5 Proven Quick Start Tips to Create Adult ESL Lesson Plans (With a Sample Lesson)

5 culturally diverse English language teachers sitting at a round table in a classroom with big windows preparing adult ESL lessons.



Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Hey there, fellow educators and language enthusiasts! Today, I want to take you on a compelling journey that delves into the art of learning focused teaching and creating adult ESL lesson plans.  

This blog post shares a teaching outline and sample lesson plan for teaching adult ESL students softening language in business communication.

We will explore the steps of the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) model and provide a running example for teaching adult ESL students about softening language in the context of business communication. The lesson plan is designed to allocate 90% of the time to English language learning and 10% to role play and practice.

Get ready to revolutionize your teaching approach and witness the incredible impact of softening language in business communication. The journey begins now!


As a seasoned educator with over 23 years of experience at the post-secondary and professional development levels, specializing in conflict management and business communication, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of language on personal and professional relationships.

But that’s not all—my passion for teaching and language extends beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. For four incredible years, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a vibrant cultural experience, teaching English to eager learners in the dynamic land of China.

These diverse experiences have shaped my teaching philosophy and reinforced my belief in the power of language as a bridge that connects individuals across borders and cultures.

Throughout my journey, I have come to appreciate the vital role softening language plays in effective business communication.

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, the ability to navigate the nuances of language and adapt our communication style is crucial, especially in the realm of international business.

Softening language is a linguistic tool allowing us to tactfully, respectfully, and diplomatically convey messages.

With this in mind, I am excited to share an instructional model that has consistently proven worthwhile—the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW).

This model has been instrumental in enhancing my teaching effectiveness, fostering professional development, and facilitating impactful learning experiences for my students.

Through the ISW model, I have successfully guided adult ESLs in mastering the art of softening language within the context of business communication.

So, in this blog post, we will explore the step-by-step journey of an ISW lesson designed to equip adult ESL learners with the essential skills needed to wield the power of softening language in their professional lives.

Together, we will navigate through each stage of the ISW model, providing specific examples and practical insights to bring the concepts to life.

Planning Adult ESL Lessons

Planning English language lessons for adults requires tapping into their needs and desired learning outcomes.  It can be intimidating but an easy and rewarding endeavor with the right guidance.

Here are five tips for creating an adult ESL curriculum.

Draft Your Outcomes and Objectives

Before you start designing your lesson plan, it’s important to consider the purpose and objectives of the lesson.

By drafting learning outcomes and measurable objectives for each section, you will ensure your adult language students gain the knowledge or skills they need from each lesson.

Additionally, having well-defined objectives can help you stay organized and give structure to your instruction.

Outline the Activities You Will Use

Once you have your lesson objectives, the next step is to outline the activities you will use during your instruction.

Through carefully crafted activities, you engage your adult learners and ensure they meet the learning objectives of your lesson plan.

Consider how you will break up each activity into tasks:

  • What materials are needed?
  • How much time should be allotted for each task?
  • What type of support do students need while completing them?

By anticipating these details before class, you help ensure your adult ESL students have a successful learning experience.

Select Your Materials and Resources

Select materials and activities to support the objectives of your lesson.

This could include textbooks, handouts, online sites, worksheets, media resources, and any other tools or materials you might use.

Think about how best to incorporate these elements into your lesson:

  • Which ones should be used for individual practice, and which make better group activities?
  • Do some of them require more guidance from the instructor than others?

Planning ahead ensures you’re using the resources most effectively.

Develop Student Assessments

Assignments and assessments should be designed to test student understanding of the language concepts learned in class.

Tests and activities provide an opportunity to gauge student progress and the effectiveness of the lesson plan.

Consider what type of assessment or activity you’d like to use, such as:

  • multiple-choice questions
  • written tasks
  • fill-in-the-blank activities
  • group discussions
  • presentations

Also, think about how long it will take for students to complete. You don’t want them to rush through a longer assignment without properly understanding it.

Identify Strategies for Classroom Management

Classroom management is essential for success.

Identify strategies for successful management before starting a lesson.

For example, have students break off into pairs or small groups to allow more meaningful communication and collaboration.

Establish clear expectations from the beginning of the lesson so that all parties are cooperative and on task.

Ensure everyone knows how to ask questions if they don’t understand something and that everyone in the classroom remains respectful of each other despite the language barrier. Finally, provide positive reinforcement when students do an activity correctly or demonstrate learning progress!

Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) – Teaching Adult ESL Students about Softening Language in Business Communication

The Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) is a comprehensive model designed to enhance teaching effectiveness and promote professional development among educators.

The Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) model typically consists of the following stages:

Stage 1: Planning

During this stage, instructors focus on planning the instructional session. They establish clear learning objectives, select appropriate teaching methods and materials, and prepare for effective delivery.

This stage involves outlining the session’s structure, determining the sequence of activities, and ensuring alignment between the objectives and the planned instructional strategies.

Stage 2: Teaching

The teaching stage involves the implementation of the planned activities.

Instructors engage learners through interactive and participatory teaching methods, fostering active learning and student engagement.

This stage may include lectures, group discussions, demonstrations, simulations, or other appropriate instructional strategies that facilitate the achievement of the learning objectives.

Stage 3: Feedback

In the feedback stage, instructors provide constructive feedback to learners, facilitating reflection and assessment of their progress.

This stage may involve individual or group feedback sessions, where instructors address strengths and areas for improvement, offer specific recommendations, and encourage learners to reflect on their learning experiences.

Feedback can be provided through written or verbal forms, and it aims to support learners in their journey toward enhanced teaching and learning practices.

Stage 4: Debriefing

The debriefing stage allows for reflection and synthesis of the learning experience.

Instructors and participants come together to share insights, discuss challenges, and identify strategies for improvement.

This stage encourages open dialogue, knowledge sharing, and applying newfound knowledge and skills.

Debriefing sessions help consolidate learning and allow participants to connect theory with practice.

These four stages provide a structured framework for instructors to design and deliver effective instructional sessions, promoting professional development and enhancing teaching effectiveness.

By following the ISW model, instructors create engaging and impactful learning experiences for their students.

When teaching adult ESL students and creating lessons for adult ESL curriculum, the ISW model is an engaging model to encourage and empower language learners.

Here’s a short video explaining the ISW model:

Softening Language in English Culture

Softening language is a linguistic technique used to convey messages tactfully and diplomatically, particularly in business communication.

For adult English language learners navigating the complexities of the business world, mastering the art of softening language is essential for establishing credibility and fostering successful professional relationships.

In English culture and language, specific cultural components influence the use of softening language. Politeness, indirectness, and maintaining face are highly valued, and the ability to soften statements helps avoid direct confrontation and preserve harmony in interpersonal interactions.

By effectively understanding and utilizing softening language techniques, adult ESL learners bridge cultural gaps, build rapport, and navigate the subtleties of English communication, ultimately enhancing their professional communication skills and advancing their careers in today’s globalized business environment.

Sample ISW Lesson Plan for Adult ESL Students: Softening Language

I. Stage 1: Planning

Instructors establish clear learning objectives, select appropriate teaching methods, and prepare necessary materials during planning.

Our example aims to enable adult ESLs to understand and use softening language effectively in business communication.

Here’s a breakdown of the planning stage:

Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the concept of softening language.
  2. Recognize different examples of softening language in business communication.
  3. Apply softening language appropriately in various business scenarios.

Teaching Methods

Lecture: Introduce the concept of softening language and provide examples.

Group Discussions: Engage students in analyzing and discussing examples of softening language.

Role Play: Practice using softening language in realistic business communication scenarios.

Pair Work: Provide opportunities for students to practice using softening language with a partner.


PowerPoint slides explaining softening language and its applications.

Handouts with examples of softening language in business communication.

Role-play scenarios depicting business interactions requiring softening language.

II. Stage 2: Teaching

In the teaching stage, instructors implement the planned activities and engage students actively in the learning process.

Let’s explore the steps involved:


Begin the session by explaining the importance of softening language in business communication and its impact on building professional relationships.

Use real-life examples to illustrate how softening language can help avoid misunderstandings and promote effective communication.


Present a comprehensive overview of softening language, including its definition, types, and common usage in business settings.

  • Use PowerPoint slides to support the content and reinforce key points visually.
  • Provide clear explanations of how different softening language techniques can be applied to tone down statements and make them more diplomatic.

Group Discussions

Divide the class into small groups and distribute handouts with examples of softening language in business communication.

Instruct the groups to analyze the examples, discuss their interpretations, and identify the specific softening techniques used.

Encourage participants to share their thoughts and engage in collaborative learning by discussing the potential impact of softening language in different business contexts.

III. Stage 3: Feedback

The feedback stage allows instructors to assess student learning, provide constructive feedback, and facilitate reflective thinking.

Follow these steps for effective feedback:

Individual Practice

Assign individual practice activities to reinforce the understanding and application of softening language.

Provide written exercises or scenarios where students can practice incorporating softening language into their own communication.


Topic: Making Requests Scenario: You are an employee at a company and need some assistance from your colleague. Response: “Excuse me, would you mind helping me with this task? I understand you’re busy, but your expertise would be invaluable in ensuring its success.”

Topic: Offering Suggestions Scenario: You are participating in a team meeting and have an idea to improve a project. Response: “I have a suggestion that might enhance our project. It’s just an idea, but what if we consider implementing XYZ? It could potentially optimize our results.”

Topic: Expressing Disagreement Scenario: You are in a business meeting and have a different opinion from your colleagues. Response: “I appreciate your perspective and understand where you’re coming from. However, I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, we should explore alternative approaches that might yield better outcomes.”

These individual practice scenarios allow adult ESL students to practice using softening language in various contexts.

By engaging in these exercises, they can refine their language skills, practice tone, and phrasing, and gain confidence in expressing themselves diplomatically while maintaining professional relationships.

Role Play

  • Divide the class into pairs and assign role-play scenarios related to business communication.
  • Each pair will be able to practice softening language in realistic business situations.
  • Observe and provide feedback on the use of softening language during the role-play sessions.

Sample Topics

Topic: Negotiating a Business Contract Statement: “I understand your position and appreciate the value you bring to the table. However, I was wondering if we could explore some alternative options that might be more aligned with our budget constraints?”

Topic: Giving Constructive Feedback Statement: “You’ve done a great job so far, and I can see your potential. I just wanted to suggest a minor adjustment to enhance your presentation. Would you mind considering incorporating more visual aids to engage the audience?”

Topic: Resolving a Conflict Statement: “I can see that we have differing opinions on this matter, and I respect your viewpoint. Perhaps we can find a middle ground that takes both perspectives into account. How about we explore some compromise solutions that satisfy both parties?”

These role-play scenarios and statements provide opportunities for adult ESL students to practice using softening language in realistic business situations. Engaging in these exercises helps refine their language skills, develop cultural awareness, and build confidence in effectively navigating professional communication with diplomacy and tact.

IV. Stage 4: Debriefing

The debriefing stage allows instructors and participants to reflect on the learning experience, share insights, and identify areas for improvement. Consider the following steps:

Group Reflection

Lead a discussion about the effectiveness of softening language in business communication.

Encourage participants to share their experiences during the role-play activities and highlight instances where softening language helped or could have been used more effectively.

  • How did using softening language enhance or impact your communication during the role-play activities? Can you provide specific examples?
  • In what ways did incorporating softening language contribute to building rapport and establishing a positive tone in your interactions with others? Share an experience from the role-play session.
  • What challenges did you encounter when applying softening language techniques?
  • How did you overcome those challenges, and what strategies effectively improved your use of softening language?

These open-ended questions prompt participants to critically analyze their experiences, identify the strengths and weaknesses of their softening language skills, and encourage them to share valuable insights and strategies for improvement.

This reflective discussion helps consolidate the learning process and allows participants to understand the significance of softening language in effective business communication.


As we conclude this enlightening exploration of softening language in business communication for adult ESL learners, we have uncovered the remarkable impact this linguistic tool can have on establishing credibility and fostering successful professional relationships.

Through the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) model, we have seen how a well-structured and thoughtfully designed lesson can empower educators to guide their students toward mastery of softening language techniques.

As you embark on your teaching journey, I invite you to take the next step and dive deeper into the world of softening language with our ready-made lesson packages.

By incorporating this ready-made lesson into your curriculum, you can save valuable time and deliver a high-quality learning experience that will equip your adult ESL learners with the essential skills they need to excel in professional communication.

Don’t miss this opportunity to unlock the potential of softening language and empower your students to thrive in the globalized business world. Get it now at our Shop.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,


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