Your Lesson Plan on Culture Shock is Strange to Me

Yet another post just to promote a lesson plan on this site and to reward myself for converting it from html to WordPress post (not as grueling as I pretend it is).

Culture Shock is another topic that all students have something to say about. This lesson plan is accessible to students who have never left their own country because it focuses on different behaviors and asks if they are normal or rude in the students’ cultures. Gets students talking about whether they shake hands or bow to greet someone, and if it changes depending on situation, age or gender. For more advanced students you can get into why we do the things we do, and even if there is any difference between traditional customs and modern customs.

My favorite moment in this lesson is when students say that some behavior is very rude, but normal. Like spitting on the street or swearing in public!

How to Communicate Without Language

As I go through stuff I would have posted on if this blog had been active, I remembered this interview I did for my alumni magazine on How to Find Your Voice. My piece is called “How to Communicate Without Language” and I hope it gives some tips for communicating in a different culture. Stuff like body language and cultural communication really should be part of any ESL class, as well as intonation and emphasis.

By the way, I love the last interview on how to speak with an accent too. And using accents can be a fun thing to do when you learn English. As I said recently, I don’t believe in emphasizing learning an accent because it really isn’t that important in English and because there are more important things to learn. But as a way to make speaking fun and to get yourself (or your students over a stumbling block) using accents, especially exaggerated accents, can be a lot of fun. I once had my students perform the “In Hampshire, Hereford and Hartford hurricanes hardly ever happen” scene from My Fair Lady and they loved it, as well as picking up an understanding of the “h” sound in English. We went back and forth between Cockney and “proper” British and they absolutely ate it up.

Role Plays

Ever since ESL Flow, I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to my lesson plans. One of the most popular lesson plans is called culture shock and gets students talking about different habits and manners in different cultures.

Since it’s getting so many hits, I’ve typed up a related lesson: Cultural Role Play, which is basically adapted for ESL lessons from a Peace Corps exercise.

It’s a fun exercise where you give students one of two different cultural roles to play with very different standards of behavior and ideas of what is normal. If you don’t like my variation, you can make up your own. The fun part, and where students will be forced to use their language, is when you make the student’s cultural rules conflict.

Students Love to Talk About Food!

The Food lesson plan is one that goes over very well with students. It’s accessible to everyone. Beginners can handle describing their native dishes simply and you can push more advanced learners to describe detailed recipes. The lesson also has a multicultural aspect as the teacher can introduce common foods from his/her home country. Finally, the plan moves on to discussing holiday meals, which means this lesson can be used for any holiday, especially holidays that have associations with special foods: Christmas, New Years, May Day, Nauryz, Easter, Ramadan, Passover.

Or use it in conjunction with At the Restaurant to discuss restaurants and eating out.

Food and Holidays

Food and Holidays is a popular topic that almost all your students will have something to say about!
Food and Holidays Lesson Plan

This is a pretty simple discussion lesson plan to get students talking about food from different perspectives. It can be used as part of a lesson, or supplemented with activities, games, and so on. I found this was a good lesson to do when I was still getting to know students because it is a pretty universal topic and as a foreigner in a foreign country, students love telling me about their traditional food. I talk about US foods and holidays here because I am American but obviously it could be used to talk about your own native cuisine instead. If you are American, it’s a great way to introduce Thanksgiving or other traditional holidays that revolve around food!


  • To promote fluency and discussion
  • To practice vocabulary related to food, tastes and ingredients
  • To encourage students to describe in detail
  • To talk about holidays and traditions and customs related to food


  • Discussion Questions
  • Food Adjective Cloze or Brainstorm Worksheet
  • Pictures of typical American food (or food from your culture)

To prepare, put pictures of some typical American food on the board. For example:

but without the captions. Ask students to guess what these typical foods are. Then explain that in the US we also eat a lot of international foods. See if they can guess where these typical “American” foods come from.

Now ask students to name some of their national foods. Prompt them to describe the food in detail: what it is made out of, how it is made, how it is eaten, what it looks like, what it tastes like, etc. If you are familiar with their national cuisine you can prompt them. If you are not familiar, you can use your ignorance to elicit details. You can also get into what international foods have been absorbed into their culture and are now typical foods.

This activity has been moved to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. If you like this sample, you can purchase and download the full Food and Holidays Lesson Plan there.

And check out all my Thanksgiving lesson plans and activities here.

White House 101

Obama still hasn’t decided on a puppy, but hopefully he will be as good a press secretary as Clinton’s cat, Socks

One day after his inauguration, Barack Obama has already brought change to the country, or at least to the White House website. It’s a great resource for Americans and foreigners alike who want to learn more about the President, the Presidency and the Executive Office.

One of the new features that looks particularly promising is Inside the White House, an introduction to the White House and the Presidency. There are some interesting facts about Presidents and the Presidency and a full history of the White House itself, as well as an interactive tour and maps!

Salaries for PhDs Too Low?

InsideHigherEd reports on an academic who briefly worked in an elite escort/prostitution ring to supplement her meager salary as a professor. Rhona Reiss, who got her PhD in 2000 from the University of North Texas, was teaching at Towson University and also working as interim department chair of Occupational Therapy at Howard University in 2001. Despite her 35 years of experience, her salary wasn’t enough to cover her debts from her doctoral programs, raising her son and the illness of a parent. So she began to work for the now famous Deborah Jeane Palfrey in her “escort service” receiving $250 per ‘sexual encounter’.

While some may condemn Reiss, it is a indictment of academia as well that a woman with 35 years of professional and academic experience is unable to be paid a decent living wage. Reiss herself said:

What other industry than academia would [take] somebody with 35 years’ experience who had held the highest … position in the profession … and would pay me an entry-level salary?