What Would You Do? Advice on Teaching Giving Advice

What Would You Do? Advice on Teaching Giving Advice

Giving advice is one of those topical lessons that has a lot of substance to it. It combines the teaching of modal verbs with valuable discussion-generating subject matter.

There aren’t many ways to go about teaching giving advice other than to practice doing just that. Here you can get your own advice about how to broach giving advice in the classroom.

Advice on Teaching Giving Advice

  1. 1

    Teach the Modals and Intensity

    Throughout a students’ career they are exposed to modal verbs for different uses and purposes. Giving advice enables them to provide opinions and to analyze problem situations. The first thing to do when teaching giving advice is to focus on the modal verbs themselves and their strength or intensity. When giving advice there are levels of intensity that are inferred. It is necessary to explain this to students first. You’ll want to explain levels of intensity as well as provide a lot of example for how we use each modal in particular. Here is an explanation:

    Most Intense Have to/Don’t Have to: You have to do something—means you have no choice
    Must/Must not: You must do something—similar to have to and is fairly strong
    Had Better: You had better do something—less intense, it is a good idea to…
    Should/Shouldn’t: You should/not do it—implies a choice--not intense
    Would/Wouldn’t: If I were you, I would/not—different structure—not forceful
    Least Intense Might /Might Not: You might want to—very timid, least intense
  2. 2

    Provide Sample Scenarios

    Along with the above modal explanation you’ll need to provide concrete examples for each. Give the students a sample scenario and apply it to each of the modal verbs to make your point. For example: John has a problem. He saw his best friend’s girlfriend with another boy, holding hands at the mall. He wants to tell his friend, but he is afraid. What would your advice be to John? What would you do? Use a student in the class so that they can give advice directly to John. At this point you can go through each modal and let students give you some examples like: You have to tell him. You must call him right now. You shouldn’t get involved. You can do a few rounds of this with various problems, until your comprehension check is completed.

  3. 3

    Role Plays

    Role plays are an excellent way to create an even more personal experience for the students. It is similar to the above in which you either provide a scenario, or you have the students come up with one. Then choose two or three students to have a spontaneous conversation. They should take on the different roles, acting as if they are the one with the problem, and the ones giving advice. Stress to the students that before they begin giving advice, they should ask clarification questions and get as many details on the problem as they can. After that they can begin to counsel and give advice. You want to start out with problems that aren’t too complex, and then increase the difficulty as you see your students’ engagement. You can adapt these to students’ level, interest, age and maturity. A few example role plays could be:

    • Mary has a job offer at a great new company that she is excited about. The pay is good, but the hours will be long and she won’t get to see her family very much. Her husband doesn’t want her to take the job. What should Mary do?
    • Your best friend met the man of her dreams. The problem is that he is moving to another country for a year in just a few weeks. What should she do?
  4. 4


    Giving advice is a great topic for discussion as well as for debriefing. You can discuss what happened in the groups’ role plays, the difficulties of giving good advice and the reactions of the students. Discussing problems is not easy and trying to find solutions is complex and often there are no simple black and white answers. Often after a few activities, students are ready to share some of their own experiences of problems, advice they have received or past experiences. It is effective to make these lessons as real to life as possible, and using the students’ own experiences is a very constructive tool. Be careful not to get too personal and if a student volunteers a problem that they would like advice about, be sure to be a good mediator and offer some guidelines regarding the advice that can be given. This could also lead into other discussion topics, such as different types of problems. You could focus on problems related to the poor economy, health, teenagers or other socially relevant topics. Let your students have a say in these discussions, and you’ll find that they will get a lot of natural practice giving advice and analyzing problems.

Everyone has opinions and everyone has problems. Lessons focused on giving advice and analyzing problems hits home on a personal level with each and every student.

This is one of those topics that is more than a grammar point, it is a life lesson. Give students good guidelines and you’ll find that your advice-giving lessons bring the class closer together.

Like it? Tell your friends: