Books and ideas for adult beginners


Could you give me some tips on how to start the first lesson? I'm setting up an English lesson for adults in my rural area and so far 7 people have phoned up to join the beginners group.

After being really excited, I'm now dreading the first lesson as I don't know them at all and they are all going to judge me on the spot and gossip in the village the next day. Am I paranoid????

I'm used to teaching one-to-one and business English but this is different.

I'm rehearsing the first few minutes in my head and I've planned a lesson but some ladies have never done English, others have studied at school 20 years ago ...

How do you start? Any tips please?

Also, what book do you use? I'm using my own material as I've not found an appropriate workbook so far. Can you recommend one that is fun and interactive?


Thanks for your help. I've seen the Harraps but was not convinced by it.

The grammar book you mention is brilliant, I agree! It's always in my bag and I frequently use it to explain a point of grammar.

Thanks for the link to That's exactly what I needed to create fun activities. I've been struggling for years making my own and this software will ease the task.

In the first group, the true beginners will be a challenge but it's down to me to work at their pace, whilst giving more complicated tasks to the others.

The second group is more advanced, we spent 1h1/2 speaking in English, obviously with a few French words here and there but generally, this group has a good knowledge of English. Just some points of grammar to review (for and since...) and more vocab.

Thanks a lot

Thanks for your help and the websites. I expected them to be able to be able to present themselves in the first lesson but we only got to look at "to be". Next time, I'll bring easier tasks for true beginners and advanced tasks for false beginners.

Thanks for the advice. It was fine in the end but some people have never studied English so even I, you, he ... were unknown to them! I had prepared for false-beginners but had to improvise and go back to the basic knowledge.

Hi Evelyne

I've been teaching a group of adults in my village for about 6 months now and we have une baleine of a time! They are very mixed ability from the mayor, who's over 70 and finds it hard (but is game for a laugh and is not afraid to have a go) to a neighbour whose wife is Swedish and is pretty fluent.

I use a mixture of resources - we use Harrap's Anglais Méthode Integrale CD and book (Available on by Sandra Stevens. You can buy 1 book+CD pack and then furthercopies of the book separately for the students (around 7,50 € for the book on its own). I like this because it's very practical (it starts with asking for food and drinks on a plane) but from the word go focuses on pronunciation which even the more competent students find challenging. It's also good because all the explanations are in French.

I back this up with a brilliant old book called "Essential Grammar in Use" by Raymond Murphy which is probably out of print but can be bought for a song on This has very good explanations (in English) of a very wide range of English grammar points, with examples and exercises. This is very good for mixed classes because for any particular topic the beginners can focus on the first, most simple, exercise while the more advanced students can steam ahead with the whole page.

I always finish the class with something light - ideas like copying pages from English recipe books, cutting up the instructions and getting them to put them back together again (working pairs allows the advanced ones to help the beginners). We also do role plays and things like shopping games. Bingo is very popular and we use word bingo to reinforce vocabulary. This morning I discovered which allows you to create custom bingo cards from word lists you create yourself, so this evening we're doing a food and drink bingo with the words we've done over the past few months.

Adult beginners are a real challenge. Over the past 5 years teaching adult beginners (both false and true beginners) is to keep lessons practical; only what they can use daily. I do a little review work and then I try to do (in a 90-minute class), 1/2-hour of grammar and 1-hour of practical stuff.

Try starting with the vowel sounds, then do a review of "to be" and "to have" just to see what they remember. Then work on content-oriented lessons. Introducing themselves, answering simple questions, shopping, directions, etc. Get them to try to speak. This is a huge challenge because everyone is so shy about making a fool of themselves.

When you see that they're stuck on grammar, take the time to do a grammar lesson. Encourge them to use as it's great for French and it's free. Also encourage them to watch/listen to the videos on

Good luck and let me know if I can provide you with more detailed information.

Hi Evelyne,

When you get settled into it, this could be great fun! I'd start by (I use a flipchart) writing something like "My name is Hilary. I am a teacher." Get a volunteer to do the same thing and go round the group... then 3rd person singular... he/ she is Hilary and she is a teacher etc. expand with short sentences... I live in .... she liveS in .... until boredom kicks in - 20mins, probably - go for some vocab - word connection, for example - write a word on a flip chart/ board - any word... let's say tree the next person has to think of a word which starts with e ...egg giraffe - when the board's full make sentences using the words - if you have one or two more advanced students, use them to write the words on the board, for example - in my experience, it's one thing remembering the words, another remembering how to spell them. Of course you can always play hangman too - excellent for peonunciation and understanding of letters. If you look on the net for esl beginners .... you'll find loads of stuff including learning programmes for different levels. Have fun - H