We have all heard the phrase, “It’s just business,” and business is often one of the biggest reasons international students come to the United States to learn English.
Even if your students are too young for entrepreneurship, it is never too early to help them understand some of the basic concepts of business. With the following activities, you can do just that while still improving their language skills.
Try These 4 Great Business Activities With Your ESL Class
With the speedy pace of most people’s lives today, fast food is a weekly if not daily occurrence for many families. Give your students an understanding of what mass production is like in the fast food world with this simple activity. Start with a class discussion brainstorming the types of fast food they like. They may list items available in this country, like hamburgers and fried chicken, as well as foods available in their native cultures. Once you have a large enough list, divide your class into groups of four. Each group will be responsible for mass-producing small pictures of the foods you have listed on the board, one food per group, one picture for each member of the class. Each group should decide which product they want to produce, and it is okay for multiple groups to choose the same food.
Provide your class with some basic art materials like crayons, markers, scisors and paper. Give your students as much time as they need to make the pictures, or make it more of a challenge and require them to complete the pictures in a designated amount of time. After all the pictures are made, discuss with your class how they felt about mass-producing their food items. Did all the items have the same appearance? Were they all of the same quality? How did your students work together as a team? Did they develop some type of system that made production easier? You can then pass out the pictures to your class and ask your students to look at the “food” in front of them. Would they be satisfied with this meal? What changes would they make? Do they feel the same way about fast food after mass producing it?
In the business world, it is essential to effectively pitch your ideas to potential investors. Without this skill, it is nearly impossible to find sufficient investors to fund the start up of a new business. Have your students practice their public speaking skills by having them give their own product pitch to the class. Start by discussing as a class what products your students could produce and sell. They may be items that they could make and sell as students, such as decorated pencils or potted plants, or they may be items that are larger scale production, such as televisions or cars. You may want to have your class divide the list into items it would be possible for them to produce now and items that would require a larger scale production and that they cannot make on their own. Each student should then choose one of the items from the list of possibilities they could actually produce. Make sure your class understands that a pitch can determine whether a person or company will give you money to start a new business or product. Either working independently or in pairs, have your students prepare the pitch they will be giving to the class. They should think about the advantages of the product, why it would make sense to invest in its production, and how the student expects to sell the product. They should then prepare a short presentation for the class to pitch their products.
Give each student an opportunity to give his or her pitch to the class. He will want to present the most convincing arguments for his potential product. Your students should be listening carefully as their classmates give their pitches. Once all the products have been pitched, your class will vote on which product they would be willing to invest in. The three students with the most votes win the contest. As your students are voting, make sure they understand that their vote should be based on the quality of the product and the potential to make money and not on popularity or friendships.
Open For Business
This activity is a natural extension of the product pitching, but it can also be done independently. Tell your students that you will be starting up a class store. Your students will make the products and then sell them to the rest of the school. Divide your class into groups of at least four students. Each group should discuss the products they might want to produce. They can use items from the list in activity two or come up with their own. They should make a list of the materials they will need, how much each item’s production will cost, and how much they should sell the item for. Work with your students to make sure you have available all the materials they need, and then designate some class time for your groups to make their products or assign it as homework.
To connect with the rest of the school, select a date when your students can sell their products, or set up an area of your classroom to serve as a “store”. Then invite other classes in to purchase items if desired. Your students will have to keep the booth supervised and collect the money as they make sales. Use the money from the sales to fund a class party or field trip. If possible, coordinate with other classes in your school to have a student craft fair where all the students can purchase items that other classes have made. If you are able to do this, you may want to combine the profits to bring a special assembly to your school or use them to purchase an item that is needed by the school.
Stick to the Budget
Setting a budget and following it is a skill that everyone should have. You can give your students experience with this business concept through this easy activity. The next time you make a trip to your grocery store, grab several copies of the weekly sales circular they have available. On the day you do this activity with your class, give them the circulars. Help them understand that they will need to budget money for groceries for a week. Divide your class into groups of three students each, and tell each group that they have $100 to spend on food for one week of meals for the group. They must plan for three meals a day, every day. The group should then discuss their options and decide how they will spend their money. Each group should make a list of the meals they plan for the week and how much each meal cost. After all the groups have finished their plans, discuss as a class how they felt about managing their money. Was it easy to purchase food for the week with the $100? Did they have trouble getting enough food with that amount of money? In general, what meal cost the most: breakfast, lunch or dinner? Did they plan for any special meals that they spent more money on? What can they learn about budgeting money from this activity? How can they implement the concept of budgeting to their lives now? (Their answers will vary greatly depending on the age of your students.)
It’s just business, but that does not mean that your class cannot have fun as they practice the concepts of budgeting, sales, production and pitching.
Whether you do all these activities or only some of them, your students will have a better understanding of the world of business and perhaps get the inspiration for a business of their own.