main EU language.

  • Money, money, money

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about money and how attitudes to money differ between cultures and countries. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for teaching ESP vocabulary. Student activities include exercises on key words, word pairs and a discussion about sensitivities in talking about finances.

  • Small is now big

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about the trend towards holding bespoke business gatherings at luxury boutique hotels rather than in conventional business hotels. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for analyzing article titles. Student activities include exercises on key words, word pairs and planning a proposal.

  • The best way to say goodbye

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about starting at a company and, more importantly, what bosses should do when someone leaves their company. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for responding appropriately to personal news. Student activities include exercises on key words, verb and noun collocations and planning a ‘leaving do’.

  • A sixth sense

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This advanced-level lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about how to improve professional relationships with co-workers. Teacher’s notes cover strategies relating to students taking responsibility for learning vocabulary. Student resources include comprehension exercises on comprehension, a discussion about co-worker relations and an appendix containing example questions to ask colleagues.

  • Coca-Cola's biggest mistake

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about Coca-Cola and a far-reaching marketing decision the company made in the 1980s. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for dealing with non-English words. Student activities include exercises on key words, comparing advertisements and writing a case study.

  • Henry Ford's $5 pay offer

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about the visions and decisions of Henry Ford and how they impacted on the Ford Motor Company as well as manufacturing and production processes of the future. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for using writing templates. Student activities include exercises on key words, adjectives and writing a case study.

  • Calm and productive

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about work-related stress, what consequences it has and how it can be relieved. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for using colours and dividing up the tasks. Student activities include exercises on key words relating to stress, multi-word expressions, and taking part in a discussion about the article.

  • Powers in the East

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, two businessmen, one from Japan, the other from China, talk about the economic challenges Japan and China are facing and dealing with. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for talking about opposites. Student activities include exercises on economic and financial key words and multi-word expressions, and taking part in a role-play involving world leaders.

  • The sky's the limit

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, looks at some cutting-edge technological developments that may be of importance in the coming year(s). Teacher’s notes cover strategies on using a concordancer to find useful collocations. Student activities include a key words task, finding collocations, expressing thoughts and opinions, and researching a technological development.

  • Dressing for success

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about the importance of appropriate dress for certain business occasions. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on dealing with error correction quickly during listening exercises. Student activities include a key words task, discussing the article and researching and preparing a presentation on appropriate business dress in a city of their choice.

  • Access all areas

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about a man who changed his rather conventional job for something more adventurous, dangerous and physically challenging. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on using photos to elicit vocabulary and discussion. Student activities include a key words task, ordering multi-word phrases, discussing the article and writing a mini-CV.

  • Good connections

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about how social media can help you find a job or sell a business idea. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on the importance of writing answers. Student activities include a key words task, ordering multi-word phrases, planning and presenting a strategy and an extended reading activity.

  • Should interns be paid?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on two articles from Business Spotlight, two professionals offer their differing opinions on whether interns should be paid for their work. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on personalization to differentiate similar vocabulary. Student activities include a key words task, using multi-word phrases and taking part in a group discussion about internships.

  • We are not geeks

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, two London accountants talk about their very different working conditions and benefits. They also talk about how people perceive them, their work and how they view themselves. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for personalizing parts of a dialogue or interview. Student activities include answering comprehension questions and comparing their company to those of the people in the article.

  • Should you socialize with your co-workers?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on two articles from Business Spotlight, two professionals offer their differing opinions on whether work colleagues should socialize together. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for planning a formal email. Student activities include scanning the text for information, a group activity to organize a social event and writing a formal email.

  • Outdoor office

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, features a man who has managed to turn his hobby into his career and start an ecological consultancy business. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on using paragraph headings to check comprehension. Student activities include a key words task, an exercise on idiomatic expressions and a discussion.

  • Fighting back

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight, is about bullying in the workplace and talks about the many forms of bullying and ways to tackle them. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on moving vocabulary from passive to active English. Student activities include a matching task to identify forms of bullying and ways to deal with it, a discussion about quotes from the article and an extended reading activity.

  • A marathon, not a sprint

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about London hosting the Olympic Games and the disruption and challenges this may cause people living in the city. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on introducing an element of competition. Student activities include a test of Olympics knowledge, a key vocabulary crossword and a London city file to complete.

  • Do Americans work too much?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on two articles from Business Spotlight magazine, two working Americans offer their differing opinions on whether Americans work more hours than they should. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on comprehension questions. Student activities include summarizing the text and writing and answering comprehension questions.

  • Out of office

    Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about how more employees are now working away from the office, also known as teleworking. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on idiomatic phrases. Student activities include a key words and phrases exercise, formulating questions and discussing the ability to telework in their own jobs.

  • Masters of the universe

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about how ordinary people can help provide information required for the advancement of scientific, environmental and humanitarian projects. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on alternatives to web research in class. Student activities include a key word exercise, completing a table using web research and discussing the major points raised in the article.

  • Far from home

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about culture shock, and explores the causes, symptoms and how to cope with it. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on teaching with flow charts. Student activities include answering questions in a flow chart, matching words to make collocations and a discussion on how to best prepare an employee for life abroad.

  • The Golden State?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is written by an American expat who talks about how the situation in her home state of California has changed in recent years. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on teaching specific vocabulary. Student activities include finding two-word expressions, completing a state file on California and a discussion on the economic crisis.

  • Do you talk too much?

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about talking too much and highlights how you can recognize this in yourself and do something about it. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on visualization. Student activities include constructing a diagram / flow chart, delivering a presentation and researching different communication styles.

  • The five Ps of participation

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about participating in meetings and offers hints and suggestions which have been divided into five easy-to-remember categories. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on brainstorming sessions. Student activities include identifying imperative structures, writing an email to a colleague and a class debate.

  • Creature comforts

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about pet-care and, in particular, the estimated global revenue of the industry as well as its many sides - innovative, necessary and emotional. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on teaching compound adjectives. Student activities include a key word exercise and a web task on the costs of keeping an animal.

  • A new revolution

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, written by a Saudi Arabian woman who talks about the restrictions that women in her country encounter in their everyday lives. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for noticing the use of metaphors. Student activities include a gap-fill exercise, comprehension questions and a discussion about women’s rights.

  • Reach for the top

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, looks at the pros and cons of appraisals and both employees’ and managers’ attitudes towards them. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on using concordancers. Student activities include matching and gap-fill exercises plus a preparation task for the students’ next appraisal.

  • Time to take a 'RISC'

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about negotiating and, in particular, a four-step guide to structuring a successful negotiation. Teacher’s notes cover strategies on employing students as observers in role-play activities. Student activities include matching and gap-fill exercises plus a role-play for small groups.

  • Africa's broken heart

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine which is written by a South African woman who gives her account of a trip to Zimbabwe. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for reading numbers and figures out loud. Student activities include completing a country file on Zimbabwe, and analyzing and translating expressions from the article.

  • What I've learned: Tony Hawk

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, the American skateboarder Tony Hawk gives advice on how to turn your passion into your profession. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for multi-word expressions. Student activities include a discussion in which students provide career advice and web-related tasks on Tony Hawk’s business ventures.

  • New beginnings

    Author: Karen Richardson Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, covers the topic of immigration in Canada – which is considered a model for successful immigration policy. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for paraphrasing. Student activities include rewording excerpts from the article and a webquest investigating ethnic diversity.

  • Daring to fail

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, features an interview with a businesswoman, Anna Koark, who talks about her experience of insolvency. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for pair and group discussions. Student activities include comprehension exercises about Anne’s career and a discussion about life choices.

  • Great expectations

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, is about intercultural communication and, in particular, how different countries and cultures conduct business deals. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for addressing accuracy while still keeping fluency in tasks. Student activities include gap-fill exercises and an in-depth discussion.

  • Do women need quotas to get to the top?

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on two articles from Business Spotlight magazine, two professionals offer their opinions on whether quotas are necessary to help women get to the top of their professions. Teacher’s notes cover strategies for encouraging inductive learning. Student activities include a group discussion activity and internet research to create a profile of a female CEO.

  • All together now

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, looks at the reality of multi-generational workplaces and the methods that can be adopted to keep everyone happy. Teacher's notes cover strategies for teaching and learning the importance of preparation time for speaking activities. Student activities include generating more tips on how to improve a multi-generational workforce and a group discussion.

  • Should networking sites be banned from work?

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, two experts offer differing opinions on whether social networking should be used at work. Teacher's notes cover strategies for handling idiomatic language. Student activities include discussing the key arguments in groups and taking part in a role-play at an inter-departmental meeting.

  • Emotional roller coaster

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    This lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, looks at the personal conflicts two managers faced as they took the most difficult management decisions of their careers. Teacher's notes cover reading and information exchange activities. Student activities include an information exchange activity and discussions.

  • Specialist or generalist?

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, an American career coach discusses why we should consider becoming specialists (rather than generalists). Teacher's notes cover strategies for essential and non-essential business vocabulary. Student activities include answering comprehension questions and embarking on a project.

  • Who can you trust?

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, an American career coach talks about practices and methods used to tell when someone is lying. Teacher's notes cover strategies for personalizing language. Student activities include answering comprehension questions and taking part in a role-play.

  • My home is my castle

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    This lesson is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine that talks about the Indian government’s use of satellite images of slums and to what ends this information may be used. Teacher's notes focus on hidden agendas and cover PowerPoint presentations in class as a teaching and learning strategy. Student activities include writing a country file and preparing a PowerPoint presentation.

  • Is it ever OK to lie in a job interview?

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on two articles from Business Spotlight magazine, a former recruitment director and a director of a top employment website offer differing views on whether candidates should lie in job interviews. Teacher's notes cover strategies for staging complicated tasks. Student activities include summarizing the text and writing and answering comprehension questions.

  • End and beginning

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    This lesson is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine that deals with the problematic but essential Business English topic of losing a job. Teacher's notes cover strategies for report writing. Student activities include practice of vocabulary and expressions useful for discussing this topic and writing a report.

  • Career focus: Recruiter for love

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, Sophia McDonald talks about her company, Sophisticated Matchmaking, and how her previous work experience and her people skills have helped her become a successful matchmaker. Teacher's notes cover strategies for teaching and learning idiomatic expressions. Student activities include a business vocabulary crossword, and note-taking and summarizing exercises.

  • What I've learned: 50 Cent

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, the American rapper 50 Cent talks to the author Robert Greene about his life, career and business decisions. Teacher's notes cover strategies for holding a class debate. Student activities include discussing quotes from the article and writing a summary of 50 Cent's life.

  • Planning the future

    Author: Karen Richardson Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, two students, who have decided to study abroad, talk about matters that are important to them, such as tuition fees and future job prospects. Teacher's notes cover strategies for reading for detail. Student activities include filling in a table with information from the article and rewriting parts of the dialogue.

  • The art doctor

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, a self-made businessman talks about his decision to dramatically change his career path and the consequences it has since had on him and his life. Teacher's notes cover strategies for using word clouds and word wheels, and student activities include writing a CV and completing an online career test.

  • Moving down under

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    In this lesson, which is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine, Nerida Frost talks about how she moved from Germany to New Zealand with her family. The article deals with the opportunities and challenges that may be encountered when moving to another country for work reasons. Teacher's notes cover strategies for teaching and learning word frequency and corpora, and collocations. Student activities include writing a country file and presenting it to the class.

  • Introduction to the Business Spotlight series

    Author: Karen Richardson

    Karen Richardson introduces a series of lesson plans based on articles from Business Spotlight, a bi-monthly magazine for teachers and learners of English for business. This article provides an overview of the series, as well as hints and tips on how best to exploit it.

  • Making a start

    Author: Karen Richardson

    This lesson is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine that deals with the stages of kick-off meetings and their importance for the success of new projects. Teacher's notes cover strategies for skim-reading and recording new language, and student activities include setting an agenda and writing an email. This lesson is free for all onestopenglish users.

  • The case against self-employment

    Author: Karen Richardson Type: General lesson plan Staff Room

    This lesson is based on an article from Business Spotlight magazine that deals with the advantages and disadvantages between having a full-time (or part-time) employment contract and being self-employed. Teacher's notes cover strategies for brainstorming and using opposites, and student activities include a business simulation and writing a questionnaire.

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