Giving Advice Lesson Plan for ESL Students

Instructor: Trisha Powell

Trisha has taught academic English reading and writing courses for ESL students for 10 years and has a Master's in Teaching English as a Second or Other Language.

This lesson will help ESL learners understand how and when to use modal verbs and modal-like expressions in order to give advice. As classroom situations may differ, partner activities as well as individual activities are provided.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify modal verbs and modal-like phrases used to give advice
  • Understand how to construct a grammatically correct sentence using modals and/or modal-like expressions to give advice
  • Put modal verbs to use in the writing genre of an email of advice for a friend


45 minutes and about 25 minutes in a subsequent class session (to go over the email homework assignment and do a peer review of it)

Curriculum Standards


Use modal auxiliaries (e.g., can, may, must) to convey various conditions.


  • Printout or transparency of letter for activity 1,
  • PowerPoint images and text for activity 2
  • Printout of situations for activity 3
  • Printout of instructions for homework assignment
  • Peer review worksheet


Activity 1

This activity will allow students to begin to identify modal verbs and modal-like expressions by reading a short letter of advice from the school principal to her students. (You can choose to hand out copies or just project the letter on the classroom screen/board if you think that will work better for your group of students. Letter provided below.)

Dearest Students,

It's a new year here at Sugardale Middle School, and we are so happy to have you all as our students. In order to ensure that you have a great academic year, I'd like to give you a few pointers that may help you to succeed.

First of all, attendance is key! If you want to do well this year, we had better see your smiling faces every day, unless you are really sick! Then, of course you ought to stay at home until you feel better!

Next, Sugardale students should remember to turn off their phones or other tech devices while in class unless otherwise instructed by a teacher. We all know that technology is a fun way to spend time, but you mustn't disrupt your lessons or other students with this kind of distraction.

Finally, after-school tutoring is available if you need extra help. You shouldn't be embarrassed to ask for help because everyone needs some help now and again! If you feel you are falling behind in some subjects, you might want to talk to your parents about staying after school. We have great tutors! And snacks, too!

Wishing you the best in this school year,

Principal Jones

  • After reading this letter, have students identify the examples in which the principal gave advice.
  • Call attention to the modal verbs used to give that advice, such as: had better, ought to, should, shouldn't, and might want to.

Activity 2

Since the first activity was with the whole-class, the next step is to let students work in pairs to ensure they get more practice, as you circulate the room and identify students who may be struggling with this grammar point.

  • Project a PowerPoint on the screen (or show printed out pictures if you do not have a computer in the room) with images that illustrate situations requiring advice.
    • There is a text prompt to go with each image.
  • As you show each image and prompt, ask students to talk to a partner and give advice to each person/people in the situation.
  • You can ask student pairs to share their answers.

Instructions for Creating the PowerPoint

  • Find images that depict situations in which advice can be given. Suggestions: A picture of a person in a remote area with a broken-down car, a person stuck in a rainstorm, a person studying who looks stressed out or has a stack of books, a person with an empty wallet at a restaurant, or choose others that you think will work. Write text to go with each picture such as:
    • He was driving and his GPS stopped working. He is lost. What should he do?
    • He's just eaten dinner at this restaurant, but he's realized that he's forgotten his wallet at home! What should he do? What shouldn't he do?
    • She has many exams this week and she is falling behind in studying because she was sick all last week. What should she do to catch up and be ready for her exams?

Activity 3

In this part, you will ask students to produce the sentences themselves in written form. You can begin this activity in a couple of ways:

  • You could have students think of real situations in their lives in which they need advice. Alternately, you could write situations on small pieces of paper and have each pair choose one or two of them.
  • For each situation, they will have to write some advice that they would give.
    • You can have them write 2-3 sentences, or more if you think they can manage that. You can give them a requirement to use each of the following forms, or any that you see fit: should /shouldn't /ought to /ought not to /had better / had better not / shouldn't have.
  • If you use the written situations, these are examples of possible situations to use:
    • Maria wants to go to a concert tonight with her friends. She has only two tickets, but she would need three if she wants to take her two friends. She cannot find any more tickets for the show. What should she do?
    • Mohammed went to the doctor today. The doctor told him he needs to exercise more and lose some weight, but Mohammed works a lot and doesn't have much time. His job is in an office, so he spends a lot of time sitting. He often works 10 or 11 hours in one day. What should he do to improve his health?
    • You can create 3-4 other situations such as these, or as explained earlier, you can let the students create their own situations based on real situations for which they need advice.
  • After this, you will give them a homework assignment. (The review of the homework assignment as well as activity 4 will be done in the subsequent class session.)

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