The Internet TESL Journal

Using Advice Columns with ESL Students

Amy Gwen Larson
amygwen [at]


This activity's purpose is to increase communicative awareness and conversational skills. When people talk, it is with a purpose. They desire to communicate their own ideas and more fully understand those of others. Therefore, we can say that communication between individuals fulfills a basic need and is a bridge to language acquisition. This activity is appropriate for any age group of students.

Level: Intermediate and above

Starting the Lesson

To begin the lesson the teacher introduces the concept of asking for and giving advice as well as any required vocabulary. Next, he or she asks the students to brainstorm on the problems they face in school, with friends, or at home. Write some of the more useful of these on the board. Divide the class into small groups, give each group one problem and ask them to create some "advice".

Introduce some common sentence patterns often used when giving advice:
Practice sentence patterns using answers provided by students, and write some of the more common answers on the board. Next have the class discuss whether they agree or disagree with the "advice" given. Solicit new advice and continue the conversation as long as time allows.


To add a reading element to this activity you will need advice columns from newspapers. Divide the class into small groups and give each group an advice column and answer. Have each group read and discuss the question and answer. The teacher will need to circulate and check for comprehension. Groups should decide whether they agree or disagree with the published answers and what additional advice they would give.  Have the groups read the questions and answers to the class and give their "advice". Class discussion should be encouraged. For advanced students, advice columns from other countries can be introduced and cultural differences can be discussed.


For a writing activity use advice columns from local newspapers. Separate the answers from the questions. Work can be done individually or the teacher can divide the class into pairs or groups. Students are given advice columns without the answers. Take a few minutes to allow students to review the column. Discuss any new vocabulary and check for comprehension. Students are then requested to write answers to the column. These can be read out loud in class or reviewed by teacher. After students have completed the assignment, the published answers to advice questions can be distributed and discussed.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. X, No. 10, October 2004